SEO and PPC Strategies for Career Schools

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This client was a school with multiple campuses across the state. Each campus attracted students from each respective campuses’ immediate city as well as the surrounding areas. For this school and its immediate competitors, search presence is important as a primary means of inquiry generation and prospect recruitment.


Achieving strong search presence for schools has become quite a challenge over the past few years. This stems across all areas of online marketing. In some cases, competing schools have sites that are better optimized for organic search. In other cases, competition comes from sites that are one level removed: nation-wide online lead generation portals for schools that have better domain authority and other SEO-heavy traits, popular directory sites like Yelp that weigh heavy on Google, and job portals like Indeed and Monster that feature education-focused content.

Forward Push came into the project looking to address both issues and provide a strong presence in either situation, regardless of if a user searched for the actual campus’ city or a neighboring suburb. As the competition for search engine presence among schools and education- related portals remained fierce, there were two clear goals: first, get higher overall search rankings in the face of strong competition. Second, tap into the potential search footprint of each campus’ neighboring cities and suburbs.


Forward Push designed an overall strategy for search engine presence by combining both paid and organic search. This allowed for a balanced approach, one that garnered immediate results through paid search while also building a stronger overall search footprint through organic SEO means.

Forward Push was already performing PPC duties for the school but the existing campaign focused on the actual campus cities. The evolution of the PPC strategy meant broadening the overall scope to include the surrounding cities of each campus. These suburbs had proved to be strong sources of student applications in the past, and it made sense to expand the online marketing strategy to these locations. Research data was limited due to the small number of clicks for the targeted phrases, meaning that Forward Push had to use a broad match strategy rather than exact phrase matches. After compiling relevant data, PPC campaigns were devised based on these results.

For organic SEO, the overall strategy was more straightforward. Secondary cities were added using traditional SEO techniques: adding city names to code (footer, meta tags, title), content with proper SEO-friendly formatting, and permalink URLs. For high-priority cities or cities with greater competition, individual landing pages were built to create a larger search engine footprint.



After three months, Forward Push noted significant results across all campuses. Each campus had its own unique combination of paid and organic work targeting both the actual city location and surrounding secondary cities (neighboring suburbs). The following details the results by campus location:

  • Campus #1: This campus saw significant results from both the campus city and surrounding cities. For the actual campus city, 20 starts were generated over the three-month period, making it the second-highest year-to-date return. Eight total starts were generated from two different neighboring secondary cities.
  • Campus #2: This campus found results from different neighboring secondary cities — four total starts based on generated inquiries from those surrounding locations. One of the four was the first start generated by that particular neighboring city for the year.
  • Campus #3: Like campus #1, both actual city and neighboring city strategies produced results. The campus city produced 15 starts — the highest it had seen in five months. The neighboring secondary cities also demonstrated results with four starts over that time period.
  • Campus #4: This campus’ results focused on the actual city, which saw 18 new starts — the highest volume in four months.


Forward Push took the school’s online presence and expanded its footprint to create a broader, more targeted approach. By effectively using both organic and paid search strategies while address each campus’ individual locations, Forward Push’s campaign created new starts for all campuses — in some cases, with results hitting near record highs over a given time period.

Forward Push has years of experience providing online marketing services for schools of all sizes, from single-campus schools to multi-campus educational institutions. All new education clients receive $100 in pay-per-click credit.


By Marc Apple

Marc Apple is recognized as a leader in the marketing industry and has 20+ years of experience helping businesses of all sizes improve their digital marketing. He specializes in website design, SEO, social media, and paid search programs. He is a frequent contributor to other marketing websites and speaks regularly about marketing to small business owners and startups. To learn about Marc and to contact him, visit his author bio page.


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