If you manage a school website, by now you will be aware of the importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO not only helps to improve the quantity of traffic to your school website but also the quality of your website. People however seem to have a common misconception that school websites do not require SEO and it is more relevant for other institutions and organisations. However, if you look at the search data, you would easily disapprove of this fact.
With 3.5 billion searches made everyday, it can be safely concluded that these search trends should not be ignored. But the question is — is it possible to constantly keep up with these search trends and frequently update your website?
The simple answer is yes, if you intend not to hurt your organic traffic. Search trends help you understand and deliver the most effective and user-friendly content for each of your queries. A robust SEO optimisation strategy takes time to show results and when it does, you will be able to reap its benefits for years to come.
- Utilise location-based search strategy
Google My Business (the listing on Google search that shows your location and contact details) was created with the intention of helping customers engage on Google for free. The primary objective was to help small and medium-scale businesses connect with their potential customers across Google Searches and Maps.
For most schools, the common statement is, “Everyone knows my school, why do I need this?”
But the fact is optimising Google My Business shows your school name up on the search even when a user doesn’t know you exist.
For example, a parent who is new in the area where your school is situated, might simply key in the phrase, ‘best high school + location in the search engine. For that parent to find your school, you need to be on the Page 1 search results. And we very well know from historical data that very few people visit the second page. Having an up-to-date Google My Business listing can assist with this.
Another significant point to be noted here — Google detects the searchers’ location from the IP address. Even if you don’t include your region in the search, it will automatically deliver them local results including Google My Business listings…
- Comprehend the search intent for educational institutions
Most search engine users these days are impatient. If they want their search to include specific results, they will use the related long-tail keywords. Now the real challenge is understanding those keywords and search terms so you can optimise your school website accordingly.
In other words, the more content you have on your website that is related to the search term, the better are your site’s chances of ranking higher in the search results.
- Optimise for different regions
It’s not just enough that your GMB account and site pages include only results for the physical location where you are situated.
Some parents who have not entered your location in their search will not be able to find your school and they may not even be aware that you are already pulling students from their areas. This holds true for most schools that are located outside main cities and towns.
What you need here is a regional landing page strategy.
The most common approach to creating regional landing pages are highlighted below:
- Define the targeted area
You need to start by defining the area that you are targeting whether it is a specific region, city, county, etc. Then mention the key landmarks or work a bit into the history of the region.
- Geo-specific keywords
This is in fact the most important point to consider when you are creating a location-based landing page that will specifically give you the local hits you need from your local population. The formula is quite simple — mention [type of school] in [region or location] or [location] in the content you have on your website.
- Primary school in North London
- North Yorkshire secondary school
Irrespective of whether you are creating one landing page or 10, the look and feel as well the style and tone of each page should be consistent. If you are a larger institution, it’s a good idea to come up with a style guide with specific branding colours and guidelines.
- On-page optimisation
This is the process of doing everything on your website that could help to instruct Google to deliver you to page one. You should take on-page quite seriously if you want the search engines to reward you with the first page visibility.
Let’s take a look at some of the best practises you may want to follow in your quest to rank on the first page:
- URLs: Google has very clearly stated that URLs help them understand what the page is all about. In order to optimise the URLs:
- Include the primary keyword in the URL
- Place the keyword to the left side of the URL
- Keep the words that define the URL as real as possible
- Keep the text simple and sweet
- Use hyphens between two words
- Meta titles and descriptions: Page titles are one of the most important on-page SEO factors. Both the meta title and description are important for the search engines to understand the purpose of the page.
- Header tags: These tags serve an important function for the SEO of your page. They have a direct impact on your page by:
- Making it easier and more enjoyable for your users to read the page
- Providing keyword-rich context to the search engines for your content
- SEO writing: This typically implies that the content is written in a way that it is loved by both humans and the search engines.
- Keyword cannibalisation: Targeting many pages for a specific keyword can cause keyword cannibalisation and that could have potentially disastrous results for your SEO efforts. If you have multiple pages on your website ranking for the same keyword, you’re actually competing with yourself and that’s not a good on-page strategy to follow.
- Content audit: This is a vital mistake made by most content authors and editors. They keep on creating new content, but never bother to revisit or update their existing content. It’s absolutely essential to do content audits on a regular basis.
- Mobile page loading speed
In the real world, speed kills but it is not the same in the digital world. If your page doesn’t load fast on your mobile, the internet will kill your rank.
Waiting for a page to load in its own sweet time is a frustrating experience. There are quite a few ways to reverse this experience:
- Utilise the wide range of free marketing tools available to make quick fixes to your content. There are a few tools that can compress images to a fraction of their size.
- Limit the amount of media you include in your posts and pages. To ensure optimal page load speed, you should maintain a ratio of 75:25 for text to images.
- Make sure you have a prominent call to action (CTA) and the size of the CTA button should be at least a bit larger than your thumb.
SEO like anything else requires the right amount of knowledge, skills, patience, and consistency to produce the desired results. The opportunities are unlimited and as the search engine volumes grow, it will become more important than ever to keep working on your SEO efforts.