school search marketing

Using Google To Achieve Full School Enrollment

school SEO - grow your school
Written by Kurt Steinbrueck

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A while ago OurChurch.Com attended the FL/GA Lutheran Educators Conference in Daytona Beach.  While at the conference I lead a workshop about how Christian schools can use Google to achieve full enrollment.

I’ve included in this article key points from the workshop:

We started by talking about the current situation schools were facing.

  • One person mentioned that lower enrollment hurt their ability to bring in new students since prospective parents wondered why there were so many open seats at their school.
  • I asked about teacher pay and another person mentioned that annual raises had to be withheld because of the budget.
  • I also asked them to consider what would happen if they lost more students next year due to the economy.

What about your school?  What issues are you facing due to budget issues from low enrollment?  What would happen if next year you loose students?

We then, though an illustration, talked about the differences between search marketing and print advertising, such as newspapers and mailings:

Search Marketing

  • People are actively searching for a school
  • Everyone who finds your school’s listing is looking for a school
  • Search marketing is about giving people as many places to find your school online as you can
  • People are able to contact you immediately

  • People are not in the mindset of looking for a school
  • Your ad may not be seen
  • People may not have time to react to the ad
  • People are probably distracted by other things
  • Contact requires additional steps that are usually not readily available and thus require the person to remember to contact the school later
  • Many viewers of the ad aren’t even looking for a school

We then talked about how schools can get a strong online presence.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO):

A simple explanation of search engine optimization (SEO) is making your school’s website search engine friendly (so search engines can easily read the site) and telling the search engines what your site is about or what search terms (keywords) they should list you for.  This in turn increases your search rankings allowing more people to find your school website.

SEO Tips:

  • Being ranked #1 for your school name is all well and good, but that’s not what people are really searching for when they are looking for a school.  Brainstorm to think of search terms (keywords) people would actually use to find a school, terms like “schools in [your city]” or “Christian schools in [your city]”.
  • Use the search terms (keywords) in the text on your site, but make sure it makes sense.  Remember, people are going to see your site, so you want it to make sense to them.  Don’t just stuff keywords into your site’s content.
  • Use search terms (keywords) in the Title and Meta tags of your website

Those are some basic tips that can get you started.  I encourage schools to find someone who understands Christian school SEO and have them help, so you get the best results and avoid any potentially dangerous mistakes.

Local Search Engine Optimization:

Local SEO is getting your organization to rank well in the maps and local search engines like Google Maps, Bing Maps, and Yelp.

In addition to getting your school in front of people using the local search engines, local search also has the added bonus that local search results are often displayed in the regular search results, above the regular search results. (See below)

school SEO - Christian schools in Tampa

Local SEO Tips:

  • Use the school’s address on every page of website
  • Setup listings in the maps/local search engines
  • Setup listings in Local Review sites (like Yelp)
  • Setup listings in School Locator sites (like
  • Tell students/parents about the listings and ask them to write positive reviews and rank the school well.

Those are some basic tips to get you started.  I encourage schools to find someone who understands local school SEO and have them help, so you get the best results and avoid any potentially dangerous mistakes.

Is Online Marketing an Expense or an Investment?

The last thing we discussed in the workshop is the cost of marketing.  I brought up three perspectives about marketing to discuss.

1. Marketing Is an Expense

This is a misunderstanding of marketing.  Marketing should not be considered an expense like books, carpets, or other line items on the budget. Once that money is spent on an expense, you never get it back.

2. Marketing Is an Investment

When you invest for your retirement and put money into an IRA, you expect to get your money back.  You also expect to make interest on the money you put in.  Similarly, when you put money into marketing, you expect to not only get that money back, but also get additional money.

Consider what your school charges for tuition.  The average private school tuition in the US is now $10,000.  Now consider how much additional cost your school has for adding that one student.  For the example let’s say it’s $1000 for books and other supplies.  (Payroll, utilities and mortgage all stay the same with or without the new student).  That gives you $9,000 for every new student that enrolls that goes towards your general budget (programs, payroll, utilities, building fund, etc.)

So, if you invest $8,000 in marketing and get only one new student ($9,000) you are still $1,000 ahead. And that’s getting only 1 new student!

If you get two new students, you are $10,000 ahead.  If you get 10 new students, you are $82,000 ahead. Twenty new students, and you’re $172,000 ahead! Imagine what you can do with and additional $172,000?!?

3. Cost of NOT Marketing

Let’s say you have a board meeting and one person wants to spend $8,000 on marketing and another person wants to spend $8,000 on new desks and chairs.  It’s discussed, and the board decides to spend the money on new desks and chairs.  What happens?  You have some newer desks and chairs, and that’s it.

Now, let’s say the board decides to spend the money on marketing.  What happens?  You spend $8,000 on marketing and let’s say you get 10 new students (modest results).  You then have made back the $8,000 you spent on the marketing and have an additional $82,000.  So, you are still able to get new desks and chairs, and you still have $74,000 of additional money to spend on other things.

By not marketing, it kept your school from getting the new students (who, by the way, next year and each year after brings in another $9,000 as long as they stay) and cost you $74,000 in additional money for the budget.

Taking Your School to the Next Level

One of the participants in the workshop commented that his school has always done well simply relying on word-of-mouth advertising.  But it now struck him, “Where could we be if we had done some marketing of the school?  We may have been able to expand.”  A great point!  Even if you are doing well, could you be doing better?

The bottom line is…

Don’t think of online marketing as a cost but as an investment in your school and your community.

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  • Do you think of online marketing as an expense or an investment? Why?

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    About the author

    Kurt Steinbrueck

    Kurt Steinbrueck is the Director of Marketing Services with OurChurch.Com. He also serves on the leadership of Family of Christ Lutheran Church in Tampa, FL. You can find him on Google+ as .