Search Engine Marketing for Schools

When someone asks me what my company does, I usually say that we help businesses increase sales and quality leads through targeted online marketing. If a company is a sales organization and truly wants to increase its sales, we can help.

The one problem I currently have with my description is that not everyone thinks of the words “business” and “sales” the same way I do.

For example, some of the heaviest online marketing investment is for educational facilities. It began with online colleges like Phoenix and has blossomed to brick-and-mortar colleges and universities. Now private schools, boarding schools, parochial schools, and schools for at-risk youth are discovering they can increase enrollment – or just increase the quality of their enrollment – through online marketing.

Online schools can obviously market almost anywhere – they don’t care whether students come from Bar Harbor, ME or Chula Vista, CA. Last month there were over 4.5 million searches for “online college”* – even more than just “college” – so even though there’s a lot of competition, there are a lot of potential “clients” to reach.

The power of geo-targeting allows day schools with physical locations to target only students (or students’ parents) within a drivable distance, say 15-50 miles. Search engine optimization is probably more effective than search engine marketing for these schools unless they’re in major metropolitan areas just because of search volume by geographic region.

Most “colleges” (1.78 million), “boarding schools” (151,000), and “military academies” (22,000) – the numbers in parentheses represent searches per month for those particular terms – may be able to enroll students from any area, but they may also find that they have an easier time selling students from a particular state or region. A school in West Virginia or Arkansas, for example, may not think it’s worth it to try the New England prep scene region and opt instead for the South or Mid-Atlantic.

By advertising on specialties of your school, such as being a “culinary school” (107,000), helping students get “biotechnology jobs” (111,000), or helping “troubled teens” (53,000) you can both differentiate yourself and reach more people with less competition.

By the same token, maybe a boarding school has had students come to it from Japan, Switzerland, or South Korea in the past and wants to try to reach more people from that region. Why not advertise on “American boarding school” (2500) in those regions? You can even have your students help you write the ads and landing pages in the appropriate language.

If you work in admissions for a school that would like to increase its enrollment, please give us a call at 1-800-979-3177 to discuss how we can help you meet your goals.

* A note about my statistics: I base my search volume numbers on the number of overall searches last month on Yahoo for the United States and English speaking Canada, which has about a fifth of the market share of searches in these locations and then multiply these numbers by five (5) to come up with an approximate total # of searches across all search engines per month. Singular and plural versions of the keywords have been combined unless otherwise noted. And remember, these are only numbers for high level keywords. By expanding your list, you can come up with many many times greater numbers of searches.

Of course these numbers will vary by month. If you want to see how search volumes vary over the course of several months, might I suggest Google Trends. A pretty good tool, although search volumes have to be pretty high to show you a trend over the past couple years.

Justin Seibert

About The Author

Justin Seibert is the President of Direct Online Marketing. Justin holds a Bachelor of Arts from Vanderbilt University. He contributes a wide range of online business-oriented topics, including the subject of exporting. His contributions can be found on publications such as the Pittsburgh Business Times, Advertising Age, SES Magazine, and La Voz del interior. Justin and his family enjoy learning about new cultures during their travels.

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