SEO of school websites often takes inhouse education marketers into alien territory – which is understandable and why you need a guide, because having your website properly set up with SEO is essential to being found.
When it comes to SEO and school websites there are three fallacies that need to be addressed:
1. If you build it, they will come.
Wrong. Without SEO your new website is relying on the longevity of your URL (the longer you have been on the internet the better) and a mobile responsive website to help your rankings. With school marketing being such a competitive space that is not going to get you far.
2. You can set up SEO and then forget it.
Wrong again. Google knows if you have a stagnant website with no changes to your home page or new articles and updates being added. It knows clearly the difference between a dynamic site and brochureware and downgrades the latter.
3. Investing in paid Adwords is the way to go.
Well, to some extent it will but it’s a slow way to build your organic rank. Many people deliberately scroll past the top advertising block to find out who the true leaders are for a particular search term, because they know people have paid for that spot. But investing in Adwords rather that investing in your website at the same time is likely to increase your bounce rate – i.e. people land on your site and very quickly leave because it does not look appealing or meet their expectations for what they are looking for.
SEO and School Websites – understanding the missed opportunity.
All of this leads to having a strong appreciation for the importance of SEO and an engaging school website. Here’s why:
Parents look for schools on the internet, whether they are searching for a new school or wishing to confirm a word of mouth recommendation. It’s their first ‘port of marketing call’.
Increasingly parents who move to a new area will google schools in that town/suburb well in advance of their move, to ascertain what is available and what the schools offer their children. It is no doubt part of their ‘research’ as to whether they will even take the job and move their family.
And this is where many schools are let down. Because if you are not ranking well on the first page of Google with the correct search terms, your school may not be seen by your prospective targets.
School marketing needs to have SEO as a priority
Digital marketing for schools is now a critical component of their school marketing mix and key to this is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
Let’s look at a hypothetical example: parent is moving to Gladstone for work (they work in the health industry). They google ‘best schools in Gladstone’ to see what is recommended. Or they might google ‘private schools Gladstone’ or ‘best performing schools Gladstone’.
If your school is in Gladstone then you want to be the highest ranked school for these terms – and then the meta description of your school – what is shown in Google – needs to be enticing and a concise snapshot of your USP (Unique Selling Proposition).
BUT – before all of this – you need to know what are the highest ranking search terms that people type into their Google search bar.
The best way to find this is really to call in the experts. There are a variety of search terms people search for and they all help your school to be ‘found’. Here at Look Education before we even start writing a website we research key search terms for your school, area and competition to inform the best Search Engine Optimisation strategy (and website copy) to elevate your school in Google search rankings. We also don’t overlook other search engines.
The Website Experience
Let’s assume you managed to come up in the search terms.
The person searching then determines which school websites to view and goes forward and clicks through and views them.
This is again where many schools are let down. They may be found on the internet but when a prospective parent views the website they are met with:
- Less than impactful/outdated web design and imagery
- Poor website navigation
- Copy that does not reflect key messages – features and benefits
- No calls to action to propel them to ENROL – or visit/tour, call or email or download for more information
- No video engagement
Essentially the brand experience of their website is not doing the school any favours. This increases your bounce effect – i.e. people come to your site and quickly back right out. With your Google Analytics you can see how long people stay on your site – and so does Google naturally. It ranks sites higher that are found to be more engaging, i.e. where people stay longer.
Another factor that can influence the bounce rate is a disconnect with the search term and the real content and intent of the site.
So for us, selecting search terms for your site isn’t always about setting your site up for the number 1 search term if your site (and school) does not fully deliver on that. It’s about connecting a popular search term through to a positive and informative brand experience where the searcher gets the answers they are looking for.
Our Approach to SEO and School Websites
We have a comprehensive approach to school marketing SEO and we offer a range of pricing levels so that even the smallest school can afford an annual ongoing campaign where their school rankings can be optimised.
There are many factors that influence SEO – some of these are foundational and others are ongoing.
Ongoing maintenance is needed to ensure rankings are maintained as Google algorithms change – and your competitors also are working hard to improve their rankings. Ongoing maintenance involves back end monitoring and work across copy, images, video and web design/load speeds as well.
The key elements of website design for optimum SEO performance include:
- Domain Authority (longevity of your URL, popularity, number of pages)
- Mobile responsive
- Fast load speed
- Optimised images and videos
- H1 Headings that are written for SEO
- Copy that is written for SEO
- Keywords and back end tagging for SEO
Look Education specialises in SEO strategies, school marketing websites and digital marketing campaigns for early learning centres, schools and colleges. Contact us today!