7 most important SEO focus areas for colleges and universities

July typically means a new fiscal year for colleges and universities, bringing with it new marketing plans and goals for the upcoming educational year. Where does SEO fit into your higher education marketing plan this year? Hopefully, right at the top.
Earlier this year, Chegg Enrollment Services and the National Research Center for College and University Admissions (NRCCUA) conducted a survey of 726 high school students researching universities. Online searches ranked as the top method used by prospective college applicants to discover universities and programs, and the second most popular method used both during and after the admissions process.

However, higher education faces its own set of unique challenges for SEO. University websites are often segmented by school, program or department. This can result in many contributors to the SEO process, often without a singular roadmap to follow across the organization. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for the university’s IT department to own web development, sometimes creating a backlog for technical SEO changes that

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Setting up and testing AMP for WordPress: A quick 7-step guide

In today’s mobile-centric world, having pages that load quickly is essential for satisfying the user. Not only that, but the effects of slow page speed have been correlated to a decease in overall revenue and an increase in page abandonment.
Users have come to expect mobile sites to load just as quickly as their desktop counterparts. In fact, Amazon, one of the largest online retailers, concluded that even a one-second lag in page load speed accounted for a $1.6B decrease in annual revenue.
Accelerated mobile pages (AMPs) are quickly becoming the standard for how a fast-loading page should be built. Using a pre-render, AMPs are able to load 15-80 percent faster than standard mobile pages without compromising functionality. While the ease of AMP implementation will vary depending on your CMS (content management system), WordPress can be a good test environment for previewing what your AMP page might look like.
Follow this quick seven-step guide to enable AMP for WordPress.
Note: Parts of this guide assume that you have activated the Yoast

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3 steps to overcoming site issues that impact performance

Over the past two decades, as the online world has experienced exponential growth, websites have become increasingly complex. Web pages have evolved from simple HTML pages with a few graphics to responsive, personalized pages that focus on the user experience. In tandem with the growing sophistication of websites, customers’ quality standards have also matured.
For example, customers have come to expect that websites load quickly, regardless of the device they are using. In 2009, a mere 5 percent of people expected load times of one second or less on e-commerce sites. Six years later, in 2015, a survey found that this number had increased to nearly a third of all customers, with 30 percent expecting pages to load in one second or less.
As web pages have evolved, however, the potential for problems has increased. Even seemingly small issues can drastically impact site performance, hindering visitors’ ability to find the content and information they want. Such site issues can quickly damage the reputation

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Links to AMP content are showing up outside of search results

The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) standard was designed to bring the fast-loading, clean experience of native apps to the open web. With most large publishers now producing AMP versions of their content, distribution platforms and other referrers are starting to experiment with AMP as an alternative to standard outbound links and app web views.
Publishers might see this trend in their AMP referral analytics. At Relay Media, we’ve tracked an increase in non-Google referrals to the AMP content we convert for publishers — beyond the usual traffic from users sharing AMP links on social media. Here are our top non-Google referral sources over the past five months:
Google Analytics weekly sessions, October 9, 2016, through February 18, 2017
Google still represents about 80 percent of total AMP referral sessions to Relay Media’s platform, with another 8 percent categorized as “(direct) / (none)” in Google Analytics. Identifiable non-Google sources represent around 10 percent of total referral sessions. It’s a modest piece of the pie, but

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Google AMP carousels are multiplying!

In case you missed it, Google has launched a new type of AMP rich card carousel in mobile search results — in addition to the Top Stories carousel we’re used to seeing.  
The new AMP carousels appear in the main mobile results list, showcasing related articles from a single publisher. They started appearing at the end of 2016 without fanfare from Google. Let’s call them “single-source carousels.”
Single-source AMP carousels are most likely to appear in results for popular queries, particularly for news stories. A January 15 search for “Kansas City Chiefs News” produced four single-source AMP carousels in addition to the Top Stories carousel:
A search for “Kansas City Chiefs News” produces a Top Stories carousel, plus four single-source AMP rich card carousels.
Search for any big news story, and you’ll likely get several single-source carousels in mobile results. They also appear frequently for recipe searches — try “cookie recipes,” for example.
Google appears to be invoking the single-source

