Getting Found Online — The Case for SEO for your School’s Website

Investing in a high quality website is one of the most important marketing initiatives and budget priorities you should make at your school.

Your website is more important that any printed piece, advertisement or any other marketing strategy.

What’s interesting about this investment in a website is how schools and the marketing companies that design them are focused only on the design (this may be an overstatement but I am trying to make a point). While the design of a website is important to convey the brand and quality of your school, it is not as important as the content and being found on Google and other search engines.

Think about it. You could have a beautiful website but your prospective parents can’t find you online in their search.

Remember the days of Yellow Pages? Every school had an ad in the big yellow book. It was amazing how much this ad cost! I remember one school that used half of its marketing budget on their yellow pages ad. Why? Because they thought that this was the primary place to be found.

Now that the Web has totally turned our marketing efforts upside down (or perhaps rightside up?), it is critical to include search engine optimization (SEO) and content development in your school’s marketing strategy.

In some ways, SEO is a lot like that Yellow Pages ad. What you do with SEO helps to make sure you have good placement in the search results when prospective parents are searching online. Instead of placing an ad in a yellow book, you are working to make sure that your school appears in keyword searches.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the strategy and process of improving your visibility and ranking in organic search engine results. It focuses on how people conduct searches online and the results that fill page after page in Google, Yahoo or Bing.

SEO is the systematic way of making sure you have the proper page titles, headlines and content in place to drive search traffic your way. It also deals with authority, relevance, and social sharing factors of your website. A helpful primer on this topic is Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah’s book: Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media and Blogs.

Honestly, I am surprised by the number of school marketing and admissions directors that have not invested in this key marketing strategy. Just last week at the SSATB Annual Meeting, Brendan Schneier, www.schneiderb.com, and Travis Warren, President of Whipple Hill, presented a session on this topic (click here to view their presentation).

It should be your goal to appear on the first page in the organic search results. When a prospective parent searches on private schools in your area, you want to do everything you can to be listed on the first page! If you are not there, then your competition will likely be seen first and they may never click on the button to go to page two.

Do you remember the last time you went to page two in a Google search, let alone page three or four?

As you consider your school’s website, it is critical for you to invest in this strategy. If you are searching for a website company to create your design, make sure this is part of your package. It is important that your site is designed with SEO in mind. In fact, I would be so bold to say that if your design firm doesn’t know anything about SEO or doesn’t include this in your package, then you might have chosen the wrong company.

If you have already launched a website, take a look at how you are performing in keyword searches and consider hiring a company that will focus on SEO and content development. For my school clients investing in this strategy, I can see the difference that SEO makes.

SEO will make a difference in your school’s marketing effort and this should be a key budget expenditure for your school. It should be part of every private school’s marketing plan.

Is SEO a part of your school’s marketing budget and plan?

If you have purchased SEO services, how has this worked for your school’s website?

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