Anatomy of a perfect SERP

As a digital marketer, you are likely to have come across the term SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). In short, it is the way you set up and optimise a website so it features higher on a search results (e.g. Google).

There are lots of ways you can improve your SEO - too many to add into a single article! This week, we will focus on something called SERP - what it is and how you can perfect it for your school website.

Search Engine Results Page (SERP)

Whenever you search for something on Google, you may have noticed different types of results coming back? These can be:

  • standard results (e.g. a list of sites that best match your search term)
  • an Answer Box (also known as a Featured Snippet) at the top of the results page, followed by the standard results
  • a PPC advert at the top of the page (or several) related to your search term
  • a Knowledge Panel / Graph to the right-hand side of your results
  • ALL OF THE ABOVE!

It is possible to influence all of these possible results using best practice techniques around SEO.

  Things to note :  Answer Box  at top of results,  Knowledge Box  on the right-hand side,  Twitter Results  towards the bottom

Things to note: Answer Box at top of results, Knowledge Box on the right-hand side, Twitter Results towards the bottom

How SERP's are influenced

Search Engines are incredibly complex tools that use algorithms to determine the results you see. All algorithms look to return the results the user would most want to see, and utilises data to personalise it as best as it can.

The more accurate and personalised the results page can be, the better a job the search engine is doing. There are a few factors that influence the results you will see:

  • Keywords: the words on your site's pages will have a large effect on what a search engine will turn up. You want them to align well with what people will search for when looking for your school.

For example, if you are a preparatory school in Bath these are likely terms people will search if looking for a prep school in your area. If these keywords did not feature anywhere on the site you are reducing how high you are likely to be rated on a search.

  • Domain authority: A higher "domain authority" will rate higher because a search engine knows that these are more trusted sites.

A good domain authority in essence will be a site that sees a high level of external links (from other trusted sites / platforms) to and from the site. Wikipedia and social media are effective ways to help increase external links to your site.

  • Your location: Search Engines will use location services to determine where in the world you physically are and deliver results that relate. If you search for just "prep schools" the results that come back will likely be prep schools close by.
  • Browsing history: Your browsing history will also impact SERP, and it is often one of the ways that subtle differences begin to come through even when two people search the same term from the same location.

Notable SERP sections

Modern SEO has one important rule: write for the user first and the search engines second. The better the quality of the content, and the more value it gives to the user, the more they will see, use and engage with it. 

Applying best SEO practice to your school website and its content will certainly help improve SERP.

Additionally, here are four SERP features you should know about and take advantage of (note: these all relate primarily to Google as it is the world's largest and most influential search engine).

KNOWLEDGE PANEL / GRAPH

BSN-Knowledge-Panel.png

The Knowledge Panel / Graph is Google's way to provide as much detail as possible without a user needing to go to a website. Through best SEO practice, your site's Knowledge Panel should populate organically.

Looking at the above Knowledge Panel for The British School in the Netherlands, you can see information being fed in from:

  • Google My Business
  • Wikipedia
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Instagram

All of this takes time! Don't expect a Facebook account you set up for your school last week to feature just yet. Google won't be rating this channel as a good source just yet. Further down the line however, and with good school website referrals from and to this Facebook channel, then you are more likely to see it feature.

If anything in the Knowledge Panel does not look right, or information is wrong, you can report back to Google to adjust.

FEATURED SNIPPET

WHS-Featured-Snippet.png

Featured Snippets feature at the top of a SERP, and will feed back information directly related to the search term. This can be invaluable for schools that have taken the time to ensure their sitemap and SEO is of a top quality. 

In the example above you can see that a search result for "Wimbledon High School term dates" has returned exactly the information requested.

SITELINKS

Headington-Site-Links.png

As with Featured Snippets, a school website that has quality SEO and site map will likely show Sitelinks in a SERP. These are hyperlinks to a site's subpages;.

Typically, these are based on popularity - term dates may be a highly visited webpage on your site, so this has more likelihood of showing in Sitelinks - but can also change depending on your search term. The above Headington School SERP shows an organic set of Sitelinks.

LIVE TWITTER

JESSDubai-Live-Twitter.png

The final SERP section that is worth noting (and of course can be relatively controlled by the school) is Live Twitter. This SERP feature will pull through real Tweets from the account Google can see is directly linked to your website. Take a look at the JESS Dubai example to see.

This is not limited to Twitter! It is also possible for a SERP to pull through video content from YouTube - which can be seen in The British School in the Netherlands example further up. Understanding your social media presence and how it ties into your website will help dictate this more effectively.

