Why Targeting Long Tail Keywords is Important for Academia


Long-tail keywords are a combination of three to four keyword phrases that explicitly define key attributes of your product or service offering. Whenever a prospective audience uses a highly specific search phrase, they are sure of their buying preferences. Such type of specific keyword phrase searches is far more likely to drive final conversions than generic searches. Normally, general searches are more focussed on gathering the necessary information and inputs required before making a buying decision.

Academic marketers should, therefore, be aware of the keyword phrases that potential target groups (in this case prospective students) are likely to use prior to completing their buying decision (in this case selection of a college or university).

So, how does one know what these keywords are and why are they so crucial for educational institutions?

In the parlance of digital marketing, what we are going to understand here is the use of long-tail keywords in online search marketing.

To substantiate this concept, let’s first take a look at the classic journey that a prospect travels to arrive at the final decision of making an informed decision in favour of an institute.

  1. Prospective applicant zeros down on a career of his interest, choice, and capability.
  2. He then starts looking for relevant and credible touchpoints to seek information about that career option.
  3. After gathering sufficient inputs, the prospective student begins assessing and comparing alternatives available on various parameters.
  4. Once the careful assessment of available information is done, the prospect then makes the final purchase decision.

Looking at the above steps, we can see that the most crucial link in the entire process is somewhere around step four because once the aspirant has made the decision to select a particular option, that’s when he starts using search phrases to dig out more specific information.

Now, what to do……...

Highly specific multi-word phrases are comparatively easier to rank well in search engines than the ones that are a more generalized single keyword or double keyword phrases.

The first thing is to avoid generic phrases since chances are that you’ll be facing direct competition from big sites like educational portals who spend heavily on buying these keywords. Since there search indexing is much stronger than yours,  It’s unlikely you’d be able to knock any of those sites out of the top-ranked searches unless you are willing to invest a heavy sum of money.

But, even more importantly, at this stage when the prospect is making a careful assessment of available information, he is not looking for generic but specific information. So it is better to provide your target audience with a particular type of information that will speed up his buying process and that too in your favor.

So as an academic marketer, you should look at some of the keywords that are specific to education — keywords that you can start ranking for and generating traffic and ultimately drive conversions.

While doing so, please remember that the long-tail keywords are much easier to rank for and people who search by using long tail keywords are far more likely to become final takers of your educational product.

Moreover, you can also look at creating specific pages on your website that hosts information using long-tail keywords. Interestingly, Google likes sites that have more pages – unique pages having variants of main offerings but catering to a specific set of information using long-tail phrases. This means that all such pages will have to have different titles and meta descriptions, body content, etc.

Also, do not forget the importance of general searches.  If you keep targeting phrases that are too focussed, you might not generate enough traffic to sustain your audience base. That’s why it’s more prudent to have a mix of both – a few pages that are able to get you large numbers of less targeted traffic, and at the same time a large number of pages with each providing you nuggets of highly targeted traffic.

So think it this way, would you rather rank for 1 keyword which gets you 500 visitors a day or 50 keyword phrases, half of which gets you 1 applicant a day?

After getting your arithmetic right, you will see that the use of ultra-specific keywords has greater potential to reach out to those sets of audiences that do not just lead but can take you one step closer to the final taker.

In the end, do your keyword research properly and thoroughly.  Proper research in this area will only determine for you which keywords have enough potential to drive traffic to make them worth targeting. This effort should also be done simultaneously with sites against whom you wish to compete in the ranking order.