Are Your Tweets Improving Your Search Marketing Impact?

by Brian Coughlin on November 3, 2015 , No comments

As we first reported back in February, Google and Twitter started a new partnership allowing Google greater access to Tweets. How this partnership would impact search results was a mystery until recently, when Google started showing Tweets when searching for branded terms.

As a result, your Tweets now have greater visibility than ever before. This visibility represents powerful branding and lead generating opportunities for business schools.

Here’s an example of in-search Tweets for Chicago Booth:

Chicago Booth Tweets in Search Results

This development, if used strategically, can add to your search and social marketing efforts, but the message you’re sending should be carefully considered. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Tweets only appear for branded terms (“Chicago Booth” but not “Chicago Business School”).
  • Your Tweets now have massive branding power. Looking at the example above, Chicago Booth can control a very limited amount of information appearing in search results for their brand name. How do your Tweets explain the value of your MBA program?
  • Only your two latest Tweets will appear.
  • Tweets don’t show up for every brand. Google is still testing this inclusion, so your school may not benefit yet. There’s no on/off switch. Your best bet for inclusion is to ensure your Twitter profile is verified and you have links both on your school’s site and on your Twitter profile pointing to one another (you should already have these links in place, but this is another great reason why!).

How to Leverage Tweets in Google Search Results:

  • Stay on Brand (Repeatedly) – Even if you craft a Tweet that perfectly encapsulates your brand image, once you’ve published two more Tweets it will disappear from search results. So repeat your message (with different language) frequently to ensure the right message appears at all times.
  • Promote Lead Generation & Enrollment – Getting prospective students to the right landing page as quickly and easily as possible is key to maximizing lead generation. Here are a few ways to help your Tweets:
    • Link to the Right Page – Link to the top-converting pages on your site. Don’t make users navigate extra pages. Your conversion rates will skyrocket if you can get students to the right place from the start.
    • Employ Calls to Action – “Learn More,” “Advance Your Career” and “Apply Now” do wonders for conversion rates. “Learn More” in particular is effective as it’s short and to the point (hallmarks of any good Tweet). Here’s a great example from UCLA Anderson that promotes campus visits and mentions both signing up and checking out campus experiences (second Tweet):UCLA Smart Tweeting for Google

Twitter has generally been limited to your number of followers. Now they’re front and center in Google search results for your brand. Make sure you’re driving users to the right place and with the right message.

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Brian CoughlinAre Your Tweets Improving Your Search Marketing Impact?

Understanding SEO Performance: Traffic Metrics

by Brian Coughlin on September 28, 2015 , No comments

Brand and product visibility, site traffic and lead generation are the goals of most business school digital marketing campaigns. While traffic can come from many sources, results generated by organic search yields the highest ROI. Here’s how to sort through mountains of data to assess your organic traffic success.

In my most recent blog, I discussed the pitfalls of using keyword rankings as your school’s benchmark for SEO performance. Today, let’s focus on how to evaluate your organic traffic.

First: Isolate Organic Traffic

Depending on which analytics software you use (most schools use Google Analytics, but not all), you’ll find several ways to filter organic search traffic. Be sure it’s only organic search traffic, and not all search traffic (which can include paid search traffic).

Second: Pick Your Date Range

I suggest looking at two date ranges:

  1. A graph with a single line for the last 3 years
    • This helps you avoid misinterpretations due to seasonality
  2. A graph showing year over year traffic – the last twelve months vs. the same period a year before (e.g. September 2014 – August 2015 vs September 2013 – August 2014)
    • Helpful note: As you want to see the overall health of your SEO program, look at the data on a monthly basis instead of daily (the default).

Below are examples of these two graphs using dummy data. Note I’ve isolated organic search traffic (top left) and adjusted the scale to monthly (middle right).

 

Google Organic Traffic Over Time

 

Google Organic Traffic Year over Year

You can see organic traffic for this dummy data is struggling. The first chart shows minimal growth during the past three years.   Looking at year over year performance, there’s been a 2.49% decline. It’s time to call your SEO team and start asking questions.

