How we boosted conversion value by $10.9m for The University of Newcastle with enterprise SEO strategy

About The University of Newcastle

University of Newcastle, Australia

The University of Newcastle is in the top three percent of universities worldwide, with six subjects ranked in the world’s top 100 and an overall total of 15 subjects ranked in the world’s top 200.

Over five faculties and twelve schools the institution has a total enrollment of 37,000 students and over 2,500 academic and administrative staff.

Since the 1970s, the university has made an unparallelled contribution to Indigenous education in Australia and is honoured to be associated with some of the most prolific and insightful Indigenous students, academics and researchers in the country.

The challenge:

Develop a commercially effective, enterprise SEO strategy to win visibility in key areas for The University of Newcastle

With a sprawling web presence consisting of hundreds of thousands of pages across multiple faculties, microsites and other web applications, The University of Newcastle challenged Reef to formulate a commercially effective organic search strategy.

The aim of this was to achieve two main objectives:

  1. Optimise degree, major and study area pages to rank for the correct, intent-focused keywords in organic search results.
  2. To increase conversions for the University’s Undergraduate degree programs.

The solution:

Widespread optimisation of the The University of Newcastle’s web presence, with a strong focus on key commercial areas – degrees, majors and study content

Reef optimised a total of 164 study areas, degree and major pages on The University of Newcastle website. Extensive keyword research was conducted to inform our activities. From this, we created a keyword strategy in partnership with key stakeholders from both academic and administrative staff, capturing user-intent for each page category.

By analysing the online customer journey that prospective students would typically take, we uncovered a number of opportunities to optimise the organic search presence.

To do this, our approach involved:

  • Improving study area pages for users in the awareness phase of the customer journey; unsure of what they wanted to study, but who might have heard of University of Newcastle.
  • Improving degree pages for users in consideration and decision phases of the customer journey. Users who might know the University to be reputable for a particular degree, or who know the degree they would like to study and who have shortlisted The University of Newcastle.
  • Improving and creating new major pages for users who have already chosen a specific subject area and are looking to identify the most suitable degree. The aim was to provide more detailed information to prospective students about what they could or would study. The hypothesis was that this would improve Undergraduate conversions within each page category.This was an important focus, as visitors to these pages were identified as being more likely to be in the decision phase of the customer journey, and therefore could be considering competing universities offering the same or similar major programmes.

Our activities focused on optimising key components of each area of the site, including editing and creating new page copy, improving metadata, internal and external linking as well as consulting on tracking, site architecture and UX.

The outcome:

Less keywords, lower traffic volume… and a year-on-year uplift of 375% in conversion value

By focusing the optimisation of the site on intent-based keywords, relevant to each page grouping, we were able to streamline the traffic entering the site.

The total pool of keywords and users shrunk, but the quality increased. This resulted in the right pages being served for the correct search queries, and increased conversions on the site.

  • A 375% year on year increase in conversion value for degree applications
  • A 350% year on year increase in overall number of conversions
  • A 20% drop in ranking keywords due to a large amount of unoptimised pages ranking for the wrong terms, attracting irrelevant and poor quality traffic to the site via search engines
  • A major increase in the number of intent-focussed keywords ranking

Other campaign statistics:

  • A reduction in the total number of users of 5.75%
  • A reduced bounce rate of 3.67%
  • An increased average session duration of 6.13%

What the client thought

When we engaged Reef we knew we had to improve search visibility for the University. But we weren’t expecting to see these kind of results. The team at Reef did a great job in elevating our knowledge of SEO while build a strong organic search presence that has led to a clear increase in degree applications

— University of Newcastle

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