Get your School to the Top of Google with the Help of This Guide on SEO For Education Websites

There’s more than a 10x difference between showing up on the first and second page of Google.

Results on the second page of Google have a click-through-rate (CTR) of as little as 1% for each position. Whereas the first result on Google eats up a massive 25% of total web search clicks. 

The purpose of leveraging Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your education business (online or physical) is to make sure you’re getting as many of those clicks as possible, because no clicks means no prospects.

But those clicks can’t happen when your website is buried away in internet Mordor (aka anything beyond the first page of Google). 

Image of Mordor from Lord of the Rings

So, let’s get you out of dodge and get you found by prospective students. 

girl with a laptop searching online

Want Professional Help with your School’s SEO?

Reach out for an obligation-free discovery call to chat about your needs and how we can help you get to the top of Google.

How do I make my school rank on Google?

Google takes around 200+ factors into consideration when ranking a website, but when it comes to SEO for schools, we can boil it down to these core factors. 

SEO factors that’ll help your school rank higher:

  • Keyword Research 
  • A content audit 
  • A content marketing strategy 
  • Optimizing your site for speed and a great User Experience (UX) 
  • Local SEO 
  • Link building strategy 
  • Reporting and analytics 

Let’s look at each one in more detail. 

Do keyword Research 

Keywords are the specific terms users type into a search engine to find relevant content related to their query, while keyword research is the process of finding the best keywords to target for your webpages and blog posts. 

But what makes a keyword worth targeting? 

It can be tempting to say that keywords with hundreds of thousands of searches a month are the ones to go after. However, these tend to be super competitive to rank for, meaning it’s harder to show up on page 1, and they tend to pull in very untargeted leads.

These broad, competitive, and usually vague, keywords are called “head keywords”, but what we’re after are “longtail” keywords. These are less competitive and more specific keywords that we stand a good chance of ranking for. Not only this, but they pull in highly targeted leads because the people using these search terms have a good idea of exactly what they’re looking for. 

This graphic below ūüĎáshows how to go from a “head” keyword (learn English) to a much less competitive “long-tail” keyword (present simple song for kids).

graphic of a pyramid showing keywords going from head to longtail keywords
Keywords in the learn English niche in descending order of head to longtail. Lean English, learn English for kids, English grammar for kids, English grammar songs for kids, present simple song for kids

It’s much smarter to target relevant keywords that we actually stand a chance of ranking for rather than going after stupidly competitive ones that we’ll never see results from. I’ve even driven traffic to my client’s websites with keywords that apparently reign in “0” searches per month.

So don’t get taken in by big numbers, the sale is in the longtail. 

When it comes to finding these great, longtail keywords you’ve got a ton of options. Some tools can be quite pricey (around $100 a month) but there are other, cheaper options too. 

Keyword Research Tools  

  • Keywords Everywhere: this is actually a free Chrome extension, but I recommend buying some credits to unlock the full features. It’s only $10 for a bunch of credits that will last you months¬†
  • Katlinks: a great, affordable SEO tool for users who need simple SEO functions like keyword research. Prices start at just $14 a month¬†
  • SEMrush: a more advanced SEO tool that covers a lot more than just keyword research. The basic plan is $119.95 a month¬†
  • Ahrefs: another advanced SEO tool, but it’s a little cheaper than SEMrush at around $99 a month¬†
Ross Simmonds quote - the sale is in the longtail
“The sale is in the longtail” – Ross Simmonds, digital marketer

Dos and Don’ts of Keyword Research 

When it comes to your keyword research you want to: 

  • Choose longtail keywords over highly competitive head keywords¬†
  • Choose keywords that are highly specific and relevant to your offerings and how you help your students¬†
  • Base your keyword research on market research: conduct surveys and interviews with students and parents to get a feel for their struggles and thought process when it comes to choosing a school¬†or course. This will help inform your keyword research later
  • Use a reliable keyword tool to get all the metrics you need to make an informed decision¬†

There are also some keyword research sins that you definitely want to avoid… 

  • Avoid keyword stuffing: this means repeating your keyword over and over again, even in places where it makes zero sense. Google has moved on a lot since the early days of search and this tactic no longer works to increase your chances of ranking¬†
  • Don’t target overly competitive keywords that you don’t stand a chance of ranking for¬†
  • Don’t just blindly copy your competitors – competitor research is important, but you need a strategy to find out what’s actually working for them rather than just copying them

Free Keyword Research Course!