Metrics to Consider, Their Meanings, and What You Want to See

When you open your analytics software, you’ll be inundated with metrics. They all serve a purpose, but three are most important:

  1. Sessions
    • What it is: A visitor. Sessions will include new & returning visitors, so 20,000 sessions does not mean 20,000 people. Still, it provides the best high-level overview of performance and is the default option for most graphs (including those above).
    • What you want to see: Traffic should be increasing by a minimum of 5% per year. 5% is essentially adjusting for inflation. There are more users online every year, so if your organic traffic is stagnant, your site is underperforming.
  2. Bounce Rate
    • What it is: Google’s Definition: Bounce Rate is the percentage of single-page sessions.
      • Simpler: Percentage of people who came to your site and left almost immediately. This usually means they clicked on your search result, didn’t find what they were looking for, and clicked the back button on their browser. It also means they probably went to a competitor.
    • What you want to see: The average bounce rate is about 40%, but you may see anywhere from the 25% range (amazing) to the 60% range (not great). Look for changes. If the number is declining, you may be on the right track. If it’s increasing, users may not be finding your site useful.
      • Note: While lower is generally better, too high or too low are both potentially causes for concern. Too high (>60%) means you aren’t serving the right content to your users. Too low (<30%) may mean you aren’t capturing enough casual visitors (often the best lead prospects), who always leave websites at a higher rate than returning users.
  3. Goal Completions
    • What it is: Goals are manually set up in your analytics software and can track a large number of different things, from specific actions to time on site. Consult with your marketing team to understand what goals, if any, you have set up.
      • Tip: The best goals are directly related to lead-generation, such as form or application completions.
    • What you want to see: Goal completions should be increasing at about the same rate as traffic. Depending on site redesigns, you may see bigger improvements to goal completions than traffic, so consult with your team if you see extraordinary changes.

Consider these three metrics in relation to one another. The calibration you are seeking is steady traffic, a declining bounce rate and more leads. If you are there, congratulations. That’s a good sign your SEO program may be driving better traffic, not just more.

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Brian CoughlinUnderstanding SEO Performance: Traffic Metrics

Personalized Search, Beware!

by Brian Coughlin on September 21, 2015 , No comments

You’re probably overestimating your organic search (SEO) performance—thanks to Google’s personalized search. As a result, you may be losing thousands of visitors and potentially hundreds of applications. Personalized search shows different results to every searcher. So if you’ve searched “MBA Program” to review how your business school is ranking, odds are you’ve seen results that don’t reflect the search results your prospects see.

 Personalized Search Impacts Results - EduvantisPersonalized Search Changes Each Search Result - Eduvantis

Here are just a few of the many factors Google uses to personalize search results:

  • Choice of Device – Smartphones, tablets, and laptops will show different results. Sometimes the results are wildly different, sometimes just a bit.
  • Location – Where you are matters! Searches for “MBA Program” in downtown Chicago are a lot more likely to show Chicago Booth, while the same search performed on the north side closer to Northwestern will show Kellogg.
  • Search history – Google tracks your computer and smartphone usage. So if you usually head to The Wall Street Journal for news instead of the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal will start to appear more frequently for news-related searches.

So don’t trust that your prospective students see the same thing you’re seeing. And realize that branded keywords (i.e. your school’s name) are not good indicators of organic search success. The most valuable prospective students use general terms (non-branded) to research business school programs. So, appearing first for “MBA Program” is far more valuable than appearing first for your own name (which if you don’t, there’s really something seriously wrong).

What to do?

Traffic from prospects is king when assessing the performance of your SEO strategy, not where you rank in a self-conducted search. This is a complex subject, so in our next post we’ll dig into specifics of this topic.

There are more prospects on line every day. At a minimum, you should see total traffic increasing year over year. If traffic is only increasing slightly (<5% growth), stagnant, or declining, there’s something wrong.

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Brian CoughlinPersonalized Search, Beware!

New Local Search Rules at Google – And You May Now Be Below the Fold

by Brian Coughlin on August 21, 2015 , No comments

Google just changed how local search results are reported – reducing the number of results displayed from seven to three. Your school now might not have the same visibility it once had on Google – especially if it’s not among the top 3 local search results.

When searching for “MBA Programs” when you are in Boston, for example, pages from Harvard are far more likely to appear in the general search results than those of UCLA (and vice versa when searching in Los Angeles). The same keyword will produce different results, based on location. That’s local search. In its quest for relevant results, Google factors in “proximity” into its algorithm. This means if you search for “MBA programs” there is a high likelihood Google will show you the closest MBA programs to you.

Some keywords have an even stronger tie to location. Often (not always), terms like “School of Business” or “Business School” will not only produce locally focused general results, but also a map just like you might see when searching for “Starbucks.” It’s these mapped results (dubbed the “Local Pack” by the SEO community) that have been reduced.

