4 Common SEO Challenges for Enrollment Marketers and How to Overcome Them

4 Common SEO Challenges for Enrollment Marketers and How to Overcome Them
Mallory Willsea
April 2, 2019
Enrollment Marketing

About the Blog

Enrollment managers are busy with many things: marketing and communications to prospects, the crazy rollercoaster of student recruitment, processing applications, pulling together financial aid packages, and coordinating student services post matriculation.

We hate to do this, but we’re here to add one more thing to the list of things you need to worry about: Search Engine Optimization and what it means for your digital presence.

Your website and webpages can be powerful tools in your effort to generate new prospects and nurture prospective students through the enrollment process, but only if you are thinking about your digital presence from the perspective of the user (which just happens to be what search engines are doing too).

Let’s explore why SEO matters for admissions teams and enrollment managers and how to overcome the four most common challenges you’ll face as you work on your SEO strategy.

Hold Up, Let’s Define SEO

It’s a confusing world, and we’re all guilty of using words and phrases we don’t really understand. Before we move forward, let’s get on the same page about what we mean by SEO.

Here’s our working definition of SEO: SEO is a set of strategic practices designed to increase your website’s visibility and search engine page rankings, ultimately driving more web traffic to your institution’s website and increasing the likelihood of lead generation.

Why You Should Pay Attention to SEO in Your Admissions Marketing Plan

Thinking about SEO isn’t tangential to your work, it’s essential to your entire recruitment strategy. We know that you may be responsible for the whole scope of enrollment efforts—from lead generation and recruiting to admission processing and yield management. But your work depends on a regular flow of new prospect names to work with, and this is where SEO could become your doorway to new digital spaces, full of potential prospects.

Optimizing your digital presence both for the user and for search engines helps ensure that your school’s programs and pages are going to appear when people take to Google in order to explore and research schools, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

These Google searches will look like this:

Best ranked schools near me

Liberal arts schools with a nursing program

Is a masters degree worth it

How do I become an engineer

What do I need for a college application

Career options for artists

Average GRE scores for MBA programs

Google is going to take these searches and serve up pages that have ANSWERS to searchers’ questions. If you are paying attention to SEO and taking the time to create a digital presence that focuses on answering questions and addressing pain points of your potential audience, your pages and your school will be the links showing up on that first page of search results.

Paying attention to SEO means creating a web presence that’s designed to answer prospective students’ questions and make it easy for them to find the answers. When you do this, you increase organic web traffic and encourage free lead generation, two very important things for your brand and your recruitment efforts.

Think of your website as a member of the enrollment  team. Is it pulling its weight? It is attracting and nurturing prospective students through organic search? If not, it’s time to make your website work harder for you by incorporating SEO into your marketing and enrollment plan.

4 Common SEO Challenges for Today’s Enrollment Marketers--And How to Address Them

Hopefully by now you’re convinced that SEO is important for you as an enrollment professional and not just a fancy term for techies, businesses, or even your own marcomm department  to worry about.

But it’s possible you’re already thinking about the obstacles in your way. That’s okay! We’ve got practical suggestions for how to address some of your industry’s most common challenges when it comes to improving SEO and digital presence more generally.

1. You lack website control and have to go through other teams to make changes.

This is consistently one of the biggest problems that enrollment teams face. Whether your team is a large, centralized undergraduate enrollment office or a small, program-specific graduate enrollment team, the odds are good that you have to head to your website/tech team to get any changes made on your pages. Maybe you even have to get several layers of approval and the hassle is unimaginable.

Our Suggestion: Time to create a digital space where you can control changes and produce content related to your enrollment efforts and programs quickly and easily! Use a platform like WordPress or HubSpot to create a blog ecosystem, and make sure this can be hosted on a subdomain or subdirectory of your existing website (in order to build domain authority). Ideally, you should find a platform that lets you run a blog and create specialized landing pages and long-form content pages, all of which can be created and edited by your internal team.

This new ecosystem will allow you to start building topic authority and content around the things your prospective students are searching for. You can still link to your website’s program pages and drive traffic to your institution’s domain (the ultimate goal), but now you have an easy way to establish and run a digital presence around the programs or schools that you are responsible for recruiting students for without dealing with too much internal hassle every time you want to make a change.

2. You don’t have a clear keyword strategy for your webpages.

This is another common issue for both large enrollment offices and small program-specific teams. Unless you have taken the time to look into what keywords are relevant and widely in use, you may be wasting whole web pages describing a process or program with words and phrase that makes sense to you internally, but that are very different from what a user would search if they were trying to find the information you are providing.

Even if you have a clearly superior program or school, you could be losing web traffic to your competitors if you aren’t using keywords that correspond with how users are searching in Google.

Our Suggestion: Have an internal conversation about your keyword and content strategy and change up content on your webpages accordingly. Ask yourselves: what questions is this page answering? Who is our audience on this page? How are our competitors describing themselves? Is the content on this page conversational and intuitive or based on an internal understanding of a topic? Use a tool like SEMRush to dig into the keywords that are relevant to your programs or topics and pick a couple keywords you want to use consistently.

3. You don’t have content to use to attract students and answer questions.

Talking about SEO assumes that you have webpages to optimize. For many enrollment teams and department heads, the big issue from an SEO perspective is a lack of informational content in the first place. You may have one page and one page only dedicated to your program, your financial aid processes, or your unique school culture. Google is unlikely to highlight your program page about your elementary education program when they could highlight a much broader, informational guide that explores how, why, and where to go for a degree in elementary education.

Our Suggestion: Build broader, top of the funnel, informational pages filled with industry data, career opportunities, and program information! If this will be too difficult to do on your current website platform, see our suggestion for #1.

Again, it’s important to have informational content available that tells Google that you are someone who wants to and can answer a searcher’s questions. Creating deep resources and increasing the amount of information available to students can also help you across other marketing enrollment channels including social media and direct mail.

4. You don’t have enough (simple) forms on your webpages.

Although there seems to be some improvement in this area in the last few years, the higher education industry is still far behind when it comes to easily and simply capturing information from website visitors. In many cases, request-more-information forms or Contact forms are buried deep in institutions’ webpages, or have way too many required form fields.

Our Suggestion: It’s time to think like Steve Jobs: how can I create a sleek, minimalistic experience for the user? Spend some time auditing your site pages. Are there obvious, easy to use forms available on all of your major pages? Are you asking people for too much information? These forms don’t have to be obtrusive, but they should be present.

If you do have a site visitor who has discovered your site based on a Google search, you want to give them every possible chance to give you information about who they are and what they are interested in. In most cases, a simple form that asks for their name and email address will suffice. The more you can turn your website into a successful lead generation tool for you, the less money you are spending courting prospects from a list you’ve purchased.

Thinking About SEO (Even in Small Ways) Can and Should Change Your Institution’s Approach to Web Presence

It’s time for you and your team to get serious about your website and your digital presence. But never fear, small, strategic changes add up when it comes to SEO.

If you want your institution’s website to become a first-rate marketing resource designed for prospective students and not just a place to host internal information, begin with this run-down of common challenges and see what you can do to make changes today! 

SEO is complicated — we get it. Just when you think you kind of understand how Google ranks content, they switch the game up on you. The good news? Enrollify is here to walk with you through these evolving changes. Interested in learning more about the paid and unpaid digital advertising landscapes? Check out:

SEO and Digital Advertising: A Beginner's Guide for Graduate Enrollment Managers

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