Independent school marketers recognize the importance of having a strong online presence to attract prospective students and parents. Organic local search engine optimization (SEO) plays a crucial role in ensuring that schools appear prominently in search results when individuals look for educational institutions in their area.
Organic vs. Paid SEO
Organic SEO and paid SEO (Search Engine Marketing) are two distinct approaches to improve a website’s visibility in search engine results, each with its unique advantages and considerations. Organic SEO focuses on optimizing a website’s content, structure, and user experience to rank higher in search results naturally, without paying for placement. It involves various strategies like keyword research, on-page optimization, link building, and content marketing. Organic SEO takes time and effort to yield results, but once a website achieves higher rankings, it can attract consistent and sustainable traffic.
On the other hand, paid SEO or SEM involves paying search engines for ad placements, commonly known as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Advertisers bid on specific keywords, and when users search for those keywords, the ads appear at the top or bottom of the search results. Paid SEO offers instant visibility, allowing a website to appear prominently for selected keywords without the need for time-consuming optimization efforts. However, it requires ongoing financial investment, and traffic stops once the ad campaign ends or the budget is exhausted.
Both approaches have their place in a comprehensive marketing strategy for schools. Organic SEO builds a website’s long-term authority and credibility, driving sustainable traffic over time. On the other hand, paid SEO provides immediate visibility and can be beneficial for short-term promotions, event marketing, or quickly targeting specific demographics. Many schools use a combination of organic and paid SEO to maximize their online visibility and reach a broader audience effectively. Ultimately, the choice between organic and paid SEO depends on the specific goals, budget, and timeframes of a school’s marketing campaign.
Local Organic SEO for Schools
SEO can be intimidating, and organic SEO for schools takes a lot of effort and patience, often without a clear ROI. Keyword research must involve data on search volume for keywords, to avoid optimizing for keywords that do not generate traffic. We often recommend that schools not overthink their organic SEO, and focus on the most important factors that impact rankings. Google’s ranking factors are pivotal in determining how schools are positioned in local search results. While we do not have access to Google’s internal algorithm, local search experts conduct extensive research to identify the key factors that impact rankings. In this blog post, we’ll explore the top 5 ranking factors for local organic SEO for schools in 2023, as derived from the survey by Whitespark.
- Dedicated Page for Each Service
Having dedicated pages for each service offered by a school is a vital ranking factor for local organic SEO. This practice involves creating individual web pages that provide comprehensive information about specific offerings, such as different academic programs, extracurricular activities, or unique features. By doing so, schools can significantly enhance their online visibility and improve their search rankings.
For instance, consider a private school that offers various programs, including STEM education, arts and culture, and sports. Instead of lumping all these services together on one page, the school should create separate, optimized pages for each. When a prospective parent searches for “best STEM programs in [city/neighborhood],” having a dedicated page on the school’s website for STEM education significantly increases the chances of appearing higher in the search results.
- Internal Linking Across Entire Website
Internal linking is a crucial aspect of on-page organic SEO that often goes unnoticed. It involves connecting different pages on a website through hyperlinks, creating a network that aids in better navigation and understanding of the site’s content. For schools, implementing a well-structured internal linking strategy can improve user experience, which in turn positively impacts search rankings.
For example, a private school website can link its “Academics” page to individual pages for each subject, faculty profiles, and even specific extracurricular activity pages. This not only helps visitors find relevant information seamlessly but also enables search engine crawlers to discover and index content more effectively, improving the overall SEO of the site.
- Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Domain
Inbound links, also known as backlinks, are links from other websites that point to a school’s website. These external links act as a vote of confidence for the school’s content and authority in the eyes of search engines. The quality and authority of these inbound links significantly impact a school’s local search rankings.
For instance, if a reputable education blog, review site like Niche.com, or a local news website links back to a private school’s website as a reliable source for educational content, it enhances the school’s online credibility. In contrast, spammy or irrelevant links can harm the school’s reputation and rankings. Therefore, focusing on creating valuable, shareable content can naturally attract high-quality inbound links, thus bolstering the school’s local organic SEO.
- Geographic (City/Neighborhood) Keyword Relevance of Domain Content
Schools should optimize their website content with relevant geographic keywords to target local searches effectively. Including the city or neighborhood in the content helps search engines understand the school’s location and improves its visibility for users searching for educational institutions in that area.
For example, a private school in Chicago should incorporate phrases like “leading private school in Chicago” or “prestigious Chicago educational institution” in its website content. This not only informs search engines about the school’s location but also helps potential students and parents looking specifically for schools in Chicago find the institution easily. We recommend schools put this information in the header of their website in addition to putting it into some content within certain pages.
- Keywords in GBP Landing Page Title
Google Business Profile (GBP, formerly Google My Business) is a valuable tool for schools to enhance their online presence in local organic searches. The landing page title for a school’s GBP listing should be thoughtfully optimized with relevant keywords that reflect the institution’s identity and services.
For instance, a private school’s GBP landing page title could be “Elite Private School in [City/Neighborhood] | Top-Rated Academic Programs & Extracurricular Activities.” This title incorporates important keywords such as “private school,” “academic programs,” and “extracurricular activities,” making it more likely for the listing to appear in relevant local search results.
In conclusion, mastering local SEO is imperative for schools seeking to attract prospective students and parents in the digital age. The top 5 ranking factors discussed in this blog post – dedicated service pages, internal linking, quality inbound links, geographic keyword relevance, and optimized GBP landing page titles – play a pivotal role in improving a school’s online visibility and search rankings. By implementing these strategies, educational institutions can ensure that they stand out in local search results and successfully connect with their target audience. Remember, a strong online presence is not only about SEO but also about building trust and showcasing the unique value a school offers to its students and the community.