In my last blog, I talked about how important camp websites are and how they can serve as a great recruitment tool if they help you get found. I promised a blog on SEO, and I intend to deliver. However, in writing, I found that explaining SEO for camps takes a lot of words, so I’m going to break it into parts. In this blog, I’ll explain on-site SEO. First, let’s discuss what search engine optimization (SEO) actually is.
Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization is using a combination of techniques, strategies, and methods to increase your website visitors by improving your rank on search engines. Search engine optimization can work for any search engine (Yahoo!, Bing, Ask), but most people focus primarily on Google because Google is the source of most web searches. In fact, according to search engine land, around 65 percent of all searches are done on Google, with Bing coming in second at around 33 percent.
Google algorithms for search engine ranking change constantly, but the most important thing to remember is the better your user experience, the better your ranking. Recently, user experience has expanded to also mean mobile user experience, so if you’re really trying to better your SEO, it’s important to make sure your website works well on a phone and tablet.
SEO has three basic components we’ll discuss:
- On-Site SEO
- Offsite SEO
- Site Code and Structure
The easiest for camps to do is on-site SEO, but with determination, offsite SEO and site code and structure can be done.
On-site SEO refers to the actual content on your website and the user experience it provides.
To optimize your website’s content for search engines, you need to identify keywords and make sure you use them in the correct places. Keywords are simply words you want to be found for. Longer keywords are easier to rank for, but may have fewer searches.
You can use Google or Moz to do keyword research. It’s a good idea to limit the search to your state. Ideally, you want to identify words that have a high search volume and low competition. For example (using Florida):
Explaining some of the things with these keywords can be a little confusing, but stay tuned, and together, we’ll make sense of it.
From this search, we learn that summer camp is the best keyword to optimize for. It gets 49,500 searches monthly and has low competition. That means, if done correctly, improving our on-site SEO can get us on the first page of Google, which is where you want to be. People rarely look past the second page.
What about the other keywords? Really, a lot of these are kind of long-tail keywords. They may get fewer searches, but they have greater opportunity. For example, overnight summer camps has the keyword “summer camp” in it, so it helps with people searching summer camp OR overnight summer camps. Sleep away camp may have more searches than overnight summer camps, but it doesn’t contain the “summer camp” main keyword. So actually, it might be best to optimize for overnight summer camps.
Doing keyword research can also help when you’re not sure which word is searched more. Your camp may use “residential summer camp” or “sleep away camp” more when you typically speak about your camp, but for SEO you want to make sure you use the words that most people typically use. Keyword research gives you that information.
Once you’ve gotten your keywords, it’s important to know where to use them. You want to make sure you use them in your content naturally – make sure the keyword is there, but don’t make yourself use it too often. If your keyword density (the ratio of your keyword to other words) is too high, your site will look spammy to Google and you won’t get ranked well. Do make sure to use your keyword in the first 100 words, though.
You also want to put your keyword in your title tag and in your meta description. These things work behind the scenes to tell Google what your page is about, and they appear to people who search them. Here’s a visual:
The blue writing is your title tag, and the black is your meta description. If you’re working on an interior page (a page other than the homepage), it’s a good idea to have your keyword in your url as well.
More Keyword Opportunities
In addition to telling you which keyword to use, keyword research may actually tell you what page to add to your site. If you’re a Christian camp, you could optimize for that on your homepage OR you could add another page using the keyword Christian camp, where you focus on how your camp lives out that mission. Not only does it provide great information for parents, but it also gives you the opportunity to rank for more words.
Consumers don’t want to read through text, text, and more text, and Google (and other search engines) know that. Adding multimedia to your site can help decrease your bounce rate and increase your rankings.
Use pictures or videos of your camp on each page. If you don’t have images that work, make some! Canva is a great free tool that makes it easy for anyone to create cool graphics.
When you add in your multimedia, make sure that the title and the alt text use your keyword.
If you read my past blogs compared to my recent blogs, one thing sticks out (at least in my mind). It’s formatting. Again, users don’t want to read through text, text, and more text. Use headlines, bullets, bold, italics, and more to break up your text. Additionally, it’s a great idea to write in smaller paragraphs because they’re more easily digestible.
You also want to make sure you have enough content. Generally, you want more than 300 words on each page.
Adding links to your page also helps your SEO. You want to add two types of links: internal and external.
On each page, you want to link to another page on your site. This should help the user’s journey through your site. For example, if you have a page about your camp’s Christian background and you mention that you have chapel every morning at 8:00 a.m., you could link to your camp’s schedule or a more in-depth description of chapel.
Maybe surprisingly, it’s a good idea to link to other websites. It helps tell Google exactly what your page is about. So if you’re an ACA accredited camp, it’s a good idea to link to ACA. Or if you have a page about first-time campers, you could link to an article (or two or three) with tips for parents of first-time campers or even to a store where they could buy Homesick and Happy.
When linking, whether internally or externally, it’s important to make the links natural in the text and not to use sentences like “get more information here,” with a link on here. The words attached to your link help tell search engines what you’re talking about.
Whew. That’s a lot of information. But if you take everything one step at a time, you can increase your on-site SEO and help your website rank higher on search engines. The higher you rank, the more families who see your camp, and hopefully, the more campers you get.
A great tool you can use to measure your on-site SEO is Yoast. It will give you a green light, yellow light, or red light for each page’s content and SEO and explain what you can do to fix each. It’s great for keeping you on track.
If you want to dive more into SEO or if you’re one of the extremely organized camp directors who like to follow a checklist, check out this one from BackLinko.