Last year I hit up the Higher Education Conference circuit asking the question “If nobody is visiting your site does it matter?” in my web analytics presentations. This year I’m really digging into Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and as I am thinking about the SEO Best Practices presentation that I’ll be giving at eduWeb this summer it only seems appropriate to start out with a similar question.
“If People Can’t Find It, Does It Matter?”
Specifically I’m talking about content on your website. As Michael Fienen explored a few months ago a college website is large and the Information Architecture of a College Website is vital. I went over to eduStyle.net and grabbed ten complete random colleges and ran them through Google to see how many indexed pages each domain had. This is done by searching for “site:domain.com” where the domain.com is replaced by the associated domain name. This picks up all subdomains which I did want to include because college web presences are VERY complicated. So lets look at the results.
|College Name||Domain||Indexed Pages|
|Alfred State College||alfredstate.edu||9,230|
|Central Arizone College||centralaz.edu||3,030|
|Columbia Gorge Community College||cgcc.cc.or.us||2,690|
|George Mason University||gmu.edu||994,000|
|Southeastern Lousiana University||selu.edu||46,400|
|Thomas Edison State College||tesc.edu||6,460|
|University of Florida||ufl.edu||998,000|
|University of Washington||washington.edu||2,530,000|
So just looking at this sample size the smallest sizes have thousands of pages and the larger ones have a million or MORE! What is even crazier is that these are just pages indexed by Google and are easily not including lots of content like content behind password protection.
Why SEO is Vital for College Websites
The way that I present Google indexed pages of content to my clients is that each page of content is an opportunity. What I mean by opportunity is that it is an opportunity to rank on a new keyword. Because of the long tail nature of search having a million pages of content potentially means tens or hundreds of million of various keywords that the larger sites can rank. Wofford College has just short of 10,000 indexed pages in Google and averages over 50,000 visitors from search engines. These searchers ended up at www.wofford.edu from over 7,000 different search terms in the last month!
So if you want to talk about people visiting a site being important than search traffic has to be included in a large percentage of that. For Wofford it is about 25% of total traffic and for this Higher Education marketing blog it accounts for over 40% of our traffic. Can you imagine giving up a quarter of your traffic? What if you could increase your traffic 10-20% by simply doing some optimization around your content and making it easier for people on the web to be able to find your content when they are looking for it? If a 10% increase in traffic resulted in 10% more alumni giving or 10% more students applications then would you care?
What about someone who visits a college site and is searching for something? The information architecture is vital, but what percentage of your visitors who are looking for something specific do you think just give up and try an internal site search? For the exact same SEO reasons your internal site search can be that much better if you optimize your content in a certain way.
More To Come
So I’m not even talking about how to optimize your content for search, simply trying to convince people of the importance. We will get to the how soon enough, I promise. In the mean time why not refresh yourself with some of the good SEO posts already on this blog including: