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Case Study: McGeorge School of Law

Greg Jarboe
SEO-PR

In late February 2003, Amey S. Hempel, Webmaster of the McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California, contacted SEO-PR. Her goal was to increase the search engine ranking of a new section of the www.mcgeorge.edu site and to increase search engine traffic to www.mcgeorge.edu/salzburgllm, which introduced a collaborative LL.M. program with the University of Salzburg, Austria.

In mid-March, SEO-PR’s co-founders, Greg Jarboe and Jamie O’Donnell, met with Hempel, Dean Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, Associate Dean John Sprankling, Assistant Dean of Admissions Adam Barrett, as well as Professors Claude Rohwer, Keith Pershall, Neil Glick, and Mike Curran.

Dean Rindskopf Parker, who was general counsel of the National Security Agency from 1984 to 1989, principal deputy legal adviser at the U.S. Department of State from 1989 to 1990, and general counsel for the Central Intelligence Agency from 1990 to 1995, appreciated the amount of research that SEO-PR had conducted before the meeting and its willingness to present both positive and negative findings "without fear or favor.”

For example, SEO-PR had asked Hempel to provide her site’s most recent WebTrends report. After analyzing the data, SEO-PR said that 93% of the site’s search engine referral traffic was coming from search phrases that were variations on the law school’s name. This indicated that the site was not optimized for dozens of other highly relevant search terms.

SEO-PR also reported that the McGeorge web site ranked #566,381, according to Alexa, behind eight and ahead of only one of its direct competitors. Finally, SEO-PR informed the group that initial keyword research had found hundreds of searches a month for "international business law”, but none for "transnational business practice” – the name of McGeorge’s program.

During the discussion of the proposal, Jarboe gave Dean Rindskopf Parker a quick demonstration of how to use Overture’s free search term suggestion tool. When she saw for herself that there were many times more searches a month for "LLM” (without the periods) than for "LL.M.” – the term that McGeorge used on its site to describe its Master of Laws degree – she instantly grasped the implications.

SEO-PR proposed a pilot program to enable McGeorge to test the cost-effectiveness of search engine marketing. The initial program included pay-per-click advertising for just 25 keywords and search engine optimization of only 10 existing web pages.

SEO-PR launched McGeorge’s pilot program at the end of March.

By the end of April, Hempel reported in a memo to Dean Rindskopf Parker and the others who had attended the meeting that the site’s ranking on Alexa had improved from #566,381 to #461,786, a jump of 104,595 places.

The anchor page for the pilot project, www.mcgeorge.edu/salzburgllm, had become the #14th most requested page on the entire McGeorge site. A second page, www.mcgeorge.edu/salzburgllm/llmscholarships.htm, was the #47th most requested page on the site.

The vast majority the traffic to these pages had come directly from search engines. "We can measure what page initially attracts visitors by looking at visitors’ ‘entry page,’ which is the first page on our site visited by the visitor. The Salzburg Collaborative Program home page (www.mcgeorge.du/salzburgllm) was the #3 top entry page,” wrote Hempel.

She added, "It looks as though 54 people downloaded the Salzburg Collaborative Program application (www.mcgeorge.edu/salzburgllm/salzburg_app_frm.pdf).” This had been achieved at a fraction of the cost of traditional recruitment and outreach efforts and had provided McGeorge with a healthy return on its investment in search engine marketing.

Hempel also reported, "People use various search terms in the search engine’s search box and we can measure which terms people have put into the search engine to find our site. The term that produces most of our visitors is some variation of McGeorge School of Law. The #9 most popular search phrase was ‘llm’…. This term wasn't in the top 20 a few months ago.”

Hempel concluded, "The amount of traffic generated by a combination of appropriate wording and by the placement of targeted ads, has been impressive. Through May 9 we have had 412 people click on our small ads in Google alone to view our Salzburg Collaborative Program pages. We would have been unlikely, given the huge number of our LLM competitors’ pages out there, to have brought those people to our site otherwise.”

Based on the initial results, Hempel proposed – and Dean Rindskopf Parker approved – an expansion of SEO-PR’s search engine marketing program. In addition, Dean Rindskopf Parker also recommended SEO-PR to Dean Margee Ensign of the University of the Pacific’s School of International Studies in Stockton, CA.

SEO-PR combines search engine optimization and public relations to optimize and promote web sites. This innovative approach enables clients and agencies to write effective press releases, marketing white papers and ezine-newsletter content that generate leads as well as publicity. With offices in San Francisco and Boston, SEO-PR provides services directly as well as through a select group of agency partners. More information is available at www.seo-pr.com.

 

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