One of the most complex parts of doing search engine optimization is how frequently it changes. Just when you think you understand what Google is looking for, an algorithm update changes things. As a matter of fact, Google just released a core update on May 25, 2022.
Even SEO professionals can end up shaking their heads after trying to figure out rank criteria. It’s impossible to keep track of all the algorithm rank criteria details. Don’t waste your time. Instead, focus on some of the biggest SEO techniques, and you’ll be ahead of your competition.
Since 75 percent of users don’t scroll past the first page in search engine results, it’s imperative you figure out how to stay on the coveted first page (and in one of the first three results at that).
There are basic SEO techniques every school marketer in charge of SEO should know, such as:
- Keyword research
- Optimizing header tags and meta description
- Creating optimized content (blog posts)
- Link building
But what comes next after the basics are accomplished?
In order to drive significant growth in organic visibility and traffic to your site, here are 7 SEO techniques to help you supercharge your site’s performance.
7 SEO Techniques You Need to Be Using in 2022
Here are the top SEO methodologies you should be implementing in order to increase your site’s website traffic. By working on these top SEO tactics, you’ll see improvements to your visibility and traffic.
Delve into Google’s Core Web Vitals
Core web vitals may be a new term you’re not familiar with yet. But it is essential you explore what these principles entail, and the metrics behind them.
Core web vitals are a set of metrics that measure your website’s speed, responsiveness, and visual stability. Here is a breakdown of each of the metrics.
Largest content painting (LCP)
Largest content painting is a complex way of measuring load speed on your site’s pages. Essentially, it is measuring the load speed of the largest image or text block on the page. Each page should load within 2.5 seconds.
First input delay (FID)
First input delay measures the amount of time it takes between the time someone clicks on something on your site until the browser is able to respond to that interaction. Your page responsiveness should be less than 100 milliseconds.
Cumulative layout shift (CLS)
Cumulative layout shift refers to when a page jumps unexpectedly while a page is still loading. This is usually due to ads, popups, slow loading fonts, images or videos. The lower the CLS score the better. Your cumulative layout shift should be less than .1.
What’s important about the core web vitals is that you don’t need to understand all the technical details. What’s important is understanding these metrics are all about user experience. Making sure your webpages load quickly, are responsive, and load smoothly are focused on ensuring users of your website have a positive experience.
Once you understand what Google’s core web vitals are and what you need to track, how do you go about measuring how well your website is performing?
You will need to use analytic tools to track and measure core web vitals. Here are some platforms you can use to gather the information you need.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console (GSC) is a free tool provided by Google to help webmasters understand and see how Google sees their website. GSC will help you measure your website’s search traffic and performance, fix issues and ensure your website is mobile-friendly. GSC can be integrated with Google Analytics, giving you a broad view of your site. Learn more: 9 Google Search Console Features Important for School Marketers
PageSpeed Insights is a simple tool you can use to measure how fast your page loads in your browser.
Lighthouse is an extension you can add to Google’s Chrome browser (Chrome). It is a free, open-source tool used to run tests on your website to determine what you can do to improve your site. You can also use Lighthouse through Chrome DevTools. There is a great deal of support for this tool. Learn more here: Chrome Developers > Lighthouse > Overview
Chrome DevTools is a set of web developer tools accessible through Chrome. You can use Chrome DevTools to troubleshoot and fix problems on your website.
Chrome UX Report
The Chrome UX Report is a Google tool that is used to determine web vitals. Chrome UX Report measures website performance using real user measurement, a technique that captures the performance of a website based on the experience of actual (real) users.
Web Vitals is a great tool for people who measure and report on SEO. Web Vitals gives you access to a tool that specifically measures the Core Web Vitals and provides the SEO specialist with a report. This is a free service offered to web developers and SEO specialists.
Optimize for Google passage ranking
Google passage ranking, originally called “passage indexing”, is a Google search engine algorithm change. Google can now find highly specific text that answers a search question by searching for section of copy (a “passage”) instead of a keyword or keyword phrase.
An interesting aspect of this search feature is that the search result may “jump” to the select section after the searcher clicks on the link.
In order to optimize your webpage for Google’s passage ranking, focus on writing clear sections within your blog posts or web content. Focus on incorporating keywords in headings. Your content within these sections should be clear and focused on the subtopic referenced in the sub-heading.
Focus on featured snippets
Featured snippets are excerpts of text that are featured on top of Google’s organic results below the ads. Featured snippets answer the searchers’ question right away. Being featured not only means a link to your site is shown above all others as well as getting a higher click-through rate.
Here are a few recommendations for how to optimize your content so it’s more likely to appear in a featured snippet.
According to SEMrush, 10 words is the ideal number of words for a long-tail keyword phrase to be selected. You can rank for fewer words, but you have a higher chance of being selected at 10. This may be because there is more context within a longer keyword phrase.
Any content you write should be created with user intent in mind. Since people most often write their queries in the form of a question, write your content in a question and answer format. This will set you up to earn more featured snippets.
