As of 2021, Australia was home to 9,581 schools. That’s a lot of schools – and by extension, a lot of school websites. If you’re a competitive school on a mission to attract new students and increase enrolment numbers, then having a strong SEO strategy for your school website is key.
SEO, short for Search Engine Optimisation, isn’t often thought about in the school context. Most SEO-optimised websites are product pages or ecommerce stores, not school websites. But what’s stopping your school from outshining its competitors and ranking on the first page of Google?
There are plenty of benefits to be had, from reaching more prospective students to connecting with your community. There’s just one problem: how can you implement SEO best practices with your school website if you’ve never heard of SEO before?
Don’t worry – we’re here to help. This article will introduce you to the basics of SEO and explain how you can use it to optimise your school website. Keep reading to learn more!
The Basics of Website SEO
We’ve all got to start somewhere. If you’re totally new to the world of SEO, then it’s time to get acquainted with the basics.
In its simplest form, SEO is the process of making your website more visible on search engines like Google. When someone types a query into Google, the search engine uses an algorithm to determine which websites should appear in the results pages. The goal of SEO is to improve your website’s ranking on these results pages.
There are two main types of SEO: on-page and off-page. On-page SEO refers to the optimisation of your website’s individual pages, while off-page SEO looks at factors that exist outside of your website (like links from other websites).
A lot of the time, websites rank higher organically thanks to their engaging content, compelling use of digital and technical elements, and good user experience. But there’s more to it than that – you can also improve your website’s ranking with targeted SEO strategies.
Why Does It Matter?
School websites have somewhat of a reputation for being… well, not the most exciting. They’re often full of out-of-date information, difficult to navigate, and not especially visually appealing. So why does it matter if your school website is optimised for SEO?
Here are a few of the most important reasons:
Improve Visibility & Traffic
By optimising your website for search engines, you can improve its ranking on the results pages and make it more visible to prospective students (and their parents). Why is this important? Well, according to one study, the top result on Google’s search engine results page (SERP) receives 33 percent of traffic.
If your school website is ranking on the first page of Google, you’re already ahead of most of your competitors. Cracking that top spot can be the difference between getting ten website visitors per month or getting a few thousand.
Connect With Your Community
Your school website is more than just a marketing tool – it’s also a way to connect with your local community. Haven’t moved into the social media space yet? Not to worry! Through news snippets, blog posts, and events calendars, your school website can serve as an informative hub for parents, students, and local residents.
This won’t serve any use if your website isn’t optimised for search engines, though. If you want your school website to be found by members of your community, then you need to ensure it’s properly optimised.
Enhance Your Reputation
Your school’s website is one of the first places prospective students will look when they’re considering your institution. First impressions matter, and if your website is unappealing or difficult to navigate, you could be turning students away before they’ve even had a chance to learn about all that your school has to offer.
An optimised website will give off the impression that your school is modern, up-to-date, and professional – all qualities that are sure to appeal to prospective students (and their parents). No one wants to send their child to a school with an outdated website!
Optimising your school website for search engines can save you money in the long run by reducing your reliance on paid advertising. It seems counter-intuitive; web-building can cost a lot of money, and surely you’ll need to spend even more on ads to ensure people can find your site, right?
Wrong. By taking the time to build a quality website that’s optimised for search engines, you can organically attract visitors without having to pay for clicks. Imagine being able to put that money towards educational resources instead?
In short, optimising your school website for search engines is essential if you want to improve visibility, traffic, and reputation – not to mention save money in the long run. It may seem like a daunting task, but with a little time and effort, it’s well within reach.
How the Algorithm Works
Before moving into the actionable steps you can take to improve your SEO, it’s important to understand how the algorithm works. That’s right; the Big Brother, the all-knowing, ever-changing overseer of the Internet is watching your school website, and it’ll decide whether your site is worthy of a top spot in the search engine results pages.
The algorithm is a collection of ranking factors that Google (and other search engines) uses to determine which websites should be displayed in response to a user’s query. While no one knows exactly what goes into the algorithm, we do know that there are over 200 factors at play.
Some of these ranking factors are more important than others, and they can be grouped into three main categories:
- On-Page Factors are the elements that you have direct control over, such as your website’s title tags, meta descriptions, header tags, and content.
- Off-Page Factors are the elements that you can influence indirectly, such as link building, social media signals, and reviews.
- User Experience Factors are the elements that relate to how users interact with your website, such as click-through rate, dwell time, and bounce rate.
Let’s break those down a little further.
