In most cases, your website will be your only shot at making a first impression on your prospective students and families. Viewers believe the quality of your website directly represents the quality of your school.
A messy website goes over with visitors as well as a dirty bathroom. It tells visitors you don't care about your image, or what they think of you.
A well designed website doesn't just impress your prospects, it also helps them find you.
Internet users want the greatest value possible from their searches, and search engines want to deliver. The latest search algorithms are designed to mimic the user experience to ensure the most relevant results. Which means your SEO strategy must go beyond simple keyword stuffing. Your SEO strategy must serve the user experience first.
In order to win at SEO, you need to get it right every single time. You have to have a strong foundation upon which to build a tight web.
How do you do it?
Buyer Persona Research. Who are you talking to? What do they want?
It isn't enough to create a ton on content around what you want to say. The value, and therefore the ultimate success, of your digital conversation depends on delivering to your prospects what they want to hear. Knowing what your target audience is looking for will determine everything from the content you create to the mediums in which you present it.
There is a science to conducting buyer persona research that supports your school marketing efforts. Everything you do in this stage will determine the success of your SEO strategy.
Keyword Research. Keywords aren't the only important aspect of your SEO strategy, but they're still the ground-zero. Before you ever put pen to paper - or finger to keyboard - to create content for your audience, you need to know what you're going to say and how your target audience will find it.
There are short-tail and long-tail keywords.
Short-tail keywords are simple one or two word terms. Traditionally, short-tail keywords have been been the most important component of your SEO strategy. However, simple keywords are vast and generic, which makes them very difficult to rank for.
Long-tail keywords are more complex phrases that help you rank in more precise search queries. There are fewer queries, but it's easier to rank in those queries if the rest of your SEO strategy is sound. Plus, the value of the traffic you receive from ranking in those queries is greater than that from more generic terms.
Meta Tags and Alt Text. Help search engines archive exactly what's on your page.
Search engines won't crawl every word of text on your website. But they do identify and catelog the information in your meta tags and alt text.
Meta tags are the captions or titles of relevant sections of your content. Optimized meta tags help you rank in search queries by signaling to search engines that the text on your webpage is relevant throughout the page.
Alt text is the supplementary text that you can't see which describes an image on your website. This text helps you rank in image searches, bringing up images from you post to help guide viewers to your website.
In both cases, it's important to use keywords naturally and meaningfully. Search engines are smart, and getting smarter every day. Dishonest keyword practices will actually cost you rank in search engine results.
Content Organization. Organize your content the way search engines archive your content.
It's no longer enough to pump out tons of content and hope for the best. As a matter of fact, this method will actually hurt your search engine rank.
Instead of trying to cover all topics, it's more effective to target a single topic and expand on that topic with more in-depth supplemental content. For instance, if you are trying to attract traffic to your cooking school, you may start with a pillar topic on cooking methods. In order to fill out your blog with related material, you could create blog posts or videos teaching prospects simple recipes for each cooking method.
As you develop your content web, the strength of your strategy is determined by the links back and forth from your pillar topic. The more your content relates to each other through links and related keywords, the longer search engines crawl your website, the greater your domain authority.
Link Management. There are two types of links to consider: internal and external.
We touched on internal links in the section above. Interal links are links between your content, from one page on your website to another. Developing a strong SEO strategy means connecting as much of your contnet as possbile with a link web.
External links are those which lead to your content from other websites. It can be difficult to earn external links, but social media can give you a boost.
Social Media. Social media doesn't directly affect your search engine rankings, but it does indirectly support SEO.
First of all, your social media profiles show up in search engines when prospects look for you by name, adding to your credibility and increasing chances your links will be followed.
Perhaps more importantly, social sharing can improve the perceived value of your content. External links from social media to your website can increase traffic to your website and speed up indexation. And social media interaction extends the life of your content.
SEO is pivotal to your online success, but it's only one moving part in the great machine that is digital marketing. To get the most out of your marketing efforts, read The Digital Marketing Reference Handbook for Schools and Educators now.