As school’s become more comfortable in the world of digital they are now exploring inbound marketing opportunities that two years ago many would have never considered. Terms like SEO and PPC are no longer completely foreign, and frequently I find myself being asked which you should focus on for your school marketing – SEO or PPC? The fact of the matter is, if you’re not getting in front of new parents, you’re severely limiting the chances of growing your Admissions numbers. So, if your objective is to increase your school brand visibility and website conversions (admissions and open day registrations) then both SEO and PPC have a place in achieving your school marketing goals.
Let’s start by looking at the differences between SEO and PPC and how each can help at different stages in your digital marketing strategy…
What is SEO and How Can It Help My School?
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), is the process of applying various techniques to your website to improve your ‘organic’ rankings in search engine results. Organic – or natural – results appear below paid ads and provide a level of credibility to your website that visitors trust.
Although SEO isn’t a quick process, it is considered a long-term solution to getting ‘free’ traffic to your school website. While there is certainly a cost associated with SEO (either your own time, training or outsourcing), in the end, SEO is the most cost-effective and sustainable method to growing your school’s online reach.
What is PPC and How Can It Help My School?
PPC – or Pay-Per-Click advertising – is online advertising where you only pay for ads that visitors click on. PPC has the same effect as SEO at bringing visitors to your school website, but through the use of search (text) or display (image) ads either in search engines or on social media and other supported websites.
One of the biggest benefits of PPC is that it allows you to be found immediately (while waiting for your SEO to improve) – especially on keywords that can be hard to rank for organically. And as you only pay for clicks, not impressions, PPC can produce instant results with both limited time and financial investment.
So, as you can see both SEO and PPC have their benefits and place in helping to reach your school marketing goals. So, the question shouldn’t be which to do, but rather which to tackle first …
Which Comes First – SEO or PPC?
Since PPC can get you seen by parents and pupils the quickest (and help you to understand the keywords they’re searching on), you may think it’s the best place to start. But that isn’t necessarily the case – it really depends on a few factors:
- where your school website currently ranks in search results
- what your school marketing goals are (and what your timeframe to achieve them are)
- where your current traffic is coming from
If you’re currently being found on the keywords that matter to your audience but perhaps aren’t ranking as high as you’d like, then SEO might be where you first focus your energies, supplementing your school marketing with PPC to quickly promote events such as your Open Days.
If, however, you’re not being found in search or are maybe appearing on the 2nd page (remember Googling ‘independent schools in xyz’ is going to give skewed results unless you view incognito) then you’ll probably want to do a combination of both tactics simultaneously – PPC to get immediate traction and SEO to begin the lengthier process of long-term keyword building.
Of course, if you’re already ranking brilliantly in search engines you might ask yourself, do I need to think of PPC at all? Well, statistics actually show that the click through on organic search results increases when viewed in conjunction with a paid ad. It’s really a personal decision, but in my opinion, why wouldn’t you want the free brand building? Remember, you only pay if visitors click on an ad and when seen together, the majority of visitors will still opt to click on an organic link over a paid one. And PPC doesn’t have to end there…
Remarketing to Boost Your Conversions
Regardless of where you start, once your website has been optimised and new parents are easily finding your school, PPC can still help to increase your conversions through a technique called remarketing. We’ve probably all experienced remarketing at some point – those ads that pop up after visiting a website. Well, remarketing is ideal for targeting those parents that have visited your Open Day or Admissions pages but have yet to complete the form. In fact, studies show that the conversion rates for customers who have been retargeted is as much as 50 to 60% higher than those who haven’t.
In the long-run, SEO will always outweigh the benefits of PPC, but used together the chances of reaching your school marketing goals can increase immensely.