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Australia’s largest university delivers >100% organic traffic growth to websites

Success story

“Encouraged by our successes with SEMrush software, I was asked to roll out SEMrush across the University and all of its websites. With the help of SEMrush, we empowered every single marketing team within the university to do what was done for the central sites.”
Shefali Joshi, Marketing Optimization Analyst, Monash University

About Monash University:

Founded in 1958, Monash University is Australia’s largest university, with four Australian campuses, and campuses in Malaysia, China, India, Italy and will soon have the first foreign omauniversity campus in Indonesia. More than 70,000 students are currently studying at Monash, and the study options are vast. From undergraduate (single and double), postgraduate and higher degree research, to open online courses, microcredentials, professional development, and alternative pathways – Monash offers breadth, flexibility and choice.

Monash University’s worldwide reputation for education and research excellence ranks them in the ​ world’s top 100 universities ​ (including ​48th ​in the ​2021 US News and World Report Best Global University Rankings; ​55th in the 2021 QS World University Rankings), and the University is a founding member of the ​Group of Eight​.

Business challenge

As Australia’s largest university, with 10 faculties, vast study options and extensive research output, Monash University’s website is equally large, with more than 65,000 pages governed by a distributed website management structure.
In 2017, search engine optimisation (SEO) had been outsourced to a third party and Monash had ​limited visibility and control over driving organic traffic to subsites. ​Shefali Joshi, responsible for SEO at Monash, recalls: “We had concerns that not all our sites were receiving the appropriate level of traffic and some of our courses were not ranking where they should on Google.”

Solution

Monash decided to bring SEO in-house. Shefali was tasked with exploring product solutions and managing the project. “I belong to the Strategic Marketing and Communications team, we manage two of the biggest sites, ​ monash.edu and study.monash ​. I needed a tool that would enable me to manage this huge project. SEMrush was the best one, based on our selection criteria, so we started with the Business plan for a month or two before switching to the Enterprise plan to benefit all our websites and subsites.”
But where did they start? “The first thing we did was competitive research. The top level domain of our ​study website — study.monash — did not perform as well against our competing universities as we wanted to. We had limited visibility,” says Shefali. “Immediately we understood that the problem was with the top level domain. A decision was made to move the study website domain from study.monash to monash.edu/study, as the ‘study.monash’ domain had little authority and few rankings compared to monash.edu. It was a massive step and was enabled by the intelligence from SEMrush.”
Next, Shefali ran a technical audit with the SEMrush Site Audit tool, looking at more than 65,000 pages across hundreds of sites, subsites and subdomains. “First, we pushed for HTTPS implementation (moving all pages from HTTP to HTTPS). We also had other issues like redirect chains and loops, multiple URLs and missing canonicals, missing alt tags, lots of broken links — ‘page not found’ errors. You fixed one issue and a thousand others got resolved!”, continues Shefali. Fixing most of these issues resulted in a positive user experience, better crawlability of our pages, improved rankings and reduced bounce rate.
Another crucial part of optimizing Monash’s website’s online visibility was keyword research conducted with SEMrush. Shefali recalls: “I used keyword research very heavily. We found content gaps and started generating content on our website filling those gaps.”
A good example was the ​Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) calculator and ATAR-related terms. “Prospective students are looking to calculate ATAR scores because they’re trying to understand which university they got selected to, or if they scored highly enough to be accepted to their chosen course. SEMrush showed us that people actively search for ‘ATAR Calculator’, ‘How can I calculate ATAR’ and other ATAR-related terms. This was clearly a crucial aspect for potential website visitors and we weren’t currently optimising this information or including functionality associated with an ATAR calculator,” highlights Shefali. Upon introducing their calculator, Monash got an increased number of students flowing to their website.
These actions resulted in organic traffic more than doubling; it grew from 460,000 unique views to more than 1 million in only 12 months, which is more than 100% growth.
What happened next was beyond Shefali’s expectations: “Encouraged by our successes with the SEMrush software, I was asked to rollout SEMrush to the rest of Monash, including all websites within our ecosystem. This project included giving search and content optimization workshops, setting up SEMrush projects and tools, and organizing SEMrush training. As a result, more than 100 people were trained and more than 30 SEMrush projects were set up; now we have a whole community of SEMrush users. Even the faculty sites all rank now for course-related non-branded terms, and because they have complementary content, they all lead to each other. With the help of SEMrush, we empowered every single marketing team within Monash to do what was done for the central sites.”
Monash gains online visibility​, more than doubling organic traffic to their current and prospective student platforms from 460,000 to more than 1 million visitors over a period of 12 months.
Content gaps identified and filled​, by analysing top searches related to higher education in Australia, Monash could see that they missed important information on their website, e.g. ATAR-related content. Adding this brought a highly targeted audience to monash.edu.
Technical errors identified and fixed with SEMrush​, making ​essential moves to eliminate technical issues such as insecure protocol, duplicate pieces of content and broken links, ultimately leading to improved user experience, better crawlability of their pages and higher rankings.
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