How an Institute Increased Student Enrollment: Seo for Higher Education Marketing

OH! Design Studio helped a higher education institute to increase student enrollments for their two new courses. We promoted these programs primarily through Search Engine Optimization (SEO). As a result, the institute got enough admissions in the target academic year to start those new programs.


I was contacted by an institute in Mumbai inquiring about how to promote the college through digital marketing. They wanted to increase student enrollment in college, especially for new courses:

“We are rolling out new post graduate degree and diploma management courses in the upcoming academic year. The institute has not made any investment in online marketing so far. What can be done?”

This is something I hear often (Since my primary role at OH! Design Studio is managing digital marketing):

  • Organisations spend their limited marketing budget on unplanned advertising (newspaper ad in this case) and get limited response.
  • They keep “discussing” investing in digital marketing, but are never able to prioritize. That invariably leads to zero digital presence.
  • With ever-increasing competition, it becomes even more challenging when trying to promote something online for the first time.

Educational institutes are no different. Even today, many colleges follow old-school marketing strategies. In fact, many higher education institutes do not follow any admission marketing strategy at all.

Key Elements: Digital Marketing Strategy to Increase Student Enrollment

OH! Digital is the digital marketing cell of OH! Design Studio. Here I’m putting together key elements of the SEO strategy which OH! Digital team followed to increase awareness about the institute and its new programs.

A quick view of the result of search engine optimization:

#1 Setting Goals for Search Engine Optimization of College Website

Every marketing strategy has to be first aligned with the business and marketing goals. Ranking high in Google search is just one of the goals of SEO, but it is not an outcome for the business. Business benefits from SEO only when improved search engine rankings start improving sales or marketing outcomes or help achieve any other business goal.

Goal setting was the starting point for OH! Digital:

  • Increase student enrollment for the institute’s MBA Retail & MBA HR programs
  • Increase brand awareness among target audience

#2 Audience Profiling for SEO

Intersection of branding and SEO

Our next step was to understand the target audience for this brand.Some may argue that SEO is different from branding. But at OH! Design Studio, we strongly believe that principles of branding apply at all touch points – online and offline.

After surveying graduates, our client’s existing student profile and analyzing the education industry research reports, we defined the client’s target audience. We mapped the institute’s niche to the target students’ strong interest points.

What happens when SEO is performed for a website without knowing about the target audience?

Business may get unqualified inquiries through SEO promoted website. For example, backpack traveler filling form on a luxury travel website is an unqualified lead for travel business and vice versa. So setting the expectation right using the right kind of words (keywords) is very important when a brand is promoted online. For that, SEO agency must define the target audience of the brand they are promoting online.

#3 SEO Keyword Research 

How we selected keywords for this institute’s website SEO promotion?

Prospective students turn to a variety of online and print resources to shortlist colleges. Most of the times they don’t know which institute to shortlist when they begin their search. When they turn to online search, students often find colleges by course names and reviews. Our SEO team prioritized keywords related to course names with enrollment intent.

Further, keeping in mind the broader marketing goal to improve brand awareness within student community, we included brand category keywords. For example ‘management institutes in Mumbai’.

Website analytics also revealed major search by the name of the college. So we optimized the website to appear in top ranking for its brand name as well.

 #4 On-Page SEO

Measures taken directly within the college website to improve it’s search engine rankings

Due to some administrative challenges, nature and number of changes to the institute’s existing website were limited. We squeezed the most of the on-page content optimization.

Also, there were no individual web pages for the new courses. Instead, the college website had all info packed in one chunky PDF uploaded in one of the inner pages. We created separate pages for each target course, then optimized them for search engines. Content for each of these pages was improvised to capture the interest of prospective students and make them spend more time on the page.

#5 Off-Page SEO

Techniques employed outside the website to improve search engine rankings

Many things that matter to search engines happen away from the website. Also, on-page optimizations were not sufficient for this client. As I mentioned before, there were lot of administrative hurdles to alter the site structure. So, we allocated a higher percentage of SEO time to off-page techniques to raise site rankings. We promoted SEO content and course pages to increase online visibility.

Social communities were also leveraged to increase brand visibility. We used Facebook in particular to present the desired brand image of the institute for prospective students to give them a glimpse of the campus culture.

#6 Email Marketing Campaigns

OH! Digital also executed promotional email campaigns to promote all courses for direct marketing. Snapshot below shows spike in Google Analytics graph for two of these campaigns:

Results of SEO Promotion:

Business Goals

The two new courses which we promoted got enough enrollments in the target academic year to start the program. Therefore, the business goal to increase college admissions was achieved.

Marketing Goals

The marketing objective of spreading awareness about this institute and its MBA courses in the target market was well achieved.

SEO Goals

  • Traffic on those two target courses increased organically during the months of promotion.

  • As a result of increased site traffic and more time spent on course pages, search engine rankings of target courses increased drastically.
  • The institute’s website started ranking well in the overall search category of management institutes in Mumbai.

By Supriya Sachdeva, Digital Communication Strategist at OH! Design Studio, Mumbai.

Curious whether SEO can help generate more business for your organization and what it would take to get started? Connect with OH! Design Studio. Just Drop us a line, we’ll get in touch with you. 

Still not sure what to do next? View more case studies.

Lastly, if this post helped you to make better business decisions related to digital marketing, please feel free to share it. You can always say hello at @SachdevaSupriya

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