Writing for Higher Education SEO: Why You Need a Human Touch in the Age of AI

Robert AlexanderDirector of SEOFebruary 23, 2024
Blog: SEO for higher education, woman typing into a search engine on her phone
AI is a valuable tool, but SEO needs writing and strategy only a person can provide.

Your website is the hub of your marketing strategy and one of your institution’s most important brand assets. In fact, according to RNL’s 2023 E-Expectations Trend Report, college and university websites are the single most utilized resource for students—and 58 percent of  undergraduate students use search engines to find a college’s website. Further, RNL’s Graduate Student Recruitment Report indicates that 92 percent of prospective graduate students use a search engine as either the first or second step in their program search.   

We also know that enrollment is declining and traditional colleges and universities are facing challenges like never before. For all of these reasons, quality web content should be a priority for any higher ed marketing team. This means content that’s 1) tailored to your institution 2) relevant and engaging to your audience and 3) ranked well by search engines.

The question is: How much can artificial intelligence (AI) help? And can it replace traditional marketing resources to offer a faster and cheaper solution? Let’s find out.

How AI can help

AI has proven an effective time-saving tool for content creators, but its primary usefulness is for ideation and outlining, especially when it comes to blogs.

At RNL, our writers use various AI platforms to outline articles. These tools can help us develop the framework for a piece almost instantly with some very basic content, which we then customize, supplement, fact-check (more on that later), and refine for style and tone. In other words, AI helps with the starting point, but there remains significant work to do on the back end.

Using AI for blogs vs. for degree program pages

Degree program pages tend to offer the greatest ROI for our partners and not surprisingly comprise the majority of our SEO work. For these types of pages, AI has been less useful.

Unlike articles, which are less branded and focus on a general topic (for example, “Is an MBA Worth It?”), program pages are highly customized. They focus on benefits and differentiators for that specific program/school—and the more tailored the better. Using AI as a replacement for writers will likely result in bland, generic content that lacks a needed human touch.

Talk with our digital marketing and enrollment experts

RNL works with colleges and universities across the country to ensure their digital marketing is optimized and filling their academic programs. Reach out today for a complimentary consultation to discuss:

  • Search engine optimization
  • Digital marketing
  • Lead generation
  • Digital engagement throughout the enrollment funnel

Request now

AI, quality, and search rankings

The days of keyword-stuffing text to manipulate search rankings are long gone. Today, that kind of approach will only work against you. Similarly, indications are that Google is improving its ability to identify low-quality AI content algorithmically. While exactly how Google identifies good vs. poor content is a complex and debated topic, it is clear that generic, mass-produced AI-generated content will not be a winning search strategy for institutions.

Content and brand: The power of good writing

AI may be fast, but it can fall short in offering the creativity and nuance critical to building brands (and relationships). A skilled writer can infuse content with a unique tone and style, as well as insights and emotions that can’t be replicated artificially. In contrast, AI tends to say much the same thing in much the same way, offering few opportunities to differentiate your brand and showcase what makes you unique. At RNL, we find that our campus partners set a higher bar for creative and expect a level of customization that AI simply cannot offer.

Get the facts straight

AI tools get the information they generate from content already on the web, scouring countless articles, social media posts, and more to produce the content you requested. This presents another problem: We all know that not everything you read on the internet is truthful or accurate. If you use AI for content creation, be sure to fact-check as part of your review.

People make all the difference

We bring this approach to web optimization with our campus partners. We deliver a comprehensive content strategy that goes far beyond incorporating keywords and meta data, including:

  • Assessing the pages to be optimized for both SEO and user experience, providing content recommendations based on best practices and the unique considerations of your brand.
  • Embarking on a thorough discovery process, taking a deep dive into your departments and programs to dig out all those small but important details that bring your content to life.
  • Creating engaging and fully customized content that drives action and makes real connections with real people.

This is done by our writers, who have years of creative experience and who specialize in writing for SEO. We can talk about how we can optimize your pages in search. Reach out to our experts and we will set up a time to talk.

About the Author

Robert Alexander

With more than 20 years of professional experience, Robert Alexander is a content leader and brand strategist who specializes in digital marketing and SEO. His past work includes writing a variety of long-form and search...

Read more about Robert's experience and expertise

Reach Robert by e-mail at Rob.Alexander@RuffaloNL.com.

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