Jon's Note: April

Each quarter, Finalsite Founder and CEO Jon Moser shares updates about the latest at Finalsite. This month's note covers two new Finalsite products — Apply and Composer — as well as our upcoming user conference, FinalsiteU, in June.


Learn more about FinalsiteApply.

Learn more about Composer.

Register for FinalsiteU.


Original Transcript:

I’ve just returned from a few days in Bavaria at the ECIS conference at Bavarian International School. It was an awesome experience to see our client schools using Finalsite and meet people from all over Europe. And, I got to present on a couple of topics I’m passionate about: how Finalsite can help IT professionals juggle all of their responsibilities, and how to tell if your school is measuring up against your peers and keeping people engaged online.

Today I want to talk about something I’m really excited about: our new paperless admissions software, FinalsiteApply. You may have already heard the buzz about it that has been growing since we released it in January.  For all of you in yield season right now and buried in folders, I think you will welcome what FinalsiteApply offers: a totally paperless workflow.

From the first time a prospective family submits an inquiry through the interview and tour process and on to enrollment, the whole process is online, secure, and integrates with the whole Finalsite platform. If you haven’t checked it out, visit finalsiteapply.com and sign up for a demo.

Another thing that I’ve been talking about for a while now and getting excited about is our new CMS, Finalsite Composer. It really changes everything about the way we build and edit pages in the Finalsite platform. You may have heard me talk about how easy it is, but I’m serious-we’ve worked hard to make sure that Composer is simple and intuitive for every user on campus—with no coding knowledge required. 

This is going to streamline how schools manage their sites and since Composer was built to be automatically responsive, you can be sure that every visitor is going to have an awesome experience on your site, whether they’re on an iPhone, desktop or laptop. You can check it out at Finalsite.com/composer.

If you want to learn more about Apply and Composer, be sure to sign up for FinalsiteU, where our team will be on hand to show you the latest features and answer your questions—so if you haven’t already, head on over to FinalsiteU.com and sign up.  We’re offering more than 70 amazing sessions on everything from the future of design to new offerings and real new best practices you can take back to your school.

Thanks so much for watching. I hope I’ll connect with many of you at upcoming conferences and of course, in June at FinalsiteU.

Thanks again, and think spring.

Posted by mia.major in Product News on Thursday April 16
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How to Build an All-Star Athletics Page

For many independent schools, Athletics pages aren’t necessarily a top entry point from search. Coming in behind homepage, tuition, employment, news and logins in popularity, athletics pages commonly rank in 6th place as an entry point.

While not as popular as other entry points, searchers who enter through an athletics section prove one thing: that they are interested in something very specific about your school. They want to know more about your athletic programs and how they compare with programs at other schools.

Knowing that could potentially be the deciding factor, you’re going to want to knock their socks off — right?

Don’t get benched: hit a homerun with these best practices for athletics pages.

Keep your athletics page organized.

Most schools rack up rosters for more than a dozen teams, so keeping your athletics page clean can be a challenge. Choose how you’re going to organize your teams on your landing page, and further, how you’ll organize each team’s specific content. Organizing content by team, rather than displaying it all at once, will make it easy for website visitors to find what they’re looking for.

St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia has a visual Team Directory that features icons of each sports team on campus. Once you select a team, you’ll be able to check out the schedule, coaches, and any other additional information for each sport.

St. Joseph's Prep Team Directory

Make it easy to navigate back to the rest of your site.

Remember that your goal isn’t just to show off your sports teams — your goal is to turn website visitors into inquires and applicants.

Baylor School CTA

Use calls to action to guide website visitors to other important pages within athletics and on your site. St. Pius X High School and Baylor School waste no time redirecting prospective families to visit, request more information, and even apply.

St. Pius X Athletics

Share your athletics culture.

Athletics are about so much more than scores and rosters. Sharing what it’s like to be a member of your athletic community can be a decision-maker for some prospective students looking for that “perfect fit.” Share photos of your facilities, recent sports news, and most importantly, student stories. The Athletes of the Week section on St. George’s athletics page showcases students who have recently been acknowledged for their efforts on the field.

St. George's Athlete of the Week

Feature notable alumni. 

