Having opened a new global campus located in Dubai, The University of Birmingham Dubai wanted to target prospective students online in UAE, India, Pakistan and Nigeria. Working with search marketing agency, The SEO Works, the University researched its audience’s search behaviour to identify how they looked for and engaged with information about studying at the university.  This resulted in a strategy to target key phrases spanning postgraduate and undergraduate courses, application, fees and scholarships in a website content optimisation and organic search marketing campaign. The 12 month campaign increased website traffic by 143% and course applications by 92% from the four target countries.

Objectives & Aims

The brief was to increase:

  • Global awareness by increasing organic traffic growth in four locations: UAE, India, Pakistan and Nigeria
  • Traffic to the ‘Study’ section of the University of Birmingham Dubai website
  • Course applications
  • The number of users registering their interest.

Implementation, Execution & Tactics

The campaign strategy was centred around understanding how prospective students would be searching for the university and then optimising the website and organic search campaign against those terms. Research identified that the target audience was searching in a multi-faceted way – for specific course offering, degree type (BSc, MSc, BEng and so on) and information on applications, fees and funding.

The research insights then informed a three-stage search optimisation plan:

  • Foundation – website optimisation: Optimising key landing pages, such as ‘Undergraduate Courses’ and ‘Postgraduate Courses’, and specifically targeted course pages enabled Google to see and understand the key pages of the site.
  • Sustainability – content creation: New pages addressed the most common searches among prospective students. For example, a new ‘Fees and Funding’ section was developed which answered questions that were being asked in long-format searches as well as in frequently asked questions. Scholarship details were included and emphasised, in line with the research identifying this as highly sought-after information by the target audience. Behaviour flow in Google Analytics subsequently indicated the new section had little drop-off and was driving a high volume of traffic to course pages.
  • Growth – ongoing site optimisation and link-building : On-site meta and content optimisations continued based around Google rankings. In addition, the University’s Google My Business listing was optimised for localised keywords.

Meanwhile, a link audit was carried out which uncovered that, whilst there were many links to the main University of Birmingham site, very few existed to the Dubai site. Seeding content about the Dubai campus global ambitions secured links from key associates such as Gulf News and the British Universities International Liason Association, as well as university listing/rating sites in the target locations.


The campaign illustrates that search optimisation which is based around user search intent can deliver sustainable business growth.

  • 143% increase in traffic from UAE, India, Pakistan and Nigeria
  • 135% boost in global traffic to the Study section of the website
  • 92% increase in course applications
  • 57% improvement in registrations of interest.