Google processes over 40,000 searches every second. That’s about 3.5 billion searches every day! What if you could make sure your local community college appears at the right time, in front of the right students?
With a local search engine optimization (SEO) marketing strategy, you can! Local SEO makes it easier for you to appear in front of local students. You can even make sure your college appears at the top of a search page.
The higher you rank, the more likely prospective students will see your website. In addition to building brand awareness, you can also draw in web traffic and fresh leads.
Ready to drive up admissions this year? Get started with these eight easy tips for marketing trade schools and community colleges!
1. Know Your Audience
About 75% of searchers never look beyond the first page of search results. If you want to reach prospective students, you need to reach the top.
Understanding your audience is key. If you know what students are searching for, you can optimize your local SEO strategies for those keywords.
First, take a look at your student body’s demographics. Separate your large target audience into smaller groups, or personas. For example, you might develop a separate strategy for targeting high school graduates versus older students.
You can also create a strategy for local students versus out-of-state students.
Once you determine the audience you want to target, you can learn more about them. Start your research by using tools such as:
- Google Keyword Planner
- Google Trends
These tools can help you determine which keywords your target audience uses in a search. Then, you can add these keywords to your website content. When someone completes a search using those keywords, your website could appear.
Local SEO keyword research is key for an effective strategy. Otherwise, you could fail to reach prospective students.
It’s not enough to make a list of the keywords your students are searching for. The most effective local SEO strategies focus on search intent as well.
Why are people searching for community colleges and trade schools in the area? Are they interested in applying, touring, or your courses?
Google’s machine learning allows it to consider search intent when displaying search results. With that in mind, it’s important you understand your audience and what they want, too. Then, you can craft content that responds to their search intent.
2. Update Your GMB Listing
The Google My Business (GMB) marketing site doubled its organic traffic in the span of a year. Why? Namely, more people are using their phones to find local businesses through GMB listings.
In fact, about 60% of smartphone users have contacted a business directly through search results.
The GMB listings appear in the top right corner of a Google search results page. Imagine your GMB listing appears for a search on trade schools or community colleges. Students will see your location before other colleges in the area.
Your GMB listing will display important contact information about your school, including your:
- College name
- Phone number
Is your listing up-to-date? Is the phone number and address accurate? If not, you could confuse or frustrate prospective students.
Updating your GMB listing will make it easier for students to find your college.
You can also use local SEO strategies to appear on Google’s 3-Pack. The 3-Pack is a map that features local businesses. In your case, the map will display nearby community colleges or trade schools.
Appearing on the 3-Pack is another great way to build brand awareness.
Optimizing Your GMB Listing
If you haven’t already, make sure to claim your GMB listing. Then:
- Confirm all contact information is accurate and detailed
- Add any missing pieces of information
- Upload photos of your community college’s campus, students, and events
- Add your college’s logo
- Encourage students and faculty to post comments on your listing
As people start posting their reviews, take the time to respond. Prospective students will see you’re responsive, which can improve your online reputation.
Meanwhile, your GMB listing will help you draw in more website traffic and new leads.
3. Find Other Listings
How else are prospective students finding you online? Updating your GMB listing is only the start. You’ll need to find all local business listings that feature your college, too.
First, look for directories that are dedicated to local and state colleges and trade schools. Directories often rank higher for local searches. Once students see your listing, they can click on the link to visit your website.
Make sure the information on these directories matches the information on your website and GMB listing. Inaccurate information could confuse prospective students. It can impact your local SEO rankings, too.
If your phone number or website ever changes, make sure to update your information across all listings.
4. Update Your Website
An old, lackluster website could frustrate prospective students. As you use these local SEO strategies, take the time to audit your website.
Is it easy to use and navigate? Can visitors find the information they’re looking for with ease? Do you make it easy for students to contact you or apply to your college?
A negative user experience (UX) can impact your ability to draw in new students. It can also hurt your SEO ranking.
When people get frustrated, they can leave a website without clicking around. This causes a low clickthrough rate and high bounce rate. Google looks at these metrics when determining search rankings.
By encouraging people to stay on your website, click around, and explore, you can boost your ranking to the top!
Consider updating your website with UX design trends in mind. For example, you should make sure your website:
- Loads quickly
- Is mobile-optimized
- Uses short paragraphs and sentences
- Organizes content using headers
- Is easy to navigate
- Is secure with an SSL certificate
- Uses white space to give content room to breathe
- Has buttons that are easy to click on
- Doesn’t feature broken links or duplicate pages
These changes can keep visitors on the page longer. Use a compelling call-to-action to draw people to your admissions page, too. With every click, you can improve your SEO ranking and increase admissions.
