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How to Update Your Education Website in the Wake of Mobilegeddon
Is your site optimized and functioning as it should? Has Google’s recent announcement caused your search engine rankings to drop? Are you confident in how your site looks to the search engines?
Earlier this year, Google announced a change to their search algorithm. Starting on April 21, 2015, websites that are not responsive on mobile platforms would be penalized in search rankings. Known as “Mobilegeddon,” major sites such as NBCSports.com and Census.gov saw a reduction in their rankings by as much as 76% as a result of the change. While many may complain, Google is simply responding to the market and what consumers want. Recent studies have shown that nearly 100% of prospective high school students view college websites on mobile devices. Google is simply providing them the sites that will perform the best.
Face it Now… or Face Enrollment Decline
This change puts a lot at stake. Most smaller schools are reaching high stealth application percentages that they have come to rely upon. If your rankings suffer because you do not have a website that responds well on a mobile device, you may be looking at a noticeable drop for the 2015-2016 enrollment cycle. Now is the time to address this issue to protect your numbers for this time next year. Don’t ignore this change.
Steps You Can Take Now
With the impact Mobilegeddon can have on enrollment, we have assembled a set of “next steps” that you can take to assure that your school leverages this change to your advantage and builds your site for best practices going forward.
1. Responsive Redesign
If your site is still not responsive in its design, now is the time to make that change. Responsive design allows you to have one website that utilizes CSS (cascading style sheets) to present different content layouts based upon which device is being used to view the site. This project can be a considerable undertaking, but if you start this spring, you may very well be able to launch the redesigned site by fall. This issue is of such importance that it may be necessary for the president to approach the board for special financing or funding options to assure that enrollment numbers are safe for next year.
Depending upon factors such as the size of the site, content management system, and other factors, it may be possible to introduce responsive elements to the website through the use of the existing CSS. A professional audit and review of your site may provide options for how to achieve your goals.
2. Liberally Prune
It is a fact: many education websites have far too many pages. Keeping in mind the focus of your website and the way you create your navigation, you may find that you can remove or combine pages to reduce the overall size of your site. By doing so, you may be reducing the overall cost of a full site redesign.
If your site has responsive issues, more than likely you were sent an email by Google to test the issues. You can also check it on your own here:
Search Engine Land also has a helpful checklist on the impact of Mobilegeddon and answers to frequently asked questions.
4. Bring Rogue Pages In Line
If you are fortunate to already be in a responsive design, now is a great opportunity to bring those “rogue” pages of your education website in line with your brand and design. Some clients have asked us if non-responsive pages within a domain will cause the entire domain to be penalized. While we could not find definitive answers to support that theory, we have an idea to assure you are not penalized if that does become an issue. Here is the suggestion:
To assure there are no issues, simply remove the pages from Google’s eyes. You would make this your “precautionary” step for problematic pages within your site. Access your robots.txt file and add the URL of the offending page to the “ignore” list. This will allow you to inform your campus community that you are preventing any overall issues with the Google change to prevent a negative impact site-wide. The site owners will not be comfortable with being invisible to Google, which will then give you leverage to to bring the pages into compliance.
5. Use Webmaster Tools
If you have not signed up for the free Google Webmaster Tools, do so now. This tool will allow you to see and understand how Google engages with your site and be informed of errors and problems with their solutions to keep your site in the best health for Google. Following Google’s instructions will also improve your overall chances of improving your search rankings.
6. Use Best Practices in SEO
In addition to the other options, using best practices for search engine optimization (SEO) will also have an impact in your rankings. This can be simple updates, such as picking out key words. We are big fans of the Yoast plug-ins for WordPress and consider the ebooks produced by the team as some of the most accessible introductions on the subject.
7. Consider Lateral Marketing to Drive Traffic
One of the best and quickest ways to drive traffic to your education website is to set up a blog to write content specifically addressing the most common questions of your audience. By doing so, you’ll set up a lateral marketing system with content optimized for the audience’s needs. Once you have the traffic, be sure you have actionable call-to-actions to convert these visitors into leads and nurture them through marketing automation.
You Can Survive Mobilegeddon and Thrive!
Don’t hide from Google’s recent change. Take the time to address the issues, and begin your fixes. Even small changes can make a big difference in driving traffic and ultimately improving the success of your enrollment.
What have you seen as a result of Mobilegeddon?