There’s no school like your school! Unfortunately, there are millions of school homepages, and your website can get lost among all those search results. For instance, Google “Waldorf School” and you’ll end up with 681,000 results. “Catholic school” returns 8.5 million results. “Charter school” clocks in at 13.8 million results! Most likely, however, the people looking for your school are right in your own backyard, and search engines are beginning to recognize the need for localization in search results.
What is local search?
Local search is a relatively new function that shows up to ten business or organization listings ahead of the rest of the search results. In theory, these listings should be more relevant to any individual search and trump other results. Optimizing for local search ensures that your website ranks higher for searches that originate closest to your school.
How does local search work?
Google and other search engines do not reveal their algorithms to the public, but we can make some educated guesses. The image above indicates that adding a regional or city name to the search keywords along with a type of business or organization generates these more relevant results. Search engines may also check IP addresses to determine the physical origin of the search.
How do I optimize for Local Search?
Luckily, search engines have made it easy for businesses, organizations, and schools to get listed as long as they provide a physical address. Here is a breakdown of things you can do to make sure your school ranks high in local search results.
Website content— Be certain to include your school’s mailing address at the bottom of each of your website’s pages. When search engines crawl your pages, they will index your address. You can also “geotag” your website by adding latitude and longitude to a meta tag. Read the Probloggers article: “Geoblogging – How to Geotag Your Blog” for a crash course in understanding these concepts.
Claim your name—Search engines that offer local search also offer businesses and organizations the opportunity to claim, edit, and update their listing. If your school is not showing up at all you can submit information, even if you are in multiple locations. Visit Google, Yahoo, and Bing, sign up, and follow the instructions. Another option is to use the Google Webmaster Tools to set your location. Be certain all information is accurate and that the listing points back to your school’s website.
Submit to information directories— These websites are similar to link directories, however, they will list your physical address along with your website. SuperPages.com, Citysearch.com, Yellow Pages, Switchboard.com and Yelp.com are just a few. Bruce Clay has a great resource to help you understand the local search engine relationship to other directories.
Reviews—Search engines and information directories both allow users to review and rate organizations, so you can create some in-house reviews and encourage parents and supporters to write more. Search engines will collect reviews from various sites and post them in an expanded listing. These reviews will also help boost your website’s authority in search results.
This quick guide to local search optimization should offer a glimpse into the constantly changing landscape of search engine parameters. For more information, try the Ultimate Local Search Optimization Resources.
Lance Trebesch and Dustin Stoltz