A practical SEO strategy is critical to the success of your other marketing assets, such as your school’s enrollment website.
When you have a solid search engine optimization strategy in place, consistent traffic to your website and any other content piece that you’ve created, will follow.
Traffic volume is directly related to the number of conversions. More traffic, more conversions.
Because SEO can get technical, it’s tempting to ignore the subject altogether and just hope things work out.
But since you’ve already put so much effort and investment into your content marketing, why leave this to chance?
Crafting a successful SEO strategy may not be as difficult as you’d expect.
Most schools know where they want to go but often forget to check a few boxes along the way.
On this episode of The Higher Marketer podcast, Guus brings valuable insight into the three essential components of an organic SEO strategy and why neglecting one will diminish the returns in all of your marketing channels.
Here are just a few highlights of our conversation.
1. Choose Your Channels Carefully
In the ever-evolving landscape of higher education marketing, it’s easy to get swayed by every new platform or strategy that emerges.
As marketers, we always have this fear of missing out. When a new [marketing] channel comes up—let’s say it’s TikTok—we always think we need to be on there.
A lot of conversations are always about, should I be doing this? Should I be doing email marketing? Should I be doing search engine optimization?
We tend to run very fast after whatever is the latest thing. But we sometimes miss the opportunity to be strategic.
We can all relate to this feeling; none of us are immune to this temptation to keep adding more to our marketing mix.
The siren song of a new platform often distracts from the core objective of any marketing campaign—to be strategic and purposeful. Guus encourages us to choose wisely when considering the latest trends.
Pick a few things and make them work together really well in a way that fits with your specific institution or specific audience.
There are a lot of opportunities to be doing more, but rather [than adding more channels into your marketing mix], stop to think about “What am I going to do really well, and what am I perhaps going to drop?”
It’s the classic dilemma of quantity vs. quality. When it comes to your mix of marketing channels, quality should win hands down.
2. Strike a Balance Between Paid and Owned/Earned Channels
A foundational concept of SEO strategy is to map out the balance you’ll strike between paid channels (Google Ads, PPC, social media ads, etc.) and organic SEO, which Guus refers to as “owned” channels.
Often, people will come to me and say, “I want to have more leads, more inquiries from students. Can you do Google ads for us?” I’ve learned to not immediately say yes.
[Now I tell them,] “Let’s look at what is best [for you].” It’s not always what’s first comes to mind. You have to understand what the objectives are.
You have paid channels, such as Google ads, or advertising on social media, or even buying radio ads, for example, where you pay for the exposure. Those tend to work pretty well if you need to move the needle really fast. But on the other hand, they will be very expensive to maintain in the long term.
I encourage people to think more about the “owned” channels or the “earned” channels, such as search engine optimization, where you show up in Google search results, due to the strength of your content, rather than because you pay for it.
That means you don’t pay for every click anymore, but rather you are naturally out there. It also gives you a lot more credibility. Sometimes, you can’t wait for another year until the SEO starts to take off, and so it’s about getting the full look of “Okay, where do we want to be this year?” and also, “Where do we want to be in two, three, five years from now?”
SEO Strategy: The Garden of Digital Marketing
Also in our conversation, we learned how gardening serves as an apt analogy for SEO strategy.
Sometimes you plant seeds that sprout quickly, much like short-term marketing tactics that give immediate results. For instance, in my wife’s garden, I’ll have zucchini ready to harvest in a few weeks. However, there are plants like grapevines, which my wife recently planted, that take years to bear fruit.
This mirrors the long-term commitment required for a solid SEO strategy.
While it’s tempting to rely solely on immediate solutions like pay-per-click advertising, it’s essential to invest in long-term SEO strategies for sustained growth, even if the benefits aren’t immediately visible.
3. Use Empathy in Your SEO Strategy
As you’re choosing the right channels for your marketing mix, the question will inevitably come up: “Which short-term SEO strategy should you choose?”
In other words, should you use Google Ads, or some other form of search engine marketing, social media ads, or something else?
Guus tells us that it starts with empathy.
It all starts with empathy. First of all, who are these people that you’re trying to get to apply or to enroll?
Where are they? In what channel are they active? Then also, what is their frame of mind?
Search is very good at capturing that tiny fraction of people that right at this moment are thinking about your program. That’s what you can expect from search.
You can’t expect double the number of inquiries, or to double your budget. [This is] because in a given place at a given time, there are only that many people who are thinking of taking a degree in fashion management, for example.
Empathy is all about getting to know your target audience as well as you possibly can.
When you know their education goals, what they want out of life, and where they go to obtain their information, your SEO strategy becomes more effective.
Discover more when you listen to the podcast!
Like all of our blog post reviews of The Higher Ed Marketer podcasts, there’s so much more to learn in the podcasts themselves.
Listen to our full interview with Guus Goorts to get even more insights into:
- Identifying short-term SEO strategies for your enrollment website (8:16)
- The three core components of an organic SEO roadmap (13:40)
- Building on and measuring returns in your marketing channels (19:24)
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Featured image via guusgoorts.com