This is What Happens When a Parent Searches “Best Schools Near Me”

5 min read
Jan 24, 2023 8:00:00 AM

Trying to boost student enrollment? You need to take this into account: do you appear when a parent searches “best schools near me”?

Google’s algorithm has gotten scarily intelligent over the past decade, and part of the way it functions is that users receive search results based on their physical geographic location. This is known as Google local search.

What relevance does this have to schools?

Well, if you’re trying to increase student enrollment, your school needs to appear in your area’s local search results. Keep reading to learn how you can make that happen.

Scenario: A Parent Looking for a New School Visits Google

According to Niche, just under half of parents begin their search for a new school online, with 25% hitting up Google Search and an additional 24% visiting review websites.

Ensuring your school’s site appears in Google Search matters because when a parent types in “best schools near me,” “public schools in [your city],” “[your city] charter schools,” or similar, they’ll pretty much always get these search results:

  1. The main websites for the various schools in your community.
  2. School profiles on review sites: Niche, GreatSchools, SchoolDigger, Public School Review, Private School Review, and Yelp.

Understand that your school may or may not appear in any of these results. And if it doesn’t, that’s a problem. But it’s fixable!

The Google 3-Pack — and Why Your School Needs It

What is the Google 3-Pack? Simply put, it’s the top three places/search results for local businesses, schools, and similar entities. I’ll demonstrate using some local Google results from my location in Lafayette, Louisiana.

For this exercise, I typed in “lafayette la schools.”

This appeared at the very top of my search results, right under the search bar:

the google 3-pack for local search results in lafayette la

These three local schools appear above in what’s known as the 3-Pack (sometimes called the “local pack”) for my lafayette la schools keyword.

When your school appears in the 3-Pack, it puts you at the top of search results — in fact, even above the regular search results for websites.

Having a spot in the coveted 3-Pack makes it far, far likelier that a prospective parent will check you out first rather than clicking “more places” in the gray bar (pictured below).

a single search result in google

Parents may click the gray button (above) that says “more places.” But you’ll be in a far better position (pun unintended) if you’re in the top three results.

And if your Google profile has numerous high-star ratings (as you can see with Broadmoor Elementary above)? Your spot in the 3-Pack is priceless.

Now, if you don’t appear at all — even when you click More places — you have a far bigger problem.

I recommend reaching out to one of SchoolMint’s enrollment consultants to discuss how SchoolMint Engage can improve your school’s search visibility.

How Do I Make Sure My School Shows Up?

Nothing is guaranteed with Google. But with time, effort, and a willingness to experiment, you can get your school’s website in front of parents searching “best schools near me” and seeking enrollment.

Below are three simple things you can do to get started!

1. Register Your School with Google Business Profile

To improve your website’s ranking and to appear in the Google 3-Pack, your school must be registered with Google Business Profile.

Doing this is free, is fairly intuitive, and will ensure your school appears on Google Maps!

three benefits of google business profile for schools

Get started here, and Google will walk you through the process and what information you need to provide to claim your school’s profile.

2. Use Local, Relevant Keywords on Your School’s Website

Your odds of appearing in local search results will increase exponentially if you use the appropriate keywords across your website. “Appropriate” here means the keywords are related to your school and your city, county, or (if applicable) school district.

Think through some things: How would you describe your school? What terms are families likely to use when they search for you? What programs do you offer? Why do current parents choose you?

You should gather a list of these relevant keywords, then incorporate them into your school’s website. Here are some ways you can do that:

  • Use relevant keywords on your school’s homepage
  • Use those keywords and phrases in school blog posts
  • Create pages on your school’s site dedicated to those topics
  • Use those terms when you are describing your school, programs, etc.
  • Make sure all images on your site have “alt tags” that appropriately describe what they are while also incorporating your chosen keywords

For example, say you’re a public school with a STEM focus, and you’re located in Aspen, Colorado. You’re trying to attract families searching for STEM schools. On your website, you’d describe your school using phrases like “public STEM school in Aspen.”

Because Google is smart (and because you registered with Google Business Profile), it’s likely families in the Aspen, Colorado, area will see results for your school.

But Avoid “Keyword Stuffing”

With that in mind, a word of caution: Google will know if you’re spamming search terms all over your school’s website. Slapping up a paragraph of keywords like “public school,” “the best schools,” “best public school,” and so on won’t cut it.

This is called keyword stuffing. And it is a terrible SEO practice that will result in your site being penalized — that is, having its ranking lowered. Or taken away entirely.

If you want your site to rank and for parents to be interested in what your school has to offer, ensure your site’s content is relevant and engaging.

Yes, it takes time and effort. But when local parents find thoughtful web pages filled with helpful information about your school, they’ll feel secure entrusting you with their child’s education.

You can get more in-depth information about improving your site’s search visibility here.

3. Claim Your School’s Profile on Review Sites

I mentioned earlier that school review sites tend to show up in search results when parents are doing local searches.

Review sites typically rank well because they have really, really good optimization for search engines.

They have an “authority” in search results that can be difficult for other websites to compete with. Google knows review sites serve a national audience, are trustworthy, and offer consistent, high-quality content.

Well, as the saying goes — if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!

If you haven’t already, you need to claim your school’s profile on these review sites. This will further help you rank and drive traffic to your main website.

For more information about school review sites, check out my colleague’s previous article: How to Use School Review Sites to Your Advantage.


A good amount of work goes into getting your site on the first page of Google.

But because local search results are significantly less competitive than national and state-wide results, even small improvements can get your school up at the top!

Start with the three tips above, and in short order, parents searching local terms like “public schools near me” will be far likelier to find you — and, thus, enroll.

Just make sure you’re telling the story they want to hear. Er, see and read.

Ready to discuss how you can make your school visible to families and earn their enrollment? Schedule a consultation with one of our enrollment experts here.

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