Master the fundamentals of keyword research with my free 5 day email series Keyword Research Fundamentals.

Conduct a content audit 

If your school already has a backlog of content and pages it can be worth your time to conduct a content audit to see where you can improve on content that already exists.

These posts usually hold massive SEO potential, especially if they’re currently ranking on page 2. However, you might also have produced a lot of content that no longer serves you, attracts the wrong type of visitors and mentions offers, courses etc that no longer exist. In this case, it’s time to face the music and start axing this content and setting up the proper redirects. 

Conducting a content audit manually can be extremely time-consuming and painful, especially if you’ve got a pretty big backlog. That’s why you’ll need to use an SEO tool which will crawl your website and pull out all the relevant information from your targeted URLs which you can map out on a spreadsheet. 

Before conducting a content audit it’s important to define your goals for the audit and what you want your content to do. Generally speaking you’ll want to keep content that has a lot of backlinks pointing to it, is still relevant to your school’s courses, engages users, is bringing in relevant search traffic, targets relevant keywords and any content that contains valuable information. 

How to Conduct a Content Audit for your School’s Website 

To conduct a content audit you’ll need a premium plan from a tool like SEMrush or Ahrefs. I use SEMrush so I’ll give you a primer on how I gather data for an audit using SEMrush. 

  1. Create a new project in SEMrush 
  2. Set up Google Analytics and Google Search Console Integration 
  3. Go to “Content Marketing” > choose your project > “content audit”
  4. Choose what URLs the SEMrush crawler should look at. You’ll choose a folder/subfolder for it to crawl like /blog
  5. Go have a cup of tea while the crawler looks through your site and gathers your URLs 
  6. You’ll then have a report in SEMrush with metrics like social shares, bounce rate, session time, meta data, keywords rankings, average position on the search engine results page (SERP) and many more¬†
  7. Export this to a spreadsheet and start making decisions over what you’ll do with the content (keep it, update it, delete it, merge it with another article…)¬†
  8. Make sure to log the calls-to-action for each piece of content and update this if they’re no longer relevant¬†
screenshot of a content audit using the seo tool semrush
A screenshot of what you’ll see in SEMrush during a content audit

Create a Content Marketing Strategy

Now that you’ve deleted irrelevant content on your blog and updated and refreshed content with potential, it’s time to create an actual content marketing strategy. 

I like to think of content marketing this way: you’re writing useful content that will help answer all the doubts, questions and even fears that you target market has about joining your courses. By doing this you’re not only building trust, but you’re nudging them towards making a purchasing decision if you do it right. 

Here’s my process for mapping out a content marketing strategy for my clients: 

  • Start with market research: send out surveys and set up interviews with past and present students/parents to help you understand what they would need from you from an informational standpoint to feel comfortable registering for one of your courses¬†
  • Competitor Analysis: you can reverse engineer the SEO on your site by looking at your competitors and seeing what they’re doing with their content marketing that’s earning them more traffic and links¬†
  • Keyword Gap Analysis: this is a process of comparing you to your competitors based on what keywords you rank for. A keyword gap analysis will reveal what keywords they’re ranking for that you aren’t, what shared keywords you have and what you’re ranking for that they aren’t
  • Build a keyword bank: now that you have all that juicy data you can use it to build a keyword bank with all of all the keywords you should be trying to rank for. Use that to guide what blog posts you write¬†
keyword gap analysis ven diagram
The keyword gap analysis is shown as a ven diagram. You can see that the website in blue ranks for way more keywords than the website in green and the two only have a slight overlap. However, when I investigated further the website in green had MORE organic traffic than the blue website because they were ranking for more strategic keywords that drove a significant amount of traffic and had a far better backlink profile.

