Content Writing for university web pages

To hold the attention and interest of your target audience, the content writer needs to speak in a voice the audience will recognize as someone like them.  Also, your target audience may use interface with many types of devices and platforms daily. You need to understand their media-consuming habits to truly engage your audience with your important stories and content.
But how do campuses begin to strengthen the content of their web page and maximize the SEO potential of those pages, while keeping it manageable? The following six strategies have worked for many campus web content creators.

1) Prioritize the pages you optimize

To get the best return on your investment of time and/or money, focus your initial search engine optimization efforts on “magnet” pages, the ones on your website that are the most likely to attract search engine clicks.
 For most colleges and universities, these are degree and program pages, followed by accreditation pages, financial aid pages, and rankings, awards, and recognition pages.
If your college/department has a significant number of pages (degrees, programs, etc.), and you need to further prioritize your work, use the following criteria to select pages for optimization:

  • Programs or degrees that have capacity for students and need an enrollment boost
  • New programs or degrees that you need to build awareness for
  • Programs or degrees that are more unique to your institution and therefore have less competition for search results from competing campuses
  • Popular programs and degrees that will have large numbers of students searching for them (e.g. criminal justice, nursing)

Helpful hint: Use web traffic analytics to drive your priorities. N.C. A&T University Relations can provide this information.

2) Incorporate keywords into your web writing
To determine which words and phrases are the most popular (and therefore have the highest search volume), it’s important to conduct keyword research.
Helpful hint: For maximum effectiveness, insert keywords into headings and subheadings (H1 and H2), body copy, anchor text in links and photo captions.

3) Plan your page

Once a visitor has landed on your page, the key to getting your copy read is to have clear goals for what you’d like to accomplish with the page.

  • What is the purpose of the page?
  • Who is your target audience and why do they need your content?
  • What is unique about your page that separates you from your peers?
  • What is the desired call to action once your audience visits the page?
  • How are you going to measure success?
  • What information should be left off this page, either deleted or moved to another page?

Keep the focus of each page tight. By maintaining a narrow focus, it’s easier to position the page for SEO (particularly in terms of URLs, title tags, and H1 headings). In presenting your information, follow the inverted pyramid delivery, presenting the most important information at the top of the page, with less important information placed toward the bottom.
Helpful hint: Ideally, you should have a unique page for each degree or program.

4) Consider how the page relates to other pages
In pre-planning for a page, it’s also helpful to consider how the page relates to other pages on your site. For example, if your school offers a BA and a BS option for the same major, and you intend to create a separate page for each degree, you’ll need to decide what information to include on each of the respective pages and how to cross-reference them.
It’s also important to consider:

  • Where the page will reside on your website
  • Which other pages on your site will link to the page
  • Which other pages the page will link to


Helpful hint: Google penalizes pages from appearing higher in search containing duplicate content. If you decide to cover the same topic(s) on multiple pages, you’ll need to rewrite the copy to make it unique for each page.

5) Optimize the length and amount of content on the page
Google doesn’t like pages that are too short, but web visitors generally don’t like pages that are too long. Ideally, you want to find a happy medium between these two demands and create pages with about 300-700 words of content. If you have a page that’s too long, split the copy and create multiple pages; if the page is too short, beef up the content or eliminate the page.
 On all pages, break up the text, keeping it in short chunks. You can use bullets, links, and pull quotes to help separate the text and give visitors points of interest.
As you’re writing each page, don’t assume the reader knows something about the university. Many won’t, so it’s important to include brief, top-level information on your pages.
Helpful hint: Be sure to include calls to action on your pages, and don’t hesitate to include more than one. For example, on a degree or program page, you could include calls to action for requesting more information, scheduling a campus visit, and e-mailing a faculty member.

6) Manage the approval process

To ensure a smooth approval process, conveying the benefits of SEO to everyone who will be editing and/or signing off on the pages will be helpful if done beforehand in the writing stage.
To prepare proofreaders and stakeholders, explain these basic principles of SEO:

  • It’s impossible to predict how visitors will enter the site and which pathways they’ll take once they get there. Therefore, some basic information will need to be repeated across different pages, and it will need to be rephrased, to avoid duplicate content issues.
  • A certain amount of keyword repetition is included in each optimized page, by design, in order to help reach keyword-density objectives that are vital for SEO success. The copy, however, will seem more repetitive when it’s read and proofed, all at once, in a Word document, than it will when it’s presented on the web page.

Helpful hint: When composing your content, highlight your primary keywords in green to show yourself and others how you’ve optimized the page for SEO.