We can help 💪

Not sure what a snippet is still, or how you can feature videos on a SERP? We can help!

We are experts in SEO and the impact it can have on your website. If you would like to discuss what advice and services we offer, please do contact us.

Have you tried Googling your school website recently? What does an "organic" SERP show (try using incognito mode on your browser to make results more organic)? Does this article make you rethink how your website really rates on Google and search engines? We'd love to know - please comment below. 

A #DigitalAmbassador: Your school head and social media

The future depends on what we do in the present
— Mahatma Gandhi

Your school is a brand, with your Head / Principal acting as the brand's CEO. In modern marketing, regardless of the industry you are in, the consumer rules the roost. They want engagement from a brand; to be part of the buying process.

How you interact with them can have a considerable impact on how you are perceived in a socially connected world.

This means your social media game needs to be impactful. You no longer need to simply push your product at the consumer. Instead, you need to form a relationship with the consumer. You need to to entertain and inform them, and give them a reason to trust you and talk about you (word of mouth is your strongest marketing tool).

Using social media as a school can make this challenging; delivering a sense of personality as a bricks and mortar establishment is more difficult to achieve. What you want is human interaction to help with this. Where better to start, then, than with your school Head?

A socially connected brand leader

In a study, leadership skill sets were analysed to see if there was a direct correlation between CEO's who are active on social media, versus those who are not.

The findings showed that CEO candidates who are social are:

  • 89% better at empowering others
  • 52% stronger at compelling communication
  • 46% more influential
  • 36% better at cultivating networks
  • 19% more passionate for results
  • 16% better at making decisions

The first three points are important - it highlights the influence your CEO (Head) can have on social.

Interestingly, the number of CEO's taking to social media, from top organisations, has seen a substantial increase in recent years - rising from 36% in 2010 to an estimated 80% plus today.

Leaders that love people, that love interaction, make time.
— Justin Foster, Cofounder of root + river

Examples of Heads on social

Jane Lunnon - Head of Wimbledon High School - is a great example of how your school's Head can take to social media.

Jane uses Twitter to add commentary to both her school and schooling in general, as well as share lots of resources related to the education industry. In doing so, she is able to promote Wimbledon High School in an amiable way, with a human touch (something that Wimbledon high School's main Twitter account would not be able to do to the same level).

Choosing your platform

Having a voice on social media is super - making the most out of the different channels you have available then is a top idea.

What?

Consider what kind of Head you have, how they best communicate and the formats that will best serve them. As well as this, are they using social media as a voice within the education sector or as that personable element to your school brand?

The school commentator: If your Head wants to have a presence on social to help promote the school, Twitter is hands down the best channel for this. With Twitter, it is easy to engage with the main school Twitter account - to share (or Retweet) all the cool things that happen in your school and to add a few lines of commentary to stamp personality onto the content.

Your community will look to the Head as a reliable figurehead for the school brand and engage more emotionally with the content because it comes from a person - not a brand.

Take Elon Musk, his Twitter account is a clever blend of business and promotion, resource sharing, and personal Tweets that humanise his activity within the technology and science world. 

A voice in education: Many Heads are influencers in the many topics that surround education. This can open more options on social for your Head to host their content.

In a similar fashion, Mark Steed - Director of JESS Dubai - uses social media to not only promote and lead conversation around his school, but also as a platform to be a voice in "issues that impact on education". 

Mark makes use of two Twitter feeds (one as Director of JESS Dubai and one under his pseudonym independenthead). As well as this, Mark runs a blog to help archive and share his contribution to the issues that impact the independent school sector.

How?

VIDEO: If your Head is comfortable and affable in-front of the camera, using YouTube could be a brilliant idea. This is exactly what Kieran Earley - CEO and Principal of The British School in the Netherlands - does, with a series of video blogs based around #EdTech.

AUDIO: Or how about just audio? Podcasts can be an incredibly beneficial undertaking for your Head.

Audio is really accessible for your community, especially those who operate on limited time. The ability to listen to a Podcast on the go - through a mobile device or in their car for example - makes it as easy to access as any other social media channel.

