"Hey...Why doesn't our school show up on Google?"
Being first in local search results is something all school professionals want to completely understand because it's the key to organic search success. But all those algorithms, acronyms, abbreviations, bots, and everything else that goes into a search make it easy to get lost quickly.
How can I improve our ranking? What is affecting my school? How can I fix what's not working? Where should we even start?
The good news is that your school can improve its performance in local search by implementing various strategies that focus on optimizing its online presence. This will help you rank higher in search engine results and become more visible to prospective students and their families.
So, what can you do about your school's local search performance? Here are some tips for schools to improve their local search performance rankings!
Optimizing Your School's Online Presence
- Optimize website content: Ensure that your school's website is well-structured, easy to navigate, and contains relevant keywords related to the school, its programs, and the local area. This will make it easier for search engines to understand the content and rank it higher.
- Create or maintain a Google My Business (GMB) listing: A GMB listing can help your school appear in local search results and Google Maps. Make sure to fill out all the relevant information, including your school's address, phone number, website, hours of operation, and photos.
- Build local citations: Ensure that your school's name, address, and phone number (NAP) are consistently listed on other reputable websites, such as local directories, review sites, and social media platforms. Consistency can improve your school's local search ranking.
- Encourage reviews: Positive online reviews can boost your school's reputation and help with local search performance, too. Ask parents, students, and alumni to leave reviews on your Google My Business listing, as well as on other review platforms like Yelp or Facebook.
- Create local-focused content: Publish blog posts, articles, and news updates that are relevant to your local community. This can help attract local interest and improve your school's visibility in local search results.
- Utilize social media: Maintain active social media profiles on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Share school news, events, and updates to engage with the local community and improve your online presence.
- Optimize for mobile: Ensure that your school's website is mobile-friendly, as many local searches are performed on mobile devices. A responsive website design can help improve user experience and boost search engine rankings.
This isn't a quick, fool-proof solution, unfortunately — but there are other tips to boost your school's local search results.
Confirm your school's NAP is accurate
Here's one little piece of the equation: NAP / NAP+W (Name Address Phone + Website). This is the "thumbprint" of a business — or in your case, school — online.
Local search engines use NAP information to judge the accuracy of the data in their own indexes. An accurate and consistent NAP is an important part of Google's local search, and it's found by crawling your website and editing your Google Business profile. Consistent NAP information is essential to improve local search results for your school.
Tell your audience who you are with text, not just images
Consistent data on your website, in search — and just about anywhere else your share information about your school — ensures that your school is determined as a "real" entity by the Google bots, and not a scam.
So how can you be sure your NAP data is consistent on your website and in searches? Your solution can be summed up in a few words: Use more text.
Adding paragraphs upon paragraphs of text to your school's website isn't going to help your search engine ranking or your NAP. However, adding the right amount of text in the right locations does.
The content of the text on the home page is weighted the most when determining what searches a site would be a good result for.
So for example, if someone does a search for "all-girls school in Atlanta," and nowhere on your website says that you're an all-girls school in Atlanta, that is certainly going to hurt you.
From a user experience perspective, it can be pretty frustrating to not be able to figure out where the school is located, what grade range it is, or what kind of school it is from the homepage. And while it is frustrating for your users to go digging to find those exact details, it is frustrating for bots, too — and that hurts you.
Every school homepage should have a line of text (not an image that has text!) that reads something like this Holton-Arms School's header:
Find a way to describe your school using text only.
Even if it is just once, find a way to discuss what your school does, who you are, and what you represent. Your goal is to say "This is the kind of school we are."
As you can see, the text on Trinity Preparatory School's homepage doesn't ever detract from the design — it simply becomes a part of it, enhancing the look, feel, UX, and performance.
Use text to craft a detailed footer.
Your footer was never really meant to be a place to get too creative. By nature, it is where most users scroll to get basic information about your school.
Your school's website footer should include the following in text:
- Your school's full, official name
- Your address
- Phone number
- A brief description of your school, if not noted in the header or elsewhere on your site
Here's an example from Loomis Chaffee — a footer that looks great, even though it's all text:
Being found in local search results is not a matter of luck, but a result of deliberate and consistent effort in building a strong local search performance. Investing time and resources in optimizing your online presence ensures that when people are searching for schools in your area, your school stands out as a top choice.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.