What is SEO in School Marketing?

If you’ve researched how to increase traffic to your website, you’ve probably seen references to “improving SEO” on your site. But what is SEO exactly?

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to the activities needed to increase the visibility of a website so that it’s easier for people to find your school when using the search engine search bar. Common search engines include Google, Bing, Yahoo! and DuckDuckGo, although there are others. Google is by far the most popular search engine; over 91 percent of search queries are conducted on Google. Search engines gather and index content from all over the internet and store the information in their catalog. The way search engines catalog data is very similar to the index at the end of a book that tells you where everything is located in the book.

What is a SERP?

Another term you need to understand when working with SEO is SERP. SERP refers to Search Engine Results Page. The SERP is the page the search engine returns when someone asks it a question. Getting your content ranked high on the first page of the SERP is highly desirable because people are more likely to click on the results near the top of the first SERP. As a matter of fact, 91.5 percent of Google traffic stays on the first page and the first three results (not including ads) receive a whopping 50-60 percent of clicks.

Anatomy of a SERP

There are 5 sections of a typical SERP. Here’s a quick review.

  1. Paid advertising

If you’re searching in Google, the first results you’ll see on the results page will be Google Ads. These are advertisements entities have paid for and will be shown based on the geographic location, keywords and other search criteria selected by the advertiser. According to research published in January 2022 by FirstPageSage, only 6.3 percent of clicks go to paid ads.

  1. Map pack

The map pack, also known as the local pack, are the top three businesses shown after ads on the SERP next to a map with “pins” to the local businesses listed. The map pack is shown when the searcher is looking for local businesses. Usually, an ad is shown at the top of the map pack, corresponding to the first ad at the top of the SERP.

The map pack is a very coveted position because it is in the #1 position of 93 percent of Google searches.

  1. Special Content Resource Blocks

Google’s SERPs have evolved over the past few years. Some SEO experts are frustrated with these special content blocks because they do tend to push organic search results down the page further. But Google has always been about doing what’s best for searchers, and that’s what these special content resource blocks are all about.

There are 4 types of special content resource blocks – Rich Answers (formerly known as Instant Answers or Quick Answers), Knowledge Graph, Rich Snippet, and Featured Snippet.

  • Rich Answer

A Rich Answer is when Google offers a quick, accurate answer to a search query without requiring them to click through to a website. These are usually direct, objective answers to simple questions, like an answer to a math problem, sports scores, stock graphs, text-based answers, step-by-step directions, etc.

  • Knowledge Graph

The next section sometimes shown on a SERP is known as a Knowledge Graph. The Knowledge Graph doesn’t link to a certain website but shows an aggregation of information collected by the search engine based on what it thinks the searcher wants to know. Usually, the results will be displayed as a list of image boxes with a caption splashed across the page. If you click on one of the image boxes you will be shown a link to a page about that topic.

For example, if you type “disneyland rides” into the search bar, images boxes will be shown across the page, such as Splash Mountain, It’s a Small World, Matterhorn Bobsleds, etc. If you click on one of the boxes, a link to the Disney World website page featuring that ride will come up.

  • Rich Snippet

Just so you know, a rich snippet is not related to a Featured Snippet. A Rich Snippet enhances an organic search result for a product by showing the website link, rating stars, product availability and pricing information.

  • Featured Snippet

A Featured Snippet (also called an Answer Box) is different from the other types of Special Content Resource Blocks because it pulls information from one of the organic search result sites on the first page and then gives credit to that site in the form of a link.

One thing that stands out about a Featured Snippet is that the descriptive snippet of information is shown before the link, which is the reverse of most organic search results.

Featured Snippets are shown for certain queries, including who, what, where, when, why and how queries. They are shown in different formats, including:

  • Definition (paragraphs)
  • Ordered list (presented in a numbered order)
  • Unordered list (list presented in no particular order)
  • Bulleted list
  • Steps list (Step #1, Step #2, Step #3, etc.)
  • Tables

While all of the Special Content Resource Blocks are powerful but the Featured Snippet offers greater visibility to searchers and can boost brand recognition of your school.

  1. People also ask

 Usually before the organic results are displayed, there will be a section called “People also ask”. These are questions Google thinks are related to the original search query. 

  1. Organic results

Typically, Google will show 10 organic results on a SERP. Since people tend to ignore paid ads and glance down to the results under the map pack or knowledge graph, these results are critical. “Organic” in this context simply means “not paid”. So organic results are results pulled from Google’s catalog that the website owner didn’t have to pay for.

Organic results are listings on the SERP based on the relevance of the content to the user’s search query, domain authority, backlinks and other organic ranking factors.

The top three organic results receive over 70 percent of all clicks. The first result receives 35-40 percent, the second result between 15-20 percent and the third position around 10 percent. That’s why it’s so important to make sure your website shows up first in Google results.

How does Google determine what results should be ranked on the first page? Google uses over 200 factors to determine what’s relevant in their algorithm, which is beyond the scope of this article. However, if we can focus on a few of these we will have a fighting chance to be seen in the search results.

The biggest factor is relevancy. This is why it’s important to use keywords or keyword phrases that are exactly what the searcher is looking for when searching for your content.

In addition to relevance, make sure your site is easy to use. This is called the “user experience” when talking SEO. To illustrate this concept, think about a time you did a search and ended up on a page you thought had the answer you were looking for but you had a hard time finding it on the page. Did you stay on the page or click away? Most people will click back and go look for a different answer. So make sure your site is useful and you’ve arranged the answers or topic in a meaningful way that’s easy for readers to find what they’re looking for.

There are two main ways you can work on SEO on your website. These are called on-page SEO and off-page SEO.

  • On-page SEO

On-page SEO is simply telling Google and the reader you have everything they’re looking for, which mostly comes down to using the right keywords on your page. On-page SEO is easier to do because most of the changes needed are within your control. For example, you want to make sure the right keywords are in the title, in a few of the headings, in the body and in the image descriptions. You also want to make sure the content contains supporting keywords related to your topic.

Read more: 7 Ways to Get Your School Blog Ranked High in Google

  • Off-page SEO

Off-page SEO simply means you’re making sure other websites are linking back to you. These are called backlinks. Off-page SEO is a little bit more out of your control because you’re relying on other people to believe your site is worthy of a link. If you’re writing great content and networking then it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Search engine optimization does take time and sometimes it can be a little frustrating when you’re not seeing results as quickly as you would like. But if done properly, the results from your SEO efforts can last months or even years.

Do you need help with your school SEO? Do you want more inquiries for your school? The place to start is with a FREE SEO Audit. From there, you may want to consider getting help with your SEO. We offer Do-It-Yourself as well as Do-It-For-You SEO services. In today’s online world, SEO is a critical component of school marketing. Let us help you boost your Google ranking and gain more inquiries.

Check it out: SEO Coach – Get to the top of Google!

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