SEO for Schools: Can You Afford Not to Rank?

Overview


If you’re a school administrator, you know how difficult it is to get parents and students to visit your website. You work tirelessly to create content that’ll attract them and employ different marketing strategies for schools, but the results are lackluster at best.

The problem isn’t just that they aren’t visiting – it’s also that Google doesn’t rank your site highly enough for prospective families to find it in search results. This means they have no idea what a great place your school is! And if they don’t know about you, then there’s no way for them to choose you over other schools in the area. It’s time for something new – SEO for schools !

In this case study, we’ll share how an international school in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) with 11 branches in 4 cities used search engine optimization (SEO) to rise to the top of search results. We’ll also share with you exactly how they did it with our help.

Keep reading!

SEO for Schools

Where It Started

Minimal Visibility on All Fronts

When we initially worked with the client in October 2019, their website was only ranking for branded keywords in the late 6-10 pages of the SERPs. Plus, it had no presence on the first pages of Google search results for relevant keywords. In fact, they were only ranking for 138 organic keywords.

There was also a major issue of not appearing on Google Maps. As you can see, the client’s visibility was very minimal across all fronts. After some analysis, it became clear that technical issues weren’t allowing for optimal visibility and SEO rankings, ranging from 404 errors on pages and broken links to subpar internal links.
With that being the case, the client didn’t stand a chance against schools with stronger SEO implementation and optimization at the time. Yet, the school’s goal was to increase exposure so that more students would apply for admission to their branches. The way to achieve that was to rank on the first page of the SERPs for non-branded keywords related to schools.
So, we began assessing their existing strategies and competition to come up with an action plan that could help them rise above the noise.

The Challenges

Extreme Competition; Getting on the First Page

The client also faced a number of challenges that we needed to take into account. For starters, the market they were operating in was very competitive and crowded with schools. Actually, a few schools had already taken over the top positions on search results for popular keywords.

And given that the client’s website didn’t have any local relevance in their keywords, nor were they targeting keywords with high commercial intent, it was going to be difficult for them to achieve visibility, especially on the first page.

Their potential target audience would have to be very familiar with the client’s brand name for them to appear on the first page, and even that wasn’t happening.

Therefore, we knew we had to develop a multi-pronged approach and do some serious work for the client to stay ahead of its competition.

The Solution

Building a Strategy for Success

Here’s the plan we put in place and executed for the client to make sure they’d get above their competition.

Website Enhancement and Cleaning Up Technical Issues

First, we addressed the technical issues plaguing the client’s website. Plus, we worked on generally enhancing it to make it more attractive and professional. We upgraded their site to ensure that it was mobile-friendly, easy to navigate, and technically sound across different devices.

The purpose was to make the site more easily indexable and crawlable by Google and help the client’s SEO strategy. By enhancing the website’s design and layout, we also made it more appealing to prospective families and fixed any aspects that might’ve been negatively affecting the user experience.

SEO Campaign: Ramping Up Rankings

Now that the website was in tiptop shape, we built an SEO campaign that’d effectively push the client’s website to the top of search results. Here’s how we made it happen.

Technical SEO

Technical SEO is a crucial element in any SEO strategy, entailing the necessary optimizations to make the website accessible, fast to load, and error-free so that it’s appealing to search engines. That’s precisely what we ensured for our client.

We conducted a full technical analysis and audited the website before starting any campaigns. Then, we fixed all errors such as broken links, 404 errors, and other technical roadblocks that could keep the client from climbing up in SERPs.

For instance, we worked on increasing site speed by fine-tuning factors such as page caching, optimizing images, minimizing redirects, and similar. We also implemented a proper XML sitemap to help search engines find pages and resources on the client’s website faster.

The bottom line is that we fixed all factors hindering crawling and indexing by search engines to eliminate the risk of rankings dropping due to bad user experience.

Keyword Research

Now, since the client wanted to target specific keywords, we had to figure out which keywords were worth their time. The goal was to understand what’s popular in school-related searches to craft an SEO strategy that’d help the client achieve top rankings, even for competitive terms.

So, we conducted a thorough keyword research process to determine which keywords would be most effective for our client’s business.

To do so, we first had to figure out what the competition was doing and study the popular ranking web pages so that we’d know how to take advantage of their strategy. We then examined the search behavior on Google concerning searches related to our client’s business to determine which keywords were the most common.

In doing so, we ended up with a list of keywords that we were going to target. We also combined them with more general keywords to make sure that we’d rank highly for all of them to establish a strong brand presence.

Competitor Analysis

To further enhance our strategy, we analyzed our client’s competitors to figure out their strengths and how they were standing out in terms of search rankings. We also analyzed the user experience on competitor websites and how it stacked against our client’s website.