For example, when searching from Chicago for “School of Business,” this is how the results will now be displayed. The actual search results will vary significantly, based on a broad range of factors and variables (such as institutional SEO sophistication, the searcher’s prior search behavior, etc.). Click this link to see what a Google “School of Business” looks like in your market. Here is our view from Chicago today.

Google Business Schools

“Out of sight, out of mind” is not a good place to be.

In the past, even schools not in the top three results might still see a reasonable amount of search engine traffic. Now, they’ll be fighting their way to the top in order to be seen. Few schools can afford to be ignored by the world’s largest marketing platform.

So How Do You Get To The Top Of Local Results (Or Stay There)?

Fortunately, while Google continues to evolve local search results, the tactics for getting to the top remain the same.  Here are three things to do to get you started:

  1. Officially claim your Google+ business listing and keep all information (business name, phone number, address, website, etc.) up to date. We also recommend optimizing your Google + page for relevant keywords.
  1. Focus on your SEO fundamentals: Make sure your site’s meta data is optimized for the best keywords, you have plenty of links between pages and that there aren’t any major technical issues preventing search engines from accessing your site.
  1. Put the address of your school is in the footer of you website and is linked to a Google map listing (this reinforces your location to Google).

Google wants to provide the most relevant results to its users. Your challenge is to make sure you are providing all the information necessary to make it to the top of local search results, and stay there regardless of changes to Google’s algorithm.

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Brian CoughlinNew Local Search Rules at Google – And You May Now Be Below the Fold

The Search Social Connection – New Google Twitter Partnership

by Grant Sabatier on February 9, 2015 , No comments

In an effort to share the most relevant results to searchers, Google continues to evolve both its algorithm as well as establish partnerships to keep visitors using the platform. It is both an exciting and challenging time for Google, whose lifeblood rests in its online advertising model and dependence on keeping users coming back. For the first time since 2009, Google is now losing marketshare of the search market to other giants like Yahoo and has recently been seeking more creative ways to provide the information people want. While the specifics have yet to be disclosed, the Google Twitter partnership is one of those efforts that is highly representative of the increasingly blurry lines between social and search and will likely have significant implications on search results.

Google and Twitter have reached an agreement that will give Google access to its data feed – which will make it easier for 140-character tweets to appear in the search engine results page. This means that tweets will appear faster and more prominently in the search engine results, which will ultimately drive more search traffic to Twitter instead of to websites. Historically, Google needed to crawl Twitter like any other website to obtain content, but this new arrangement will allow tweets to show up in real time. This will significantly increase the visibility of conversations happening on Twitter.

What does this mean for colleges, universities, and business schools?

When a prospect searches for your business school, they are likely going to see your business school tweets featured prominently in the results. It is also likely that prospects will see what other prospects and others are saying about your institution. This significantly increases the importance of leveraging social media in your institution’s recruiting efforts. It is also an opportunity for institutions to define and share what differentiates their institutions. This past fall, the incredibly popular, yet controversial #WhyMBA Twitter campaign which BusinessWeek ran to promote their new business school rankings did one thing very well – it brought out the best in business schools.

The Top 5 Business Schools on Twitter were those who did something truly unique and were able to showcase the distinct attributes of both their culture and their programs. The digital space is becoming increasingly competitive and full of noise. It is no longer sufficient to get the attention of a prospect – you have to tell them something distinctive and of value. This is the only way they will pay attention.

Unfortunately after the campaign, most business schools went back to the status quo. But what the new Google Twitter partnership means is that the status quo will no longer be good enough – because people will see your tweets directly in the Google search results, significantly increasing their visibility. Prospects will have the opportunity to judge your institution through real-time content – so every tweet now matters, because you never know who is going to be viewing your updates when they are forming their consideration sets.

Twitter now must officially become a more important component of an institution’s digital strategy and now has significant search engine optimization implications since Google will now be able to index tweets more effectively and crawl Twitter links. As Google continues to increase the information they share about an institution, it will be increasingly important for institutions to develop a distinctive digital strategy – one that not only showcases their brand, but also aligns with how the digital world is evolving. The institutions at the forefront of digital marketing, including Google changes, will be the ones to gain a competitive advantage and increase the visibility of their institutions and programs.

 

Bob Booth, Digital Analyst at Eduvantis contributed to this post.

