The internet connects us to people and businesses all over the world. But we also use it to find things in our own community. You might type in “burgers near me” to find a new burger restaurant or use voice commands to find a gas station when you’re in an unfamiliar part of town. Whatever you’re looking for, near me searches have become a common way to find it.
So why haven’t you already optimized your course catalog to help your classes show up in near me searches?
If you’ve never considered location based search, or if you have, but weren’t sure where to start, this post is for you. We’ll walk you through why and how to optimize for near me searches so more local students find your classes.
Why Local SEO is Important for Ed Programs
You might assume students looking for local classes will search for “Art Classes in Orono, Maine” for example. But students know that Google can know their location, so many will save the extra effort and just type “near me.” That’s why we talk about near me searches.
Near me searches show intent. When people search by location, it generally means they’re ready to act. After all, when someone asks you “Where’s the closest gas station?” They probably aren’t just gas station location enthusiasts. The likelihood is that they need gas now.
Why is this important for education programs? Because most of your students are probably local. They’re not looking for just any pottery class, they’re looking for one that’s an easy drive from their home. In higher ed, 50% of students prefer to take classes from a school that’s close to home, even if they’re studying online. This trend is even more pronounced for arts education, community ed, and enrichment programs. Students tend to look for these courses in their own backyard. If you’re not optimized for local search, you might be missing out on enrollments.
How Do Near Me Searches Work
Santa Claus may know when you are sleeping and when you’re awake, but Google knows where your phone is pretty much all the time. It uses that data to serve up the most relevant search results it can. One marker for relevance, in many cases, is location.
That’s why when you open a search bar and type “library,” you get results for your local library, alongside listings for more popular pages like the Library of Congress and the Wikipedia entry for Library. Google searches are based on your location even if you don’t include the phrase “near me.” When you do include near me, you purposefully narrow the scope to focus on locations that are closest to you.
In order for this technology to work as intended, Google needs two pieces of information:
- where the searcher is
- the location of the nearest library
The user provides their location. It’s up to you to provide yours. So how do you make sure Google knows where your classes are? The three strategies below are a good place to start.
Update Your Google My Business Profile
If you don’t already have a business account on Google My Business, start by claiming yours. This free directory lets you show up in the map-based results at the top of search listings. Try to include all of the information they ask for. The more complete your profile, the more likely Google will be to serve your program accurately in search results.
Not claiming this listing can lead to all kinds of problems. If you allow business information to be autogenerated, Google can sometimes make some wrong assumptions about your program. For example, they might decide that your museum ed program is a daycare because you mention after-school activity camps on your website.
Include your location details on your website
Google only knows where you are if you tell it. So make sure that you have your address prominently displayed on your website. No one should ever land on your page and wonder where you’re located. If users can’t easily find the information, Google can’t either.
While you’re at it, include other essential details that make life easier for visitors. This could include your office hours and phone number along with a contact us button. That way, if someone does land on your site, they find the information they need.
If you’re running something like an adult ed program with branches in multiple locations, consider creating a landing page for each town or region.
Create Individual Web Pages for Different Locations
If you offer classes in more than one location, create separate web pages for each. Although listing multiple locations on one web page seems simpler from a technical standpoint, it may confuse Google and frustrate students. So if you offer some art classes at the community arts center in your neighborhood, and some at the annex in the neighboring town, create two pages on your website that include the address and information for each location.
Beyond Near Me Searches
If you want to check the popularity of specific near me searches, you can use Google Trends. That insight could help you decide which classes to add to your catalog or which ones might be worth promoting right now.
Even if students buck the trend and don’t use a near me search to find your program, using these strategies is still a good idea. They help both students and Google understand where your programs are and whether those programs are relevant to your search. Offering a better user experience helps improve your overall SEO.
And while we’re talking about better SEO, remember that your website absolutely must be mobile-friendly. Google has switched to mobile first indexing, which means it uses your mobile site to decide where you land in search engine rankings. A user-friendly mobile site means better search engine results placement.
That means more students end up on your site, and hopefully, enroll in your courses.
Once they get there, course registration should be simple and easy. That’s where CourseStorm comes in. Our impossibly simple course registration software makes signing up for your courses as easy as saying, “hey Google, find acting classes near me.”