Increased Brand Visibility for WVU Online

The Client

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the landscape of higher education changed forever– with more students searching for fully online programs. Online college courses are nothing new. However, a fully online degree program from a notable public research university is something of a rarity. Cue WVU Online.

West Virginia University Online offers over 70 accredited degree programs and certificates to students across the country. WVU Online, the online division of West Virginia University, was seeking a digital marketing agency to increase nationwide awareness of their online bachelor's and master's degree programs.

The Problem

In the state of West Virginia, WVU is a household name. Whether you’re more familiar with the Mountaineers football team or the beautiful campus in Morgantown, every West Virginian knows about WVU. However, with the rise in popularity of online college programs, WVU Online needed to expand its reach and boost nationwide awareness of its offerings.

The client faced an increasingly saturated market with steep competition from established online colleges such as Devry University and Southern New Hampshire University. But, external competitors were not the only thigh standing in the way of WVU Online’s success. because WVU Online is hosted on a separate domain from WVU, the client also faced internal competition. The strategy needed to significantly differentiate itself and its program from the traditional university’s website.

The Goal

  1. Increase nationwide brand awareness and organic search visibility

  2. Differentiate WVU Online from WVU in the search results to avoid cannibalization and internal competiton

The Strategy

With increasing brand awareness and search visibility at the forefront of this strategy, identifying unbranded keywords opportunities to drive organic traffic to the site was the first step. This specific strategy would target top-of-funnel prospective students who are interested in exploring online learning opportunities.

SEO is longer dominated by adding the “right amount” of keywords or manipulating the search results. Statwax decided to take an informational topic-based approach to best align the client's marketing goals. For this strategy to be truly successful, intensive research, a content overhaul, and web page redesigns would be necessary.

Before the Statwax SEO team was able to dive head-first into finding new keyword opportunities, we needed to better understand our target audience and their search behaviors. We needed to unpack the “why” behind WVU Online to reveal its unique selling proposition from a top-of-funnel perspective. This would later allow us to perform accurate keyword research, create effective and informative content, and differentiate the WVU ONline brand from the on-campus West Virginia University.

Our investigation began by asking:

  • What questions do students exploring online learning have?

  • What kind of questions or solutions are they looking for?

  • What makes students choose online versus traditional in-person learning?

The research revealed that prospective students were searching for general information about specific online programs, the student benefits a school offered, as well as the career outlook following graduation. These themes guided our keyword and content strategy.

One-by-one, we optimized the existing content on individual program pages. Statwax SEO worked with the client to implement new FAQ sections on each page to ensure every visitor could get the information they needed without needing to fill out a contact form.

The Results

  • 45% increase in organic traffic YoY in qualified traffic

  • Increased average search visibility from 5.5% for tracked non-branded search terms to 8.45%

  • User-friendly, informational program landing pages