The expense involved in recruiting the best qualified students and student athletes is enormous. The marketing budgets in highly competitive secondary and post-secondary schools rivals that of many corporations. The use of similar strategies is common with print media, television, and internet all featured in addition to the expanding areas of social media marketing and internet marketing. With the demographic you are trying to reach, social media marketing and internet marketing are likely more targeted than more conventional and older marketing strategies.
It is sometimes bewildering why, given the emphasis on internet marketing, a key area is often overlooked. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is used by major corporations and small up and coming businesses alike. It is the process of utilizing known and generally regarded as true techniques to ensure that your web page (like the school website) is found as highly placed as possible in as many different internet searches as possible. This makes it more likely for a prospective student (or parent) to go to your web site to read about your specific program.
Why does placement matter on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)? Studies have shown the top ten results in the SERPs garner 90% of the traffic. Only 10% of people ever bother to go to even the second page of search results. If they do not find what they are looking for in those first few clicks they typically input a new search term. If you want to get people searching for “Best Engineering College in California” to visit your website then you should be trying very hard to ensure you are on the first page of results in that search.
Can you influence the Google search results? Yes, you can. There are many ways to do this. The process is Search Engine Optimization or SEO. The search engines all utilize complex algorithms to try to guess at the most useful results to place in the SERPs in order of merit. While there are literally thousands of calculations going into this, it all simplifies down to the more people that have referred to your website as relates to those exact search terms, the higher you will appear in the SERP. This includes social media outlets, blogs, news articles and many other criteria. The algorithms also rank the credibility of the reference – in other words the opinion of well-known and highly regarded sources is of greater influence than a passing reference on a little read blog.
Google will also rate your website on how useful and user friendly it is. Things like page load times and easily navigated and indexed sites get a boost in the rankings. This “On Page Optimization” should be done by the company that is maintaining your website. It also should be coordinated with your efforts at direct influence on the results pages through off site optimization efforts. By choosing a coherent strategy you can have the most dramatic impact.
A coherent strategy may include adding the phrase “Best Engineering College in California” to your meta descriptions on the page talking about your engineering department in conjunction with volunteering to write (have your Media or English departments write or hire professional writers do it) a series of articles for prominent engineering review websites, descriptions of careers for career web sites, etc. that include a link to that page. The more prominent and known the source that publishes these article, the greater the influence it will have on your rankings in the SERPS. If this is coordinated with an outreach program on Twitter and Facebook encouraging people to discuss your engineering programs, it is likely your placement on the SERPs will increase.
The key to this working effectively is to remember that you want exposure in a relevant discussion, not advertising. The exposure will be effective as long as the content being published is useful and of value. If the content is well written and informative, it is not difficult to find places willing to share it, however if it is a 500 word promotional advertisement reputable places will not publish it and it will not be read and shared on social media sources multiplying the effect.
By looking at your recruiting needs and identifying likely keywords that will be used by people searching for the programs you offer you can target your efforts to fulfill specific requirements. The direct effect on organic search results will drive targeted interested traffic to your website. This may be accomplished by yourself, but many find it useful to seek the advice of a company used to the complexities of search marketing due to the manpower and expertise issues that may arise. Google provides an excellent guide to assist you in determining what SEO companies to consider and what to ask in choosing an SEO company.