• Independent Schools
How Riverside Presbyterian Day School Earned a Page 1 Presence with a Killer SEO Strategy
Stephanie Griffin

93% of all online experiences begin in a search engine — so, you can say that most prospective families and students will discover your school online using Google. However, Google can be one of the trickiest places to be found because of Google's algorithms. In general, Google's algorithms work by tracking the total number of web pages that contain the specific keywords in a search, then rank those pages based on dozens of factors — like relevance, title tags, keywords, content, load times...the list goes on and on.

RPDS_Homepage and SEO

Typically, the most relevant and trustworthy pages based on the keywords used in search will be ranked higher. But there can be some difficulty gaining and maintaining a page one presence if you don't keep your school site up to date to perform well in the ever-changing Google machine. Because 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results, it is so important to understand how your school site can rank well overall to have even a chance to be seen.

Will Gay, Director of Communications & Marketing at Riverside Presbyterian Day School — which is the oldest independent school in Jacksonville, Florida by the way — realized the school wasn't showing up as high as it should have been in many search engines. After adapting to his new role with the school, it was time for a change, so he reached out to the Finalsite experts to start a fresh, new SEO campaign.

Started from the bottom...now they're here

Okay so that may be a lyric from one of my favorite songs, but it's totally applicable here, too. Literally, before beginning a new SEO campaign with Finalsite, RPDS was ranking so low on Google (in fact – they weren't being found until almost the 6th page on most sites) that it was difficult for anyone to discover them online. After consulting with the Finalsite team in 2015, Will was ready to start seeing what a new SEO campaign could do to improve their rankings. It was time to dig deeper into some of the most important strategies to consider to improve the school's search rankings overall.

We all can agree that having a good SEO strategy is key if you want your site to perform well in search. One of the many factors of SEO that help sites improve their rankings is having a good keyword research strategy. Though a basic level of SEO was a good start for Will, there was so much more to be done to help RPDS' site as a whole. It was important to find out what keywords were relevant for the school's website content, if searches were bringing individuals to the right pages on the school site, and what could improve the overall goals of the marketing/communications and admission departments.

To improve their rankings on search engines, Will did not hesitate to meet with his Finalsite consultant to determine the best keywords and context for building landing pages from the ground up to be SEO friendly. With the knowledge of the Finalsite experts, Will started using the right keywords associated with the school, it's website, and it's landing pages to drive traffic and engagement.

This project had a monumental impact on the school's marketing. "After setting up the "Step Up For Students" page, we noticed many new demographics were visiting the page, allowing us to target a brand new audience full of prospects," said Will. "It's been a valuable experience being able to learn what works best for SEO on these pages from the Finalsite team."

RPDS Step Up For Students Page

Two years later, Will is still noticing some true ROI based on website traffic and conversions with Admissions. "Since implementing the SEO campaigns with Finalsite, we've had 21 visitors complete a form on our website requesting more information," said Will. "On these forms, we ask how the person heard about us and these 21 visitors noted through a search online. This is becoming just as popular as friend and family referrals."

In addition to the great results, one of the advantages he found by handing off the SEO campaigns to Finalsite was the amount of time saved on his part, especially being a one-person department. "After turning to Finalsite for a fresh perspective for handling SEO campaigns, I was truly impressed," said Will. "With the Finalsite experts taking care of everything to keep these SEO campaigns improving month over month, it's been saving me time to focus on the other marketing and communication goals as a one-person department."

SEO for Schools: What's in Store in 2017 Webinar Download

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Continuing to improve their SEO performance overtime

RPDS's SEO strategy continues to improve to ensure it is still showing results — including this last quarter. Through their quarterly tracker report, they can see which keywords are bringing traffic back to its website. There's also opportunity to move up to the #1 spot for those keywords if they weren't already.

Impressively, afterschool sports program jacksonville fl jumped 7 spots to number 1, as well as jacksonville fl independent primary school jumped 6 spots to number 1. It has allowed Will and other faculty and staff at RPDS to understand how visitors are discovering the school online through what they are searching for (whether it's an independent school in the area or one that offers after-school sport programs).

RPDS Rankings

Being the one-person department he is, Will has been grateful of the work Finalsite has been able to do to make his life easier and help expand the school's awareness and brand online through search engines. He also repeatedly mentioned that admissions is frequently hearing from new parents that they found RPDS in search, not word of mouth. "If just one new student is here because of that, your work is more than worth the investment," he said.

Some additional notables to share:

  • 21 keywords ranking in the top 3 spots in search engine results pages (most valuable positions)

RPDS Google Rankings

  • Ranking keywords (in google's top 100) over the last year has increased, meaning more visibility for the school

RPDS Rankings Overtime

Is it time to be right in front of your audience when they are searching for a new school? Or are you interested in looking to increase your school's overall SEO performance? Let us know!

Beginner's Search Engine Optimization Worksheet


Stephanie Griffin

Stephanie brings a fresh new marketing perspective with her background in social media, communications, and radio broadcasting. She is a co-producer for the FinalsiteFM podcast network and is passionate about helping schools stay ahead of their marketing goals by tracking new trends and developments. She is also a practicing singer/songwriter and loves to expand her creativity in DIY projects.

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