To add to this, your content marketing strategy shouldn’t just focus on getting more traffic from Google, any school would also benefit from the following types of content: 

Case Studies 

Case studies are like in-depth testimonials that showcase amazing success that your students have had after studying with you. These can be used as social proof that you contribute to their success and will build a lot of trust with new prospects. 


Students create content for you! Let’s say you’re a language school and one of your students landed an amazing internship in Belgium, you could interview them about their experience and use it as blog content to inspire others. This boosts your social proof and showcases that you truly care about your students’ success. You could even pay a student (age depending) to blog for you with their top study tips or how to prepare for a certain exam.

Content that Builds Links

Link building is a super important aspect of SEO. It means getting other websites to link back to your website. It usually involves a ton of outreach, work and in many cases, money. But you can create content that naturally encourages other people to link to you. The best way to achieve this is to conduct original research and gather new stats for your industry. You can survey past students and turn the data into an insightful article and create engaging infographics or videos to accompany it and start gaining backlinks on auto-pilot. 

Collaborative Content

Collaborating with another company in a shoulder industry that is likely to serve the same audience as you has the benefit of exposing you to a new audience. They’ll likely share the article with their own audience, as will you, helping you both get in front of new eyeballs. Depending on what your school teaches, you could partner with; 

Keep an eye out for collaboration opportunities and use it as an opportunity to extend your website’s reach.

Optimize your Site for Speed and Great UX

There’s no point in generating a bunch of traffic if your website is slow and clunky to use. Getting traffic is only half the battle, keeping people on your site is a whole other story.  

Slow websites and bad user experience (UX) will have your visitors bouncing off your site faster than my dog chasing an unsuspecting deer. 

You can optimize your website for speed and better UX by doing some of the following; 

  • Sign up with a Content Delivery Network (CDN) like Cloudfare to help your website load faster for visitors. A CDN will load your site’s content from servers closer to where your visitor is located to reduce load time¬†
  • Optimize your website’s images: nothing slows down a site like huge image files. Resize your images to fit the space they’ll occupy and compress them to reduce the file size. You should also be using formats like webp. A great tool for optimizing images is I love img
  • Create clear calls-to-action to help guide the user to the action you want them to take¬†
  • Avoid annoying ads and pop-ups on your site:¬†ads and pop-ups that appear immediately when a user lands on your site ruins their user experience and distracts them from reading your content or taking the action you want them to take. If you use pop-ups make sure you set a delay for when they can appear or just use an exit-intent pop-up when they try to leave¬†
  • Make your content more scannable by breaking up content with proper headings, bold and italic text, bullet points and images¬†
  • Make sure your site is accessible: many people can’t access web content due to poor accessibility optimization. For example, things like forms can be a nightmare to fill out for people who use a screen reader so include an email address where they can contact you as well

The real work begins once you get the click, so also make sure you’re investing time to properly develop your content and website copy with the help of a professional copywriter who can make sure that visitors are motivated to take action once they land on your website. 

Want Professional Help with your School’s SEO?

Reach out for an obligation-free discovery call to chat about your needs and how we can help you get to the top of Google.

Set-up Local SEO

Chances are your school has a physical location so make sure you’re setting up your local listings on Google Business Profile and Bing Places for Business. ¬†

Another added benefit of setting up your local profile is that students can leave public reviews for your school. This helps boost your social proof, authority and attract new students. Not only this, but online customer reviews are given more visibility on the search engine results page (6.5% more) meaning you’re more likely to capture more traffic by setting up your local SEO.¬†

If you haven’t already, send out emails to past students and parents asking them to write a quick review once your Google Business Profile is all set up and watch those 5* ratings roll in! 

I already mentioned that link building is super important for SEO as it helps Google discover more of your website.

But not all links are created equal… 

There are many link building agencies out there who will actually end up harming your online reputation by building a ton of spammy backlinks to your site from websites that have nothing at all to do with your niche or customers. 

