SEO is the one marketing strategy that I find most schools know about and know how important it is, but yet, they don’t do it.
Why? It’s abstract. It’s slow going. It’s a lot of writing. It’s time-consuming. But, it’s worth it.
The “hard” things usually are worth it, aren’t they? That’s true in marketing and in life.
Search engine optimization for schools is vital for growing your enrollment. In fact, some schools have built a flourishing enrollment program using SEO as their main source of traffic.
In this post, we’ll discuss the role SEO plays in marketing your private school, SEO tools you can use, what on-page SEO and technical SEO are, and how to do each successfully.
What SEO is
What is SEO for private schools?
Well, it’s not one bit different from SEO for lawyers, real estate agents, or your favorite lifestyle brand. When done correctly SEO will make your website show up when people are using their favorite search engine to find a private school or the services you provide. That’s good for you because you’ll have the opportunity to win their business.
Good right? Yes, very good. Know what’s even better? You don’t have to pay to get them to your website.
Unlike PPC advertising where you are charged when someone clicks on your ad, clicks on your organic listing are completely free. We like that.
And, what we like even more is that it’s HARD for other schools to knock you out of your position if you’re maintaining a proper SEO program.
So, not only does SEO bring you FREE traffic, but it also brings you that traffic for a long time. That’s why we always advise our advertising clients to do both paid ads and SEO in tandem.
Paid advertising for quick traffic and SEO for long-lasting free traffic.
They are match made in Google heaven.
SEO for Private Schools
How SEO Works for Private Schools
We know that Search Engine Optimization will bring in free traffic to your site for a long time, so what are the factors that Google uses to show your website over another? We’ll keep this part simple enough to give you a good understanding of how SEO works so you can leave here with actionable steps to improve your school’s SEO. The main factors in no particular order are
SEO Strategies for Private Schools
Google’s whole job is to pick the best result for any given search query. That is the one reason we chose Google over Ask Jeeves, Yahoo, Bing, and the other search engines that were all fighting for our attention years ago.
Google gave us the best answer with the least amount of effort from us. The least amount of friction always wins online.
So, you’ll want to make sure your website pages are relevant to whatever search term you want that page to show up for.
The more relevant you can make it the better.
In practice, this looks like a dedicated page for each of your sports programs instead of listing all of your sports programs on the same page. That way, when someone searches for “private school soccer programs” Google sees that you have a whole page dedicated specifically to your private school’s soccer program.
Ideally, you’ll want a separate page for each and every search term that you want to show up for.
This can be daunting at first so start out with your most important topics and work your way down.
The big idea of Google choosing the best website for the user flows through all four of these points.
The higher the quality of your page or post is then the more likely Google will pick it above another.
But what determines quality? I think the best way to look at quality is by asking another question.
Does a user get all of the information they need from this one page?
And I really mean ALL of the information. To the point where they DO NOT have to click the back button and look for more information on another website.
If you can answer that question with a solid “yes” then your page is high quality enough.
Aim for creating posts and pages that reach this benchmark. It is the best way to ensure that your content is better than anyone else that is trying to show up for the same search terms as you.
User experience is a big deal in the eyes of Google, and it’s no surprise.
They don’t want to send someone to a wonky site because that person is just going to back out and look for another one.
Particularly, you’ll want to make sure that your mobile website experience is up to par. That’s the more tricky part of this whole deal.
Traditionally, sites were built with a desktop-first approach and mobile was an afterthought.
But, the roles are reversed and Google has given more weight to your mobile website for years now.
The best way to check your website’s experience is by using https://pagespeed.web.dev/ .
This is the tool that Google uses to determine your “score” so it’s the best source of truth. Running a report will give you specific areas of opportunity.
Work your way through the list of those opportunities to improve your score.
A side note is that improving your score will not only help rank your site higher via SEO but it will also make any ads that you’re running more affordable and possibly increase your conversion rates.
Keeping your website “active” is something that Google likes to see.
Namely, that means having an active blog. By publishing frequently and consistently on your blog you’re basically telling Google that you care. That your school is not just stagnant. That you might be a thought leader in the space.
This doesn’t have to only be a blog, though. You could add new pages regularly or add new content to existing pages.
As long as your website is not “just sitting there” then you’ll be on the right track.
If you’re doing SEO you’re going to need some help from software. Of course, there are free and paid versions of these programs. At a minimum, you’ll need a keyword research tool, an on-page SEO tool, and a place to organize all of your research. Here are some of our favorite tools when doing search engine optimization for schools.
Keyword research tools:
- Ubersuggest (free)
- Google Search Console
- This won’t let you look at your own site’s performance so you can get ideas for how to improve your existing content
On-page SEO tools
- YOAST SEO (free)
- For wordpress sites
- Screaming Frog (free)
- This tool will provide you with information about how your site is structured so you can improve the on-page SEO for your site
- YOAST SEO (free)
If your site is built on another CMS like Facts, Squarespace, Wix, Joomla, or others, they likely will have their own built-in SEO optimization features.
- Google Sheets
- Microsoft Excell
- Apple Numbers
What are Some SEO Tips for Private Schools?
On-Page SEO for Private Schools
SEO is broken up into two categories. On-page and off-page. Simple enough right? On-page SEO is all of the work that you can do on your website to win favor in the eyes of the search engine. The specifics of how to do on-page SEO is beyond the scope of this article but for now you can know the following. On-page SEO optimizations include
- Proper H tags
- Page speed optimization
- Meta descriptions
- Alt tags
- URL structure
- Internal and External links to relevant content
- Schema Markup
- Embedding a map & including your school’s location (if you’re doing local SEO)
We’ll be putting together a post all about how to do on-page SEO in the future, so subscribe to the newsletter here to be notified once it is out.
Off-Page SEO for Private Schools
You can’t talk about off-page search engine optimization for schools without talking about link building. And, you can’t talk about link building without talking about backlinks.
Backlinks are links on other websites that direct users to your website.
This is one of the factors that Google uses to determine your websites “authority score” (how trustworthy your website is).
Basically, the more websites that link back to your website, the better. Bonus points if those backlinks come from other websites that have high authority scores.
All that to say link building is one of the best ways to increase your authority score and thus, make it easier for your website to rank higher for whatever keywords you want to rank for.
Now, there are a ton of strategies for link building out there on the internet. This post by Backlinko does a great job of breaking everything down.
If you have the resources to do both the on-page SEO and the off-page SEO tasks at the same time than more power to you. But, if you can only do one or the other than you might consider hiring an agency to help.
Or, start with just the on-page SEO first before moving on to the off-page tasks.
Search engine optimization for schools is necessary. It’s the only way to ensure that your school gets free traffic from prospective families that are use search engines (which is most prospective families).
The benefit of SEO is that it’s a long term play. Too often schools rely on advertising to bring in new leads but the problem is that the leads stop flowing once the ads stop showing.
SEO will bring in free leads for years to come. If you want to talk about the SEO opportunities for your specific school set up a conversation with us here. You can also get your free SEO scorecard here.
What are your thoughts on SEO? Is this something that you will start focusing on in your school? Let us know in the comments or send us a DM on our social media accounts listed below.
Until next time,