By studying their campaigns, keywords, content structure, and other aspects of their SEO strategy, we were able to establish a thorough competitor analysis that’d help us find out what our client needed to do to stay ahead of them.

This allowed us to find out where our client could improve so that they would rank higher than their competitors and provide a better experience for visitors. Eventually, this would result in gaining more loyal customers.

On-Page Optimization

Once we had all our data in place, it was time to start crafting an on-page optimization campaign that’d produce top rankings for the client’s specific keywords.

This included all the necessary steps such as creating optimized page titles, title tags, and meta descriptions, using header tags, crafting high-quality content, embedding images, building links, and setting up various elements correctly so that users would find the website more easily.

These elements are crucial to making a website as SEO-friendly as possible, as they provide the foundation for building the right user experience. In fact, they give search engines important information about what a page is about and how it should be ranked in SERPs. So, we made sure to use them correctly and to their fullest potential.

That way, we could enhance the chances of all pages ranking higher in search results. All this took place while following Google’s latest best practices for SEO so that the strategy would be as effective as possible.

Content Marketing / Blog Posts

Of course, we didn’t stop there. With the list of relevant keywords compiled, we shifted our focus to creating an engaging inbound marketing strategy around those keywords that’d drive prospective families (or any prospective student) to the client’s site.

We wanted people to find their website organically through targeted keywords, which is why we prioritized producing blog posts that were informative and easy to understand.

The purpose was to provide high-quality information instead of just focusing on SEO keywords too. We advised the client to write about topics that people would actually be interested in, making sure they’d trust our content, which is crucial for user experience.

Since content marketing is one of the most influential aspects of SEO, these blog posts would continue to send traffic to the client’s website over time. That way, the client would be able to keep building their brand awareness and nurture their website’s authority in relevant keyword searches.

Therefore, to establish a strong online presence, we ensured that the client would produce content that’s optimized for both readers and search engines alike. By doing that, they’d be able to sustain their brand awareness. Simultaneously, they’d be establishing themselves as an authority in their industry.

Off-Page Optimization / Link Building

Next, we went forward with a series of link-building initiatives to increase the website’s authority and boost its rankings. We had one goal in mind: generating quality backlinks from reputable sources.

This would help us get on the radar of Google and other search engines while simultaneously improving the client’s visibility. To do that, we created a list of websites with high authority, audiences, and domain names that would be a perfect match for our client’s website.

From there, we designed a creative approach with our client so that each link from the list would have maximum impact on their web presence. For example, we sent emails to several education websites to share our client’s blog pieces.

We also socialized them on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms to make sure the content would resonate with a wider range of audiences. And, of course, we followed Google’s guidelines on what constitutes better backlinks.

The right content, timing, and outreach efforts allowed us to build targeted backlinks from authority websites. Overall, this helped the client increase their domain authority and their page’s ranking power.

Local SEO (Google My Business/Google Business Profile)

For this particular client, local SEO played a crucial role in their website’s success. They knew that to be successful with online marketing, they’d need to ensure that their local audience easily found their website and brand. Our goal was to provide the same level of optimization and success in local SEO as we produced in our other initiatives.

With this in mind, we decided it was best to set up a Google My Business profile for them. We wanted to make sure that all the necessary information was provided so that users looking for the company could find their website organically.

Having a Google Business profile, plus all the right citations (like their name, address, informative business description, website link, and phone number), helped our client get indexed quickly and listed on Google Maps.

With this approach, we helped them become more visible online. At the same time, we created an easy way for people to connect with them. As a result, our client started getting quality leads from potential customers who were located close to them when doing searches in their city or neighborhood.

Monthly Reports With KPIs

To keep our client informed about the performance of our optimizations, we created monthly reports for particular KPIs. These included all the necessary data and KPIs (like total site visits, total leads generated, organic search traffic, and conversions).

These reports allowed us to track the success of each optimization initiative, ​​helping us identify what works best for their website so we can further fine-tune our approach during the next month.

We used this approach to ensure that we constantly deliver useful and actionable insights about their web presence and keep them up-to-date on our progress. On top of that, we made sure these reports were easy to digest with simple language and visuals so that they’d be able to understand the data at a glance.

Every month, we helped our client allocate funds where they were needed most. This allowed them to increase visibility and turn site visits into sales for their business.

Two Years Later

SEO Success!
By implementing the strategies described above, we achieved outstanding results for our client. Here are some key outcomes regarding the state of their site before and after our work.

Traffic/Clicks

Now, two years later, the school’s web presence and visibility have tremendously improved. The number of total impressions and clicks increased by a staggering and signaling, that the website became more successful at getting noticed by users. That was also reflected by the CTR, which grew to 3.5%!

