Your school website is your best enrollment and recruitment tool. Even if you normally rely on neighborhood or local students and staff hires, an effective website using strategic content can set your school or district apart from your other competitors.
However, the typical definition of web first school marketing (or just “web first” website strategies) refers to the website’s design. It is recommended that today’s websites are designed first for mobile devices and then for their desktop or tablet versions. This assures that those using mobile devices have the same optimum website experience as those using larger screens.
Since more and more users access all websites from their phones, this design strategy is increasingly vital. A well-designed website should be as effective, including intuitive navigation, easy-to-find information, and fast loading as the full-size version. In fact, any effective school website shouldn’t even require an app to be downloaded as a mobile-friendly website can serve the same purpose without the need for parents to download other programs or incur additional costs for the school.
School marketing with a website focus
For schools, marketing strategies typically mean targeting prospective students for enrollment and recruiting quality staff. Whether yours is a private school, a public school, or a charter school, your existence depends on student enrollment and effective staff.
One of the most affordable and beneficial marketing efforts any school can utilize is an effective school website. So, let’s talk about how to make your school website more effective.
Website marketing starts with getting found online. The goal is to show up on the first page of search results for the keywords that you are (or should be) targeting. Your target audience are those who are looking for what you offer. Whether it is a teacher looking for a match to his or her skillsets and values or parents seeking a school whose programs match the interests and talents of their children.
To get on the first page of search results, your website must:
- Contain great content that highlights your strengths and core focus.
- Use search engine optimization to your advantage for high search rankings.
- Combine your school’s website content with your social media platforms.
- Be added to Google My Business so you are easily found and come up in searches.
- Utilize a communication plan strategy to coordinate your efforts with your marketing strategy (while improving your school marketing).
- Become a resource for inbound marketing to attract prospective students (via their parents).
- Share testimonials and reviews as proof of what you deliver with your programs, your staff, and your successes.
Web first design
We mentioned earlier that typically the reference to web first was about design. Honestly, that is the easy part. Simply design your website to be mobile-friendly using best practices for a responsive website. That means that the most frequently visited pages should be front and center.
Navigation should be intuitive and easy to read on a phone or any small screen. It should also be fast loading, which would mean removing those beautiful images on the mobile version. Scrolling is expected on a mobile device, so you can take advantage of that feature to help users find what information they are seeking.
Basically, an effective mobile-friendly website uses common sense and Google analytics to provide the information your parents are looking for quickly. If done right, a responsive school website will remove the need for an app and your site will be the one-stop shop for whatever is needed, whether is finding schedules and menus for enrolled students or helping to convince parents to enroll their child and being able to do so online.
Web first school marketing strategies
Unlike the design aspects of your website mentioned above, using your website as your primary marketing tool is not only smart, it is affordable and effective. It is your platform for adding digital marketing campaigns to your enrollment strategies. Not only does online marketing make student enrollment a simple process for parents, it saves staff time and is easy on your school’s budget.
So, let’s go through the strategies mentioned above in a bit more detail:
To be relevant, your school must create content that answers the questions or solves the problems your targeted customers have. Your website content can point those ideal customers (prospective parents and students) to your school. Inbound marketing can position your school as the ultimate resource, and soon your targeted customers will come to you with their questions.
Think about it. How do you make buying decisions for services or products? You Google it, you ask friends, and you check social media. You form opinions based on your own research, which includes reading informative content that provides you with useful information. You do this on your terms and buy when you’re ready.
That is what inbound marketing can do for your school and you use your website as the resource to do that. Learn how at Inbound Marketing (Part I) and (Part II).
Using testimonials and reviews
I don’t know about you, but before I purchase anything, I find out what others who have already done so have to say about their choice. I look at customer testimonials and product or company reviews and those influence my decisions.
Unfortunately, in spite of the fact that this has such an impact on our purchasing decisions, schools often do a poor job of providing testimonials and reviews to influence parents and staff. Often there are excellent testimonials to be had for the asking, but schools fail to ask. So, ask!
- Make it easy to gather positive comments by adding online forms to your website, hand out printed forms during teacher conferences, and send home the occasional email questionnaire. (Don’t forget to ask alumni as well!)
- Use surveys on your social media and your website to gather comments and input. Get content ideas at Collecting Testimonials and Why Testimonials Work.
- Ask for reviews. More than ever, people are checking online reviews for goods and services. So like testimonials, make it easy for parents, staff, students, and alumni to provide reviews at sites that offer those. Some of these sites are Google My Business, GreatSchools.org, Niche.com, and possibly your school’s Facebook page. To learn how to make this easier, check out “Give your school the gift of reviews.”
Digital marketing is effective marketing
So, what is digital marketing? Sometimes called online marketing, it is when you use digital communication to promote your brand. It includes your school website, email, social media, texts, and web-based paid advertising or social media ads.
Digital marketing can help you manage enrollment, but it does require that you create compelling content that will show off your expertise. This will include your school website, of course, as well as your social media platforms.
Integrating your social media presence with your school’s story in your marketing materials are critical elements of an effective school marketing plan. Your content, images, stories, and testimonials will influence your website visitors, your surrounding community, and attracts students and staff. Learn more about it at “Digital marketing for schools in the 2020s.”
It’s all about the website
So, when we talk about web first marketing, we mean that nearly every aspect of successful school marketing begins with your site. All of your marketing strategies from attracting families into your admissions funnel to recruiting prospective staff should use your school’s website as your primary marketing activity.
Need a website that will make the grade? Contact the experts at School Webmasters today!