November 13, 2019
I’ve been working on brand campaigns for colleges and universities for years, and one thing is clear: being able to tell a powerful story is critical, but at the end of the day, people need to be able to find your content. Today, prospective students are finding higher ed information through voice search.
Students might ask Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant to find the best colleges in their state instead of typing a more structured phrase into Google.
To meet their information needs, colleges and universities must evolve alongside the search methods that prospective students use.
Up to half of all searches will be done by voice by 2020, according to comScore, so it’s crucial to embrace this phenomenon now.
Consider these three tips that higher education marketers can use today to optimize content for voice search.
The top search result for a voice search often isn’t the same as the top result for a typed search. One key to showing up higher in voice search results is using long-tail keywords—phrases that are longer, more specific, and more targeted.
Find good long-tail keywords with tools like AnswerthePublic, which delivers search engine results based on a phrase you enter.
For example, an AnswerthePublic search for “best college in New Jersey” returns searches for the best colleges in New Jersey for engineering, criminal justice, and psychology, as well as a broad search for the state’s best community college.
Long-tail keywords tend to be more conversational. Incorporate keywords by putting yourself in the shoes of a student using voice search. A student wouldn’t say, “Alexa, psychology degree.” They might say “Alexa, what’s the best college for psychology near me?”
We encourage teams to read their content out loud before publishing to make sure it sounds like a normal conversational flow. Doing so can improve your chances of being recognized by Google as an answer source for voice queries.
All content should be optimized for mobile (laid out on the page for mobile users in mind). We recommend this strategy for two key reasons:
1. People use their mobile devices for voice search and will read your content on the same mobile device on which they search. Make sure that what they find is easy to read.
2. Voice search uses the same metadata that’s attached to your content. Optimize your content for mobile to make it easier for voice search to find.
Think back to the phrases a student using voice search might use. What are the common threads in those phrases? Usually, they’re:
In many cases, they’re also location based. Voice search is often used to find products and services in the user’s local area, and the same is true for searches for higher education institutions.
Make sure you’re targeting the right areas by understanding where your students are likely to come from. Reference those regions in your site’s content.
[Read next: 5 Ways Instagram Stories Help Marketers Connect With Audiences]
How do students discover your website? Examine the phrases they’re currently searching for that lead them to your site.
For example, if students use a lot of location-based searches, you might consider creating some location-specific pages to attract visitors who are looking for local content.
For the best results, use visuals that are specific to the region and drive that point home with alt-text tags and image/video tags that incorporate the name of the area.
Videos and podcasts that contain location-specific content should have transcripts with them. That helps them show up in location-based searches, and it also makes the content more accessible to viewers with visual or hearing difficulties.
Not sure how to get started? Join us at the Stamats 2020 conference in February to learn best practices and cutting-edge strategies for connecting with students. Register today.