TicketPrinting Blog

Education

Guide to Improved Search Engine Optimization for School Websites: Part 2

By Lance Trebesch May 4, 2010

This two part series gives your school an advantage through the power of Search Engine Optimization, resulting in more relevant traffic to your web site. Part one of the series covered the importance of good SEO, along with some ideas regarding search friendly website design. Part two includes tips, tools, and techniques for better keyword choice and placement, as well as link building strategies.

Keywords

Keywords provide search engines with an idea of what your site is about, and search engines search for the most relevant sites under any given keyword. You can optimize your site by choosing the most appropriate keywords and providing meaningful content regarding those keywords. This is where your school can gain an advantage over competing schools. The keywords you choose to optimize should be those that parents use most often when searching for a school for their children.

3 Tips for Choosing the Right Keywords

  • Find keywords that are used frequently by people searching for information on schools but are not included in competing school’s websites, and optimize your site for some of those keywords. Many school websites are optimized for very general terms such as “Athletics.” While this may describe navigation within that certain site very well, parents are more likely to type in a keyword such as “youth basketball.”
  • Find the most popular common keywords that most schools use and optimize your site for those keywords better then they can. This is equally as important as the above technique, but will prove to be more of a challenge.
  • Incorporate some variations of a few of your common keywords. These might include misspellings, plurals, synonyms, and local place names or idioms.

Deciding on the right keywords to optimize is probably the most challenging, but also highly rewarding (traffic wise) SEO activity a school can engage in. Luckily there are some tools and techniques that can help you accomplish this.

5 Keyword Tools and Techniques

  • Word Tracker is an online tool that tells exactly how many people are searching for any given keyword each month.
  • Nichebot.com offers a number of keyword tools including a keyword list cleaner.
  • Yahoo and Google both offer keyword tools.
  • Determine what sites use your selected keywords in their title by searching intitle:keyword. Then find what sites use your keyword within their body text by searching intext:keyword. (Of course, you’ll want to replace “keyword” in this example with your keyword. Don’t add any extra spaces, or the search won’t work.)
  • Review your website referral logs for commonly used keywords. After building a decent list, incorporate some of the keywords into your website using the tips outlined below, and then monitor results. Keyword selection is an ongoing process and requires significant trial and error. There is always something you can change to yield a better ranking.

5 Tips for Better Keyword Placement

Choosing the right keywords is only the first step to keyword optimization. Strategic placement of keywords within a website is equally important.

  • The title tag of a website is the best place to put top keywords. Make sure that the title for each page in the site does a good job of targeting the keywords you chose in the above steps, while still effectively describing the actual content on each page.
  • Incorporate the rest of your important keywords into the headline.
  • Keywords in the body text should focus on 2-3 specific keywords per page.
  • Meta tags are bits of data embedded in HTML code that provide information on any given web page. Meta tags should target prospective students, be individualized, and be placed on each page of the site. Doing this will increase the chance that a random web surfer will stumble upon your site while searching for information topically related to the content on any given page within the site.
  • Place keywords toward the top of the page rather than further down.

Finally, don’t overdo it! If you use any given keyword too often in your text or your meta tags, Google may get suspicious. Your keywords should appear organic to the writing.

Links, Links, and More Links

Persuading other highly ranked, relevant, and related sites to link to your site is critical to making your page rank highly among search engines. There is no shortcut to achieving this type of linking structure. It simply takes a significant amount of effort. The good news is you probably have a lot of entities willing to link to your site already. The following are the different type of links and linking strategies.

  • Inbound Links – Start by contacting web-savvy groups or individuals affiliated with your school and ask if they want to place a link on their site that directs web surfers back to yours. This type of link is called an inbound link. For more inbound link ideas, check out other school’s websites and see who is linked to them. Achieving a linking structure that appears natural to search engines will help achieve greater results. Getting highly ranked, topically relevant pages to link to your site is ideal. But, if links are obtained from sites not boasting these characteristics, it is likely to only help and not hurt your rankings. In general, the more inbound links you can obtain the better.
  • Reciprocal Linking – Some entities may only want to trade links. This is called reciprocal linking. Establishing a reciprocal link entails placing a link on your site directing visitors to another site in exchange for that site providing a link on their site back to yours. Search engines do not value reciprocal links very highly, but a few reciprocal links are not bad; they will help achieve a more natural looking link structure. This idea also holds true with lower ranking sites. While you don’t want to have a lot of low ranking site links, a few will usually provide a slight boost in your website’s rankings, and also help achieve a more natural appearing link structure.
  • Anchor Text – Another factor that is pivotal to achieving a natural linking structure is establishing varied, keyword rich anchor text for each link obtained. Anchor text is the text displayed in the link on another page linking back to yours. If websites linking to your site are willing to accept suggestions for the anchor text, make sure each one is varied and include common keywords.
  • Website Content – One of the best ways to generate inbound links is to incorporate valuable content into your webpage. Other websites will be more likely to link to your site if you provide content useful to them or their visitors. Hosting a blog or forum is a great way to do this. It should not be hard to find parents or faculty members to contribute valuable information to your blog. For information on how to optimize your blog for search engines look at ProBlogger.net. For more information on creating valuable blog content, visit buildabetterblog.com.

Similarly, hosting a forum is useful for site visitors, students, and faculty alike. It encourages personal communication and an exchange of ideas. Monitor your forums to stay in touch with your audience, and to understand what topics appeal to them. Craft new content accordingly.

Another great option is to post Podcasts or Video Feeds on your site. If faculty member or credible guest speaker hosts an interesting lecture, post it as a video or Podcast. Any of the above options present good alternatives for creating valuable content on your web page, a characteristic that attracts inbound links.

SEO is one of the easiest ways for a school to establish a sustainable competitive advantage online. The payoff from focusing funds toward SEO is greater than traditional marketing efforts. Effectively planning and implementation of the above components will certainly end in pleasing results.

For information on the importance of good SEO, as well as search friendly website design read, “Guide to Improved Search Engine Optimization for School Websites: Part 1.”