Search Engine Optimization Lands PowerSchool on the Top of Organic Search Engine Results Pages.
After carefully selecting three targeted key word phrases, PowerSchool’s Student Information Services exploded to first page organic results in just four months.
SEO Case Study Summary
PowerSchool went through significant changes over the past two years including, new ownership, acquisition of additional companies and a complete redesign of their website to better match their new business objectives. The design of the webpage proved to be a lengthy process as the business seemed to be changing daily. The hard work paid off in October of 2016 with the launch of the new site. Serving as PowerSchool’s primary Digital Marketing tool, the beautifully designed website encompassed many great features including:
- Slick home page animations
- Robust content sections
- Integrations with Marketing Automation tools to follow the lead process
Despite 100 million users spanning 70 countries, PowerSchool’s organic search results left them with virtually no visibility in the index.
Powerschool’s Website Did Not Generate Top of The Funnel Leads Due to Lack of SEO Focus During Development
Despite having an aesthetically impressive site, PowerSchool was not ranking well in search engines for their key products that prospective customers were searching for. If one were to use the search query, “Student Information System”, a primary business solution offered by PowerSchool, they were nowhere to be found on the pages in Google Search. A technical SEO site audit showed that much of the traffic PowerSchool received was related to searches directly associated with the brand name. Current customers and users of the product were finding the website with ease. However, the same couldn’t be said for PowerSchool’s targeted prospective customers.
PowerSchool faced the realization that while the site looked quite impressive, it wasn’t achieving the primary goal of increasing the rate of prospective customers finding their web pages. After contemplating options, such as paid ad campaigns, presentations, and even cold calls, they realized that implementing those strategies weren’t yielding the results that aligned with their goals. Their goal was to make up for the largely missing segment of potential customers driven to the website; customers of whom are researching a specific education solution via online searches. With this realization, PowerSchool sought after the services of Capitol Tech Solutions (CTS) to develop a strategy that would drive prospective customers to their solution pages.
SEO Project Goals and Objectives
After meeting with PowerSchool, our team at CTS was given a solid understanding of PowerSchool’s Digital Marketing needs in order to help them understand we needed to set three primary goals for the scope of the project:
- Increase Search Engine Ranking Position for their primary suite of solutions.
- Restructure their on-page content rank better in search engines for the primary key terms.
- Make the website more effective in guiding potential customers through conversion paths relative to their stage in the customer journey.
Strategic & Technical Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Process
After conducting multiple interviews with PowerSchool, our team was thrilled to begin the challenge of optimizing their website. The first stage of our process was to further assess the PowerSchool site following three steps:
- Technical SEO Audit
- Backlink Profile Analysis
- Site Structure Review with the PowerSchool Marketing and Development Team
Technical SEO Audit
Our first step in the optimization process involved a technical audit that compared PowerSchool’s current coding to industry best practices. Completing this audit is an essential first step before having a detailed discussion with the customer for a multitude of reasons.
By completing this audit before having a detailed discussion with the customer, we were able to gain an unbiased understanding of what the website said about their business. Examples of what we looked for during the audit are:
- Header Tags: Were they in the proper order?
- Keyword Relevancy: Do the keyword(s) in the Heading tags match the targeted key words?
- HTML Code Structure: Is the current structure following recommended guidelines for HTML 5 best practices?
- World Wide Web Consortium (WC3): Are there any WC3 errors?
- Cascade Styling Sheet (CSS): Is the CSS all in a separate file so site speed isn’t hampered?
- Backend SEO: Are the Page Titles and Meta Descriptions accurate for the current pages?
When combined, these and other seemingly small technical items can have a large effect on the overall ranking of a website. Throughout the time in which we conducted our Technical SEO Audit, we found many aspects that PowerSchool could improve upon while maintaining the desired look and feel of the site.
Backlink Profile Analysis
The second step in our Technical Audit was to review PowerSchool’s business profile, and the information about it spanning across the Internet. This profile gives insight as to how many other websites reference PowerSchool, what pages they link back to, and what different areas we can execute from a well-built backlink strategy. The results had shown our Digital Marketing Team that PowerSchool already had possessed a strong presence on the web, given a strong score from ahrefs.com and other SEO ranking tools. Their robust score is credited to years of press releases, a strong social media presence, hosting multiple educational webinars, and utilizing a built-in application that’s linked back to their site. This gave us the understanding that our plan should focus on the On-Page SEO vs the Off-Page SEO.
