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Four Tips to Avoid Antiquated SEO Practices

By Joe Mulvihill

There are many great ways to stay on top of industry changes and it is critical to do so in our higher education marketing space that evolves so rapidly. I am a big fan of Moz’s Whiteboard Fridays (“WBF”) that Rand Fishkin provides on a weekly basis. He breaks down complex concepts into easy-to-digest chunks of insight and information.

He did it again with a WBF of “8 Old School SEO Practices That Are No Longer Effective.” As certain higher ed SEO practices become antiquated, we need to refocus efforts on where they matter most – the user. Our audience is the most important component to any marketing activity; if we successfully reach them with the information they need, we are likely to get them to take a desired action.

Rather than going through all eight outdated practices, I thought I would share my four takeaways from the video session, and provide a link to the full video, as well.

1. Don’t be spammy… help people.

It is important to not cram keywords into title tags, meta descriptions and the content. You want to draw people in with targeted phrases, but you don’t want them to only see repeated keywords. Provide the right information to people when they need it. By doing that, you are setting yourselves up for success. The search engines are able to pick up on semantic and contextual themes, so leverage these to better target what someone would be more likely to click on in the search results. Again, focus on what the user would click on, don’t just jam keywords in wherever possible.    

2. Focus on an intent and topic matching.

No longer does it work to have individual pages for each keyword variation you want to target. Providing Business Administration information, for example, on multiple pages, in only slightly varied ways, could cause confusion for your audience. If it is not helpful for them, then it’s ultimately not going to help you achieve our goals either. Focus on the specific topics at hand and have content that speaks to the subject in the way that makes the most sense. If it takes multiple pages to cover a topic, each page should have a unique differentiator justifying why it is separated out.

ineffective SEO practices

3. Link earning, not linkbuilding.

There are a lot of things that should be avoided when it comes to link development, as Fishkin discussed. Creating meaningful, relevant content that is going to get the user to react in some way is critical. Perhaps they’ll share the content via their social network, or are moved to take another desired action. But if it’s not quality information, they are not going to interact with it at all.

4. Draw attention and positive brand experiences.

Rand also talked about linkbait a bit. For any content that you put out on behalf of your brand, it is important that you have focused and strategic intent behind the information. You can’t have irrelevant content that may draw attention. You want to ensure that you garner attention AND that your users have a positive brand experience when they digest your content and navigate through your website.               

It is important for your higher education marketing team to stay on top of search engine marketing trends and to evolve your marketing strategy accordingly. Rather than focusing on old school activities that are geared toward optimizing for the search engines, focus on your specific audiences and ensure you are providing valuable content that they’ll interact with. By focusing on the end user, you’ll achieve success with your higher ed search marketing campaign.


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