Optimization for Education?

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SEO or search engine optimization is increasingly on my radar these days. Almost daily, I see posts about it on sites like Mashable and tweets about it in my various Twitter streams. It wasn’t that long ago that I was still trying to learn and remember what the acronym stood for but over the past few months I have come to see how valuable SEO can be.

For those of you who are new to this term, search engine optimization refers to “the active practice of optimizing a web site by improving internal and external aspects in order to increase the traffic the site receives from search engines” as defined by SEOmoz. This means that you examine your website to ensure that there is consistency in your naming practices, that your links are updated and active, that your content is original and new, and that you have social media sharing tools embedded on every page.

Of course, there are a number of other factors that affect SEO, many of which I am still learning. Luckily, there are a lot of helpful resources on the web to find out how SEO works. For example, I attended a great webinar by Kuno Creative titled “Inbound Marketing: The New SEO Facts, Figures, and Data” which helped clarify the connection between inbound marketing (if you’re new to this term, check out this great infographic) and SEO. Through that webinar, I was able to find out about updates to Google’s search algorithm and how it rewards sites for providing good content that people want to share across the web. I also learned more about the importance of having numerous keywords appear in search engine results that will drive traffic to your site. Other resources, like SEOmoz’s extensive “Beginner’s Guide to SEO” and Google’s “Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide” have also been invaluable in my journey to understand SEO and its effect on my websites.

Yet, the more I learn about SEO, the more I begin to wonder about the implications of SEO for educators and educational organizations or nonprofits. Many of these groups have few employees and little funding and most of the educators I know dedicate much, if not all, of their time to designing lesson plans and preparing innovative and engaging projects for their students. All of which leaves little time to learn about SEO and apply the related practices to their company websites or personal blogs. Meanwhile, large companies hire full-time “search engine optimizers” or companies like Hubspot to help them with this work.

Does this difference in SEO resources and management capacity matter? Do educators, schools, and educational organizations need to be concerned with SEO? A few months ago, I would have said no – SEO is something that only businesses and companies trying to sell products deal with and need to worry over. Now, I’m not so sure. As I prepare to launch my own new website for early childhood educators to learn about using technology to create global learning experiences, I’m conscious of the fact that I would like my site to be easily found in search engines. I want educators to be able to find the free resources and tools I have collected without having to search ten pages of Google results before stumbling upon the site.

Watching the analytics for this blog, I can see how much traffic search engines can bring to a site and I want other educational websites and blogs to be accessible and easily found by families, teachers, and administrators who want to learn about educational issues. So, I’m left wondering about the importance of SEO for education and about whether there is a way to make information about SEO more accessible and understandable for educators and their related organizations. I want to optimize education so that it is a topic that has a fighting chance at being ranked in search results. I think educators easily have the “fresh” content that Google is looking for, I’m just not sure if they are always aware of how that content has to be coded and marketed to be optimized for search results.

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6 responses to “Optimization for Education?

  1. Margaret, this post is timely. I have been paralyzed by the bombardment of info regarding SEO, driving the right traffic to your site, enlisting the right money keywords, etc. that I have stopped blogging. I’ve lost focus on the initial intent of my blog. I don’t have a website. I thought, I’d generate relationships through my blog and then create a website featuring additional resources for ece pros. Problem is, I got caught up in all of the rhetoric. Which is more important, the relationships I foster through my blog along with the resources I’d like to provide, or do I concentrate on getting traffic and prompting campaigns for responses? Are both equally important? There’s so much to learn. Glad you’re creating a place for us newbs and tech illiterates.

  2. Yes, thank you for this timely blog Margaret, and Pam for raising concerns I think many of us have. Posting quality content and relationship building are what’s important to us at iEARN-USA as well, but so is understanding SEO in order to “be out there.” Information changes so quickly.

  3. I’m a current SEO and former 5th grade teacher, so this post is near and dear to my heart. I’m willing to help out any educators or non-profits with their SEO or online marketing if they reach out to me.

    Just connect on Twitter @IAmPhilSharp or Google+ at https://plus.google.com/u/0/114861037179007370436/about

    And, just so you know I’m a real person, here’s my latest post on SEOmoz: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/how-sitelinks-are-quietly-costing-you-conversions

  4. @Pam It *can* be paralyzing to try and figure out the “right” ways to publicize things online. I think the relationships you’re looking for are inter-related with the traffic you’re seeking. By building relationships and posting valuable, fresh, and original content on your blog, you’ll end up driving more traffic there and subsequently to your website as well. And if people like the resources you provide on your website, you’ll build new relationships. It looks like @Phil would be willing to talk with you about SEO as well. :)

    @Losira Thanks for your thoughts! I love the content that iEARN-USA blogs about and was excited to subscribe to your posts and start a connection/ relationship with the organization. I’m sure the fact that iEARN blog posts are often tied to current events/news is helpful for your SEO as well!

    @Phil Thank you for offering your help with SEO for the educators who read my blog. I look forward to connecting with you on Google+ and Twitter!

  5. Pingback: Digital Spaces Are Like Virtual Silly Putty | Margaret A. Powers

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