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Grant SabatierThe Search Social Connection – New Google Twitter Partnership

Higher Education Blogging for SEO – Best Practices

by Allison O'Brien on November 6, 2014 , No comments

In our experience, most higher education institutions underutilize their blogging platforms. Although it takes time, a commitment to consistent posting, and good ideas, blogging is an incredibly powerful platform to engage prospective students and for search engine optimization. Blogs present the perfect opportunity to create new content on your website, which is valuable for SEO because new content is indexed more frequently by search engines and gives you an opportunity to rank for targeted long tail keywords (3+ word queries) that are often less competitive.

At Eduvantis Digital, we advise our clients to write a blog post for every targeted keyword or query they want to rank on search engines. It is important to note that you should want your core program pages to rank before your blog posts, and this is why we recommend optimizing your blog posts for longer tail keywords that prospective students use when looking for higher ed programs. One example – our client wrote a blog post on “executive mba vs. mba programs” and were able to quickly rank on the first page of Google for that targeted search query, which resulted in a small, but valuable, increase in targeted prospect website traffic.

In this post, we have outlined some simple higher education blogging tips and best practices to help you attract new website visitors and increase your search rankings.

1. What do prospective students want to know?

Think about everything prospective students are thinking about when looking for college, university, and business school programs. What are they searching for? What do they care about? For MBA prospective students, they are interested in understanding the value of an MBA degree, how to get into business school, application tips, and what salary they can expect when graduating. All of these are great topics for blog posts. There aren’t many schools using this blogging approach to effectively rank on search engines for popular prospective student search queries. This is an opportunity for you. A good example: University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School writes about how to conquer the MBA admissions essay, but there are many other great topics that institutions can rank for on search engines, but they simply need to write targeted content.

You can’t rank in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for a keyword or topic that you do not have content about. Think outside the box and take the opportunity to educate prospective students on a topic that is related to the programs and products you offer. The “emba vs. mba” topic highlighted above is a great example – this is a topic prospects are very curious about and it gets a fair amount of search volume. Our client at Eduvantis was able to take advantage of this opportunity to educate prospects and get prospects who were looking for this information to their website.

2. What are people asking in forums like Quora?

Quora is a forum where questions are created, answered, edited and organized by its community of users. This is a great way to see what kinds of questions people have about your school and programs. Write content to answer these questions and this will help increase both your search rankings and help answer prospective student questions.Kellogg Quora Results

For example, a simple search of “Kellogg School of Management” on Quora brought up a lot of questions about well-known alumni. If you Google that topic, Kellogg has a whole section of their site dedicated to Alumni, but Wikipedia has a page dedicated to listing them all as well, which outranks Kellogg’s own website.See what people are asking about your brand. If it’s something you could write a blog or article on, you should! This will give your institution the opportunity to outrank forums like Quora or encyclopedias like Wikipedia and lead searchers directly to your site.

3. Let Google tell you what to write

Typically, when people search using very general keywords like “emba” or “full time mba” they are often early in their search process and want to learn more about what schools offer which programs. With most search queries, Google suggests additional keywords to make your search more specific. The suggestions come from other searched queries that have been made in the past and are a reflection of the most popular search queries. Google also gives related searches at the very bottom of the search engine results that are a great place to get content topic ideas for blogging.Google Suggest EMBA

For “emba” you can see there are comparison searches in both images. If your business school offers executive, full time, and part time mba programs, do your prospective students fully understand the difference between them all? If not, this could be a great content piece for prospective students. Wharton does a great job of comparing their executive and traditional MBA programs for prospective students.Searches Related to EMBA

A key part of SEO is knowing what content your audience cares about, identifying keyword phrases people are searching for when looking for the topic, and building content around that topic. Not only will you be providing valuable information for your visitors, but you’ll have a better chance of ranking for those keywords.

4. For the overachievers, use Übersuggest

If you want Google Suggest on steroids, check out Übersuggest for additional insights on what your different search queries are being correlated with. Übersuggest takes your base term and extracts keyword suggestions for use in your blog posts. You can try this on general program terms or your brand to discover specific queries that are popular.

It likely that your blog is an underutilized asset and an opportunity for your institution to gain a competitive advantage through search engine optimization. To learn how to more effectively leverage your blog for SEO and to engage prospective students sign up for the Eduvantis DIgital market insights blog to get more tips weekly in your inbox.

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Allison O'BrienHigher Education Blogging for SEO – Best Practices