If your school wants to increase website traffic and enrollment numbers, then SEO (or search engine optimisation) is a key component in your marketing strategy. Employing an SEO strategy will help you get ahead of your competitors and rank higher than them on the most popular search engines. It will also improve your website functionality for the benefit of your current site users as well as prospective parents and students.
Here are our top tips for using SEO in your school’s marketing strategy…
Why is SEO for schools important?
Search engines, such as Google, want people to find relevant and helpful content when they use their platforms. Search engines rank your content based on keyword relevance. When a user enters a keyword or keywords into a search engine, the results page will show the most relevant content at the top.
Appearing on page one for the keyword you want to rank for is important as most users will never make it to page two. The higher you rank on page one, the more likely users are to click on your content.
How to do keyword research
Keyword research is the process of finding and analysing the search terms that your target audience will be entering into search engines. It’s important to plan out your keywords before you start writing the content for your school’s website as it will help you to identify the queries you should be targeting, and also how popular they are and how difficult they are to rank for.
To find keywords that have a high search volume, and are also relevant to your school, you can use tools like Google’s Keyword Planner. Keywords that have a high search volume are more difficult to rank for. The best practice is to choose keywords that relate to your school’s offering, rather than just aiming for the keywords with the highest search volume.
Keyword research will also help you identify related keywords. Related keywords are variants, semantically related terms, or synonyms to the main keywords that you’re targeting and want to rank for on the SERPs.
What are the best keywords for your school?
The best keywords for your school will depend on specifics such as what you offer and where you’re based. Search engine optimisation is all about making your content as relevant as possible. Generic education keywords like ‘school’ are not only difficult to rank for in the search results, but won’t help Google direct your target audience to your site. The best SEO strategy is to choose more specific or longtail keywords (phrases). For example, the words ‘independent school’ as well as your school’s location gives Google more information and will also be easier to rank for than the word ‘school’.
How to use keywords to optimise the key pages on your school website
To optimise your content, use your main keyword and related keywords in your page title as well as subsequent heading tags, body text, image alt text and in the page meta description. Make sure you also use them on all the key pages on your website. Main keywords should only be used once per page, otherwise you will be competing against other pages for ranking.
Whilst keyword density is important, keyword stuffing, however, is not considered good practice. Overloading your content with keywords in an attempt to improve your Google ranking is considered webspam or spamdexing. If Google thinks that this is what you’ve done, it will negatively impact your search ranking. The best approach is to include your main keywords and related keywords within natural prose.
It is also important to optimise your homepage to boost your site’s ranking. For your homepage, you’ll want to include your school name as well as the type of school you are. The page title should be the name of your school.
What is the best practice for page URLs?
Using good practice across your page URLs will have a positive impact on your SEO. The page title should match your URL, or at least make up the majority of it. If you change a page URL, make sure you set up page redirects first. It can negatively impact your Google ranking if an indexed page encounters a ‘page not found error’.
How to use title tags and header tags
Using title and header tags in your copy is important for SEO because they help Google understand your content. They also make your content more readable and user-friendly for your website visitors. The best practice is to start each page with a headline using the H1 tag. Then you can separate your content into sections using the H2 tag and subsections using the H3 tag.
How to write a meta description
A meta description is an HTML element that provides a summary of each webpage. It’s the short paragraph that Google displays on the search engine results page. It’s important to make the meta descriptions for each of your web pages enticing in order to encourage prospective parents and students to click on them, rather than a competing school’s site. Your meta description should include your main keyword, as well as many associated keywords as possible.
Sizing images and using alt text
It is important to make sure your website images are not too large or too small, as this can have a negative impact on SEO. Make sure you resize and compress images as large images can slow down your site speed as well.
It is also important to add the correct tags and alt-tags to images. Search engines can only read data, so adding a title to your image helps them to recognise what your content is about.
Using internal links
An internal link is a link from one page on your school’s website to another. Linking to relevant pages throughout your content will keep the user on your site for longer. Internal links are also important for SEO, as search engines use them to navigate your site. Make sure your anchor text is keyword rich for both internal and external links, as Google factors this into your search ranking. There is no upper limit for links on each page and the best practice to use as many relevant links as you can.
Why are external links important?
Links to your website from other high-ranking websites can boost your Google ranking. Inbound links can give your school’s website credibility and authority. Using outbound links on your site can help encourage other high-ranking sites to reciprocate. External links can also help to increase your website traffic.
Using topic clusters
Using ‘topic clusters’ is an effective SEO strategy where you link your content around a master overview page called a ‘pillar article’. Topic clusters are also useful when you need to cover a broad subject in detail. Using topic clusters will allow you to dominate keyword categories in organic search.
Creating unique pages
Search engines favour unique content, and will ignore pages that it thinks are duplicated. The best practice is to not copy and paste from elsewhere and also make sure your copy isn’t too repetitive throughout your site.
Creating footer text
Your website’s footer should contain sub-menu links and key links to help your visitors navigate your site. A well organised footer works in a similar way to internal links and is an easy way of boosting your SEO ranking.
Add a blog to your school’s website
Finally, search engines love new and up-to-date content and a blog will help you add fresh content to your site regularly. Writing a blog post is also a good way of sharing relevant content with your school community as well as prospective parents and students. For the best search performance, make sure your blog is included within your school website and is linked to from your homepage.