  SOURCE: https://www.salesforce.com/blog/2017/04/20-stats-about-the-2017-podcast-consumer.html

SOURCE: https://www.salesforce.com/blog/2017/04/20-stats-about-the-2017-podcast-consumer.html

  • podcast listening is on the rise for both genders (56% male / 44% female)
  • consumers aged 18-34 are most likely to be monthly podcast listeners.
  • monthly podcast listeners are typically affluent: 16% have an annual household income of $150K or more
  • people who are weekly podcast listeners spend a mean time of 5 hours and 7 minutes per week listening to podcasts (that is a lot of opportunity for a Head to engage with their community!)
  • in 2017, just 31% of monthly podcast listeners use a computer to listen to a podcast; 69% use a smartphone, tablet, or other portable device

There is absolutely a gap in the market for more audio-centred content! Could your Head fill this space?

WRITTEN: However, if they are more effective using written words then they should most definitely be using a blogging channel of some sort. Setting up a blog on Blogger or Wordpress is quick, and simple to manage.

Your Head should focus on their strengths - as this will make the process more enjoyable, and the content more impactful.

Sally-Anne Huang - Headmistress of James Allen's Girls' School - has a brilliant example of this. Using Tumblr, Sally-Anne has created a blog that really plays to her strengths as not only a Headmistress of an independent school, but an educator and mother living in South London. Her experiences and personality is very clear throughout her blog. 

Where?

Whichever channel best suits your Head, there should also be a method to help disseminate their content.

Social: Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are social networks - they are able to host all types of media from across the web. Sharing a blog post or YouTube vlog is as simple as pasting in a URL. Each network will have their own type of audience:

  • Twitter: good for reaching your community of parents and peers, engaging with your school and becoming part of the conversation
  • LinkedIn: perfect for connecting with peers and the professional community. You can publish articles and engage with content other LinkedIn users have used. Use this channel for networking
  • Facebook: good for reach. More personal channel than the other two but with the largest community - now over 2 BILLION users!

The reach on these channels will be higher - people are far more likely to search for your Head on Twitter or LinkedIn - they are less likely to search for them on YouTube or try Googling their blog.

Website: we often see the Head's Welcome page as one of the most-viewed pages on the websites we design. Prospectives visiting your website want to find that emotional link, to help better visualise their child at your school. Your Head is often the first port of call for this.

It is easy to embed your Head's Twitter feed onto your website - turning the Head's Welcome into an interactive, visual and impactful page.

Newsletter / Parent Comms: most schools will send out an e-newsletter to parents every week. This is another perfect method for your Head to reach your community. A simple link to their blog or Twitter profile, or an embedded vlog hosted on YouTube, can be really positive.

We find this can have a profound effect on parents, and make them feel more intimately involved with the school their children attend.

 

Leading your school's presence on social media may be a new concept to many Heads out there, but it is something that merits strong consideration. It presents a great opportunity for them to not only help the school but to become an influencer in the education industry. 

We see more and more Heads coming to platforms such as Twitter or LinkedIn, becoming more involved with the conversations that concern them and connecting with more peers.

Does your Head use social media for any of the above reasons? What are your thoughts on the subject? We would love to hear - please comment below.

The ghouls of social 👻

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Here's something that might astound you...

Once upon a time there was a world without the likes of Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. It was a truly strange time where news was watched on boxes in your house, where pictures were shown to friends and family on shiny pieces of paper, and where you'd have to shout really loud to tell people that you are at a concert. Can you believe that?!! 🤣

Social media actually started in 1978, when two computer hobbyists invented the computerised bulletin board system (BBS). This was used to inform friends of meetings, make announcements, and share information. Sound familiar?

Fast forwarding through the beautiful internet timeline have seen the likes of GeoCities, Blogger, AOL, Friendster and Meerkat come and go. 

MSN Messenger

Founded 1999.

MSN messenger has a warm place in every user's heart. Launched in 1999 by Microsoft, MSN messenger was a instant messaging client which took the world by storm. In 2005 it had over 330 million active monthly users and was a big part of everybody's lives.

330 Million in 2005! Only 8% of the population had internet access, these numbers in proportion to internet users at the time are unbelievable. 

When broadband started to rise to prominence the service became more and more popular but what could MSN messenger do? What made it so popular?

 

  • Send Files - To instantly send files was a pretty big deal back during the days of MSN and was relatively easy. MSN wanted to do everything e-mail could do but quicker.

  • Video Chat - If you were lucky enough to own an expensive webcam with an appalling camera like so many of the webcams from the early 2000's you could video chat.

  • Play Games - Invite your contacts to a quick game of tick-tack-toe or battleships whilst you message.

 The dreaded nudge...

The dreaded nudge...

Where is it now?

With Microsoft launching Skype, MSN messenger quickly became more and more redundant and too many people’s dismay and despite some protests (probably for nostalgic reasons) the service ceased operations back in December 2014 with the last ever message being sent in China!