Students who are interested in your athletic programs may also be interested in pursing athletics in college. Featuring notable alumni, as well as recent alumni news will provide prospective families with insight to the ROI of your school’s athletic programs. Trinity-Pawling School in New York does an excellent job of maintaining a running list of exciting news for their alumni.

Trinity-Pawling Alumni News

Make it a mash-up.

For current families, athletics are all about up-to-the-minute updates. Share a live stream of athletics news, recent tweets, upcoming games, and photos to provide a one-stop-shop for the latest in athletics for your school community.

CCDS Mashup

Be sure it’s responsive! 

Athletics pages receive some serious traffic from constituents — especially on the go and on their mobile devices. They’re wondering: how do I get to the game again? Who won tonight’s championship? Is there still practice in this weather?

Whether it’s a student checking the time of a game, or a parent looking for directions to an away game, they’re depending on your school to make that information easily accessible whether they’re at home, or already in their car headed to the game. Having a responsive design will make for a better user experience.


Are you ready to go responsive? Every website built on our new CMS, Composer, is automatically responsive and user-friendly.

Learn More

Posted by mia.major in Best Practices, Athletics on Wednesday April 15
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The Qualities of Viral Content: Canterbury School Pi Day Video Case Study

It’s not everyday that a new faculty member jumps on a desk during math class and starts singing a rendition of American Pie in honor of Pi Day completely in key.

Moments like this define your school, brand and culture, but are also hard to genuinely come by. So, when a faculty member rushed in to tell Karen Belcher, Director of Digital Communications at Canterbury School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, that's exactly what was going on in one of the math classes, she knew she had to drop everything and capture that moment. 

“It was completely candid and impulsive,” said Karen.

“The teacher had put this together to surprise his math classes. Since he is a new to our faculty this year, the other teachers are learning the tricks he has up his sleeves — this happens to be one of them.”

Using her iPhone, Karen captured this six-minute performance in honor of the math holiday. “And at the end, I left thinking, ‘I have to do something with this,’” she said.

Fast forward through some technical difficulties with YouTube (which meant delaying the school’s weekly “good news” newsletter a few hours) Karen was unable to share the video immediately. But, it worked out in her favor.

The next morning she uploaded the video directly to Canterbury School’s Facebook page from her iPhone and started seeing feedback almost instantly.

The post now has nearly 15,000 views, a reach greater than 40,000, 352 shares, 222 likes and 55 comments — a reach exponentially beyond the 700-family community.

So what’s the recipe for creating that kind viral content most schools only hope of attaining?

1. Perfect Timing

Although Karen was rushing to get the post up on YouTube and in her weekly newsletter Friday afternoon, most social media traffic tends to die down at the end of a workday and pick back up over the weekend, with some research pointing directly at Saturday as the best day to post on Facebook. (Saturday was also Pi Day!)

2. Rarity

“Parents love to see what’s going on in the classroom,” said Karen. “This had more views, more reached, more sharing, more anything than we’ve ever posted, and I think that’s because this is something most parents never get to see.”

Facebook Comment 1

"At the beginning of the school year I really wanted to share posts featuring what’s going on in the classroom on a daily basis,” said Karen. “Due to other duties, that’s not always the reality, but I do try to video in classrooms as much as possible. The results from the Pi Day video really sent a message back to me that posting that insider view from the classroom really makes a difference to our audience."

3. Shareable and Likeable

“Parents don’t always feel comfortable sharing posts to their own page because they don’t want to overwhelm their friends,” said Karen. “But this is something they were proud to share. It really showed what is unique or different about our school.”

“Word of mouth is probably the number one way prospective families hear about a school — and being on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram supports that kind of word of mouth marketing strategy by giving people something to talk about. It allows your parents to be interactive with the school, but they’re also viewing a piece of what’s happening at the school that they don’t necessarily get to see on a daily basis.”

4. Conversation-Worthy

When content inspires a conversation beyond “liking” and sharing, you’ve got something good. When you share content that creates a buzz — like this video — you’re going to see more interaction from a larger and more diverse group of followers.