Site Review with the PowerSchool Marketing Team
The third step in our review process was to discuss our findings with the PowerSchool Marketing and Development Teams. In this meeting, we discussed the importance of our findings and potential enhancements that could improve their organic website search rankings. Our team showed that while PowerSchool ranked very well when searched for their brand keyword search terms, or their specific branded products, their non-branded search rankings were almost non-existent when a user would type search for a product and service they specialize in.
Our analysis and data from a carefully conducted keyword research strategy further exhibited that potential customers were more likely to use broader terms when searching for the services related to PowerSchool. At this point, we began to discuss the types of searches that they would be more likely to rank for, and how we could use content on their website to achieve this. In conclusion to our, we developed a plan that would address these changes and began working on the technical adjustments needed, all while still aligning with their goals.
Changing the Focus From Who PowerSchool is to What They Are
The first phase of improvements centered on the site was structured to reflect the key terms PowerSchool wanted to rank for. Changes were made to the main header that was initially set as an H3 followed by a much less relevant secondary title that was also set as an H3. We adjusted the structure making the main title an H1 and added supporting text to it while altering the following titles on the page to correctly fall in order of the new layout. We then added section breaks where the page when other product features were discussed and were linked to other pages. By making these changes to the WordPress template that the site was built on, these improvements were easily duplicated on the other product pages in the site.
Semantic URL Structure: Smart use of the URL is vital
Our next step was to improve the existing URL structure to properly reflect targeted keyword phrases throughout the content, specifically pertaining to the topic being discussed. Since PowerSchool.com was already in the domain name, there was no need to repeat the name elsewhere in the URL. We added the product types to the URL, which would help PowerSchool achieve higher rankings deliver relevant search results.
Finally, we adjusted the term “Product” to “Solution” in the URL to match their menu and other offerings. Products are typically a tangible item while PowerSchool’s offerings are Software as a Service (SaaS) model solutions. While making a small adjustment like this may seem small, it is important to help with Google’s algorithms.
Content is the Reason Search Began in the First Place.
~ Lee Odden
Prospective customers searching for solutions pertaining to their problem or situation require content that educates and builds confidence in the service provider supplying the content. With this in mind, we made adjustments to the content on the targeted pages by implementing the most important key word variations throughout the multiple headers, as well as the body content.
PowerSchool SIS is a Student Information System, so we made the H1 title tag: Advanced Student Information System (SIS). We also incorporated variations of this term throughout the page’s secondary and tertiary title tags. We included the term “best” in content on the page, and other variations of the solution that people might search. These modifications, once approved by the PowerSchool marketing department, were implemented on the page for Student Information System in April. Once the changes were made, we focused our efforts on other marketing projects while monitoring the progress.
Data Driven Results Show Huge SEO Gains
Prior to undertaking the SEO, PowerSchool was not ranking in the top 100 search engine results for Student Information System. Almost immediately, they saw significant improvement jumping to the 65th result. Due to the high profile of the site, it is often crawled by Google’s bots and therefore changes happen rapidly. After just two weeks of the SEO improvements, PowerSchool ranked #1 for Advanced Student Information System. However, this term wasn’t seeing high search volumes and we adjusted the H1, pivoting to a higher searched term Student Information System – SIS. PowerSchool again jumped in rankings, landing on Google’s third page of results and one week later landed on the first page. Today, just four months after we began the SEO improvements, PowerSchool consistently ranks on the first page of search engine results for their three targeted key words:
- Student Information System
- Student Information Systems
- K12 Student Information System
Not only are they on the first page, they are above their direct competitors in ranking for the key terms they want to rank for. Below is a graph showing the ranking for the term Student Information System. Around May 24, Student Information System wasn’t in the top 100. By August 5, landed the top result for Google.
To better understand the success of the SEO efforts, Google Analytics offers a powerful metric that shows the sites organic traffic. Ideally, PowerSchool would show an increase in organic traffic once the site is ranking for the key terms that were focused on. Understanding the seasonal trends of school administrative in relation to PowerSchool is important, as their overall website traffic should decrease drastically during the Summer break. Despite this understanding, we still see improvements in organic search traffic to the SIS page we optimized.
Overall, PowerSchool now ranks highly for key terms that their potential customers are searching for when researching their services. We expect that the higher amount of exposure to their target consumers will translate in to more potential customers in the sales funnel. Additionally, they now have a site structure that can easily optimize their content making it easier to be found. This will continue to aid them in a more effective digital presence and help grow their business.
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