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Content Management

SEO Cheat Sheet for Higher Ed Websites

SEO conceptBoost Your Website’s SEO

Managing a content calendar and writing compelling website blog posts and articles are time-intensive tasks—and that doesn’t factor in search engine optimization (SEO) considerations. Your main focus should always be on solid writing that is relevant to your audience. Only after you have a quality article in hand do you incorporate SEO best practices.

SEO is an ever-changing field, so it’s good to brush up on trends every few months. The following checklist is a roundup of the latest tips.


  • Use strategically chosen on-page keywords (fewer well-targeted keywords are better)
  • Search for and incorporate topics that rank highest and get the most comments, appear multiple times, and are shared most often


  • Incorporate keywords into beginning of URLs
  • Keep URLs to 59 characters or less

Title Tags

(clickable headline in search results and appears in browser tab)

  • Keep to 8 words or less and 60 characters or less, including spaces
  • Use top keyword terms such as free, easy, new
  • Use a grabber: amazing, unbelievable, proven
  • Use numbers: “Increase Enrollment by 100%”
  • Put brand name last; answer questions first

Meta Descriptions

(show up in search engine results to describe your content)

  • Lead descriptions with most important information
  • Incorporate strong keywords
  • Keep to 320 characters or less

Anchor Text

(highlighted text for links)

  • Vary anchor text to say same thing in a different way
  • Use relevant concepts, words, or phrases
  • Use exact keywords sparingly (partial keywords rank best)
  • Use exact URL in listings or to link to a CTA


  • Make relevant to content on page
  • Use high-quality links (more important than quantity of links)


  • Do not focus on your institution’s perspective (We have...), but instead write directly to your audience (We offer you/You’ll find...)
  • Use conversational, empathetic tone to convey personality and sensitive style
  • Write meaningful, descriptive information about how your site visitors benefit from services provided
  • Answer questions your site visitors most have about each page topic
  • Make blog posts longer and less frequent (1,142-1,613 words) – longer posts rank higher
  • Identify your institution and address scope of the section in the opening paragraph
  • Break up content with bullets, lists, bold text, and numbers so visitors can scan quickly and to create white space that makes it easier to read
  • Use templates to reinforce content strategy
  • Avoid redundant content (negatively impacts SEO)
  • Have topics on their own pages and link to similar topics
  • Include keywords in first paragraph, preferably the first sentence
  • Link to at least one relevant page within the website
  • When using phone numbers, include area code
  • Link to other sites to build backlinks
  • Avoid accordion drop-downs (Google views these as less important than visible content on the page)


  • Use only one main heading (h1) per page that describes what the content is about
  • Use subheads on long pages (makes it easier to follow)
  • Use a keyword in at least one subhead
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Use dates (e.g., “Higher Ed Predictions for 2020”)

Calls to Action

  • Link CTAs to a specific landing page
  • Use a content-relevant CTA for each page


  • Use compressed images to increase page speed
  • Include descriptions with images (captions and alt tags)
  • Use 1 image for every 75-100 words
  • Make videos no longer than 2 minutes
  • Optimize for voice search (a “Facts” section is a good place to provide concise explanations)
  • Make sure your institution’s search listing is accurate
  • Have share buttons on your site
  • Ask question in meta title and then answer on page somewhere to create snippet opportunities

Download printable checklist

Ready to learn more about SEO? Check out these related posts:

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