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Guide to Improved Search Engine Optimization for School Websites: Part 1

By Lance Trebesch and Dustin Stoltz August 11, 2009

university-we bsite-example

This two part series shows schools how to gain the advantage of a technique used by many online marketers called Search Engine Optimization.  SEO is the practice of designing a website to include popular keywords and strategic linking structure in order to achieve a high ranking in search engine results, and drive traffic to a site.  Part one of the series will cover the importance of good SEO, as well as some search friendly website design tips.  Part two will include some tips, tools, and techniques for better keyword choice and placement, as well as link building strategies.

5 Reasons Schools Should Invest in SEO

  1. The internet is now the leading form of communication.
  2. Parents and youth trust the web as an immediate and relevant resource.  Most people look to the web when seeking out any form of information.
  3. The internet opens parents up to many more options when considering schools, they expect more, and are harder to convince.
  4. With more options available to them, parents are also more selective of where their limited funds go; they want to know how you can maximize their child’s potential.
  5. Investing in search engine optimization is the most efficient and effective way to drive parents and potential students to your site and boost enrollment.

You may have a great web page but it doesn’t serve a point if no one is able to find it. Even if your school already has considerable traffic there may be a way to gain even higher online visibility. The following techniques are an inexpensive way to gain a significant advantage over larger, well-funded schools.  In general SEO has three main components: search friendly web site design, keyword selection and placement, and link building.

Website Design

One of the most challenging aspects of SEO is finding a balance between including valuable and visually appealing content that keeps visitors engaged, and successful search engine optimization.

3 Quick SEO Friendly Web Site Design Tips

  1. Limit Rich Media Content – While rich media content may be visually attractive to visitors it should be used with caution. Search engines work best with text and it is often difficult for them to effectively crawl frames and java content.  This makes it much more difficult to achieve a high ranking among search engines.  If it does not directly promote the benefits of your school it is a good idea to leave it out.  You must also consider that many visitors have a slow internet connection and will become frustrated while waiting for pages to load.  The tradeoff is ultimately up to you. The good news is that this technology is constantly improving as search engines become better at identifying information embedded in flash and java content.  There are ways flash content can be optimized for search, and a larger percentage of the population continues to obtain high speed internet connections. As a general rule it is best to stay knowledgeable of advancements and to balance new advances with traditional, proven, techniques.  It won’t be long before your school’s website can have the best of both worlds.
  2. Use Sitemaps – Each page you build should link back to the site map, in addition to the homepage.  This makes it much easier for search engines to find all pages on your site and index them regularly.  If your site includes more than 100 pages than you should create additional site maps that all link to a master site map.  A link to the master site map should be located on each page of your website.
  3. Use Silos – School websites tend to host pages with many different themes, such as, sports, student activities, teacher pages, etc; this has the potential to confuse search engines. A silo creates a directory that is connected to your general site concept (your school) but is also isolated around a theme (sports, drama).

Example:
Yourschool.com/sports/football.html
Yourschool.com/sports /volleyball.html
Yourschool.com/sports /soccer.html
Yourschool.com/sports /wrestling.html

Doing this will increase the chances that your site will be ranked for general keywords (schools) but it will also be ranked for more specific keywords (high school football teams). A good place for more information on creating silos would be Bruceclay.com. Ready for more? Check out Part II of this article!