Why SEO is Important for Higher Ed Video Content & How Video Transcripts Can Help

March 28, 2013 BY SHANNON K. MURPHY
Updated: January 4, 2018

Resources students use to research colleges and universities

There are a plethora of traditional marketing methods to get a brand name out to the public. Universities often rely on college fairs, print advertising and radio to make an impression on prospective students. Recent economic conditions, however, have made students evaluate colleges with more scrutiny. As such, universities are competing more than ever, trying to earn the respect of students who can pay. But how will students find them? Buzz around the university brand requires a more modern strategy.

Digital marketing for institutions of higher learning often means overhauling a dated website, creating a blog and signing up for Facebook and YouTube accounts. Social media is an obvious marketing choice, mainly because of its ease of use; anyone can sign up without the help of an IT department. Each school can create a customized platform with very little time or cost.

Unfortunately however, a big part of the strategy is often missing: SEO or search engine optimization. While 67% of high school juniors and seniors use search engines to learn about their potential school, only 42% of four-year private universities and 34% of four year public universities are investing in SEO to improve their standings in search engines. Universities are disconnected from the primary channel that prospective students use to learn about them.

What is Search Engine Optimization?

Many people in higher education think of SEO as an acronym for Student Employment Office. But the SEO that we’re referring to stands for Search Engine Optimization, which is explained by Google in the following way:

“Search engine optimization is often about making small modifications to parts of your website. When viewed individually, these changes might seem like incremental improvements, but when combined with other optimizations, they could have a noticeable impact on your site’s user experience and performance in organic search results.”

Interestingly enough, Google’s original algorithm was built on some of the core principals of academia. Before Google’s introduction in 1995, reigning search engines like Yahoo and Lycos searched for keyword terms and returned results, but these results only assessed relevance, not authority. Adding the additional component of “authority,” Google reviewed how many sites linked to a particular page. Now, in order to get to the top of search results, a page must win not only on relevancy, but on the number of links pointing to it. These inbound links are akin to citations in the scholarly world, meaning, if your information is reputable you’ll be promoted as a credible resource. It’s no wonder university sites have great authority as they are the source of highly authentic, unique material and are trusted by audiences.

What is Video SEO?

Video SEO is an extension of SEO. It marries the vibrant medium of online video with the on-page textual elements in order to maximize video discoverability and viewership. As a video is obviously not text-based, building out a page with supporting text is important to inform Google what your video is about. Google can’t read your video, so video transcripts are enormously helpful. Without one, your page comes across akin to a clipped newspaper; the title of the story may be there, but the body of the article is missing.

Why Should Universities Care About SEO?

Increases Thought Leadership & Discoverability

Although a lot of university website content is behind a firewall, there is still a lot of content publicly available. As the originators of great research, universities are a wealth of scholarly video material that should be discovered, categorized and cataloged by Google in its librarian-like role. By organizing a website and its contents properly, colleges can grow their authoritative role and SEO. Simple steps will help people find it and link to it.

Helps Prospective Students Engage

Universities should be particularly concerned with prospective students being able to find the information they need through search engines. SEO also takes into account the user experience. Meaning, once the user has found the right web page, how easy is it to navigate through the site and accomplish their objective. In a recent study, 55% of students weren’t able to find the information they needed on college sites due to poorly designed navigation. And not surprisingly, 41% of those students who were “highly interested” in a college, had a diminished opinion of the college after encountering these difficulties.

Students opinions impacted by poor UI design and navigation

In the context of video, such as for academic programs or campus life, a prospective student should be able to easily find and navigate to the video content. For example, campus life videos are carefully crafted messages from a university to its prospective students. Yet many universities house their videos in a way that makes them very difficult to find. Sharing transcripts and captions helps search engines to organize your content and lifts the presence of your video to be seen by more students.

Furthers University Accessibility Plan

One of the most provoking reasons to take on a university video SEO strategy is that doing so naturally resolves many of the accessibility issues faced by students with hearing or learning disabilities. Keep in mind, the number of students requesting accommodation for learning disabilities has doubled since 2002. Transcribing a video makes it more searchable, but it also becomes more useful to deaf and ESL students. In separate blog articles we discuss how transcripts and captions benefit accessibility and improve engagement and comprehension in online learning. To develop a winning online program, universities need to develop a video SEO strategy.

Helps Internal Site Search

Universities are large, intricate structures, with the internet touching nearly everything they do. Universities are amassing tremendous amounts of video, but finding video on a particular topic is like finding a needle in a haystack. Picking up the pieces of another teacher’s work or crowd-surfing the databases within a department could be simplified if faculty could actually find and repurpose each other’s work. Particularly since a majority of university faculty are part-time. Internal search engines operate the same way as Google and SEO best practices are just as important. Properly titled video landing pages, keyword rich media data and transcripts define the identity of video content. A video SEO strategy ensures that the video resources created for faculty and students are easily found and utilized.

How-to Make Video Content Discoverable and SEO-Friendly

Now that you understand the benefits of university video SEO, we recommend reading the articles below, which go into greater detail about video SEO strategy and benefits.

On-Page SEO Basics & Your Video Keyword Strategy: Learn the basics of how to build out a video landing page by adding keyword rich text elements, augmenting your on-page SEO.

7 Key Benefits of Web Video Transcripts & Captions: Understand the benefits of transcripts for video content and how captions are indexed by Google.

Best Practices for Linking to Your Video Transcript: Cross-linking and inbound links are crucial to your SEO strategy. Learn how a video with a transcript creates more linking opportunities.

How-to Optimize Short-Form University Video: Learn how to optimize your video transcript, making it both search and user-friendly. This blog focuses on strategies for short videos under 5 minutes.

How-to Optimize Long-Form University Video: Learn how to leverage long-form video transcripts for videos 5 minutes or longer.

In closing, universities stand to gain a lot from a video SEO strategy. While SEO is a bit more technical than social media, it should be at the heart of how every university builds its web pages. Taking SEO into account helps to educate internally and enrich the world.

Read the free report: 2017 State of Captioning.

The closed caption CC icon shown in the middle of a TV.