Local SEO Strategies For Higher Ed Recruitment

Higher Education, Search Engine Optimization

Crush Local Recruitment

For some students, the allure of moving across the country for college and immersing themselves in a totally new environment full of new people is one of the most appealing aspects. Some might be happy to finally be far enough away from home that they don’t have to visit every weekend, but that’s not the case with all students. 

Many have grown up as big-time fans of their local college teams (we take no sides here) and dreamt of the day that they get to put on those university colors as their own. Not to mention the close-to-home advantage of free laundry access and homemade treats from the ‘rents.

SEO Strategies for Higher Ed 

If you aren’t sure why a college or university might need SEO to begin with, let’s side-bar about why SEO is critical for colleges

You’re back now? Great! Let’s continue.

Like all SEO work, this is a big picture effort with your most significant gains coming in as early as 6 months, but most likely a year or more later. And it has a longer life-cycle than PPC, so results last longer. A great blog post about on-campus life can remain relevant and effective for years. Since Higher Ed institutions are endlessly enrolling new cohorts of students, you have time to wait for this work to be done correctly, and you clearly need it indefinitely. So start your SEO now and don’t stop. 

SEO strategies for Higher Ed are largely going to involve creating engaging content for various demographics then ensuring that you have the technical SEO set up correctly to amplify the reach of that content. 

Before you start working your butt off pulling in tons of website traffic, make sure that your site isn’t going to leave a bad impression. Once you’ve got a great user experience and clear user journeys, you’re all set to start making SEO magic. 

Show Potential Students Why Going Local is Where it’s at

You’re not just trying to sell them on your college or a specific program (which you obviously need to do, but that’s for another time) you also need to convince them that the town you’re located in is going to be a fab place for them to live for the next 4+ years. This really applies to all of your students, so you’re serving all your audiences in one fell swoop. 

Start closest to home and create local-focused content for the city or town that you’re located in. Yelp isn’t the only website that can make ‘best of’ lists. Showcase all those wonderful stores, restaurants, local haunts, and parks that only the residents of your college town have regular access to. Brag about ‘em. Make ‘em wanna apply. 

Create this same kind of content for adjacent cities. Include information about the great day trips that they can take on the weekends, and the special events that your city goes nuts for. Showcase the greater community that they could join by enrolling in your school. 

I strongly recommend that you consider having your current students write this content. Are you—a recruiting administrator in their 40’s—super in touch with what the kids are up to these days?  No judgments here either way, just being realistic. Consider hiring someone to write this content who speaks their language; you know what I mean. 

Increase On-campus Activities and Talk Them up Online 

Get more prospective students excited about your school by getting them to the campus for events. Do you host seminars or have guest speaker events that are open to the public? Yes? Great, make sure that your schedule is widely available online and talk it up on all of your social media channels. 

Your sporting events are the lowest hanging fruit here. Traditional media already does a great job of making sure fans know when their favorite team is playing. But what else do you offer that isn’t already mainstreamed? Arts festivals, music competitions, and big holiday celebrations are all things that you can use to engage with a wider audience. 

Events can also be marked up using Event Schema, which spoon-feeds details of your event to search engines and increases the chances of potential students discovering your events in search results. This can get a bit technical, but an SEO expert can help you set it up.

Engage Your Satellite Campus 

Many universities are slightly off the beaten path, located in ‘college towns’ where the local economy revolves almost entirely around the school. For example, here in Oregon both OSU and U of O are located a couple hours outside of Portland, but both of them have offices in Portland proper where they hold events and even offer additional programs.

Make sure you have an online presence for each of your satellite offices, by claiming and optimizing their Google My Business page. By doing this, you’re more likely to come up in local searches that might not contain your college name, but for searches related to the programs/degrees/certifications, that you offer. 

Create a Program-Focused Campaign

Some students know what their calling is from an early age. By 14, they already knew what they want to study in college and are scouring the continent for the best program. They’re also looking for likeminded people to connect with.

Foster these early bloomers when they’re in high school with content about the perks of your program, like how great the professors are, and what alumni have done after graduation. Take it a step further and create an online community or forum where existing students can directly engage with prospective students. You might even consider putting online course content or supplemental materials 

Bring All the Students to the Yard

We get it, digital marketing isn’t really a part of your job description, let alone executing technical on-site updates and consistently producing content for humans 10+ years your junior. Luckily for you, that’s our job! We use SEO strategies for Higher Ed Institutions to fill the top of your funnel for years to come. 
Let us do all the heavy SEO lifting for you. Schedule a free consultation.

About the Author

Alysha Schultz

Being the VP of Marketing and Culture at Intuitive is really about making sure we walk our talk. Whether that's fostering a balanced and supportive work culture, progressing JEDI initiatives, or ensuring we provide the highest level of service for all of our partners. Alysha is passionate about understanding and cultivating brand identities, and helping businesses share their story with the public through marketing.

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