SEO: Why is it important for your school website?
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. In a nutshell, it is the name given to an activity that looks to improve ranking on a search engine.
We live in the world where search engines are close to infallible! For most, Google is the first, and sometimes only, place we go to find companies, products and information. The first few results are often the only results people will react to.
This means if your school website does not rank highly on a search engine you are losing business.
We find the average school website receives 65-70% of traffic from search. 95% of that traffic coming from Google. That’s a LOT of traffic from one single source.
This makes it all the more more essential to understand and implement SEO in your content marketing.
How does SEO work?
Search engines, such as Google, are all about providing users with the most relevant and authoritative pages. To be ranked higher on search engines you need to optimise your content.
Rules that previously applied to optimising your website are no longer the case. The largest shift has been moving away from keywords and a focus on quality content. This works in your favour as producing quality content should be a priority in your marketing!
In terms of SEO this translates this ideology:
- produce quality content on your site
- share quality content (i.e. on social media, in newsletters, in blogs)
- get people to share this content which links back to your site.
It's all cyclical! The more your content gets shared > the more authority your site gets > the higher it ranks!
It is not quite as simple as this! Sorry 😣 The way content is built, coded and labelled on your website also has a large part to play.
Here are a few technical considerations to ask yourself about your website:
- Does it have a fast load time? Search engines likes delivering speed - so if your site has lots of imagery that isn't compressed and affects loading speed this will be flagged as a negative.
- Is your site secure? The simplest way to check this is to see if your site is https (you can see this at the start of your URL).
- Is your site mobile friendly? Google has already declared that the not so far future of their search engine will be tailored for mobile. How does your site look on a mobile? Is it responsive (does the window adapt to the screen size)?
- Are you tracking behaviour on your website? How can you possibly understand and assess how your website is working if you are not using tracking tools (i.e. Google Analytics)?
Visitors (to your site)
We categorise visitors into three types of people:
- Those who want to find your school specifically (they know who you are) - "British School in the Netherlands"
- Those who are looking for a school like yours, but are not aware of you - "British schools in The Hague"
- Those who are looking for something on your website – “term dates for British School in the Netherlands”
SEO to find your school name
Most search traffic is from ‘branded searches’ - searches containing your specific brand name. These visitors may be existing parents/pupils, or they may be prospects searching for more about your school.
SEO to find a school
These visitors are high value traffic, as they will most likely be prospect parents looking for a school but have not made a decision. By being high up on searches you will not only receive a high amount of traffic but you will also build reputation. Searchers innately trust a search engines results and being #1 acts as an endorsement by Google.
SEO to find specific pages in a website
Parents, pupils and prospects want the easiest route to information. To find out information about your school they will almost always use Google to instantly seek that out. If they want your address or telephone number Google will tell them within a second.
SEO best practice
The future of SEO will involve more about machine learning (i.e. artificial intelligence). In other words, good SEO will be content that Google and other search engines can understand and deliver to the end-user.
This can already be seen on Google as "rich snippets" - see the image below.
In much the same way, Google and search engines are now influenced by the patterns and trends coming from voice searching.
Siri, Cortana, Google Assistant and Alexa are all changing how people search for content online. People will not search by voice the same way they would by keyboard - natural speech will influence search terms.
On top of this location services and mobile are making searches more and more relevant to users based on where they are searching from (regardless of whether it is on keyboard or by voice).
Having a concise strategy for structuring your content effectively is important.
Structuring content effectively
Make sure your website adheres to the technical considerations above and be mindful how content is tagged on your website. You want to ensure that the machines can digest it easily. A few basic tips include:
- URL links & webpage headers match (i.e. www.britishschool.nl/admissions/term-dates will have the same header of Term Dates)
- hyperlinks within the text are relevant to where they are linking to (i.e. book a social training day with Interactive Schools - NOT you can book a social media training day with Interactive Schools here)
Quality, engaging content on your site
Use blogs, newsletters and, of course, your social media channels as mediums for quality content. Work with your marketing team and staff to produce exciting blogs posts, share awesome #SchoolStories and inform parents/prospects/pupils on what is happening in your school.
Social will prove an invaluable tool for promoting your website and building brand awareness. Through social media you are:
- building an audience, who will engage with you and link back to your site (thus improving your ranking)
- opening other avenues to share your quality content
For effective SEO you must have effective social media. With British School in the Netherlands (BSN), note how their social channels follow a naming convention (i.e. /BSNetherlands).
As well as this, the channels run by BSN will all link back to their site! It is these little details that can help with SEO and marketing!
The bottom line with social media and SEO is that you control the message that goes out on these channels, you control (over time) what people will see on Google and search engines and you control your school's ranking as a search term.
Take control of what potential prospects will see. Push Mumsnet conversations about your school down to second page results. Push Daily Mail articles about your school down to second page results. Stop those old reviews from 5 years ago being read!
Control it - keep it authoritative - keep it relevant. 💪
WE CAN DO THIS FOR YOU!
Mastering SEO requires practice - and we are here to help! Request our Social/SEO & Parent Comms Proposal. (< that is good SEO 😂)
We hope that this article helps clear up some of the questions you may have had about SEO, and opens your eyes to the importance of it, for your school website! The bottom line is this...you want people to be able to find you with minimal effort - good SEO will facilitate this!
As always, please do leave comments below about anything explored in this #SchoolBytes article. Thanks 😎