SEO: What to Ask When You Don’t Know What to Ask

SEO for higher education websites

If your school’s website doesn’t show up in search when high school students start to look for the degrees and programs you offer, something is wrong. Seriously wrong.

Effective Search Engine Optimization can fix technical problems, improve visibility in search rankings, increase website traffic, and be the pathway to more student applications and enrollments. But SEO in the wrong hands can have dire effects. In fact, mistakes can lead to the exact opposite outcome you want, causing Google and other search engines to relegate your site to Search Siberia, and far from the first page results you crave. Here are 6 questions to ask your SEO agency before you ask them to come onboard:

  • 1)  How long before we see some results? Hopefully, this isn’t the first question you ask, but many schools do. Their site isn’t performing well and they want results yesterday. Unfortunately, there are agencies out there that will promise immediate SEO results. If they do, find another agency. They’ll tell you that not only can they achieve a quick increase in traffic and backlinks, but that they can prove it, too. If they do, find another agency. Results from effective SEO take a minimum of 4-6 months. It can take even longer if your site is already performing fairly well, but has room for improvement. There are ways to quickly produce a bump in traffic and increased backlinks. But they’re not the ways you want! SEO agencies can use techniques to trick search engines and produce the appearance of success, but it will cost you in the long run. Penalties can create long-time damage to your school’s website and its reputation.


  • 2)  What is your SEO philosophy and approach? There is no one right answer to this question, but it’s important that your agency’s philosophy aligns with yours. If they don’t approach the relationship as a partnership, find another agency. They should first understand your institution, its mission, and goals. They can’t measure success if they don’t know what that looks like to you. Their approach should be well-articulated and easy for you to understand and should at least include these three components:
  1. Technical Audit
  2. Keyword Research and Development
  3. Content Developed Around User Experience


  • 3)  What do you need from us? A good SEO agency knows that true success can only be achieved if they fully understand what makes your institution unique. So that need-from-us list should be long. If you can’t find an agency that specializes in higher education, you will first need to educate your SEO provider about the lay of the edu landscape and your school’s place in it. Then, you will need to provide them information about your students, programs, competitors, goals, objectives, and desired KPIs. You will also need to grant them access to your Google Analytics, your content management system, and any marketing automation tools you use.


  • 4)  What tools do you use? SEO tools and resources are constantly evolving so the right answer today could be the wrong answer tomorrow. But you still need to ask so you can quickly follow up with why? Understanding how an SEO agency chooses and uses tools to bring greater accuracy and efficiencies to their clients will give you insight into their transparency and abilities.


  • 5)  What about mobile? Google announced last year that it would split page indexing into two parts: desktop and mobile. Any good SEO strategy has to include mobile optimization. Users must have a positive experience from wherever they access your site, on whatever device they use. For institutions of higher education, mobile is essential, as most of your target demographic probably accesses your site from a smartphone.


  • 6)  How will SEO be incorporated into overall marketing? Successful SEO cannot live in a silo. Regardless of whether the agency that provides your school’s SEO also provides other marketing services, it must work in concert with all your marketing efforts. SEO can augment paid search and digital advertising, as well as email and social media marketing. SEO is especially helpful in PR efforts, where distribution and amplification of robust, SEO-based content can help elevate your institution’s brand across media.

If you want to reap the benefits of SEO, you need to partner your institution with an agency that has the expertise, knowhow, and experience. ESM Digital knows SEO, and we specialize in higher education. Give us a call today to find out how we could help position your website and your school to increase applications and enrollments.

~Linda Emma