When you embark on utilizing inbound marketing for your school an initial focus will be on search engine optimization.
But what does that mean exactly?
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process of improving the position where your school shows up for keywords. I should note then when I refer to keywords I mean either a search word or search phrase.
For example, at my school, Sewickley Academy, we had a fundamental problem when trying to rank for the keyword ‘Pittsburgh Private School.’ Our issue was that we are Sewickley Academy, located in Sewickley, PA and we never really talked about Pittsburgh on our website although we are located 12 miles northwest of Pittsburgh and are clearly a ‘Pittsburgh Private School.’ As a result, ‘Pittsburgh Private School’ became a term that we attempted to optimize our website for with search engines.
Create Keyword Lists
Now that you know what SEO is how should you get started?
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You should start by creating three keyword lists and each will have their own focus:
1. How you would search for your school
I would suggest sitting down with your team and generating a list of 25-50 search terms as to how you would search for your school.
An example for me would be “Pittsburgh Independent Schools’ and ‘Pittsburgh Independent Schools’ counts as one search term.
2. How a prospective family would search for your school
The second list I would create with your team should focus on search terms that a prospective family would use to find your school.
Your first thought might be that list #1 and list #2 are the same but in list #2 understand that you suffer from the curse of knowledge. It’s an illness that affects everyone working in the independent school world and the idea is simple – because you are in the independent school world you understand and know the vernacular and language we all speak. The issue is that as you search to grow your market with first generation independent school families THEY will not know the ‘language.’ As a result, create this second list with the curse of knowledge in mind.
An example for me is in contrast to the above example. How many first generation independent school families would know or search for the word independent school. They would most likely search for ‘Pittsburgh Private Schools’ so we would add this search term to our list.
3. How would prospective families search for your competitor schools
The final list I would create for your school would take into account how you and how prospective families would search for your competitor schools. When you generate the list please know that you shouldn’t optimize your website for your competitor’s school name or brand but rather for more general terms that a family might find your competitor.
An example for me would be based upon geographic location – ‘Upper St. Clair Private Schools.’ We are not located in Upper St. Clair but draw children from that area so we would optimize appropriate parts of our website for that term.
Let the work begin
When you are finished creating your three lists I would recommend having between 50-100 keywords where you should focus your search engine optimization efforts. These search terms will drive your on-page and off-page SEO as well as drive potential blog post topics and social media posts. I like to think about this combined list as my bullseye and make sure that I think about it with each and every effort I make with regard to our inbound marketing efforts.
Good luck and let me know if you have any questions by posting them in the comments below.