The Case for Higher-Ed Non-Branded Site Optimization

On more than one occasion, I’ve been asked the value of optimizing a university’s site for non-branded search terms.  This area of concern is often accompanied by the argument, “Students have a short list of universities that they’re selecting from. If my university is one of them, they’ll search for a branded term to find me.”

While that may have been the case in past years, and even sometimes today, there is undeniably a larger pool of students taking advantage of the information available to them as search engines – and the results they return – evolve.

Students perform more sophisticated and more specific searches. We’re seeing some higher education SEO trends that explicitly point to the need for non-branded, query-driven content.

Take a look at how branded search trends for a variety of colleges (Harvard University, Yale University, the University of Michigan, the University of Virginia, and UCLA) compare to the growth of a general non-branded, query-based search.

Branded Search Decline:

Query-Based Increase:

No longer satisfied with pamphlets and brochures distributed at college fair days in their senior year, students are looking to Google to answer their questions and help them identify the best options for their needs.

As these sorts of query-based searches increase, so does the opportunity for universities to reach new student prospects. Fill that informational gap by identifying your college’s best assets, differentiators, unique programs and scholarship options, and then creating a healthy mix of branded and non-branded content around them.

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About Kelly Krasuna

A graduate of the University of Toledo, Kelly holds a degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations. She is a Senior Digital Specialist on Fathom’s EDU team, and brings several years of experience in ecommerce and lead-generation across both regional and national enterprise accounts. She holds certifications in Google Analytics and Google Adwords. Kelly enjoys Cleveland sports, her fiance Jeff, her calico cat and traveling.

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  • Charity says:

    “No longer satisfied with pamphlets and brochures distributed at college fair days in their senior year, students are looking to Google to answer their questions and help them identify the best options for their needs.” Nailed it. Great post, Kelly.

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