Organic trafficAs for organic traffic, it easily became clear that this client’s investment in SEO was paying off big time! It has increased by 1000%, This meant that more people were finding the site organically, leading to better engagement rates and conversions.

And ultimately, this led to more students enrolling in the school, which is what the client wanted all along!

Visibility Score and Target Keyword Rankings

VisibilityBecause we worked on our client’s website using a data-driven approach, we optimized their site for keywords that actually mattered. And as you can see, the number of organic keywords in the first 100 pages of the SERPs increased from 138 to 2,000.

This means that not only did we drive relevant traffic with the most efficient keywords, but we also created an entirely new set of organic keywords that the client had never before targeted.

This, in turn, translated into more potential students and parents finding the website. After all, the more organic keywords you rank for, the more people can find your site!

Backlinks Portfolio

BacklinksBuilding backlinks to the school’s website also significantly contributed to its success, with virtually every link resulting in an increase in their organic visibility.

During our SEO campaign, the client’s website became more credible because of the increased number of backlinks. This, in turn, helped it rise on the SERPs on Google for numerous keywords that mattered most.

In numbers, the portfolio of backlinks went from 1,200 to 14,100. That’s a staggering 1,175% increase in just over two years. That’s especially significant given that backlinks are considered one of the most important metrics when ranking websites on Google’s SERPs.

Website Authority

Website AuthorityNext, another metric we couldn’t stop tracking for our client was their website’s authority. Google calculates a site’s ‘authority’ by looking at many different factors that affect its position on SERPs. These include the number of backlinks, the age of the domain, the authority of the linking pages, and the quality and frequency of the website’s content.

And of course, the higher the website’s authority, the more people can find it organically. We successfully achieved the goal of boosting our client’s authority score, raising it to 41. This is a clear indicator that the site improved in the overall ranking for numerous keywords and became more relevant in Google’s eyes.

Local SEO in the Biggest 4 Cities (Riyadh– Dammam – Dhahran- Jeddah)

When it came to local SEO, among the most important cities the client was targeting were Riyadh, Dammam, Dhahran, and Jeddah. And that’s where we were able to achieve some of our greatest results – local visibility!

Before implementing our SEO strategy, the school’s website only ranked for branded keywords relating to the school. But after our optimizations and the fact that we created a solid content strategy that built dozens of unique pages with quality content, that was no longer the case.

The site started to rank for numerous keywords related to education and schooling at large, especially when associated with the names of the cities.

And as a result, the school’s website became visible to more people throughout Saudi Arabia looking for schools in their cities.

Arabic SEO

Lastly, we were able to optimize the school’s website for Arabic keywords, given that the school was based in Saudi Arabia, which has Arabic as a mother tongue.

Accordingly, we targeted Arabic speakers who use the language in their local searches. Therefore, we carefully choose keywords that would appeal to Arabic speaking parents and students looking for international schools in their region.

Our optimization efforts were effective because today, the school ranks on the first pages of the SERPs for numerous Arabic keywords related to education and schools across the country!

Key Takeaways: How Is SEO Important for International and Private Schools?

By optimizing their website through each of the strategies we mentioned above, our client was able to get more out of their digital marketing efforts. Not only did the percentage of organic traffic increase significantly, but the school also became more visible for local SEO.

And finally, because of our optimization efforts which included both English and Arabic keywords, parents and students could now find the school organically even though it was an international school. That’s why ranking high on Google is so important for schools because that’s where most of their prospective families and students search for and find them. It’s basically school marketing!

As you see, SEO for schools is essential because that’s how they become visible to students and their families, especially in specific cities. Schools need to rank on Google for the most relevant keywords to them, be it local SEO or international keywords. Without that visibility, parents and students simply won’t find them.

Today, our client is a step closer to achieving their goals and attracting the best students to their school. Thanks to our SEO efforts and education digital marketing strategies, they’re now one of the top schools in Saudi Arabia that international parents from across the world recommend for children! And that’s why we can say with confidence that investing time and resources into SEO is always worth it!

Here’s what the client had to say about the outcome and experience:

Client Satisfaction

“We have started with them in October 2019 with the 58th SERP with branded search keywords now we are in 1st SERP with 90+ non-branded keywords.”

Read the full review here.

So, if you own an international or private school, don’t waste another day without ranking on Google, where more than 90% of your prospective families and students will look for you.

Start Your Journey Today!

You can improve your school’s branding with SEO for education purposes, and we're here to help.

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Reem Abouemera

Reem is a lifelong learner with a passion that never fails her: writing! Fused with a BBA in marketing, crafting compelling content that fulfills both business owners and customers is the blend she uniquely implements on a daily basis. Being a literal perfectionist, Reem capitalizes on this quality through research, empowering her to meticulously grasp topics and transform that apprehension into unique and engaging content, driving laser-targeted website traffic.

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