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For e-commerce success: SEO > aesthetics

The world of e-commerce optimization is vast and complex, and it demands a particular level of attention in order to function and perform correctly.
Over the last 10 years, I have had the opportunity to manage a variety of enterprise-level e-commerce websites that offer everything from athletic gear to office supplies.
Regardless of the intended audience, most e-commerce sites suffer from similar optimization issues. These issues prevent them from maximizing their exposure to qualified traffic and the related revenue.
Usually, these problems are connected to how business stakeholders approach the development of their e-commerce platform, placing user experience and aesthetics over search engine optimization (SEO).
When brands focus on building e-commerce environments that are attractive and functional but ignore or forget about SEO, they immediately lose opportunities to attract and convert new customers from organic channels.
The good news is that by adhering to the following e-commerce optimization recommendations, you can create an environment that is functional and attractive and introduces your brand

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Mobile marketing AMPlification: Content, performance and measurement

The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project was created  to improve the mobile web experience; pages built with AMP HTML load instantly on mobile devices, allowing publishers to quickly serve users in their moments of need.
Though originally created with publishers in mind, AMP has begun to spread to other types of sites as well. At the end of June, eBay announced that they had enabled AMP on eight million of their pages (They were the first major non-news site to do so). It has been widely anticipated that AMP capabilities will spread beyond news publishers, and this was a major step in this direction.
These developments mean that more brands need to pay attention. As AMP spreads, webmasters will need to optimize their content so that they can provide the desired high-speed responses to the micro-moments of their prospects.
Keeping mobile strategy in line with customer expectations
Customers expect pages to load quickly. Even as far back as 2009, Forrester found that around 40 percent of consumers would abandon a page that does not

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Help! I just launched a new website and my search rankings tanked!

Imagine this nightmare scenario: you’re on the verge of launching your newly redesigned website, and you’re already anticipating new leads and returning customers. You’ve spent countless hours working through every last detail before even considering unveiling your new creation to the world. The big day arrives, and you give the green light to launch.
Suddenly, you realize you forgot to plan for one crucial element: the SEO best practices that you had so carefully incorporated into your old website.
Unfortunately, this is not just a nightmare that can be forgotten once you’ve had your morning coffee, but something I’ve seen happen to countless small businesses over my 10 years as the owner of an SEO and online marketing agency.
Your redesigned website was meant to give your business a new lease on life, but instead, you’ve destroyed your organic search rankings and traffic overnight. When you change your site without thoroughly thinking through the SEO implications, you might do something harmful like throw away

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Ad Age: Google Is To Launch AMP In Search Results On February 24, 2016

AdAge reports that Google’s AMP initiative will be taking off this coming Wednesday, February 24th.
That means that mobile searchers will begin to see AMP optimized content from publishers in the search results as soon as this Wednesday.
We knew this would launch in February 2016 but now we have the official date. As we described before AMP is designed to make web pages faster to load for users by slimming down a lot elements users need to download when visiting a web page. AMP has been adopted as a protocol by Google, Twitter and many other organizations and publishers. Google is launching AMP for their mobile results next month.
Recently Google released AMP error reports to help webmasters get ready to be AMP-friendly.
Richard Gingras, senior director, news and social products at Google told AdAge today “Clearly, AMP takes speed to a point of extreme so, obviously we look to leverage that. Again, it is only one signal. AMP doesn’t

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About To Launch A WordPress Site? Here’s What You Need To Know About SEO

WordPress is the most widely used content management system (CMS) in the world — roughly half of sites that use a CMS use WordPress.
There is good reason for WordPress’ popularity. It’s versatile, easy to use and highly customizable, due to the numerous plugins and themes available.
Many believe that using WordPress to host a site automatically guarantees good SEO. As the belief goes, all you need to do is start a WordPress site, and your SEO will take care of itself.
It doesn’t work that way. If you’re on the cusp of launching a new WordPress site, here’s what you need to know to maximize search engine visibility. My goal in this article is to provide several overarching strategies (rather than a technical how-to) that will improve your search potential.
1. WordPress Is Not An Automatic SEO Solution
First, let me reiterate the fact that WordPress is not an SEO silver bullet. The value of WordPress for SEO is that it is simple and intuitive. The platform

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