R.I.P MSN Messenger 1999 - 2014. 

Friends Reunited

Founded 2000.

Britain's first social network to gain prominence and launch the United Kingdom into the social age back in the year 2000.  

Steve and Julie Parkhurst from Barnet started the business in their home after hearing about the American website classmates.com. After a year the website had 2.5million users.

By 2005 the website had 15 millions users and Steve and Julie from Barnet pocketed themselves £150 million pound when ITV bought the website back in 2005.

So what could you do on Friends Reunited?

  • Find classmates -  The website worked on a simple premise.  The premise that we all want to know "what ever happened to...". A question we can know find the answer to quickly, but when Friends Reunited first launched this was groundbreaking stuff.

That was the feature of the website. Simple but groundbreaking. The website led to people discovering childhood sweethearts, old friends and establishing a whole new way of communicating.

Where is it now?

In 2009 ITV sold friends reunited for a loss of £125 million pounds to DC Thompson a Scottish publishing company. In 2013 the company announced the website was no longer a part of their integral plans but would keep the website running.

So why not stop by the Friends Reunited website and take a trip down memory lane...

Myspace

Founded 2002.

Myspace Tom! Your original friend Myspace friend when first signing up.

Myspace was once the most visited website in the world and even surpassed Google in 2005 as the most visited website.

There's no doubt that Myspace was a real social giant back in the day!

   Your first Myspace friend! Even founder Tom Anderson didn't bother uploading a high resolution profile picture!

Your first Myspace friend! Even founder Tom Anderson didn't bother uploading a high resolution profile picture!

So what could Myspace do?

  • Profile song - One of the biggest decisions you would have to make in life was choosing which one track you wanted as your profile song. When users clicked on your profile this song would play showing users your unique music taste!

  • Top friends - Very similar to Bebo, you had the luxury of choosing your top friends which would be shown publicly on your profile.  Another feature of social media to ensure havoc and drama broke out amongst teenage users!

  • Share Pictures/ Videos with friends - In many ways Myspace was very similar to Bebo and Facebook, you could add pictures and videos to create an online bio!

  • Bulletin Posts- The original lengthy Facebook posts first started back on Myspace, granted they weren't usually for big political statements or poetic stories but it was a unique feature at the time!   

Where is it now?

MySpace is still technically alive!

In 2013 Myspace was redesigned and relaunched as predominantly a music network. However Myspace's latest Alexa rank was 1852, it seems like a long time since it was the number one most visited website in the world a decade ago!  

Even Myspace Tom the founder has moved over to Facebook and Instagram.

    We wonder if Mark Zuckerberg still uses Myspace?

We wonder if Mark Zuckerberg still uses Myspace?

However unlike Bebo you can still access Myspace on a desktop so why not sign in (if you can do your best to remember your Myspace password) and  access your old photos and see just how far you have come along!

Bebo

Founded 2005.

"Share the Luv".  Ah Bebo, the original teen social network. Remember deciding who to share your three luv's with and making the massive decision of selecting your other half for the world to see? Bebo was hugely popular when it first launched and will be many teenagers first experience of social media!  So what could Bebo do...

  • Share Pictures/ Videos with friends - In many ways Bebo was very similar to Facebook, you could add pictures and videos and create an online bio!

  • "Share the luv" - You had the power to give three love hearts a day. What did this achieve? We aren't exactly sure... but hey it's a feature of Bebo and it made it pretty popular.

  • Selecting your top 16 friends. Yes 16! Even if you only really have 10 friends, Bebo was pretty set in it's ways. Just rank your closest 6 acquaintances to reach the magic 16.

  • Skins- The glitz and the glamour of Bebo skins. Bebo gave you a unique feature to give your whole profile a glamorous skin. Unfortunately being mainly used by teens most Bebo skins were sparkly playboy bunnies, footballs and fast cars!

  • Featured Video - Bebo gave you the chance to have a featured video on your profile. You could make a stand out statement about your political stance? Promote a charitable cause? No probably best to put a Basshunter song.

  • Your other half - Bebo gave you the chance to select another user to be your other half. With teenage relationships this would change from week to week and could cause some serious friction between users!

   England and Liverpool footballer Jordan Henderson has recently had his old Bebo account come into the spotlight... oh dear Jordan!

England and Liverpool footballer Jordan Henderson has recently had his old Bebo account come into the spotlight... oh dear Jordan!

Where is it now?

Believe it or not Bebo was once sold for $850 million dollars! Then with the rise of Facebook Bebo soon became pretty obsolete. The original owners bought it back for $1 million dollars and relaunched Bebo into....well into some kind of a chat service?

