How Recent Google Changes Affect Higher Education Websites

The last five years have been marked by constant shifts in Google's ranking formula. It's hard to follow and universities are often behind research competition. Sixty-seven percent of Internet users use search engines as their primary source of information for higher education institutions.

With the exception of a few traditional schools such as Pennsylvania State University and Gonzaga University, Ken Lyons of WordStream claims that most schools are losing their online visibility compared to other schools. other websites.

"What I found completely confusing, is how most college websites are outclassed by aggregated degree guides or list sites," writes Lyons on the WordStream blog. "As such, they have to resort to paid search to be listed in the SERP because they are unfit for SEO. Seriously, college websites (because of their .edu status) are branded, trusted domains , authoritative, who should be able to easily take precedence over sites like other sites.But, even with this obvious advantage, they remain up to par. "

In fact, higher education is one of the most expensive sectors in the CPD sector with an average cost per click (CPC) of $ 10. Although CPP is a very effective tool for attracting leads, it is usually more efficient for clients Potential of the Bottom of the Funnel

Universities that give up referencing best practices cancel tens of thousands of free clicks each month, including: queries from potential students who are located much higher in the funnel.

Universities can focus their SEO efforts in three main areas: optimizing control of brand information, using research data and links to leadership strategy and understanding of new research elements .

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Controlling Your Brand Information

The most important problem in the new face of research is controlling your brand information. While Google has realigned its SERPs to better match the growth of voice search, selected clips have become larger and more important than ever, and there is no guarantee that excerpts from your university will come from your website.


As of July 2018, the featured fragment of People Also Ask (PAA) has increased from about 15% to over 50% of search results; PAA now appears in about 85% of the SERPs.

These infinitely expanding response areas appear above most organic results and represent the new face of the SERP. Google is becoming a zero-click environment, where up to half of searches are processed without leaving the search engine. It is important that universities learn to be included in these excerpts. The selected clips also feed voice assistants such as Google Home, which adds another layer of importance.

Here is an example of research "University of Iowa:"

The questions of AAP are usually solved. by websites other than the university. In Google's opinion, these websites have better answers to questions on the university's website. This is a problem for two reasons:

This positions other websites as an authority, where they can potentially siphon traffic and links outside of your site. It allows other websites to set your Mark; to serve as authority over your information. Universities must make every effort to control their information.

To access these excerpts, schools must create the best possible content. content that fully and clearly answers questions about the school and programs. In addition, all pages must be marked with the FAQPage schema (more details on the schema later in this article).

University Research

Universities must ensure that their data is displayed correctly in Google's academic search engine. . Through this feature, searching for a two- or four-year American college provides a featured excerpt containing information about admissions, cost, student life and current certificate programs and related programs.

This excerpt is powered by the public information provided by College Scorecard and the United States Department of Education's Integrated Post-Secondary Education Data System (IPEDS), a set of comprehensive data available for four-year colleges. It is important for all universities to review their excerpt and ensure that the data is presented correctly.

Links and Keywords Are Still Important

Research has changed significantly in recent years. Despite all these changes, some traditional SEO principles are still valid. It is important to review the data and use the public's knowledge to create content that classifies, engages and attracts links.


At the time of the darkness of SEO, you needed a page targeting each search term. What's more important now is to write about a topic and create the best content on the internet about it.

For universities, this means a longer page that describes a program in detail, instead of 20 pages on a program. It also means creating a unmarked keyword library for every page, including all variants. For example, a computer program page in your school should represent the different words and phrases that researchers can use.

Links and Redirections

Hyperlinks (links to your site from other sites) are still the foundation of the search ranking. Backlinks are the search currency and a major ranking factor. They essentially constitute a quality vote from another website.

University websites usually contain many web pages that no longer exist. Each new semester and each school year requires new content, including class schedules, available classes and events. However, it could be a serious mistake to delete these obsolete pages.

