You may or may not have come across the term SEO when considering marketing your school – and no, we’re not talking about Senior Executive Officers! SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation, which is a set of practices carried out on your website that affects what position it appears in for organic searches.
As an example, say you work at a school in Middlesbrough and a new family moves to the area. The family head to Google and search for ‘best primary schools Middlesbrough’. Obviously you want to be one of the first results, so they’ll see your school and potentially apply! However, if you’ve neglected your website, but another school in the area has worked on their website’s SEO, they’ll appear above you in the results, getting the family’s click and application.
With the first organic (not paid) result on Google having an average click-through rate of 28.5%, which drops drastically to 15% and 11% for the second & third result, it’s a heavily coveted position for any website to have! It’s understandable for schools to grow somewhat complacent with their websites. Most users will likely be existing students’ parents looking for some information. However, to attract new students to your school, it’s important to consider where your website is ranking on Google!
How does SEO work?
Search engines (i.e. Google or Bing) use bots, known as spiders, to crawl the web to gather information about everything they can on the internet. When they reach your website, they’ll read the content and follow internal (going to another page on your domain) and external (going to a different domain) links and use the context of these links to build up a detailed picture of your webpage and tell the search engine what it’s about. This information goes into the search engine’s database, known as the index.
Whenever a user searches for something, the search engine uses the information in its index. It combines its index with complex algorithms to provide what it believes are the best results for that query. If you optimise your website enough that the engine believes you’re one of the best results for that enquiry, then it should show your website near the top of the results page.
However, the exact nature of how these algorithms work is known only by the company. They constantly evolve and change as time passes. Following best practice guides can help to maximise your chances to meet the algorithm’s requirements.
How can you carry out SEO for your school?
There are hundreds of factors that Google considers when checking how well optimised your website is, including speed, metadata, keywords in content, user-friendliness and more. It can take months to optimise your site fully, and by then, Google may have changed some factors it considered important when you first started!
Creating strong foundations that align with SEO best practices is a good starting place for any website as these include key factors that Google has always valued, such as speed and metadata. For WordPress websites, the Yoast or All in One SEO plugins make it easy to add metadata to your site. Any websites created by iTCHYROBOT Schools are accompanied by in-depth training and refresher sessions that will cover how to effectively use these tools on your site.
Websites such as GTMetrix, SiteSpeedBot.com or Google PageSpeed Insights can give you an in-depth report on your website’s speed and show you areas that are slowing it down. You can then pass these reports over to your webmaster to enact the changes and get the site running as it should. This has the handy side-effect of giving users a better user experience when they visit the website, minimising waiting times and issues on the site.
Why should our school carry out SEO?
Harking back to the second paragraph of this blog and our example about a school in Middlesbrough, SEO can help give you an edge over the competition on search engines. A lot of schools aren’t thinking about their websites. You should ensure your site is optimised, so that you can try to leapfrog other local schools who aren’t taking advantage of this knowledge. Increased search result rankings will help to increase your online presence and deliver your website over competitors. This will hopefully lead to increased enquiries, applications and any other KPIs that can occur through your website.
However, SEO can easily become overwhelming when you consider the number of factors involved, and the size of some websites. With how busy schools are, this can be a demanding task that eats up a lot of time. If you’re unsure of how to optimise your site, or simply don’t have the time, get in touch with us for a chat about how we can help you or just some friendly advice!