If you are the head of school at a private school or the director of communications at a private school or college, you are faced with many challenges. Not only do you have to help maintain the quality of the educational experience of your students, but you are also watching over their welfare, communicating to parents, managing and directing a complex Website that has to be updated with both public information and complex private information behind a firewall. Not to mention you are managing a network of sites – can you say social media? You also have to make sure that these Websites communicates the mission of the school to multiple constituencies inside the school and outside the school at the same time.
There are few commitments as important as educational commitments, jobs come and go, houses get sold, but marriages like schools stay with you (most of the time.) Yes, you can transfer and opt out, but your school shapes the person you become. Schools not only have strong impact on our lives, but as we grow, the lives of our children, and on the families and the relationships that our children have through the years. Let’s not forget the obvious career impact on their professional lives. So for a child, the school you attend can be one of the most determining factors of your life, and potentially one of the most important choices a parent can make.
When you are leading a private school or boarding school, or college or division of a school or university, how do you encourage that sort of commitment and trust? You obviously leverage tradition (if you can), academic excellence, highlighting your schools special programs abilities to serve certain populations. One way now is through SEO, search engine optimization, which works for private schools. A new student may spend 4 to 10 years at the school depending on the private school program, and with the cost of tuition, that is a significant investment.
You have a targeted audience seeking a specialize service, ready to investigate and make an important financial and educational decision for their child. Now depending on your perspective – your school may be a small niche school or a top tier, or somewhere in the middle. One school may desperately want to do SEO or something with online marketing – the other may feel that they are above the frey. A top tier school may already get plenty of admissions based on their name, but the perceptions of parents are very important. Some parents may not know a school’s cache – and may head directly to schools that appear in the top of Google’s editorial results. Schools need to leverage search engine optimization to continually build their brands. This is very true for schools that are in a competitive niche.
What should you consider when starting an SEO program for a private school? It’s really about admissions and opening up the school to more inquires from prospective parents and students. You should be both scientific and instinctual about the project combining what you know with what data you can gather.
First, whether you are the decision maker or not, you will need to get everyone on board for a private school search engine optimization project to be a success. Part of this is understanding the issues and timeline in involved. You’ll need to explain how the team will need to think about the Website as a living, breathing microcosm that has the power to bring in specific groups of people. Think of the beginning of the project as translating the wants and needs of potential parents and students into search terms, and then translating that into content for the Website and then measuring the success of the project and adjusting efforts towards better results. One important thing about SEO is to never discount anyone’s opinion about terms. You need to be constantly learning and researching new terms.
Secondly, start with student profiles, what do you know about them, how do they think – (parents and students) because it’s not always a one party decision, parents and students make the decisions together. Write all these thoughts and potential terms down and start compiling a list. Then take what’s happening at the school and leverage it for content on the Website, and do this consistently.
You’ll need to make use of the tools you have available – find out what search terms drive visitors, what visitors are converting on the site. Also, be open to new approaches and new technology for instance: blogs, social media, and start to encourage links back from students and constituents.
At some point you’ll need to hire someone who has the expertise for this or appoint a team member to oversee the project and bring in an outside consultant. With simple consistent well thought out changes to the school’s Website you will be able to succeed with SEO for private schools and private universities.