11 Jun 2018

A Private School SEO #TruthBomb That Will Save You Cash

There is so much work that goes into running a private school. You need to ensure that your schools message and values are communicated consistently, and that your students are receiving the highest level of education. These are not small accomplishments.

With all of these things already on your plate, implementing an effective SEO strategy may be the last thing on your mind. Unfortunately, if you are not sure how to go about this, and rush into the process, your private school could pay the price. Making a hasty decision regarding your school’s search engine optimization can cost you not only time, but money too!

What Private Schools Need to Know About SEO

In todays digital world, more and more students and their families are searching for potential schools online, and they are using search engines just like Google to do it. Having a well-planned strategy targeting private school audiences will enhance your presence online and attract more website visitors and qualified students to your private school.

But there are some common misconceptions about private school SEO that could steer your efforts in the wrong direction. And for those who fall prey to these misconceptions, they could end up being tricked into using up resources in ways that don’t give much return on the investment. Approaches based on these common misconceptions are rarely effective, won’t produce results, and will waste your resources.

By developing a solid understanding of search engine optimization for private schools, you can avoid these common and costly tactics.

A Huge Problem SEO Strategies for Private Schools

There is a general path that your potential parents are going through when finding a private school that is a good match for their child.  And to optimize your institution’s wen presence, you must become familiar with this path. How do parents or guardians become aware of their need for a private school for their child, how do they find your school online, and how will they contact you?

Let’s use a private school in Sacramento as an example. What journey will their potential applicants go through to become a student? This is how many private schools view it:

  • The potential student realizes that they want their child to attend a private school.
  • They visit Google.
  • Because they’re in need of a private school, they conduct a search for “Private Schools Near Me” or “Private Schools in Sacramento.”
  • They find your website because it shows up on the search results.
  • They contact you from your website.

The above scenario may sound ideal, but in reality the journey from search to enrollment is very different. This example, though unrealistic, highlights a common perception of how many private schools view SEO.  They don’t understand how their potential students or parents search online. Human behavior isn’t that simplistic, especially when making major investment decisions in today’s market.

Here are three common assumptions from the example above:

  • Potential students are aware of their need for a private school before they get on Google and search for one.
  • These students usually conduct basic keyword searches to find a private school that is a good match.
  • Your potential students search for private schools directly, or by name.

There’s also an assumption that potential parents or students are predominately using a laptop instead of a mobile device. Mobile use is increasing and not having a mobile-friendly website will add more SEO challenges (but that’s a topic for a different blog post).

If you’re using SEO strategies that stem from the misconceptions above, you’ll be wasting your time and money, and won’t get the results you are after.

When SEO Isn’t Working How Private Schools Expect

If your private school’s SEO strategy isn’t producing results, it’s very possible that at least one of the above-mentioned misconceptions are being practiced. Your lead generation will suffer and it can cause lots of frustration.

Outsourcing SEO is common, especially with private schools that are too busy to implement it themselves. But often times the stress of a developing SEO strategy will tempt you to make hasty buying decisions. You could opt to use an “SEO specialist” who claims that they can fix your private school’s SEO issues.

But the dilemma with this decision is that many of these “specialists” use tactics that cover up a larger issue by implementing temporary fixes. It’s more beneficial to operate from proven principles that are effective. A strong foundation is key to a successful digital marketing strategy for your private school. And SEO misconceptions corrupt this foundation.

If you decide to outsource your SEO to someone who employs these quick-fix tactics, you’ll end up having few returns on your investment.

How SEO Works For Private Schools

Let’s go more in-depth about these misconceptions using the private school in Sacramento as an example:

Assumption 1: “Potential Students Are Aware of Their Need for a Private School Before They Get on Google and Search for One”

There’s a nuanced relationship between consumer behavior and search engines (from having a need, to finding the right private school, to contacting them). Initially, your potential students aren’t aware of their need for a private school before they start searching for one.

Let’s say a parent or guardian realizes that their student is struggling in public school and isn’t seeing much progression.  They’ll go to Google and start searching for solutions to a specific problem, such as “How to Help Your Child Succeed in School” and related keyword phrases such as “excel academically” or “my child is struggling in school.”

Before searching for a private school, they know there’s a problem that needs a solution. In order to even get the attention of potential students in today’s competitive environment, you must provide valuable content upfront. This means providing informative and useful content that addresses the problems that these potential students are having. This takes empathy and an understanding of your targeted audience. But it is highly effective for lead generation and reducing the costs of money and time.