As we mentioned, on-page factors are the elements of your website that you have direct control over. Your title tag is the title of your website that appears in the search engine results pages (SERPs), and your meta description is the short piece of text that appears below your title tag.
Your header tags are the headlines on your website, and your content is everything else. All of these elements are important, but if we had to choose just one, it would be your content.
Content is the most important on-page factor because it’s what tells the search engines what your website is about. If you want to rank for a certain keyword or phrase, you need to make sure that keyword or phrase appears in your content – but beware of keyword stuffing (we’ll touch on that common mistake later).
Optimising On-Page Factors
There are a number of things you can do to optimise your on-page factors, but here are the three most important:
1. Use keyword-rich titles and descriptions. There are plenty of tools to help you with keyword research, such as Google AdWords Keyword Planner and semrush.com. Once you’ve identified the keywords you want to target, make sure to use them in your title tags and meta descriptions.
2. Structure your header tags. Your header tags should be used to break up your content into smaller, more manageable chunks. Think of them as mini-headlines that help guide the reader through your content. The most important header tag is your H1 tag, which is typically used for your website’s title.
3. Write quality content. This one seems obvious, but it’s important to remember that the content on your website needs to be well-written, informative, and relevant to your target audience. If you’re not a strong writer, consider hiring someone to help you with this important task.
Beware of Keyword Stuffing
In the past, Google wasn’t so picky about the quality of content on the web – but nowadays, you need to be particularly careful about stuffing your content with keywords in an attempt to game the system.
This practice, known as keyword stuffing, will not only hurt your chances of ranking in the SERPs, but it will also damage your reputation with users.
If you want to rank for a certain keyword or phrase, use it sparingly and make sure it fits naturally into your content. The last thing you want is for your website to be penalised for keyword stuffing!
Off-page factors are the elements of your website that you can’t control directly, but you can influence them indirectly. The most important off-page factor is backlinks.
A backlink is a link from another website to your website. Backlinks are important because they act as votes of confidence from other websites; the more backlinks you have, the more popular search engines will believe your website to be, and the higher you’ll rank in the SERPs.
There are a number of ways to get backlinks, but the most effective is to create high-quality content that other websites will want to link to. If you can consistently produce quality content, you’ll eventually build up a strong backlink profile – and your website’s ranking will improve as a result.
Optimising Off-Page Factors
The best three things you can do to optimise your off-page factors are:
1. Create quality content. This is the most important thing you can do to improve your off-page factors. If you create quality content, other websites will want to link to it – and that’s how you’ll get backlinks.
2. Promote your content. Once you’ve created quality content, you need to promote it to the right people. Share it on social media, reach out to your community, and do whatever else you can to get people to see it.
3. Build relationships. Got connections with other schools or businesses within the community? These can be valuable relationships to have, so don’t be afraid to reach out and build them. These relationships can eventually lead to backlinks down the road.
User Experience Factors
Finally, let’s touch on your user experience factors. These are the elements of your website that directly affect how users interact with it. How quickly does it load? Does the webpage feel seamless? Are the links easy to find and click?
Search engines care about your user experience factors because they want to give their users the best possible experience. If you have a poor user experience, it’ll reflect badly on the search engine – and that’s why they take these factors into account when ranking websites.
Optimising User Experience Factors
There are a few things you can do to make sure your user experience is top-notch:
1. Make sure your website loads quickly. Users expect websites to load in a matter of seconds, so anything slower than that will frustrate them. Use tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights to test your loading times and identify ways to improve them.
2. Improve your navigation. Users should be able to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily. If your website’s navigation is confusing or hard to use, create a menu that’s easy to understand and use.
3. Use images and videos wisely. Images and videos can help break up text and make your website more visually appealing, but they can also slow down your loading times if you’re not careful. Use them sparingly, and make sure they’re optimised for the web.
4. Pay attention to your design. Your website’s design should be clean and simple, easy on the eyes, and easy to navigate. If your design is cluttered or hard to use, consider simplifying it.
You’d be amazed at how much these simple changes can improve your website’s ranking. By paying attention to your user experience, you can make sure that your website is appealing to both users and search engines – and that’s a recipe for success.
In Summary: SEO for Your School
It can be overwhelming to read SEO-related information, especially if you’ve never done it before. But by taking things one step at a time, you can slowly but surely improve your website’s ranking.
Of course, there’s a much easier option: work with us at Beyond Web to create a fresh, modern website for your school that’s optimised for SEO from the ground up. We’ll take care of everything – all you need to do is sit back and watch your website rise through the ranks.