When it comes to search engine performance, landing on Google's page 1 might be all your [choose one: Board Member/Head of School/Admissions Director] cares about, but *we* know better, right? We know that's not the whole story, because when someone googles "private schools in boston," the next thing she has to do is decide which of the results to click on.
How can you do more to ensure that your result - whether it's in the #1 spot or even down in the 4th or 5th position - is the one that the searcher chooses to visit? It all starts with the meta tags you put on your home page and other pages that contain frequently-searched content (ALSO: you're safe assuming that two of these are tuition and employment).
1. Home Page Title Tag
Consider the two search results below. Each has a headline pulled directly from the home page's title tag - in theory each school got to write its own search result headline. Now, both are too long, but that's partly because Google recently changed its headline font size - you now have about 55 characters to work with before the dreaded "..." makes an appearance.
Now, if you had done a search for "all girls schools in philadelphia," which of these headlines would catch your attention? Think about the search terms (and searcher intent) that correspond to visitors of high value, and write titles for your home page and other key entry points from search (were you paying attention above?). Is the school name important to include? In some cases, yes. There are others in which I can make the case that the answer is no.
Free SEO Worksheet
2. Meta Description
Unlike the title tag (which is displayed in the top of the browser window), a page's meta description tag is never visible to someone while he is on your site. The only time a human gets to see this text is when a search engine uses it for the body of your search result - that's the two lines of smaller text in the results shown above. What's more, Google is on record saying that they do not use the contents of this tag to influence how your page or site ranks for searches.
As a result, you have the freedom to write a description (of the page in question – authenticity is important even here!) geared toward compelling the search result page viewer to click on your result over others. What's going to matter the most – your location? Your grade range? Your religious affiliation? I hate to break it to you, but you're probably wasting precious real estate with language from your mission. The searcher is fact-minded at this point – get her to the website and then you can give the warm fuzzies about your school.
Look back at those two results above, and compare them to these:
I hope you notice a big difference between the description text when you compare these results to the first two we looked at above. Remember to keep it to 155 characters or you'll run out of room and get the "..."!
Bonus Tip: Meta Keyword
Stop. Just stop. No one looks at this tag and Google doesn't use it for ranking sites. Full stop.
So! Take control of the impression you make on searchers and attract more visits regardless of your Page 1 rank by writing compelling, right-sized home page title and meta description tags. Then move on to other search-worthy content like tuition and employment pages.