“If you just look at the comments, they’re all testimonials,” said Karen. “A lot of the comments are from our families, but there are also lots of people from other schools commenting. There even are teachers and principals from other schools giving our math teacher kudos — and that’s huge.”

Facebook Comment 2


Additional Outcomes

For Canterbury School, this video served as a stepping-stone for increased engagement on their social channels and website.

“There have been really good residual effects,” said Karen.  “Since I’ve shared this video, people have seen other posts that we’ve shared. People have shared more, liked more, and commented more. ”

Since Facebook filters timeline content based on a user’s likes, shares and interactions, Canterbury School’s posts will also appear more frequently on the timelines of followers who engaged with the post in the weeks to follow.

For about a week after the video was posted, Canterbury School’s admissions director said that the phones were ringing more. Whether you’d like to chalk it up to coincidence or word of mouth — we think that’s pretty awesome. “After seeing that kind of post on Facebook, some people who were maybe trying to make a decision and have been on the fence about calling were maybe more likely to call,” she said.

“Case in point, we just received our first request for admission information via Facebook from a prospective family."

Beyond numbers, the success of the video has faculty working more closely with Karen. “It’s inspiring our faculty,” she said. “I had more people in the last week reach out to me about things they’re doing in the classroom because they’re getting recognition, and now they understand it a little bit better. They are messaging videos and photos from the classroom and field studies to my cell phone so I can post them immediately on Facebook.” 

Posted by mia.major in Success Stories, Social Media on Monday April 13
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Surviving Mobilegeddon: What You Really Need to Know

It’s been called the mobilepocalyse, SEO-pocolypse, mopocalypse, and most commonly, mobilegeddon. But let’s call it what it is: it’s yet another Google algorithm update that’s going to start affecting your school’s website starting April 21st. The update, in short, makes it easier for users to find web pages in search results that are optimized for their device. Pages that aren’t device optimized will rank lower than those that are.

That makes it sound a little less intimidating, right? Not really.

To be blunt, there are no Band-aids for this: a responsive site is what Google expects.

And as time goes on, Google’s algorithms will progress to favor mobile devices more as their popularity continues to grow. But let’s not worry about that just yet. Here’s what you need to know about this Google algorithm update right now.

Mobilegeddon

Only Mobile Traffic is Affected

Using Google Analytics or Finalsite Dashboard, determine the percentage of your website visitors that are coming from mobile devices. Although only mobile traffic is affected by this algorithm update, you’d be surprised at how many of your visitors fall into this category.

The majority of Finalsite schools see a hefty portion of their traffic come from mobile devices: an average of 22-37% of website traffic comes smartphones, and an average of 11-18% comes from tablets —

meaning some schools see up to 50% of their website traffic coming from mobile devices.

Being Responsive Doesn’t Mean You’re #1

Nope, you can’t ditch your SEO strategy — sorry! Just because you’re responsive, doesn’t mean you’ll be guaranteed a spot at the top of the search engine rankings or even on page one. The algorithm update simply favors your responsive pages in mobile search. Page load time, playable video content, and even text size play a role in where your website page ranks in search. 

The Algorithm Works in Real Time

This algorithm runs in real-time. So whenever your site goes responsive, Google will pick up on the change and you will start to benefit from the change. Keep in mind that “real-time” means as soon as Googlebots crawl your page again. If your site has slow load times, it may take longer than expected.

The Algorithm Works on a Page-by-Page Basis

Sometimes during the redesign process, a school will launch a special microsite for a capital campaign, summer program, or a social media mash-up before the rest of the site is live. If you’ve done that this year, it’ll work in your favor. This algorithm update runs on a page-by-page basis, meaning if you have 10 site pages and 5 are responsive, those 5 will still benefit from this update.

Going Responsive is Your Best “Survival” Tactic

Responsive design is Google’s recommended site design and will favor your ranking for a few technical reasons.

First, since responsive websites assign a single link to a page, it helps Google’s algorithms accurately assign indexing properties to the page at once, rather than needing to look for other mobile and desktop pages.

Second, Google’s latest algorithm will penalize mobile sites with a slow load time — having a responsive design reduces load time since there isn’t a redirect involved and content is already optimized for the device.

