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The introduction of Hummingbird in 2013 by Google placed emphasis on intent and semantics. Semantics is the branch of linguistics and logic concerned with meaning. Google changed the way it analyses search queries. Instead of looking at them as string of individual words, the search engine tries to discern the meaning behind the phrase. And then, deliver the most accurate results based on what it thinks the user’s looking for.
This means that the role of your content optimisation is not only to provide a relevancy factor (keywords) but also to help Google to better understand what your page is about. The way to address this is to incorporate keywords into content, and ensure content answers the searchers keyword intent.
For instance a user searches for recognised economics degree in Europe. The intent is to find a recognised economics degree at a European university. The universities that are offering Economics degrees should be incorporating content that answers the intent:
The University offers a an economics degree that is internationally recognised and accredited by the economics society of the universe.
This approach incorporates keywords but the focus is on making the content relevant and concise. It is important to use keywords but to write content that is appealing to readers as it is to search engines.
The organic search on Google UK for; recognised economic degrees Europe, the first listing is the University of Leeds - the page it opens states;
This course is designed for students with some prior knowledge of economics and is recognised by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
Identifying the keywords and semantics is made easier by Google, for instance enter economics degrees Europe, a common and likely search phase and easy to incorporate content on a webpage to answer the question. However lets look at related searches that appear for the search economics degrees Europe:
economics degrees entry requirements
economics degrees in demand
economics degrees salary
economics degrees without maths
economics degrees that don't require maths
We can now incorporate all the answers to the above search phases in an overview paragraph of our economics degree:
The Degrees in Economics is internationally recognised and accredited. The entry requirements demand a complete high school education, students are not required to have maths but will be required to pass our standard maths exam.
Economics degree graduates are in demand and many students secure work before they graduate, the average starting salary is £24,000
Now we have addressed the searchers intent by providing answers along side keywords in the content, we need to ensure that we all ways take searchers to the next step. In the case of universities this will be enquire now and apply now, alongside university benefits and USPS.
Generic marketing of a university becomes a lot more difficult with semantics as the intent of searchers tends to be focused. Searchers are more likely to be searching for a course they are interested in rather than a university. Targeted marketing of specific courses enables the searchers intent to be addressed and the searchers interest to be engaged.
A recent report reinforces that websites are the number one resource for students looking to apply to university. This is nothing new and for a good few years universities have been investing in SEO and online campaigns to ensure their website are found by students.
We have established the fact that visual content is important on websites in providing information and communication with potential students. We know that every university website has lots of visuals with happy smiling students but what visuals do students actually want to see?
The first question to ask is what are we trying to accomplish with visual images? The answer is to engage potential students. We understand that students like emotion and emotion can come in many forms for instance:
Both images provoke emotion but one is commonly used across university websites. The issue here is that images must be relevant to content. So if you have a homepage for student support them happy smiling students are relevant. However, if your university is responsible for groundbreaking research that has enabled thousands of starving children to be provided with a nutritional shake, the first image is appropriate.
The message here is images need to reflect content, we know what information students want to make decisions and content and content images need to back this up. For instance location is important, therefore images of the universities location is important, not just the campus but where it is located in relation to the city.
What makes the university unique? how can this be reflected in images? An Applied Science University that offers hands on learning can use photos of students in that learning environment or students on work placements. Universities who have excelled because of research can use images to demonstrate what they have achieved for instance 3 D printed shoes;
The next question is the content worthy of an image? It is better to have no image than an irrelevant image. Relevant unique images as above resonate with students and are likely to be shared.
Lastly, Visual content also needs to be mindful of the universities mission and brand, visual images can be used to reinforce these messages. If an image is very strong and reflective make sure that a CTA is close by.