SEO, Thought Leaders

How to Implement Best Local SEO Practices for a University

September 23, 2020

by Stephanie Castillo

Senior Manager of SEO & Content, Perfect Search Media

Struggling to make SEO work for your college or university? Read on to learn local SEO best practices for higher ed institutions.

As a college or university, it’s crucial that you’re actively optimizing your website using local SEO strategies, particularly when it comes to generating enrollments and RFIs. Students expect to be able to apply online, so it’s important that your university’s website ranks well on national and local SERPs. 

Local SEO plays a big role in increasing your college’s website visibility organically. For example, on the first page alone, the first five organic results account for 67.6% of all the clicks and the results from 6 to 10 account for only 3.73%.

Prospective students are frequently using universities’ online and digital presence to make sure they’re making the right investment in their education. Plainly speaking, it’s important that prospects are able to find you, both online and in-person.

Our How-To Guide on Implementing the Best Local SEO Practices For a College or University

  1. Begin with local keyword research
  2. Create location-specific content
  3. Fully optimize your Google My Business (GMB) listing
  4. Get listed in directories
  5. Ensure your NAP is consistent across all platforms
  6. Build up local link citations to your website

1. Begin With Local Keyword Research

Optimizing local pages begins with keyword research. Use keyword research tools such as the AdWords Keyword Planner and SEM Rush to gain an insight into potential keywords that have high search volumes in the locations that you are wishing to target. 

Let’s search ‘universities near Chicago’ on SEMRush’s Keyword Magic Tool:

Keyword Magic Tool
The tool will give you insight into your keyword’s performance, as well as suggestions for more.

Once you have compiled a list of relevant keywords, you can use it to optimize the following checklist of on-page elements and content and make your local page stand out.

2. Create Location-Specific Content

One of the main tenets of SEO is ensuring on-page content and metadata are optimized for relevant, high search volume keywords. When it comes to local SEO, the key addition is to ensure that you’re incorporating location-specific or geographic information for different campus location pages. 

After you complete your keyword research using the strategies outlined in step 1, you can use these localized keywords to create and optimize local page content.

As a starting point, you should try to establish unique, evergreen, local pages for each of your college’s campuses. Another great content strategy is to incorporate local-focused topics into your editorial blog content. 

3. Fully Optimize Your Google My Business (GMB) Listing

One of the easiest and most immediate changes you can make to improve your organic presence is to fully optimize your university’s Google My Business Listing. Here’s what to include:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Website and phone number
  • Business hours
  • Categories
  • Menu

Additional fields in other local online directories and citations may include:

  • Description
  • Social profiles
  • Images
  • Additional media
  • Alternate phone numbers
  • Fax number

If your university has multiple campuses, create one GMB listing per campus. 

Another best practice for ensuring your GMB listings are in tip-top shape is to choose the most accurate category for your school. Some examples of categories covered by GMB include: 

  • College
  • Community College
  • Music College
  • Private University
  • Public University
  • Technical University
  • University
  • University Department
  • University Library
  • Vocational College
  • Women’s College

Finally, it’s important to utilize GMB posts to help your overall SERP visibility. These show up underneath your Knowledge Graph directly on Google. Here, UC Davis does a great job of taking advantage of these posts.

UC Davis GMB

If you want to give it a try yourself, potential content ideas include upcoming events, open houses or campus visits, or university news. 

4. Get Listed in Directories

While your Google My Business page is your most direct route to the top of the SERP page, it’s not the only off-website listing that can help you generate more RFIs.

Other directories and forums include Yelp, Bing, Quora, and more. Reach out to your alum network and encourage your community to leave reviews!

5. Ensure Your NAP is Consistent Across All Platforms

In order for prospective students and search engines to trust the data they find across the web about your college or university, you must ensure that its NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) is consistent on your website and on all third-party platforms where your university is listed.

When search engines like Google encounter NAP inconsistencies, they can become less trusting of the information they have about your school, which can potentially result in lower local search rankings. 

To avoid NAP inconsistency, audit all of the directories that your college is listed or mentioned on, and correct any variants in the data.

If you have a multi-location university, a best practice is to include the “main” contact for your school (a central campus, official office, etc.) on most pages and the main contact and a particular campus’ NAP on location-specific pages. 

6. Build Up Local Link Citations to Your Website 

Once your GMB profile and local campus location pages have been optimized, you can turn to more advanced SEO techniques. Specifically, you can increase your SEO presence in regional or local communities to earn local link citations back to your college’s website. 

These could include press about the university from a news outlet, blog post, social media post, or another local business.

Having links from various other high authority websites makes your university search engine and courses even more credible.

Follow SEO Best Practices to Make Your College or University Stand Out

As recruitment for higher education goes more and more virtual, standing out among your local competitors is becoming increasingly more important. These SEO tips will help you break out from the pack and establish yourself as the top choice in your area. 

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