SEO

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As I mentioned in my last post, until I began my post-college life, and started investigating coding on my own, I had limited web design abilities and skills. While I was fortunate enough to receive some website design instruction in school, I didn’t receive any SEO (search engine optimization) instruction, and, quite frankly, I don’t even remember it being mentioned. (To be fair, it could have been, and I could have just forgotten all about it.)

However, because I am always looking to improve my website design skills, and improve my district’s site, I decided to take a free SEO workshop at Northwoods Software last week.

Just a few minutes into the workshop, I was quickly blown away. Until then, I was utterly unaware of how SEO works, the dedication that goes into developing and fine-tuning keywords, and how important it really is for your search results and marketing your district, business, or organization. (Needless to say, I highly recommend taking a Northwoods workshop if you’re in the greater Milwaukee area.)

Since the workshop, I’ve been gobbling up a variety of readings on SEO. Below are some of my favorite:

In addition to reading about SEO, I’ve also been looking at the code words for almost all of my favorite websites. Some of the sites, like Brooks Running, haven’t surprised me (keywords: running shoes, running gear, best running shoes, top running shoes, best running gear, brooks sneakers, Brooks tennis shoes, trail running, running apparel, track spikes, road running, cross country flats, running accessories Brooks Running) while others have, mostly because they don’t seem to be directly using SEO techniques at all– this was especially true when I looked at the websites of other public school districts. (You can view the code words of any site by looking at the source code of any site.) 

I think this is a big mistake, particularly for Wisconsin public schools. In Wisconsin, we have an Open Enrollment law, which allows students to enroll in any public school, even if they don’t live within the District’s boundaries. While this is an important (albeit slightly controversial) law designed to give families a choice about where they educate their students, especially those families that are unable to afford a private education if they’re unhappy with the District they live in, it also presents unique challenges; namely, in an era of declining enrollment, how can you promote your District so that families chose your school, even if they don’t necessarily live within the boundaries of your District?

This is where I think SEO can come in. It allows a district to promote itself for free, so that potential parents can easily find your site and hopefully enroll in your schools. I recommend that all school district communications/PR professionals learn what they can about SEO, add it to their arsenal of tools, and use it frequently.

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*Photo from looksmart.com

School Communications.. What does that even mean?

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When I graduated from college in 2011, if someone had told me I would have ended up working in school communications and public relations, I would have been confused… school communications and PR? What does that even mean?

Nearly three years later, I’ve learned more about education, and school communications, than I’d ever imagined. While school communication professionals don’t occupy the same role in the educational landscape that teachers, principals and administrators do, communications specialists can help fill in gaps, and make sense of things that often “get lost in translation” between classrooms, students, parents and members of the media. School public relations professionals may not play the same role that certified staff members do, but they can help tell the story of these professionals and share their work, as well as the accomplishments of a district’s students.

By clarifying school budgeting and finance, for example, PR professionals can help improve communication and transparency within their district or school. Recently, my district held budget information sessions with staff and community members. In addition to providing information about our 2014-2015 budget, we also gave our staff, teachers, families and community members an opportunity to provide input to the budget, including specific proposals as well as budget-decision making factors (ie statements that budget proposals should be judged against).

After the sessions, I published all of the submitted proposals and factors on our website, further increasing clarity and the sense of cohesiveness among all of our key stakeholders. As school budgets (and the processes used to craft them) become increasingly dicey year after year, reducing confusion and involving as many parties as possible can help make the process less contentious and more inclusive. Click here to view the page.