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University of North Dakota

Optimizing operations with a single tool

"We knew we needed to have some checks and balances and Siteimprove helped us flag things that needed to be corrected."

Tera Buckley

Director of Web & Multimedia Marketing

400

web editors across campus

16.5%

gain in organic traffic

62%

growth in undergraduate inquiries

Driving higher enrollment with the number one recruitment tool

What is a university’s number one recruitment tool these days? Their website.

The University of North Dakota (UND) is the state’s flagship research university, boasting nearly 14,000 students, 225+ fields of study, and 149 unique online programs. Established in 1883, six years before North Dakota became a state, UND has deep roots in history as the oldest and largest university in the state. The university upholds a long-standing tradition of leading with action. And today, that’s no different.

UND is staying ahead of the pack thanks to their foresight to focus their efforts on their website. They held their recruitment numbers steady, even while many of their direct competitors were facing declining enrollments in recent years and struggling with the sudden spike in demand for online learning.

Here’s how they did it.

It starts with quality digital experiences

UND’s journey with Siteimprove started in 2018 when they rebuilt and launched an entirely new website. Siteimprove provided the tools they needed to maintain a high level of quality assurance that was not a built-in part of the process before.

Their new site included a Program Finder that provides prospective students one central place to discover academic programs that fit their interests. And with the number of unique online programs that UND has to offer, ensuring steady traffic to the Program Finder is crucial.

They had a firm handle on the quality of their website experience, but now they had to make sure prospective students were finding them.

Director of Web & Multimedia Marketing Tera Buckley oversees the university’s overall paid and organic search strategy. When she noticed a dip in organic traffic to the Program Finder in early 2021, she knew she had to act quickly.

Buckley made the strategic decision to take advantage of Siteimprove’s SEO tools to reverse the downward organic traffic trend.

Climbing the ranks, one keyword at a time

Using Siteimprove’s research and keyword tools, Buckley discovered that they were already ranking quite well for branded keywords that included “und” or “north dakota”. These insights allowed her to pinpoint specific non-branded keywords where UND could stand out from the competition.

To keep track of the multiple sets of keywords she was targeting, she built out keyword activity plans in the Siteimprove platform for each targeted academic program.

While it was a challenge to rank for a competitive SEO term like online MBA, UND started targeting niche areas of study to target.

Some programs saw outrageous growth in organic traffic just by doing some simple SEO in the last year,” including zeroing in on specialties like Computer Science Ph.D. (up 1,517% Y.O.Y.), Aviation Safety Operations (up 422% Y.O.Y.), and Mathematics B.S. (up 310% Y.O.Y.).

Tera Buckley
Director of Web & Multimedia Marketing

As a result of her work with the Sitemprove tool, UND’s applicant inquiries are growing year over year and the university’s Program Finder traffic is up 16.5% from 2022. Buckley plans to continue working to increase inquiries and meet UND’s enrollment goals. Next year, UND is seeking to further advance their SEO efforts by addressing several issues flagged in Siteimprove such as technical fixes and improving content.