Assumption 2: “These Parents and Students Usually Conduct Basic Keyword Searches to Find a Private School That is a Good Match”

Consider a search for “Chanel Perfume Nordstrom.”  This is broad. This type of search makes sense when someone is wondering if Nordstrom is carrying Chanel perfume.  But if they needed more specific results, they’d need a more detailed set of keywords.

Now imagine the differences between “Chanel Perfume Nordstrom” and “Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Perfume Nordstrom Sacramento.”  The latter is going to yield much more specific results. Google will tell you if any the Nordstrom’s in Sacramento have that specific type of perfume.

So why am I talking about perfume?

People don’t want thousands of search results.  They’re busy and want the most appropriate solution as quickly as possible. This also applies to your private school. Your potential parents are less likely to search “Private Schools in Sacramento” and will search for more specific problems related to their child’s education. They want solutions and don’t want to spend hours going through thousands of search results.  Most people won’t even go to the second page of google.

Using this example again, potential parents could create searches such as, “How to Help Your Child Succeed in School.”

This is someone who has a problem and is looking for a solution.  And when someone searches for solutions to their problems, Google will attempt to provide the most accurate and valuable content available.

When marketing private schools, it’s so key to provide quality content for your private school’s website and blog.  It’ll attract more qualified leads and save you costs.  Creating this kind of content will build trust and credibility.  You’ll start building relationships with your potential students and their families and nurturing that relationship until they’re ready to reach out and step into the next stage of their enrolling journey.

Assumption 3: “Your Potential Students Search for Private Schools Directly”

Potential student’s families will be searching for private schools differently than other consumer products.  Buying perfume requires less commitment and investment than your child’s educational needs.

Deciding if a private school is right for your child requires a selling process that offers tons of value and investment upfront.  Your potential students won’t be searching for you in the same way they’ll be searching for consumer products.

An Example of How Potential Students Find Private Schools Through Search

Here is an example of how to effectively use SEO for your private school:

  1. Someone conducts a Google search for: “How to Help Your Child Succeed in School.”
  2. Your private school wrote a blog article on this topic, sharing useful and informative content (strategies to motivate your child to do homework, tips to improve studying habits, productivity tactics, etc.).  You write the post with their perspective in mind, making it relatable and easy for them to understand.
  3. This person reads your blog and now has a handful of ways they can improve their child’s success in school. Now they’re investing more time into your blog and traveling throughout your site (because you offer lots of value).
  4. As you nurture this potential student with valuable content, they start to trust you more.  You begin showing them that you understand their unique needs.
  5. They reach out to you when they’re ready to take the next step towards becoming an actual student.

Just remember that the more precise your keywords are, the less competition you’ll have for those terms. This is effective when aiming to attract more qualified leads and students.

Understanding Private School SEO

It’s irritating when your SEO strategies aren’t working the way you want it to.

And just having a website for people to find online isn’t enough to attract potential students and their families. This assumption won’t do much to move the needle in the long-run. There needs to be intention and targeted content consistently flowing from your private school website.

There are tons of SEO companies and marketers who’ll sell private school SEO advice and will make it sound confusing and difficult to tackle.  When you believe that it’s too confusing to implement yourself, you’ll probably be tempted to seek out someone who can help with SEO (especially once you realize the importance of it).  Many of these companies won’t help you build a successful online presence long-term due to gimmicky tactics, and we don’t want you wasting time and money.

We’re not saying that you shouldn’t outsource SEO to companies (I mean, that’s what we do). But not every SEO company is created the same. Not everyone will provide you with tons of value. Understanding SEO basics for private schools will help you in avoiding these providers.

Many of these companies employ tactics that’ll damage your presence online. They have a disregard for Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and violate them. They try to maneuver around Google’s algorithms to get a quick boost.

These tactics may appear useful, but it’s really just a temporary fix that won’t help long-term. (kind of like putting a band-aid on an arterial spurt) Your firm will start experiencing the negative side effects of it when Google’s algorithms evolve, and it could leave your practice poor rankings and a ruined online reputation.

Some private schools will then try to fix their SEO problems by hiring another SEO company (which can be a vicious cycle if they don’t know how to help you long-term).

By understanding your potential students and their families, you can better navigate solving your SEO challenges. Before making any hasty buying decisions, make sure that you’ve addressed whether or not your private school’s SEO approach is designed around proven digital marketing strategies for private schools.

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