Is your independent school planning an in-person, virtual, or hybrid admissions event this fall? If so, it’s critical for your school’s event to be optimized on search engines. Many private school marketers know that SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a relatively large undertaking.
But did you know that you truly can take SEO one page at a time?
Start by querying your school’s name in conjunction with “visit”, “open house”, & “info session”. Add in variations if you have a more unique name like “prospective family night”. As you ‘Google’ and ‘Bing’ these terms, put yourself in the parent's shoes by assuming you know very little about the event you’re searching for. You want to ensure you can find the right event organically, and be encouraged, and able, to register, all while having a positive user experience. Use the checklist below for help and work with your web developer to make the necessary changes.
The SEO and User Experience checklist for schools to optimize event pages for search.
- First, notice where the event page shows up when you search. Most people won’t scroll past the first page of search results, so you want to appear here! If your page isn’t showing up in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) at all, make sure it's indexed. More on inspecting pages and indexing them with this search console resource.
- Do a quick scan to see if any outdated pages show up in the SERP, too. If so, redirect them to the right events page, or consider placing a 'noindex' tag on your page which tells search engines not to include the page in search results. There is nothing worse than seeing a search result for an event that's already past, versus the upcoming one!
- Now check the desired event page’s metadata. Is there a supporting page title within the recommended 60 characters or less and a meta description less than 160 characters? In addition to checking length, make sure title tags and descriptions are compelling and include the keywords you want to show up for.
- Once you click on the page, note if the page loads quickly or slowly on both mobile and desktop. According to Google research, 53% of mobile website visitors will leave if a webpage doesn't load within three seconds. You can also run this page speed tool and make the recommended changes that could be slowing you down. Images that are not compressed are usually a top culprit.
- Next, it’s time to read the website page’s content from the lens of a prospective parent. Does the event sound appealing and worth attending? Is it clear why this event is an important step in the admissions process? If not, finesse that on-page copy to ensure it’s optimized and compelling to drive traffic and conversions for the right families. We recommend optimizing headers as you rework content, too. More on header tags here.
- Consider an alternative call-to-action just in case a parent is interested in learning more about the school or even visiting, but can’t go to this particular event. For example, maybe a virtual tour, shadow day, or admissions chat is a more attractive event for that particular person. Highlight those opportunities right within your events page so you capitalize on that person's general interest. If you don't have another event, provide an option on the form to simply learn more about the school in general, or learn about future admissions events even if the event logistics are still in the works. The point is, don't lose that lead due to a scheduling conflict!
- Optimize the registration form by first testing to make sure it functions properly on mobile and tablet devices. As you fill it out, remember to act as if you're the prospective parent and take note if you're asking for too much information. As a general rule, you want to ask for just enough information to facilitate the next communication to them. Admissions teams love to have every data point possible for inquiries, (we, the marketers, do too!) but remember, it's important to get people to express interest in the event, first. You can always gather supplemental background and enrollment details from them later, once they're in your email database.
- Consider dynamic forms if your technology stack can accommodate. That’s a form that can pre-populate information it already has about the parent which saves them time. This way, a parent only has to fill out the registration details, versus their contact info, email, etc. if they’ve already inquired and are in your database from past visits.
- Lastly, Index the page within Google's search console (again!) to ensure google sees the latest and greatest on your newly optimized site, which will increase the chances of parents finding it. You can also index it on Bing and Yahoo, using Webmaster Tools.
Repeat this user experience checklist after the changes are made to ensure you've improved the relevant areas for a positive search and user experience. Once your event page is optimized, it's time to promote your event on your website.
How to promote your school’s admissions event within your website.
- Ensure the page is easily accessible from your website’s main menu, under “admission”, or “visit”. Strong information architecture (IA) helps both people and search engines recognize how your content is organized on your website so that crawlers and people can find the right content easily.
- If you have an internal site search feature on your website, you will want to query for the event there, to make sure the right event page shows up. Things like missing metadata, broken links and poor IA can negatively impact your internal search results. Curious what people are searching for on your website? Google Analytics tracks that!
- Call out your admissions events within a section of your homepage, with a call to action button like “Learn More” or “Join Us” leading to the specific event page. This is basically a shortcut, but should not replace the normal navigation to the website via the menu.
- Consider a pop-up on your website’s footer or sidebar to boost even more awareness about the event to those who’ve come to your website. If you have sophisticated CRM software (Customer Relationship Management) and CMS (Content Management System) you can even ensure those who have already registered do not see that pop-up reminder next time they come to your school's website. Remember, similar to homepage shortcuts, an event pop-up should never replace having an admissions event page live within your website's design permanently. That is key for solid SEO.
Once your website is in tip-top shape, the real fun begins - you can start driving even more traffic to the event pages through digital marketing.
Here are the most effective digital search tactics schools use to market an open house.
- Consider posting an event promotional video on your YouTube channel, the second largest search engine in the world. Make sure you have an optimized video title, description, and file name as well as subtitles and closed captioning.
- Run posts about the event right on Google My Business. These are essentially free advertisements that will appear below your GMB knowledge graph on the first page of the SERP. Use pictures or videos as part of the post, and link directly to the event page. Again, these posts are free exposure and a very effective source of registrations for schools.
- Always post about your events on social media channels including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn. These social media platforms are search engines in, and of, themselves and can encourage your current families, Alumni, and followers to share, which will increase awareness. Take it one step further and boost ads or launch a full social media advertising campaign to reach new audiences interested in private schools in your area, or retarget users who've been to your website, right on social media.
- Try Google Ads or Bing Ads to bring even more awareness to your events, by bidding on select keywords around your brand, school type, location, programs, and more. Search Ads are Pay Per Click (PPC), meaning the impressions are free, so you only pay when someone chooses to click. What’s more, is most people will see the ad on the SERP but choose to scroll further down and click on the free organic listing, which maximizes that free impression. Owning more of the SERP helps ensure you control what shows up for users and boosts your free organic traffic by doing so. That is is one of the reasons why PPC Ads are so popular across many industries. (That, and they really do work! More on Google Ads for Enrollment Marketers here).
By optimizing the event page for SEO and user experience while leveraging Videos, Posts, and ads, you will strengthen your reach, deepen your engagement, and increase your event attendance.
If you’re a school marketer looking to leverage Search Engine Marketing for your school’s admissions and enrollment goals - reach out to Enroll Media Group today! Or join us in person & virtually at these upcoming events designed for school marketers: