Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of maximizing the number of visitors to your school’s website by ensuring it appears within the top 10 (the first full page) of search query results returned by a search engine. Your school’s website is not the only web pages about your school within the search engine index that can be ranked. There are directories, social media profiles, map listings, online articles and a whole lot more that can be found online about your school. You might not own or have access to every web page and online listing your school appears which makes it a little inconvenient to claim, update and maintain. Being proactive about your online presence will boost organic (meaning unpaid) website traffic and improve your online reputation.
Let’s explore the off-page SEO must-haves that will make the biggest impact on your school’s website traffic:
Search Engine Profiles
Each search engine has their own version of a business profile. Google has Google My Business and Bing has Bing Business. These profiles increase your school’s visibility and real estate on branded search result pages. They appear on the side of search results and provide searchers with instant access to a general description and contact information, such as map location, phone number, business hours, etc.
These profiles can be claimed and managed for free as long as you have a Google and Microsoft account. Once they are claimed, you can add relevant photos, keep contact information up to date and respond to reviews and questions. It’s important to fill out all of the relevant fields to ensure the best search results benefits.
Oftentimes, online maps are where users first find your school online during their initial searches. Online maps can make or break your school’s first impression online. You want to be in control of that as much as you can be. Creating a Google My Business profile will automatically create a verified Google Maps location for your school; the same goes with Bing Business profiles and Bing Maps. While they are two of the most popular maps on the web, they are not the only maps available where users find directions and general business information. For example:
- Apple Maps is the default map app installed on over 950 million Apple products across the world.
- In 2022, it was estimated over 17 million Americans still regularly used MapQuest for all their directional planning.
- While Google Maps is the leading map app in the world, there are some countries that have actually banned Google Maps from working. For example, China instead uses Baidu Maps (百度) with over 439 million users.
Each online map has their own version of a verified business profile your school can claim and manage to help boost SEO and maintain a good online reputation regardless of the device or browser being used to find your school. Understanding how your prospective families are finding your school online will help you prioritize which map listings to target first.
Whether your school approved it or not, there are hundreds of online business directories where your school could appear including local business directories, independent school directories and review websites. Even some old tried and true directories like YellowPages are still used online. These directories can appear in branded search results — meaning they can appear in localized searches that include your school name. Just like map listings, business directory listings play an influencing role in your school’s online reputation. Taking the time to claim and maintain your school’s listing on these directories will help drive more referral traffic to your school’s website:
- Private School Review or Boarding School Review
- State Government School Directory
- Local Business Directories
- Chamber of Commerce
- Yellow Pages
- Association/Affiliation Directories
Not only do all of these listings boost your school’s rankings in search results, but they also provide opportunities for links back to your school’s website which could increase traffic. Take some time to find out exactly where your school is listed online. Based on your results, you can build a plan of action to claim and maintain each of these listings.
Google search results display more than just web pages now. With separate tabs for news articles, shopping, images, videos and more, your school has more opportunities to appear in search results than ever before. Video is rapidly becoming the preferred media type to consume digital content. With over 3 billion searches a month, YouTube has surpassed Yahoo as the second largest search engine in the world. Creating a YouTube channel and producing video content regularly can help boost your school’s visibility in search results, and make your content more engaging for your target audiences. In fact, last year internet users spent an average of 6 hours and 48 minutes per week watching videos online.
While YouTube is owned by Google, their search results algorithms are not identical but there is some crossover on where results are displayed. YouTube is based on scanning and ranking your video’s title, description, category tags, thumbnails and user engagement as well as your school’s overall channel details. The video description should be more than just a summary of your video content; it should be a place to promote other relevant content whether it be other videos or web pages on your school’s website. The goal of your school’s YouTube channel should be to increase brand awareness in engaging ways, ultimately creating more website traffic in the process.
Social media posts do not directly impact SEO rankings but the content being shared on your school’s social media profiles can receive some great benefits. Repurposing your school’s website content across all your communication channels creates a streamlined brand voice and builds a longer lifespan of your content plan. The more your content is shared on social media, the more website traffic your school will receive.
While your school’s website content should be a priority in your search engine optimization (SEO) plans, it’s not the only rankable content about your school that appears in search results. Your SEO strategy should include brand and reputation management across the web. Managing listings, map locations and reviews online will boost SEO and provide more opportunities for traffic growth.
Blue Baden is the only marketing and strategy consulting company specifically designed to meet the needs of boarding schools. We will work with you to build a sustainable SEO strategy integrated into your marketing and communications plan. Contact Blue Baden today.