It's now only available on mobile. The app is about creating an avatar to chat with.

The app hasn't been well received. And with the 1 star rating on the iPhone app store, the public will be sticking with Whatsapp for now - sorry, Bebo!  

At the time Bebo launched a pretty revolutionary social networking website and perhaps even gave Mr Zuckerberg an idea or two for Facebook.

Did you know? in 2011 Facebook stocks tumbled when people discovered Mark Zuckerberg's ill-designed Bebo account. It really was an eye-sore.

With social media constantly developing and changing, who knows what could be in the social graveyard in ten years time? We'll continue to pour one out for our fallen channels however

How one school reached 12 million people with a 45 second video

#SchoolStories are the lifeblood of our 'story-led', creative websites. They are an effective, visual and engaging way for a school to really demonstrate what they do on a day-to-day basis: to "show, not tell" their community what makes the school so special.

So, when one school shares great #SchoolStories that gets seen by millions of people we get pretty excited! 

Alleyn Court Prep's snowball fight

With the #BeastFromTheEast causing some chaos across the UK, many schools were forced to close and see out the snow fall. Alleyn Court, an co-ed preparatory school based in Southend-on-Sea, opted to stay open to celebrate the snow in the best way you possibly can...by holding a pupils vs. teachers snowball fight!

This recording was shared on the school's social media, to be enjoyed by the school's community. What happened next however was incredible, as the story got picked up by major news outlets and turned into national news! 

Rupert Snow, head of Alleyn Court, was invited to talk on Good Morning Britain and Radio 5Live.

What an incredible way to promote the school to millions of people in the UK (and outside).

Curiouser & Curiouser

Alleyn Court's marketing is led by the strap-line of #CuriouserAndCuriouser. This is explored in the fantastic home page experience and website, and also consistent through their social media channels.

A key marketing focus for the school is to develop greater awareness of the school's presence in Southend-on-Sea and surrounding Essex locations, as well as a school for people looking to relocate from London / commute to London.

The school's core values are largely driven by providing amazing experiences for their pupils, to provide outstanding learning through an environment that promotes curiosity, creativity, wonder and a love of learning.

When we were growing up, we didn’t realise we were making memories, we thought we were just having fun! Alleyn Court provides an exciting and wondrous adventure where outstanding learning is present at every opportunity.
— Rupert Snow, Headmaster of Alleyn Court Prep

The snowball fight story is evidence of this, a real and authentic story that highlights the uniqueness of Alleyn Court.

Why did the story go viral?

The school shared a topical story, at the right time, with the right hashtag, and was seen by the right person. The beauty of social media is you’re throwing a net out there, and you never know who picks it up, or where it may go.

On the day, there were discussions on whether snowball fights should be banned in schools, making the subject perhaps slightly controversial. But from any controversy, Alleyn Court attracted the right type of parents and families who are aligned with the school's ethos.

The story helped:

  The story saw an increase 20x more visitors to their website

The story saw an increase 20x more visitors to their website

A school culture of story telling

The school day is filled with loads of moments that a worth sharing, it is often the process of how to share #SchoolStories that schools fall short on.

Schools should encourage and empower teachers and staff to share moments, particularly through the medium of social media. Viral stories, such as the snowball fight at Alleyn Court, are truly authentic moments that happen all over the world in lots of different schools regularly.

The difference between this one and others is: were they captured? How many other schools in the UK had a snowball fight between staff and pupils? Probably a few, but the difference was this one was documented and shared.

This story will forever be a legacy at Alleyn Court, a proud memory and perhaps a new tradition for every snow day? By sharing their video, the school was able to market to an incredible audience and become a part of something truly memorable.

We are here to help! 

The future of school marketing residing within social media and want to see more schools sharing their unique, amazing #SchoolStories with the world.

We offer training days for schools - where we will come and talk to the whole school, to inspire their part in marketing and sharing all those great #SchoolStories. We will help define your content strategy and support you in its employment across the entire school.

It's time to ✨stand out✨ from your competitors - and perhaps you could have the next story to be seen by 12 million people?!!

Promoting your #OpenDay online

Open Day is perhaps one of the most important days in your school's calendar - it is THE best way to truly sell your school to prospective parents and children. Traditional marketing is all well and good, regardless of whether it is through print; social media; email; word of mouth; or any other popular format, but it can only offer a finite experience. Open Day's allow you to fill in the gaps and provide prospectives with a complete, organic overview of your school.