Use the right format
There are four types of featured snippet formats: list, table, paragraph, and video. When you write your content, use one of these types of formats. Also keep in mind Google is trying to display information easily and distinctly to searchers looking for a fast answer. So format for someone scanning or reading quickly for an answer. Make sure your answers are concise, clear and to the point.
Learn the E-A-T Principle
Google’s E-A-T Principle stands for expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. It’s basically the way Google assesses your website. Google will rank sites higher that demonstrate trustworthiness, authenticity, and have been established longer. Learn more about Google’s E-A-T Principle: 7 Tips to Demonstrate E-A-T and Rank Higher in Google
Here are a few tips to establish your school’s expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.
- Ask parents to leave positive reviews on Google, Facebook and Yelp
- Earn high quality links from other reputable sites
- Demonstrate E-A-T on your website through the use of testimonials, student stories, reviews and other forms of social proof
Keep publishing fresh content
This might seem obvious, but sometimes school marketers have so much on their to-do list they neglect to focus on creating new quality content. Unfortunately, if you’re not producing new content on a regular basis, it’s pretty easy to fall behind.
When you create new content, it gives you the opportunity to optimize for SEO. On-page SEO should include title headlines, content headers, sub-headings, focus keywords and image alt text.
Website users tend to place more value on newer content. When people are searching for a topic or an answer to their question, they often look at the date as a way to determine relevance.
In addition, Google uses freshness as a ranking criteria. The more often you publish content, the quicker Google will index your pages, and the more quickly your page will rank.
Update old content
Don’t neglect updating old content. This is an essential SEO technique in 2022. Old content has the advantage of time, so be sure to update it to freshen it.
One way to update old content is to check for broken links. Use a link checking app like the Google Chrome Extension Broken Link Checker to check and fix your links. This will update your page and Google will re-index your page.
Another pro tip is to update your old content by adding internal links to more recent content. This shows Google there is a relationship between these two pages, helping your pages rank higher.
Consider user experience (UX)
Developing a website isn’t easy. In addition to pleasing aesthetics and awesome content, your website needs to meet Google’s criteria for a good user experience.
Here are some of the metrics Google measures when evaluating a website for user experience.
Your website needs to load quickly. For every millisecond your visitors have to wait to load your site, you’ll lose some of them. If they have to wait over three seconds, you’ll lose 50 percent of them. (ThinkWithGoogle, 2018) According to Google, sites should strive to have a First Contentful Paint (FCP) of 1.8 seconds or less.
Is it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for? How your site is laid out makes a major difference in how easy it is for people to navigate your site.
Since most visitors will be reading your site on a mobile device, it is imperative to develop a site responsive to the needs of mobile viewing. This includes fast load speed, size of text columns, and how special sections load such as tables. Common mobile usability errors include an unreadable font design, font size too small, clickable elements too close together, content wider than the screen, and incompatible plugins.
An interactive website is one that facilitates the visitor to interact with the page they are viewing. For example, watching a video, downloading an admission catalog, submitting an inquiry form, scheduling an interview appointment, etc. are all ways prospective parents might interact with a school website. An interaction is any way a site visitor takes an action on the site, more than scrolling down a page.
Google encourages webmasters to write authentic content with the user experience in mind. Here are some signals Google looks for to identify quality content:
- Trustworthy information
- Written by an authority
- Site is encrypted in order to increase security of data transfer
- No or very few spelling, grammatical, stylistic, or factual errors
- Topics and articles useful to users
- Original, authentic content
- Each page has different but related to the primary purpose of site
- Content is well-written, not rushed
- Complete or comprehensive description of the topic
- Eye-opening analysis or new information beyond the obvious information about the topic
- Limited number of ads
Google has repeatedly stated that optimizing images are important in terms of how quickly they load. Any images you use should be high quality and relevant to your keyword. Make sure you compress your images before uploading them to your site. Squoosh is an easy and free tool you can use to compress your images.
Alt image tags are also more important than some web developers realize. Alt text tags not only assist vision-impaired users, but it also gives search engines signals about your content. Read more: What School Marketers Need to Know About Website Accessibility
Google will continue to constantly update its algorithm. It’s pretty much impossible for a school marketer to keep track of all the latest SEO trends. So the most important thing to keep in mind is to optimize for the user experience.
Focus your time and energy on developing high-quality content that speaks directly to your target families. This is the foundation of any good SEO strategy. From there, use the SEO techniques listed above to refine and optimize your efforts.
If you need help with SEO for your school marketing efforts, consider SEO Coach for Private Schools. SEO Coach is a wonderful service that helps with building an SEO strategy, make SEO changes, learning the foundations of technical SEO, analyze what your competitors are doing, and track your SEO results. SEO Coach will help you get your site ranking on Google. I offer a do-it-yourself plan and a do-it-for-you plan. Learn more here: SEO Coach for Private Schools. Be sure to check it out because it can make a significant difference for your school marketing.