How to

This year I will be better at…SEO

Estimated read time: 10 minutes

It’s that time of year when we’re thinking about resolutions – maybe some of you have even broken yours already! Anyway, we get it. As such, we’ve pulled together a few articles this week to help you keep your resolutions in 2018.

We’re starting today with something that should be on every marketer’s list, every year; search engine optimisation. Doing SEO well is hard work. Thankfully, we can count a veritable SEO expert amongst our list of friends. Step forward Chloe Hashemi, SEO Manager at Net Natives, who has four sure-fire ways to up your SEO game in 2018.

With another year spilling out in front of us, it’s natural to think about setting new goals and facing new challenges. The idea of ‘bettering ourselves’ goes hand in hand with starting a fresh year, and I like to take this very approach with my SEO strategies for my clients at Net Natives.

Without sounding too pushy, I would urge you to do the same. SEO is definitely one of those things that you need to keep chipping away at to try and keep on top of the latest developments, because Google has a tendency to chop and change just a bit…

With voice search on the up and more and more young people using their mobiles as their sole internet source, it’s more important than ever to give your SEO strategy some thought in 2018. And, if you haven’t got any SEO strategy at all, there’s no need to panic; SEO doesn’t have to be complicated.

I’ll admit, getting to grips with SEO can take some time. With over 200 ranking factors and counting, no wonder it’s such a confusing topic.

Put simply, if you want your prospective students or potential customers to be able to find you in the place it really matters – search engine results – you should care about SEO. Just take a moment to think about how much of all internet traffic starts from a search engine. According to SmartInsights, approximately 4,464,000,000 searches take place each day on Google alone.

Mobile, mobile, mobile!

With many marketers making their SEO predictions for the new year, I always think it’s quite hard to argue with the facts. Today, roughly 60% of Google’s searches are from a mobile device. More importantly, results from 2017’s National Clearing Survey show that almost two-thirds of students used mobiles to search for a Clearing institution.

In 2018, you really can’t afford to miss out on online visibility on mobile by innocently forgetting about the mobile cohort of your website. If you overlook mobile, you risk missing out on a large chunk of traffic, which means fewer prospective students or potential customers finding out about your institution or brand.

Your mobile website is only about to get even more important too. Google has also confirmed that their ‘Mobile First’ index is imminent. This may sound quite techy, but what this means is that Google will turn to the mobile version of your site before they even get a whiff of your desktop one. This will still be the case if someone searches from their desktop computer.

So, if you want to stand a chance of ranking on page one for the search term ‘university clearing’ this August for example, you need to invest some time into thinking about updating your mobile site.

Don’t ignore voice search

Speaking of mobile, did you know that 20% of all searches made on a mobile device are voice searches?

Yep that’s right, it’s getting more and more likely that a prospective student/customer will ask their mobile in person something about your institution/brand rather than type it out.

Although we are at the very early stages of knowing how to properly optimise content for voice search, it’s certainly worth your attention. A good way to optimise for those increasingly popular voice searches is to start introducing a question/answer format to your content.

For instance, if a prospective student searches ‘why get a marketing degree?’, they might want to hear a short list of advantages of this course, and a summary of the career options available to them after graduating. Structuring your content like this on a frequent basis can help increase your chances of Alexa reading out your advice next time a prospective student wants to hear a bit more about a marketing course.

Don’t be afraid of video

You don’t need me to tell you that video is a great medium to reach young people. Viewers retain 95% of a message when they consume it via video, compared to just 15% of a message when they read it in text.

For example, if you’re looking to tell students that your university is a great place to study, why not show them? I’m not just talking campus tours and video testimonials, try thinking outside the box and giving applicants the inside scoop on what it’s like to be a student at your institution.

Recent research has revealed that 55% of all Google search results contain at least one video. So if you are creating, uploading and optimising video content, you are increasing your chances of showing up for more searches every month.

Just be careful not to create video for the sake of it! Take a step back and think, what story are you trying to tell and will it be an asset to your brand? After all, you don’t want to confuse or bore a student before they have even signed up for an open day.

Invest in your user experience

With each passing year, it’s becoming increasingly evident that Google is getting smarter and smarter. One of the reasons for this growing intellect is Google’s machine learning system called Rankbrain.

Rankbrain helps the search engine sort and rank the billions of webpages online. Again, this may sound quite technical, but it really isn’t. This AI software pays special attention to how users interact with all the content in search results.

For example, if the first result on Google for ‘English Literature Degree in London’ was incredibly wordy and didn’t grab the user’s attention, causing them to bounce off the page straight away Google would take notice of that. If enough people bounce off the page straight away, Google will banish that page from the top spot.

Similarly, if the article ranking on the bottom of page one for ‘best student accommodation in the UK’ had engaging written content, video and interactive elements, and users spent a great deal of time exploring and engaging with it, Google would take note of this too and allow it to climb the rankings.

The lesson to learn here is don’t create content that your audiences won’t pay any attention to. Think about what will enhance their experience on your site, and give that a go.

Better yet, track what you can. Gather all the geeky data as to what prospective students like and don’t like about your website and showcase all the bits they do like while ditching the bits they don’t.

Google will reward you for it, promise!

Find Chloe on LinkedIn and check out her amazing music photography on Instagram.