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4 Mistakes that Can Sabotage Your SEO Program

In our expanding marketing work with institutions around the country, Enrollment Builders’ consultants have a unique opportunity to get an insider’s view of what many colleges and universities do right and — sometimes more importantly — the recurring tactical mistakes that can lead to chronically underperforming programs. As Search Engine Optimization (SEO) becomes an even more crucial part of every organization’s marketing plan, we’ve been able to see first-hand the challenges that many institutions face in building smarter search programs that yield significantly higher ROI. Here are four of the most common hurdles colleges and universities encounter as they focus on SEO:

1. Improper prioritization. In spite of overwhelming research that supports SEO as a crucial tool to the success of generating qualified prospects, many institutions still view search as a new, novel, or marginal activity. This notion feeds program ineffectiveness at every level and sets the stage for the rest of the challenges we’ll discuss. Institutions that thrive in our web-based, highly-mobile world realize that a well-managed SEO program is fundamental to success. Without it, an institution’s web presence, social media initiatives, and other online marketing efforts are rudderless in a sea of competition.

2. Non-centralized approach. When organizations direct resources toward search engine optimization, often responsibilities are spread between departments without an ultimate content ‘gatekeeper.’ And while multi-department input is important to any program’s success, centralizing and educating all content contributors on Search Engine Optimization maintains consistency, builds a stronger keyword presence, and provides a long view of what’s working and what’s not. We typically recommend the creation of an "SEO Tool Kit" to align all administrators and faculty responsible for contributing to the website. A "Search Engine Optimization Tool Kit" gives all website contributors a central training resource at their disposal to promote standardization and best practices as content is created, published, and shared.

3. Resources spread too thin. Similarly, institutions often view search as an auxiliary function that’s not central to online success. The result is teams attempting to fit SEO duties into a broad range of other to-do’s. The challenge here is one of understanding: search is active, ongoing, and dynamic. Responsible professionals or teams that are spread too thin simply can’t devote the time and effort necessary to proactively collaborate with other departments, refine content, respond to changing keywords and keyword terms, and properly manage leads and inquiries.

4. Ineffective hand-off of leads. A well-designed and well-executed search program is tightly integrated with the key departments that supply content or leverage inquiry and prospect information. Organizing a clear, two-way information exchange between groups supports the efforts of each. Being able to produce leads is only half of the battle. Search partners need to know what to do with them and leverage flawless communication channels between departments in order to nurture qualified inquiries and convert them into prospects and enrolled students.

To build a better SEO program it’s important to understand that, to a significant degree, search is only as effective as the knowledge that directs it. Rather than seeking a general vendor that simply tacks on search services, consider partnering with a team that understands the complexities of the higher education market and can customize a search program that meets your institution’s specific needs. In a climate where competition is tight, margins are thin, and media is more cluttered than ever before, the advantage rests with those organizations that choose strategic partners with the skill and insight to produce real results.