Top 10 SEO Tips for College Websites

college websites

Back in the day, word of mouth and traditional advertising were enough to get students onto your campus. College websites gladly played second fiddle.

Not anymore.


Although colleges and universities traditionally haven’t prioritized ranking their course offerings highly in online search engines, many are starting to realize that high search engine rankings are crucial for being viewed as a top-tier education provider.

If you want to attract more potential students to your campus, you need to focus on SEO. Here are 10 SEO tips for college websites.

Let’s jump in!

1. Pay Attention to On-Page Optimization for College Websites

Before you focus too much on your college website, take a glance at the college websites of your top three competitors to see what type of content they have. Do this for each course that both you and a competitor has.

Ask yourself a few questions as you analyze their content and compare it with your own site’s content:

  • What information is included on the Web page?
  • Which keywords are being used in titles and headings?
  • Is the competing institution using images on the Web page? If so, which images?

As soon as you complete this step, you’ll have a better idea of what content you need to include on your website. Of course, your goal should be to exceed what others have done, not match them.

Quick tip: Be sure that Google can read all of your text. In other words, don’t utilize video or images without including the written version of the content on your page, too (Google cannot read video and images).

2. Keywords

Now, let’s start focusing on your website — the website you really care about.

For starters, note that keywords are critical for getting your Web page to achieve a high ranking. The words you utilize to describe all of your classes should be the same words that internet users use when searching for the types of classes you offer.

If your users’ words are not on your Web page, the page will not be found. Let’s look at a particular area where higher education institutions face problems with keywords.

Many universities use abbreviations on their college websites rather than the full names of courses plus their abbreviations.

For example, let’s say you offer a Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis, a degree that prepares students to work with children who have social, learning, and behavioral problems. Don’t use “MS in Applied Behavior Analysis | University” in your title tag. Instead, write “Master of Science (MS) in Applied Behavior Analysis | University.”

3. Navigation Structure

This is yet another area that requires attention if you want more potential students to find your institution’s offerings.

Navigation structure refers to how your Web pages have been designed as well as laid out.

At a minimum, every course should receive its own landing page. If you lack a dedicated landing page for each course, it’ll be virtually impossible for your institution to rank for search queries that are non-branded.

In addition, these pages should be easy to access near the top of your navigation structure. Using tabs is an excellent way of controlling your course pages’ content to keep these pages at reasonable lengths.

4. Titles

Your meta title is the most essential part of a college website page to do correctly. If you get it wrong, your page will not rank no matter how strong the remainder of the content on the page is.

The title will not show up on the Web page itself. However, it is a clickable link your potential users will see in their search engine results. In addition, a user will see it in his or her browser tab.

So, why exactly is this meta title so important? Google utilizes it to figure out your page’s main subject for indexing purposes.

Going back to our applied behavior analysis degree example earlier, you really want your institution to appear for both the searches of “Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis courses” and “MS in Applied Behavior Analysis courses.” After all, the intent of both of these searches is identical.

5. Meta Description

This description is basically the words you see underneath a meta title. Just as you need to use strong keywords in a meta title, you need to include these keywords in the title’s meta description.

Meta descriptions aren’t a factor in search rankings anymore. However, they’re still important, as they encourage users to click your result. Make sure that these descriptions clearly and accurately explain what users will find when they choose your page.

6. URLs

URLs also play a critical role in search engine rankings, so be sure to utilize static URLs containing keywords.

The best URL is one that mirrors your website page’s title. You can simply omit such words as “the,” “and” and “to” to keep the URL succinct.

In addition, when a user reads the URL of one of your college website’s pages, he or she should know exactly what the page is all about.

7. Images

As you can tell from what we’ve discussed so far, the keywords you use in your college website’s text are beyond important for ranking well in search engine results.

However, these same keywords are important to include in image file names, too. And the more descriptive they are, the better. For instance, instead of saying “logo.png,” say “university-logo.png.”

8. Headings

Pay special attention to your Web page’s headings as well as subheadings. This content tells both Google and users what information is covered on the page.

Be sure that a page’s main heading is similar to the meta title. And be sure to insert various keywords into your headings as well.

9. Links

Links are an essential factor in achieving high rankings, so be sure that your college website pages feature links to other reputable sites.

In the same way, look for opportunities to get links to your Web pages on other sites that are high-quality, such as government, news or professional websites as well as course directories.

10. Subdomains

A subdomain is another big problem for many college websites.

With subdomains, colleges essentially split their link profiles between multiple sites rather than focusing on their primary domains. Unfortunately, this negatively impacts their ability to garner high search engine rankings.

As a general rule of thumb, don’t utilize a subdomain for any page that will generate a link to your site.

However, if there is a subdomain, produce a landing page that will allow the user to access the subdomain’s information on your school’s main site. This will allow users to easily link through to your main site.

How We Can Help

We offer a wide variety of SEO tools and tips to help your college to be in first place in the online race.

Contact us to find out more about how we can help your institution’s website to achieve more traffic and thus enrollments this year.