Here are some red flags when working with an SEO agency for your link building strategy 

  • They report a high amount of links gained each month (this is a sign that the backlinks being acquired aren’t of great quality)¬†
  • You see that a lot of your links are from comment sections in blogs (this seriously damages your brand’s reputation)¬†
  • Your link toxicity score is being flagged as high (you can check that out with SEMrush or Ahrefs)
  • Low quality guest posts, probably written by an AI bot: guest posting is a great way to build links, if done right. But many dodgy agencies will churn out crap content and publish it in not-so-reputable websites to build links¬†
  • ¬†They have a budget for buying links: this practice goes against Google’s guidelines. It’s true that some good quality backlinks can be purchased, but usually it’s not a great practice¬†

So, how can you build backlinks in a way that doesn’t get you penalized by Google and ruin your online reputation? 

  • Contribute quality guest posts like this one I did for SEO Chatter 
  • Sign-up  for HARO or Qwoted these sites connect writers and journalists with experts to get quotes and insights for articles and they link back to your site as a trusted source
  • Create linkable assets on your website: research shows that sources like online calculators, PDFs, white-papers and infographics are great at generating backlinks 
  • Work with a reputable PR company who can help you and your business attract media attention and build links 
  • Pitch podcasts related to your industry and appear as a guest expert 
  • Reach out to software companies whose product you use and see if you can appear on their blog as a case study 

Measure your analytics 

Finally, it’s important to know what content is best at driving people to your site, how well it’s converting and whether or not it’s engaging. 

Google announced that it’s sunsetting Universal Analytics in July 2023 which means you’ll need to start using Google Analytics 4 (GA4) to process your website data. 

However, Google Analytics isn’t the only analytics solution out there, there are other paid analytics solutions which actually might work better for your business.¬†

Recently my buddy Seth Goldstein contributed to my newsletter and gave us some alternative options to Google Analytics that I’ll reproduce here ūüĎá

Alternatives to Google Analytics: 

Fathom Analytics

Fathom is the alternative I’ve been using for the longest amount of time. I like it a lot and it’s affordable, even after you reach 10,000 sessions/month on the account. You can monitor multiple properties. Check it out¬†¬†(Affiliate Link).

Plausible Analytics

Plausible is a lot like Fathom. What sets it apart is that you can actually take the code and run it yourself on your own server for free or use their servers. Using their servers is inexpensive even after the 10,000 sessions/month. You can monitor multiple properties. Check it out

Seth Goldstein, our go-to “Tech SEO” guy with more than 10 years experience

Heap Analytics

Heap is a more expensive solution, I haven’t played with it myself, but I’ve heard good things. For up to 10,000 sessions/month it’s not too expensive, but after that it gets a bit pricey. Another thing that I’m not a fan of, it’s only for one account. So take that into consideration if you’re managing multiple properties. Check it out

(Thanks, Seth! – Read the full newsletter here.

Another great tool for understanding how your content is performing is Google Search Console. This free tool can help you gain better insights into what keywords you’re ranking for and how well your content is performing on search. 

Now you’ve got your tools, what metrics should you be paying attention to to measure the success of your SEO and content? 

  • Click-through-rate (CTR): measured by number of number of clicks / impressions. Google search console can show you what your CTR is for each page on your site. The higher you rank, the higher this number will be, but adding things like schema mark-up and creating better headlines can help improve your CTR 
  • Keywords: Google Search Console can show you what keywords an individual piece of content is ranking for, as well as what keywords are driving the most traffic to your site overall. Use this data to update any pieces of content that could be better optimized for other keywords 
  • Average Session Duration: if you notice that people are not spending a very long time on your site it can be indicative of a problem. Maybe your site is slow to load or the content isn’t engaging. A low average session duration should be investigated further 
  • Conversion Rate: in universal analytics this can be measured by setting up goals. These goals can be an actual, monetary conversion or another type of conversion, like someone signing up for your email list. You can check to see what page that person converted from to get an idea on what pages perform best at converting users

FAQS about SEO for Education Websites 

What are the benefits of seo for schools? 

