With the number of online degree scams on the rise globally, legitimate universities and colleges must optimize their web visibility to differentiate themselves in search results. That is because without strong SEO, dubious “schools” can rank prominently when prospective students search for programs, misrepresenting themselves as accredited options.
One recent incident happened in India where a fake private university sold over 36,000 counterfeit degrees online for just $1,362 each. Graduates of these sham schools now face pressure from employers questioning their qualifications.
So, what does that have to do with higher education SEO investment? Most of these institutions, like the one mentioned earlier, managed to rank well in Google searches for programs despite not having true accreditation. Proper SEO by accredited schools is necessary to outperform scam sites trying to capture student traffic through deceptive tactics and optimization. Dominating for branded terms demonstrates authenticity.
Leaving a ranking void, universities risk losing applicants to slick degree mill sites optimized for related phrases. By investing in comprehensive SEO, universities can fend off scammers seeking to exploit the algorithm to rank higher than legitimate institutions. The choice is clear – prioritize higher education strategies enhancing digital visibility and trust signals before it’s too late.
Table of Contents
- Search Engine Rankings Ruled By Bogus Universities
- Search Engine Optimization Can Help Universities Preserve Their Reputation
- Higher Education SEO Tips To Start Seeing Results
- Educational Institutions Should Take Digital Marketing Seriously
- Pivot To Address Changing Search Patterns
- Final Word
Search Engine Rankings Ruled By Bogus Universities
Degree mills and fake online universities pose a growing threat as they optimize to rank prominently for popular degree searches. From nursing qualifications to MBAs, scam schools appear above accredited options too often in search engine results by employing SEO strategies.
Most students searching for a program like an MBA will assume the first few results are of a legitimate institution. Some offer online classes, which are never conducted. Others promise to award degrees based on life experience. Regardless, they rank for keywords, some branded keywords like the legit name of a university. If you searched “UCLA” and the first result was from “Theucla.com,” it’s pretty understandable to think it’s a legitimate site, even though it’s not.
These shady operators mislead students into enrolling and paying exorbitant tuition by utilizing similar-sounding names, copying brand elements, and investing in ads. Yet the so-called degrees hold no valid accreditation. Hundreds fall victim annually, and only because search engines are readily manipulated with the right SEO strategy and legitimate universities aren’t spending enough on SEO.
Experts estimate several dozen fake college sites currently ranking well. Legitimate universities face an uphill battle if they don’t fight back through online marketing. Degree mills exploit the fact most accredited schools neglect to optimize web visibility and trust factors.
By implementing strong SEO foundations on their sites, higher education institutions could gain dominance for branded and program-related searches. This dominance would curb scam schools from attracting unsuspecting applicants.
Dominating rankings for nursing courses and other high-demand programs requires an investment but pays off by boosting qualified leads. Outranking fraudsters also improves public perception of your institution’s reputation and authority.
While monitoring sites and reporting fakes helps, legitimate universities must become more search-savvy to mitigate risks. Competing successfully online comes down to executing an integrated digital marketing strategy encompassing marketing and optimization best practices. When done right, there is no reason why Google Search will not reward legitimate institutions, and it’s an organic traffic win that, in my experience, most legitimate higher education institutions need to help their bottom line.
Search Engine Optimization Can Help Universities Preserve Their Reputation
In an era of increasing online degree scams. Legitimate universities must utilize Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to differentiate and rank higher than dubious sites trying to steal applicants. Dominating the search engine rankings and visibility preserves institutional reputation while driving increased enrollment from qualified prospects.
Comprehensive SEO makes it easier for prospective students to find a university’s authentic web presence when researching degree programs. Optimizing school websites for branded and competitive keywords leads applicants to accredited options on search engine results pages.
Higher visibility and enrollment growth have financial upside by maximizing tuition revenue potential. Searches related to majors, graduate programs, campus life, admissions, and more can be targeted through ongoing optimization. This optimization translates to capturing more applicants that convert.
Additionally, outranking scam school sites through effective SEO for higher education reduces the number of students unwittingly preyed upon by fake university listings. Degree mills leverage only marketing tactics, while accredited schools must optimize more aspects like local reputation and authority.
Higher education SEO improves organic search traffic dramatically by making it easier for prospective students, parents, alumni, and others to verify the institution simply by searching. The school appears prominently with positive information reflecting quality.
In today’s digital-first world, search visibility and long-term organic growth strategies must become priorities for universities seeking to maintain reputations and thrive.
Higher Education SEO Tips To Start Seeing Results
Colleges and universities need to work on implementing an effective search optimization strategy which is now crucial for attracting prospective students. However, with so much web content competing for visibility, proper SEO can help your school stand out in search rankings and gain qualified leads.
These proven tips will accelerate website growth. However, higher education institutions need to invest in professional SEO, as not only will that ensure their online visibility improves, but also much of the work is handled proactively instead of reactively.
Conduct Thorough SEO Audits
Gaining visibility starts with understanding your website’s current positioning through detailed audits assessing:
- Technical factors like site speed, accessibility, metadata, and indexing
- Quality and authority of current content assets
- Local listing consistency and accuracy
- Backlink profile risks and value delivered
- Ranking analysis for core pages and programs
Audits reveal optimization strengths to build on and gaps to address to improve. They also inform strategy and priorities. The identified strategy and priorities serve as a basis for optimizing the higher ed and education websites for long-term sustained rankings.
