Get Your Program Finder SEO Results

UND invested in an Advanced Search Engine Optimization tool to improve Program Finder organic search performance. Multiple sources indicate the number one question prospective students have is “do they have my program”. Online research is central to answer this question. Getting in the top 10 of search results is critical to being seen by prospective students.

Program Selection

Fifty-five programs were selected for the first tier of SEO Activity Plans based on the following criteria:

  1. Programs receiving digital marketing
  2. Popular online programs
  3. Programs that were not performing well organically in the last year
  4. No certificates or minors were selected
  5. Some programs were added because of competing similar keywords (i.e. combined programs)

SEO Results

Performance reports for each program are in this Dropbox.

When reviewing the reports, keep the following in mind:

  • Activity Plans cost credits and we are limited on the number of credits we have.
    • Keywords credits are used in 10-unit increments.
      • Programs with more keywords monitored simply have more search term volume than others.
      • Programs with less than 10 keywords do not have any others to pick from.
    • Competitor credits are used individually. Typically, five competitors were selected per program.
  • Keywords are selected based on Google data. Keyword volume shows how many people searched for that exact search string in the last month on Google. Searches are typically for the United States, but some on-campus only programs are monitoring Minnesota (only one state can be selected, and we typically perform very well in North Dakota).
  • You will notice we aren’t always targeting the top volume searched keywords. That’s because we tried but couldn’t break into the top 100 results. Lesser volume keywords were selected to try to get into the top 10 results.
  • A maximum of four keywords can be targeted per page. More than that will water down results.
  • Program pages are adjusted to target selected keywords. You’ll notice adjustments to the headings. Metadata was also adjusted (this is what you will see in search results and what search engines crawl to help determine rankings).
  • Program names can be problematic because our exact program names are often not searched. You may notice the name of your program is slightly adjusted. The formal name of your program is listed on the page, but it might not be in main headings to boost search performance.
  • Keywords must be used exactly for them to work. Apostrophes and capitalizations are exceptions. We’re still trying to determine if periods in degree names impact search.
  • Competitors are search competitors, not your actual competing universities. You’ll notice we compete frequently against ranking sites and portals that help students shop for programs.

All 55 programs have been monitored and adjusted at least four times in the last three months. Pages were optimized for reading level, sentence length, spelling errors, accessibility, image alt tags, and metadata length. The results we are showing now are likely the best we will get without content changes and more back-links to these pages. The performance will fluctuate with search volume and what our competitors do.

Do Not Duplicate Keywords

You may be tempted to use these keywords on your department pages. Do not copy keywords. If department pages are ranking naturally, we did not target those keywords because we don’t want to cannibalize our pages. The system will identify duplicate keywords and we will change your pages back if duplicate content is flagged.

Next Steps

Activity Plans with poor search engine visibility and will be retired to make room for new programs with search potential. Programs will be added based on credit availability. New programs will be selected based on:

  • Enrollments >100 in fall 2020
  • Online bachelor’s and master’s programs
  • Programs with high-volume keywords based on Google data

Results will be reviewed in more detail during the Marketing Council meeting on August 9. Please bring any questions/concerns you have to your Marketing Council rep to be addressed at that meeting.

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