Here are some basic results for searching for English classes in Google:
- ‘learn English’ ̶ about 704,000,000 results
- ‘English classes’ ̶ about 598,000,000 results
- ‘English training’ ̶ about 1,370,000,000 results
That’s a combined total of 2,672,000,000 pages.
Wow. That’s a lot of data out there. And a lot of competition.
So the question you should be asking yourself is – how do I compete with all those websites out there? How do I get ahead of them? How can I get interested learners to visit my website first?
It’s not easy. There’s no magic wand… but it’s possible. Here are 8 ways that should get you going in the right direction.
1. Write in the target language of your preferred audience
You’re teaching English right? But you teach English to speakers of other languages, and they usually prefer to search in their own language. And Google can give them that. Think about your target audience, what kind of searches they do and in what language. Google is perfectly capable of judging the quality of your website in other languages. Making English the main language does not make it any more official or credible.
2. Brand your site properly
It’s sadly true that a lot of bad quality articles rank higher than good quality ones. A lot of badly worded pages are found higher in Google than high quality, informative ones. This is largely due to good branding. I’ll talk about linking strategies later in this article (to make it short: it’s very, very important) and having a good brand makes people feel a lot more comfortable about linking to your site (through social media or through their links on their own site). So make your brand clear, strong and easy to understand.
3. Structure the web pages properly
Every page you publish really should have one search query that is being promoted. This keyword should be in the page name, title and repeated a few times throughout the content of the page. No need to do it too much because Google is now a master at seeing over-promoted keywords. Have a look here for a perfect structure of your web page for Google.
A great plugin, if you have a WordPress site, is WordPress SEO by Yoast. It helps you set up and analyse the SEO of your page or post and when you get the green light, you know you’ve got a good SEO-worthy article.
4. Actionable content is preferable to ‘I’m great’ content
Remember, this article is about getting traffic. You can’t get traffic from talking about how great your business/lessons etc are. The number one way that traffic is attracted is through people sharing your site or specific pages. Who’s going to do that if you waffle on about you?
Waffling on about you and your talents is fine once your target students are actually on your site. If the article that got them there is good enough, they’ll be interested enough to look elsewhere on your site.
So what is actionable content and how can it relate to language learning? How about tips for better language learning in your chosen niche, great resources for language learning, ways to get financing for training, or tips to get the most out of language travel?
People want practical advice and will be prepared to share that advice if it is practical enough.
5. Trust is the new page rank
OK, if you’re just starting out in web marketing for your ELT site, then you might not have heard of page rank, which is fine. You can check your page rank (and any other website too) here.
Page rank used to be important because it basically told you how popular your website is. But Google now thinks that Trust rank is more important. Trust rank is closely linked to the number of authoritative websites that link to your website.
You can get a free go on Majestic SEO here to see what the Trust rank (or ‘Flow’ – their term) is. Have a look at the backlinks there too, and see in turn what their Trust Flow is. You will see that .edu links are very valuable. If ever a .edu site shares a link to your web site, then this will push your Trust rank a lot higher.
Good trust rank will mean better recognition from Google of your website, and a much greater chance of Google pushing your site up the rankings for the search queries pointing to your regular pages.
6. Use Adwords to work out the search queries that will work
So what kind of search queries should you be focussing on? This is where it gets interesting.
Did you know that 20% of the searches that people make in Google have never been made before? There is a lot of hit and miss out there (as I’m sure you have seen when doing your own searches).
Annoyingly, it is now next to impossible to analyse the exact keyword searches that are coming to your site via Google Analytics. When you look for search queries, a lot of the time it says ‘not provided’. However, you can find a few with their other tool, ‘Webmaster Tools’.
The easiest way to analyse the exact search queries going to your website is via Adwords, although obviously Adwords will cost you money. You do this by creating a list of keyword queries that you think are the most targeted for your website and then you can look at the exact queries that got them there, rather than the queries you paid for.
I find this a useful exercise because you can adapt your strategy for natural keyword searches by finding out what people are looking for through paid searches. Webmaster Tools and Adwords matching data are 2 of 4 ways to get around the “not provided” row in Google Analytics.
7. Focus on longer search queries
Searches are also becoming more and more detailed. People are putting more and more information into their enquiries as Google gets ever bigger and more powerful. So this means that you can afford to have longer and more specific keyword searches. These queries are called long-tail key words.
So instead of ‘learn English’, you might have ‘learn Business English in Dublin’.
Instead of ‘English classes’, you might have ‘Intensive high level English classes in Kensington, London’.
This kind of strategy means that you might have less traffic, but it is far more targeted. Visitors are likely to stay for longer and are more likely to convert into potential students or clients.
8. Make your site and pages easy to share
You can use social media to promote the blog articles and pages you produce and once again, if you have written good, actionable content then people are likely to share it with others.
Sharing can be done by the social media itself (retweeting, sharing, liking, etc.) and on your page as well. Website platforms are becoming easier and easier to share and some applications that you can add on as plugins make it even easier. For example, I use the Share feature with SumoMe. Not only can you share, but it counts all the shares that are happening on social media.
Of course a huge factor in sharing is copying what your peers are doing. The more people that share your site, the more people think ‘Hey, this person must have a great post because loads of people are sharing it, so if I share it then I will look good too’. It works exponentially.
Getting traffic to your ELT site can be an intense and difficult process. It takes time and effort. Just be prepared to put in the hard yards and keep things simple. Don’t worry too much about systematically writing content – make your articles memorable and shareable. Keep your brand strong. Find out ways for people to link to your site. People will come.
Joss Frimond is a sales and marketing expert for the ELT industry. He runs Linguaid, a consultancy to help language schools and independent teachers to get more students. You can find more articles, including ‘22 actionable marketing tips for independent ESL & TEFL teachers’ and access to 2 free eBooks at www.linguaid.net/blog.