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An International School’s Guide for Global SEO Rankings
Connor Gleason

For many international schools, and boarding schools in particular, attracting audiences from around the world is a critical part of their enrollment strategy, and whether they're trying to be found by the family down the street or the family across the ocean, search engine optimization (SEO) is how prospective families and students will discover them.

However, hosting regulations, government policies, IP addresses, search algorithms, and more can be challenging when trying to get your school’s website in front of an audience halfway across the globe.

But when your mission is to educate the world’s students, the opportunities you provide know no boundaries, and your impact has no limits, right? Let’s take a look at global SEO strategies and how your international school can start connecting with a larger, global audience.

Understanding Global SEO for Private Schools

When your school ranks well in global searches, it means more people around the world can find you. This is great for getting more applications from students from different countries, and it also helps make your school known as a top choice worldwide. Plus, a good global ranking can give your school more respect and recognition.

Local SEO vs. Global SEO: What's the Difference?

Local SEO is about reaching people in your specific area. For instance, if your school is in Paris, local SEO strategies help families in or near Paris find your school online — and that’s at the core of Google’s search platform. If you type “pizza,” the algorithm assumes you’re searching for pizza within your vicinity, and 99.9% percent of the time, that’s what users want, and it works.

But with global SEO, you're playing a bigger game. You're trying to reach people from many different countries and cultures. This means your school’s website needs to be easy to find and understand for everyone, no matter where they are.

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Location Targeting and Its Impact

When search engines like Google provide search results, they often consider the user's location to deliver relevant content. This is known as location targeting or geo-targeting. Your IP address, a label assigned to a device connected to a computer network for communication, plays a role in how your search term is viewed and how your web pages are accessed by people from different parts of the world.

If your school's website has an IP address in a specific country, search engines might assume it's more relevant to users in that country. For a boarding school aiming at a global audience, geo-targeting can be less helpful.

SEO for Schools: Workarounds & Strategies for a Global Reach

While search engines might initially assume local relevance based on your IP address, using these strategies can be a ranking factor and improve your school's visibility to a global audience.

Use of a Content Delivery Network (CDN): A CDN can distribute your content globally through a network of servers. This can help mitigate the impact of your website being associated with a single location.

Top-Level Domains: Using a generic top-level domain (TLD) like .com, .org, or .edu, as opposed to a country-specific TLD (like, .ca, etc.), can also signal a more international focus. However, there are a few methods to ensure a site ranks in organic search results in more than one country:

  • Create a separate site for each country using country-specific top-level domains (e.g., .de, .uk, .in), but registering all local TLDs might not be practical, given the cost, restrictions, and availability.
  • Use a subdomain for each country (e.g., This is also tricky because setting up subdomains requires a lot of time and resources, such as building links to each subdomain.
  • Set up a subdirectory for each country (e.g., Creating directories for each country is often the best approach because the single domain receives all the authority. 

Multilingual SEO: Implementing multilingual SEO strategies, including having your website available in multiple languages and using hreflang tags (HTML that tells search engines what language your content is written in), indicates to search engines that your content is designed for a diverse, global audience.

Quality Links: Backlinks from well-known and respected websites, especially those relevant to education or your school's qualities, are essential. Try to get links from local sites, journalists, and authoritative sites.

Content for Global Audiences: Creating country-specific pages or sections within your website can help target different regions without being confined to one. 

Composer personalization screenshot

Finalsite’s Personalization module taps into a user’s IP address and can display content relevant to that specific demographic or respective country, both in language and in content relevance. For example, if someone from Korea is accessing your site, you can show text in Korean and images of Korean students engaging at the school.

Target Keywords for a Global Audience

For international and boarding schools aiming to attract a global audience, it's important to optimize your website and choose relevant, highly searched keywords that students and families around the world might use. Think about the search queries that describe your school, its location, and the unique programs you offer.

If your school specializes in science and technology and is located in Canada, keywords to target markets could be "science boarding school in Canada" or "international tech high school in Canada."

TASIS american School google results

Kudos to The American School in England for appearing first on the search engine results page (SERP) and as a featured snippet, thanks to its SEO and keyword strategy.

Keep Reading: Best Global School Websites: UK and International Schools

The Importance of Multilingual Content and Cultural Sensitivity

Having your website in multiple languages is a big plus. If your school has a lot of families from certain countries, make sure your website is available in those languages. (Your prospective families will thank you.)

Canadian Academy Homepage

If many of your students come from Japan, your website should not only have Japanese translations but also include content relevant and respectful to Japanese culture. Take a peek at Canadian Academy in Japan, a school that beautifully incorporates its rich culture and history into its modern web design.

Creating Effective Digital Ads

You’ll need to consider paid digital advertising to break through the noise and target specific audiences around the world. This can be ads on search engines like Google, on social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram, or other social media channels and websites.

Targeting Ads to Different Countries and Cultural Groups

These ads are a powerful tool because when you pay for them, you can show them to people in specific countries or even certain areas within a country. That allows you to focus on places students might be interested in your school or break into specific regions.

Platforms like Google Ads allow you to place ads to target specific regions and countries to better connect to a relevant audience.

Google Ad location

Also, think about cultural differences. The words and images you use in your ads are very important. Facebook’s multi-language advertising feed feature is designed to help schools set up Facebook ads in multiple languages to reach targeted audiences in their native languages and cultural contexts.

Facebook ad language select

What appeals to a family in Brazil might differ from what appeals to a family in France. So, tailor your ads to fit different cultures.

For example, if you are targeting students in Italy, your ad could highlight how easy it is to travel from Italy to your school or talk about any Italian-speaking staff or programs, just like the New School Rome did.

New School Rome ads

Improving Your School's Online Visibility

Making your school stand out on the Internet as a top choice also involves creating an outstanding digital presence that attracts families worldwide.

Keep Reading: Helping Your International School Shine on the World Stage

For instance, to showcase your school’s world-renowned art program, you could have a blog post, a landing page with recent student art projects, or successful profiles of alumni in the arts, just like the International School Bangkok (ISB).

ISB Alum stories page

If a popular education magazine online writes about your school's innovative science program and includes a link to your website, this not only brings more people to your site but also tells search engines that your site is important and trustworthy.

telegraph boarding school screenshot

Strategies for Using Social Media to Boost Global Visibility

Don’t forget about social media’s global reach — this platform is an excellent way to connect with families and students worldwide.

youtube keyword results

Regularly posting updates, events, and stories about your school on platforms like Instagram, X, and especially on YouTube, like Canadian International School does, can help you reach a wider audience and start ranking for relevant SEO keywords and phrases.

Make sure to engage with your followers by responding to comments and messages. You can also use hashtags related to boarding schools or international education to help people find your posts. For example, if you post a photo of a school event on Instagram, use hashtags like #BoardingSchoolLife or #GlobalEducation. This way, someone searching for these hashtags might discover your school.

Key Takeaways

Improving your school's global online visibility takes a mix of global SEO strategies, targeted digital ads, and quality content that transcends borders. Show the world what makes your school worth the journey and welcome students from around the globe.

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Connor Gleason Headshot


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.

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