First impressions tend to linger. A parent hears about your school and runs a Google search to find out more. Before this parent even glances at your website, he or she views your Search Engine Results Page. Does your SERP display cohesive details about your school or a jumble of information?
Improving your school’s Search Engine Results Page supports your brand by presenting a unified message for those who search directly for you school, and, as an added bonus, it may aid your Search Engine Optimization efforts. Although the task may seem daunting (and there is some work involved), these steps will help you tackle the task.
1) Google Your School
Do you know what your school’s SERP looks like? Run a search for your school’s name. What results appear on the first few pages? Are there duplicate, irrelevant, or no longer used listings? Close and deactivate where possible, or contact the appropriate sources, to remove those that are no longer current.
2) Examine Social Media Channel Listings
As you work through Step #1, you will probably notice many of your school’s social media channels display within the top results. Do you have one description for Facebook, another for Twitter, and yet another for YouTube? Develop a universal descriptor (or a few similar variations) and ask your social media team to update the settings. This may be a good time to make sure you are using the same school logo across channels as well.
3) Check Your META Description
Underneath the name of your school at the top of the page, Google displays a snippet. The first sentence or short paragraph under the title usually generates from one of three locations 1) the META Description tag on your homepage, 2) text from the homepage, or 3) the Open Directory Project. Ideally, most schools would like to have control over this. A well-written META Description is the best bet. If you do not know how to update META Tags, contact your website provider.
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee Google will choose your carefully crafted writing, but here are a few helpful tips.
- Aim for a length of 155 characters or less.*
- Write a unique description. DO NOT copy and paste from other pages and avoid universal or default descriptors.
- Repeat the page title or at least several words from the title near the beginning.
- Be informative and engaging. The goal is for users to click -through.
- Be patient. Remember your tags will not appear until Googlebot re-crawls your site. It probably will not happen overnight.
*Bonus Tip: To quickly check character count, set up an Excel spreadsheet with the description in Cell A1 and the formula =LEN(A1) in B1.
4) Don’t forget Sitelink Descriptions
Sitelinks are shortcuts to you main pages. They usually appear below your description. (If Sitelinks do not appear for your school, learn more at What are Google Sitelinks?)
Google chooses Sitelinks through their algorithm to help users navigate to relevant information more quickly. Therefore, it is in your school’s best interest to influence these META descriptions as well. Since Sitelinks may vary over time, it is a good idea to repeat Step #3 for your top ten pages.
After some trial and error, here is an example of what we were able to accomplish with The Gow School SERP.
These first four steps will assist you in improving the main section of your Search Engine Results Page. In Part II, we will address the Google Knowledge Panel or Box that appears to the right of the page.