Implementing SEO on your school’s website will help you attract more students at no cost to your business. Depending on avenues like paid advertising or social media is a risky business as when times are tough financially, your ad budget is likely to be the first thing you drop. While depending on social media means you’re dependent on a platform that you don’t own and is much more susceptible to being hacked. Organic SEO rewards you for free over the long-term, unlike social media which requires you to be constantly active and pushing out content to get engagement.¬†

How can I find great education related keywords? 

From your own students! Conducting proper market research should always be your first port of call for SEO as it will help you understand what they’re searching for in their own words. Next, using that data you can start searching for specific keywords in a tool like Keywords Everywhere or SEMrush.¬†

What companies offer SEO for educational websites? 

God Save the SERP is a great place to start for your SEO content marketing needs. We also work alongside trusted SEO professionals that we know personally to help you avoid the scammers who’ll charge you $5k a month and ruin your online reputation with ‘black hat’ SEO tactics. Get in touch and let us know about your needs.¬†

What are the best SEO techniques to increase enquiries for an education site? 

Targeting the right keywords for your pages and content will have a big impact as will having the right SEO content marketing strategy. But once someone is on the page, brilliant copy, compelling content and clear calls-to-action married with a smooth user experience is a sure-fire way to fill your inbox with new enquiries. 

Which domain extension is better – .edu or .com for an educational site? Are there any effects on SEO?

.edu websites are regarded as being very trustworthy in the eyes of Google and backlinks from these sites tend to be given more weight. However, you can’t just register an .edu domain and you need to go through an application process. There are more details here.¬†

Wrapping up: need help with your school’s SEO? 

I hope you’ve bookmarked this article for later on because we’ve covered a lot in here! However, there is no copy-and-paste SEO roadmap. A successful SEO strategy for your school needs to be bespoke to your needs and customers which is why I always start with a market-research-first approach when working with my clients on their content marketing strategy. 

If you’re interested in getting help with your SEO, here’s what a typical project outline looks like: 

  1. We go deep on understanding your business and your students to help identify what plan-of-attack to take with your SEO content marketing strategy 
  2. Market research: we create surveys and set up interviews with students/parents to really drill down on what type of content we need to produce to help prospective customers trust in your services 
  3. Competitor research: we investigate what types of content your competitors are producing that drive traffic, builds links and engage users. We also conduct a keyword gap analysis to understand what keywords and content are missing from your strategy 
  4. Content & UX Audit: we audit your current content to identify any issues (broken links, outdated calls-to-action, thin content, confusing user-journeys) and come up with a plan to leverage content that already exists on your site to increase both SEO and conversions 
  5. Keyword Research: based on all this data we come up with your keyword bank so you know exactly what content you need to produce to soar in the search engine results page and convert more visitors 
  6. Content production: have your blog content written and reviewed by education industry experts (not some content mill that’ll find random writers and pay them $50 to churn out low quality articles that are mostly repurposed information from Google)
  7. We connect you with trusted professionals: we only recommend other agencies and freelancers who we know personally for things like technical SEO and link building to make sure you don’t get ripped off by some cowboys who’ll ruin your online reputation 
girl with a laptop searching online

Want Professional Help with your School’s SEO?

Reach out for an obligation-free discovery call to chat about your needs and how we can help you get to the top of Google.

We hired Kerry because we wanted to bring some additional value to our site and some context to our video content.
We were not only impressed by the content of the copy, but by the collaborative approach from the information gathering at the start, the open style in which Kerry shared what she wanted to do and why, and finally the delivery of copy which was ready to copy straight into a blog with all html coding ready.
We have felt guided by Kerry and able to rely on her advice and expertise, while also feeling listened to by her. We feel like we have created a great working partnership already, which extends beyond the scope of her copywriting.

Ben Carter

Project Manager, ELT Songs

meagan williamson

You came recommended – basically that’s why I worked with you the first time BUT then we worked together and your work proved to be excellent. It was easy to work with you, you wrote great blog copy that didn’t sound like robotic and it worked – the results of the post were great. It is now high ranking, results in many comments and engagement and best of all – people asking about my program

Meagan Williamson

Pinterest Strategist and Educator

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