With so many changes happening, we’ve seen a drop off in interest in SEO for school websites during the COVID-19 crisis. However, we believe a focus on SEO and website content right now can actually help private schools prepare for uncertainty and implement a successful strategy for minimizing attrition and growing enrollment during and beyond the shutdowns.
School life has changed around the world during the Coronavirus pandemic. Online learning is now the standard in education for the foreseeable future. We’ve seen schools and families pivot brilliantly to adapt to new technology. This way of life may continue for months. It’s overwhelming to consider the impact this may have on curricula, the mental health, and independent school enrollment.
What role does your website play in supporting your school during this time?
Pat Reinhart, VP of Digital Strategy at Conductor recently noted:
“SEO-focused content is the most cost-effective and direct path to maintaining your business during economic downtimes. It requires a lower investment. And, it doesn’t have an on/off switch like traditional paid media campaigns, so it pays off long after the investment.”
Let’s review 7 ways your school can shift or begin a website SEO and content strategy to:
- Engage your student population
- Maintain relevance
- Speak to prospective families looking for educational alternatives
1. Build Trust
With so much fear and uncertainty, your relationship with your families is especially important right now. You have an opportunity to express your empathy (see #2) while also building upon the existing trusting relationship you have with your community.
Your website should have a page about COVID-19. This reinforces your attention to the severity of the situation. It informs people about your knowledge of what is happening, while telling them how your school is responding to social distancing and remote learning. It provides comfort and reinforces trust, which can help increase satisfaction and reduce attrition.
Jill Goodman of Jill Goodman Consulting recently wrote about Attrition in a Time of Crisis. She developed Six Components of Parent Retention, which includes a “Brand Promise Communication Feedback Loop.” You have the opportunity to reinforce your brand promise in your website and other digital messaging. Jill asks, “How does the school regularly communicate to current parents the ways that the school is fulfilling its brand promise every day?” Adding regular and frequent blog updates to your website during the pandemic will not only help fulfill your brand promise, but will also help maintain trust with your community.
2. Encourage Engagement
The content on your website does not have to come only from your administration. During this time, you have an opportunity to involve your students and parents in your brand. Create opportunities for sharing activity on social media. Ask students for short video snippets of what they are doing at home (with appropriate permission from parents) that you can share on your website in a daily newsletter and on your social media channels. This will make your students feel valued, and will also communicate your school’s personality to prospective families.
3. Express Empathy
This is a difficult time. Adults and children have different worries. As an authority in your student’s lives, you have an opportunity to express and encourage empathy. Empathizing with our community can help us feel less lonely and more connected.
While not directly related to SEO, adding fresh content to identify and empathize with your community will help increase engagement on your website. Share supportive messages and efforts your school is making to help those in need. Encourage acts of kindness and stay connected.
4. Strengthen Now For Future Success
While it is hard to plan ahead right now, this shutdown will eventually end. Prepare for when things return to “normal” and use this time to build upon and strengthen your brand and your online presence. SEO is a progressive process which takes time. Utilizing this opportunity to create a lot of relevant content on your website will have long-term impact. What you do now can pay off with improved search rankings 6-9 months from now.
5. Adjust your Call To Action
Does your current website have a clear call to action (CTA)? We hope so! Whether it does or does not, your call to action right now may be different from what it would be when your school building is open and you can meet prospective families in person. Check to make sure that your CTA does not say “Schedule a Visit.” Adjust your process to allow for a virtual tour, either by appointment, by registering for a pre-appointed live presentation, or a pre-recorded “on demand” virtual tour.
6. Pay attention to trends for keyword and content ideas
When creating new content for your website during the COVID-19 pandemic, pay attention to keywords. Look at Google Trends. Terms like “at home” and ”indoor,” are very popular right now. Use this language in your blog posts and update messages to help your SEO.
You can also look at Exploding Topics for more ideas on what people are searching for in the education category.
7. Review and update GMB to improve school website SEO during COVID-19
Google My Business (GMB) is an important resource for your school marketing during normal times and during a crisis. Google has created opportunities and recommendations for updated listing information to address the COVID-19 crisis.
Update your business description with details about your response to COVID-19. Let searchers know about your school building being temporarily closed and the remote learning your students are currently engaged in.
Create an update post to let potential parents know how your school is continuing to educate your students through the temporary closure. GMB now offers a special COVID-19 post option.You can easily add a button and link to your website. Update posts are visible for two weeks, so set a reminder to update again after your post expires.
Promote your virtual tour or “open house” presentation by adding an event post to your GMB listing. You can include a photo or short video with the event to attract the viewer’s eye. Include time, date and details about your event, making it clear that it’s a virtual event and that you’re not inviting them to your campus. Include a button and link, pointing them to a Facebook event or webpage.
Google announced an option for schools and businesses to mark themselves temporarily closed. You may opt to mark your school with temporarily closed and update the description to explain your remote learning process. Be sure to remember to go back and change to open when your students are back in their seats!
Need help understanding and planning an SEO strategy for your school website?
Contact us for a free consultation.