Higher ed professionals know that students use search engines to discover college websites, which is a crucial part of recruiting. The imminent enrollment cliff makes it increasingly important for your website to appear high on search results. With fewer prospective students to recruit because there will be fewer young people in the pipeline for college, using the best SEM and SEO tactics can improve your chances of keeping your enrollment numbers robust.

In our 2022 surveys, high school students and their parents ranked “college websites” and “search engines” as their top two places to start researching college choices. Reaching prospects depends heavily on being found on the web, which rests on your SEO and SEM. Let’s delve into the two areas to get a better idea of how they can help students and parents find your school and start the journey towards enrolling.

SEO vs. SEM: What’s the Difference?

Search engine optimization (SEO) focuses on organic search, ensuring that your school comes up high on the list of search terms that people enter when they are researching higher education. Search engine marketing (SEM) includes the organic traffic from SEO and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising that puts your school’s website in the paid results at the top of the page on Google searches. When you have substantial organic traffic and add the PPC appearances that can get you noticed by the right students, you get the most bang for your advertising buck. Of course, you can do one or the other, but simultaneously doing both will magnify the effect.

The Art of SEO for Your School’s Website

When you are working on getting your college’s web pages to come up in organic search results, there are several different tasks to make that happen. The first step is keyword research, which will help you find out what terms people are searching that relate to your offerings, and you can use these keywords in the content you create.

On-page SEO is the process of crafting and placing content that will align with the search intent while incorporating keywords from your research. People researching colleges and universities will be looking to learn about the programs you offer, fees, schedules, acceptance rates, alumni success, and other specific information about the education you can provide. Using the right keywords makes your content relevant, answering students’ questions about your school. High-quality writing makes your web pages both readable for students and helps rank for organic search.

Off-page SEO involves creating backlinks and other authority to show the search engines that your content deserves a high rank in search results. Technical SEO ensures that search engines can find, crawl, and index the content on your web pages. The technical operations of your site need to be for you to rank in search, and off-page SEO can increase your rank.


SEM Takes Your Online Marketing to the Next Level

PPC advertising on Google or other search engines will give you a high ranking in the paid search results for important keywords for your university. When you come up in organic search, your school shows that it has the content people seek, and the reinforcement of paid search results can convince prospects that your institution is precisely what they are looking for. In addition, SEM in the form of PPC ads energizes candidates who also see your school in organic search results.


Be Where Prospects Can Find You—In Search Results!

With search engines and your website being the first places prospects and families look for colleges, you can’t afford not to invest in both of these areas of marketing. The synergy of organic search results created by your SEO work and the paid ads that will get you to the top of the page makes your school’s marketing appear where the eyeballs are—on your website and in Google searches. Doing SEO and SEM right will help you to recruit the best students for your school.


AMG Higher Ed can help you shape your SEO and SEM strategy so prospects can find you. Please get in touch with us to discuss how to recruit students efficiently through your website and online efforts.