Before you delete a page from your website, make sure the page does not contain a return link. Any page with return links must, at a minimum, be redirected to another page via a 301 (permanent) redirect. Otherwise, the link equity of this page and any ranking improvements that it may offer are lost.

For events that are repeated each year, such as a weekend for alumni, consider updating the page with new information about the event instead of creating an event. new page for the event every year. Over time, the page will accumulate link juice that can be sent to other important pages via an internal link.

A Domain for All

As much as possible, avoid using multiple domains for your university. . It is tempting to create a new field for school athletics, for the employee site or for individual colleges.

This is a huge SEO error. When your college uses multiple domains, you divide your links and authority across multiple domains. Basically, you create multiple weak sites instead of one strong site.

Work on creating an internal policy in your university that discourages the creation of external domains and attempts to re-integrate external domains into your main website.

The New Foundations

Although these fundamental elements of research are still topical, new elements have been periodically added to the mix of rankings. It is important that your university understands the evolution of research and makes your website competitive.

Speed ​​of the site and first indexing on mobile

As of July 2018 (after years of warnings), mobile site speed has become a factor in the world. Google's ranking algorithm.

This is part of Google's mobile-based indexing strategy, which involves using the mobile version of a website to index and rank pages. It's now more important than ever to make the mobile version of your website the best version of your website.

This is especially true for universities, where many of your potential customers will visit your site on a mobile device. In addition, consider that many potential students may be in areas that use the 3G network service, which can still hamper loading times.

Slow page loading times not only limit the amount of your site that Google will explore, but also increases the bounce rate and reduces the number of conversions to sites.

The majority of the university websites I tested showed extremely low page load speeds. Schools are responsible for monitoring page load times and troubleshooting issues that slow down loading times, including large images, excessive CSS and scripts, server problems, and lack of compression.

For very large pages or paid search landing pages. Universities may choose to implement AMP pages. This would give a quick and uncluttered page that could also be a long way ahead in the first mobile rankings.


Google is putting more and more emphasis on the use of structured data (also markup for creating excerpts and research results presented.

In 2017, Google's Gary Illyes went so far as to say, "We've started creating many new features that rely on structured data … that's an important part." if you want your sites to appear in the search features, implement structured data. "

He added:" Think of any schema that you could use on your pages. understand your pages and, indirectly, it will improve the ranks, because we can classify more easily. "

The number of available schema markers has steadily increased. It is worth paying attention, especially to CollegeOrUniversity and Course tags (for the course of study), and to apply these tags and other relevant tags to their sites.

Local Search Engine Optimization

] While universities may disregard the importance of local research, they do so at their own risk. 44% of users in the local results clicked in the pack of three presented.

There are millions of searches each month for thousands of terms like "colleges near my home" (135,000 searches per month) and thousands of individual searches. programs such as "Nursing Program Near My Home". Local search can provide many leads in your area that are looking for local education options.

Examine the local SEO ranking factors and make sure that your university's website is optimized to fit into the three packs as much as possible.

Hard, but Necessary

Universities are generally lagging behind. curve in SEO optimization, so that schools that are optimizing now will be ahead of the rankings.

Pay attention to:

questions that researchers have about your college and make sure that they receive a complete answer on your website Keep control of your information data , such as keywords and backlinks, will help you manage content creation, leverage link equity, and effectively add and remove pages from the site, such as site speed, site speed, schema and local referencing

. University and college websites are often bulky, decentralized and difficult to navigate. However, paying attention to SEO and creating a centralized SEO strategy will yield huge dividends in unmarked traffic and organic leads.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the invited author and not necessarily those of the search engine. Associated authors are listed here.

About the Author

Ryan Johnson is an award winning SEO and digital marketing specialist. For more than a decade, Ryan has provided digital and traditional marketing advice and SEO advice to B2B and B2C clients of all types, from the smallest nonprofit brands to Fortune 500 brands.

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