Make Sure You’re Mobile
People in North America are increasing their mobile sessions by up to 20%. More people are relying on their phones for information, and Google’s taken notice.
Google now uses mobile-first indexing to determine page rankings. If your website isn’t optimized for smaller screens, your SEO ranking could suffer.
You can determine if your website is already mobile-optimized by using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
If your site isn’t optimized, you’ll rank lower on search engine result pages. Remember, the lower you rank, the more difficult it is for people to find your site. If they do find your site, visitors could struggle to read your content on their smaller screens.
5. Ask for Reviews
Many students hear about colleges from other people. Word of mouth is still an effective marketing strategy. You can even use it to build your SEO ranking.
Start by asking current students or alumni to post their reviews on your GMB listing. Reviews can help build brand trust. Prospective students can read these reviews to learn more about your college.
You can add these reviews to your website as well. It also helps to create video content, such as a testimonials video. You can optimize the video as part of your local SEO strategy to attract more website traffic.
Ask students to post their reviews on your Facebook page as well. If you receive negative reviews, make sure to respond to them. Show prospective and current students you want to improve.
6. Start SEO Blogging
It’s time to put your local SEO keyword research to work! Creating blog posts on a schedule can help you attract website traffic throughout the year.
You can create different types of content for your website, including:
- Blog posts
- Videos (vlogs, testimonials, tours, events, etc.)
Remember to focus on the user intent as you start content marketing. Use one main keyword for each post. Then, add your keyword to the:
- Page title
- A heading or subheading
- Body paragraph
- Meta descriptions
- Image alt tags
Avoid overstuffing your content with the same keyword. Instead, use secondary keywords throughout your post. Make sure the post reads naturally.
Otherwise, people might find your content difficult to read. A low readability score could hurt your ranking.
Use Location-Based Keywords
As you start creating content, make sure to keep local students in mind. What are they talking about? What events are they focused on right now?
You can also use location-based keywords within your post. For example, you can add your city and state to the end of a keyword. Creating long-tail keywords (keywords with four or more words) can help you zero in on your target audience.
7. Share Your Content
Now that you’ve created fresh local content, share it!
First, post your content on your blog. Add an eye-catching image to the post as well.
Use categories and tags to keep your posts organized.
Next, spread the word. You can share your posts on social media, your GMB listing, and other online resources.
Use your connections to your advantage. For example, you can guest blog on someone else’s website, then direct readers to your community college’s site. Guest blogging helps you attract more traffic and build credibility.
Your social media presence can benefit your local SEO strategy, too. Prospective students might visit your social media accounts to learn more about your college. They could look at photos, scroll through your posts, and click on a link to your website.
Improving your social media presence will tell students you’re relevant. It can also help your community college’s brand.
As you post on social media, pay attention to which posts people like and comment on. You can use these metrics to determine which posts attract attention. Then, use the data to create similar posts in the future.
Don’t forget to engage back as people start commenting on your posts.
Social media can help you gain backlinks, too. For example, you can post a link to a blog post on your Facebook feed. As people click on that link and visit your website, you’ve created a backlink.
Google will see your website is attracting traffic from other resources, which can improve your ranking.
8. Start Link Building
Adding links to your content can improve your clickthrough rate and online authority. SEO link building plays a part in Google’s ranking algorithm, too.
Add internal and external links to your blog posts. Internal links send readers to other pages on your website. For example, you can end a post with a CTA that sends readers to your admissions page.
External links send readers to other websites. You can site research, news sources, and other credible resources in your posts. Using high-quality links in your posts can improve your search ranking.
Do you work with anyone who sponsors community colleges or trade schools? See if you can write a blog post for their website, too.
Link building will create more opportunities for people to find your website!
8. Structure Your Data
Before determining your ranking, Google sends bots to crawl and index your website content. You can optimize your website using structured data markup to get a step ahead.
Structured data tells Google’s bots what to look for from your content. For example, you can use a Local Business structured data markup to tell Google about your:
- Phone number
- Department pages
- Review pages
Think about the information prospective students look for when they visit your website. Then, structure your data to make their experience easier.
Get on the Map: 8 Local SEO Strategies for Trade Schools and Community Colleges
Ready to increase your admissions for the year? Give these eight local SEO strategies for trade schools and community colleges a try. With these tips, you can boost your SEO ranking and attract more site traffic.
As your ranking improves, more people will see your college before anyone else’s.
Need help putting these local SEO strategies to work? Get in touch! Contact us today to discuss your marketing strategy.