Springtime is one of the busiest times of year for schools around the world. It's the final stretch for the summer holiday, meaning faculty and students are knee deep in final assignments, your marketing and communications team is working endlessly to put the finishing touches on commencement ceremonies, reach advancement goals, and begin recruiting new faculty for the fall, and your admission team is preparing to enroll new students.
Needless to say, you don't necessarily have much extra time to devote to long-term strategies. However, right now is actually the best time to start preparing for the new school year, to ensure that next year is just as successful (or even more successful) as this year.
In this article, we look at 4 ways to spring clean your online presence to make sure that your school website is in full bloom!
1. Invest Time in Search Engine Optimization
The goal of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is to drive more qualified traffic to your website by:
- Appearing in the searches that matter to your school
- Appearing at the top of search for unbranded searches
- Serving up relevant interior pages from branded searches
While the best-executed SEO strategies take a lot of time and effort (and that's what we're here for!), there are some easy strategies you can implement on your website now to optimize your website for search.
CRAFT TITLE TAGS + META-DESCRIPTIONS FOR EVERY PAGE
Think about which terms a prospective parent or student would use when they're looking for your school. Are you an international school in Shanghai or an IB school in London? Use this term in conjunction with your school's name for the perfect page title tag. For interior pages about specific programs or accolades, you can be more detailed with your title tags. For these pages, you will want to use your school's name, and the name of the program being described. Title tags are extremely important to ranking well in search.
In addition to your title tag, a website page's meta description is also critically important. A meta description is an HTML and XHTML element that describes your page to search engines and plays a significant role in SEO rankings. Allowing you 155-160 characters before becoming truncated, you have the opportunity to define who you are in a bit more detail. Unlike title tags, meta descriptions don't actually help you rank better in search. Rather, they are importance to entice searchers to click your school's search result.
Here is a good example from the American School of Bombay's homepage title tag and meta description. This is how they have set it up in Finalsite Composer.
And here is how it looks in Google:
2. Plan to Make Pivotal Website Improvements
Make sure that your school website is ready to handle a growth spurt of new visitors and the steady stream of administrative tasks this Spring! At the very least your website should be responsive, which means your website will adapt no matter what size device your visitor is using. There are plenty of free tools that will test if your website is responsive, we recommend Google Tool to test if your website is mobile friendly.
GO DIGITAL WITH YOUR FORMS
You want to make it as easy as possible for a visitor to reach out to you and for you to capture lead data. This means any form a prospective parent or student fills out should be digital, including admissions, open day, prospectus requests and event registrations.
This means, you'll want to ensure:
- Your website is built to take data that has been entered on your website and put it directly into your database to avoid doubling up on work.
- Your Content Management System (CMS) talks to other databases and programs to improves your constituent's online journey. This includes your MIS (Management Information System), SIS (Student Information Systems) sports applications and payment gateways for e-commerce.
Finalsite's CMS Composer, has the ability to integrate with over 30 other platform providers which means that many programs or applications that schools currently run can often slot seamlessly into our CMS. It means you only have to enter your data once but it can be published many times.
3. Re-Evaluate Your Digital Brand
Your brand takes on a life of its own. Your website, tone of voice and color scheme are just some of the factors that go into the way your constituent and potential constituents perceive your brand. Take control by creating a brand that is authentic, highlights your school's most positive attributes, and attracts your target student or family.
GIVE YOUR CUSTOMERS A VOICE
Prospective constituents feel that brands are more authentic when they let their current customers speak for them. Let your current students or parents guest blog or create video content for the school. Try letting a student takeover one of your social media accounts for the day. Remember that your social accounts are another brand element of your school and also need to stay on-brand.
Make sure that all social media profiles are consistent with the brand as much as possible in color, the type of people and companies you follow and tone (although on social media, the tone can be more casual than on your website). All of your communications should be professional and consistent in branding, including your emails.
4. Invest in Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising
Getting started in PPC is simpler than you might think. The best way to start is to set up a Google AdWords account and start identifying which search terms are best suited for your campaign. For example, if you are a London based prep school looking to get ahead of the competition, you might consider the search term 'London prep school'. Then when a prospective parent searches for that phrase, your school's advert would be displayed at the top of the page, above the organic search results placing your school's brand directly in front of your prospective parents.
There are many reasons why PPC is a worthwhile consideration for your school, especially if you are looking to increase admissions, recruitment and brand recognition. You can target relevant audiences by choosing search terms that are most relevant to your school means that the people who will see your PPC ads are those specifically searching for your search terms. Another great feature of PPC ads is that you only pay when someone actually clicks on your advert. This way there are no upfront costs, and in all probability, every time it costs your school money, it is because an interested party has seen your ad, clicked on it and is now a potential new enrollment! This new way of paying for ads is a lot more cost effective than offline print ads where you pay an upfront fee.
If you'd like to find out more about how Finalsite can help with SEO, social media, PPC or a new school website get in touch with us today.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Olivia works with schools worldwide to develop and implement social media strategies. She began her career in television and has worked with production companies including the BBC, Disney and Southern Star Australia. Transferring her skills to the corporate world, she has worked as a leadership skills coach and trained teams from blue chip companies including Coca Cola, AMP and IBM. Prior to her current role as Social Media Specialist at FinalsiteUK, Olivia was Deputy Editor for Families Magazine. Holding a Bachelor of Dramatic Art and a Diploma of Digital Marketing (CIM), her blend of experience gives her a unique understanding of audiences, branding, and storytelling. Olivia has 14+ years of experience working in corporate coaching, publishing and digital marketing.