Expert Q&A: The Importance of SEO in School Marketing (Part II)

clarkmorganAs we discussed in a previous blog post, search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most effective online marketing strategies for schools. After all, SEO doesn’t just generate “free” traffic to your school’s website, it also helps you create the best possible user experience and relevant content for your site’s visitors.

At this point, you probably understand the importance of SEO (if you want a quick refresher, click here), but you may still be wondering what you can do – on your own – to implement an effective SEO strategy. With that in mind, I asked Clark Morgan (Director of Online Marketing at North Star Marketing) to provide us with a few basic pointers:

What can schools do to assess the current SEO value of their website?

There are a TON of resources at your disposal! Two of the most popular and affordable SEO tools are Moz (formerly SEOmoz) and BrightLocal. While you do have to pay to use these tools, both services provide a free trial to those just getting started. North Star Marketing also offers a free SEO assessment to help schools evaluate the current SEO value of their website and reveal how they might be able to get more traffic and leads from it.

What can school marketing leaders do on their own to focus on SEO strategy?

I would recommend you start with some of the SEO strategies I mentioned in my last blog post. SEO can get overwhelming as you delve deeper into it, so stick to tasks you feel comfortable tackling. One great resource I recommend is Search Engine Land’s Guide to SEO. It walks you through what SEO means, what to focus on, and does a great job of outlining a variety of tasks you can use to start building an SEO strategy and action plan.

When should a school consider hiring an outside resource for SEO services?

There are a variety of reasons to hire an outside agency to handle your SEO (although, I’ll admit to being slightly biased). Here are a few things we frequently hear from new SEO clients:

  • “I don’t have time.” Most of our school clients are already pressed for valuable time with general marketing and enrollment activities. They simply don’t have time to become SEO experts. They contact us to oversee and steward that piece of their marketing.
  • We don’t have the expertise in-house.” In addition to the time constraints mentioned above for most schools, learning SEO and keeping up-to-date with the constant changes can get overwhelming. They contact us to gain the expertise of a professional marketing team that is dedicated to SEO year-round.
  • “We want better results.” If you’re outsourcing to a professional marketing agency that has a deep understanding of both marketing and SEO/ inbound marketing, the payoff can be tremendous. A reputable agency can achieve results much faster and save you from potential mistakes that might be hard to unwind.

Can you give some examples of schools that you worked with and the difference that SEO strategies have made for them?

Sure! One client we’ve had the privilege to work with over the past several years is Indian Rocks Christian School. IRCS began partnering with North Star Marketing for SEO and inbound marketing in 2011. Since then, the school has seen solid, steady gains in organic traffic, new leads generated and new enrollments. We’ve been very happy with the results and return they are seeing on their campaign. In fact, IRCS recently expanded to a much more comprehensive online marketing package with North Star that includes SEO, paid search, blogging, social media updates, and more. In 2013 alone, IRCS saw roughly 250 leads that could be directly tied back to their online marketing campaign!

Do you have any additional advice for school leaders?

I would strongly encourage school leaders to start thinking like publishers. Most leaders have not fully embraced the importance of content and its role in building a growing audience for their school. Great content both attracts and engages existing and prospective customers. Having exceptional, relevant, and natural-sounding content that is optimized for each target audience is critical. You want your school to be visible when prospects are searching for a private school online and you want them to see a connected community sharing great things about your school. When this happens, it’s like a magnet that pulls people in and gives you the opportunity to have conversations with them.

Learn More About SEO

If you’re interested in learning more about how SEO plays into thinking like a publisher and producing great content for your prospects – Clark Morgan and Micah Fox at North Star Marketing would love to speak with you. They are both friends of mine and help me with my inbound marketing strategies. In fact, they work with several of my Enrollment Catalyst school clients, including Indian Rocks Christian School. If you would like help evaluating the SEO value of your current website and determining strategies to get more traffic and leads, request a FREE SEO assessment from North Star Marketing.

How have you successfully implemented a SEO strategy at your school?

What have been your results? Has this made a difference in your marketing effort? 

How can we help?