Create Targeted Content Strategies
Your content strategy must attract searchers and engage them. Optimize pages and blogs covering key student interest topics like majors, campus life, financial aid, top degrees, alumni stories, and more.
Though keyword research and niche keyword research are often the basis of creating content that Google ranks and people enjoy reading. The content should speak to specific motivations and concerns of potential students in each vertical. To satisfy searchers, it is necessary to offer in-depth and detailed content that aligns with their intent. Therefore, a content strategy based on intent is essential.
While driving traffic through great content is crucial, a big part of the SEO effort is ensuring that a website captures those visitors through clear calls-to-action, simplified navigation, mobile responsiveness, and fast page speeds. Remove friction in applications. Test messaging and layouts. Telephone, chat, and email response times also impact conversions.
Platforms such as Google Analytics and Google Search Console provide a great deal of useful data but must be set up correctly. Unfortunately, many websites attempting higher education SEO don’t have this setup, making it hard, if not impossible, to track improvements in rankings off-page to traffic and even determine what is working for the website.
Build Local Relevance
Regarding local searches, your school’s Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) details must be consistent on directories like Google My Business, Facebook, and 150+ citation sites. Monitor and claim profiles. Generate more local reviews and engagement on social media. Sponsoring community events also build regional awareness.
Most higher ed websites and businesses have no problem ranking in local searches when the Google Business Profile is correctly optimized. Not to mention institutions catering to local students will discover that a lot of their web traffic comes from these listings.
Keep Content Fresh
Stale, outdated content sends wrong signals. Maintain an editorial calendar for publishing fresh pages, program/event listings, student highlights, and other assets. Archive outdated pages or redirect them. Promote new content through email, social media, internal links, and PR channels.
Fresh content shouldn’t just be part of your marketing and ranking strategies. Thus the content should be well-optimized to target the audience to meet the required search intent, eventually improving the website’s search engine ranking.
Measure What Matters
Define your key SEO KPIs (rankings, traffic, leads, etc.) and rigorously track progress in Google Analytics. Drill into trends and optimization impacts. Leverage Search Console data to discover what is working for the site. Google trends are also worth monitoring, as capitalizing on the latest trends can help boost your website page traffic. Continually optimize based on insights from your analytics dashboard.
Build An Entity
Sure, targeting niche-specific keywords and trending keywords will bring in organic traffic now. However, the long-term goal is to help build the institution into a virtual entity that Google trusts and understands. That’s our goal, which includes publishing a Wikipedia page, along with backlinks and news releases, which helps build an entity that ranks.
The approach is referred to as entity SEO. It is considered the holy grail of ensuring that your institution is an entity Google trusts and ranks while doing away with fake academic institutions that may piggyback off your reputation and sometimes even tarnish it.
Educational Institutions Should Take Digital Marketing Seriously
Google search recommendations are taken seriously by students searching for a college or university to enroll in. Google search results play an even bigger role for international students, who are desperate but have little information and thus may fall prey to universities ranking high in organic search results.
Search engines understand intent. They are smart enough to understand good content and identify black-hat SEO tactics. However, many search engines and engine crawlers can’t distinguish between a legit university and one of the many fakes with similar-sounding names that mainly capitalize on students’ search intent.
The good news is that professional educational SEO goes above and beyond to ensure that reputable institutions rank for nothing else but to save students from scammers. Educational institutions have a lot to gain from running an ongoing process of SEO that covers all technical aspects, such as broken links, on-page SEO, optimized content, etc.
Higher education SEO strategies coupled with the fact that most institutions have a physical presence and a reputation means that not only can they rank higher than a fictitious website, but that will also positively affect their bottom line.
Think of it this way, how much traffic does your web page get? How much more traffic can you get if you optimize for voice search? Make sure the content on the site is keywords related, and are you targeting relevant keywords to begin with?
There are hundreds of organic keywords that institutions can target, with high-quality content which helps bridge the gap between the target audience and universities’ meeting their targets of filling seats.
Pivot To Address Changing Search Patterns
Your university website, like many others, is mainly accessed by people using mobile devices. However, every mobile version is slightly different. Unfortunately, we’ve run into many higher education websites and institution sites that aren’t even mobile-friendly.
Apart from technical SEO, a college website, for instance, should invest in making sure that they are meeting the ever-changing needs of potential students accessing the site. If not, they stand to lose out on a lot of the generated traffic that may come in through mobile devices.
Like any other business, educational institutions need to pivot to meet the needs of potential students and existing ones to generate traffic. Plus, education institutions need to tick all the boxes to ensure they take advantage of all the ranking factors Google and other search engines have put in place to boost their visibility.
SEO success requires understanding your institution’s unique selling proposition. Not only will this help with off-page SEO efforts but also on-page efforts. Couple that with regularly creating compelling content, optimizing holistically, and monitoring results, and you’ll start seeing a steady stream of website traffic. Commit for the long haul, and you will notice your school steadily gaining visibility and conversion growth month after month as efforts compound.