Lastly, it makes it easier and more efficient for Googlebots to crawl your site, making it easier for Google to index more of your site pages and content (and that’s great for SEO!).

Take the mobile-friendly test to see how your site scores with Google. Currently, Finalsite responsively-designed websites are passing the mobile-friendly test with flying colors. Our fixed-width sites with a mobile redirect for the homepage are passing, but only the homepage — not all interior site pages.

Baylor School Passes Mobile-Friendly Test

Not happy about the results of your test? With our new CMS, Composer, you can have a brand new, responsive design in as little as 60 days. Every website built using Composer is 100% mobile friendly and responds to every screen size — which means you’ll be guaranteed to pass Google’s mobile-friendly test.

Learn More

A PPC Campaign Can Help

While Google can penalize non-responsive sites in search, it can’t have the same effect on PPC ads. If you’re in the redesign process and don’t want to lose your search engine presence, run a PPC campaign that links to a mobile-friendly page to keep your school’s name present in search.

A Mobile Website Counts (Kind Of)

If you can’t afford to start a redesign project just yet, a mobile website may be a good interim solution until you’re ready to begin. The major downside to mobile sites is that they have a different link, less content, different navigation, and other mobile-only options, none of which will help your rankings. They also don’t maintain your school’s brand or look and feel of your website the same way responsive design does.

In short: even though they’re still going to pass the mobile-friendly test, Googlebots will have a harder time crawling your site, which affects your ranking, and your mobile visitors won’t enjoy the same great user experience they would on a desktop.


Have questions, or ready to go responsive? We can help! 

Let's Talk

Posted by mia.major in Search Engine Secrets, Data Trends on Friday April 10 at 08:09AM
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5 Email Newsletter Strategies You’ll Want to Start Using Today

I have a confession to make: poor email engagement is my biggest fear. (Well, my second biggest fear next to heights.) I actually sweat when I hit send. For me, there’s nothing worse than spending hours crafting the perfect subject line, creating images, and tweaking text content to see lower-than-expected email open rates and click through rates.

*Sigh.*

But, I know I’m not alone in that. At least once, all of us marketers are bound to be discouraged by the ROI of our email-invested-time. But there are some proven-to-work email newsletter practices that you and your subscribers are bound to love. Try out these five strategies that will improve readability, engagement, and overall look and feel in your next email newsletter to ensure you won’t be worried about hitting “send.”

1. Use a Faux Video

Yesterday we were tweeted the question “is it possible to embed videos in e-notify messages?” While that would be amazing, no email platform allows you embed videos right in your email. However, you can make it look like there’s a video in your email, which will prompt subscribers to click it to “play.”

There’s also an added bonus when you have an image that links to a video too: you’re bringing more traffic to your website. And that’s the goal of all your marketing efforts, right?

2. Don’t Forget to Include Alt Text 

Alt text, the text displayed when an image doesn’t load, is a commonly forgotten but extremely important piece of your newsletter.  Many email clients load images automatically — like the Apple iPhone client, the top email client today — but many do not. For example, Gmail — which is currently the second most popular email client — automatically downloads images, but won’t display them unless you’ve selected to do so. What does that mean? About 43% of Gmail users read their emails without ever enabling the images. And if you don’t have alt text, it’s going to look like this:

Starbucks - No Alt Text

(That's a whole lot of white space. So yes, even Starbucks makes mistakes sometimes.)

Keeping subscribers informed about the subscriber should be seeing in your email, provides the opportunity to get creative, informative, and even a little witty. Here’s a good example of an email with alt text:

Banana Republic Alt Text

Want to learn best practices for using and styling your image alt text? We love this guide from Litmus, which outlines everything you’ll need to know about writing and styling your alt text

3.  Quicken Your Load Time

If 47% of consumers expect a webpage to load in 3 seconds or less, you can bet that they expect the same from your emails. The best way to speed up load time is to adjust the size of your displayed files.

For example, if your email is only 600px wide, don’t import an image that’s 900px wide and adjust in the email. Resize the image before you put it in your email. If you’re editing in Photoshop, use the simple “save for web button.” To make image size even smaller, you can use programs like ImageOptimTinyPNG, or JPEGmini.

4.  Show, Don’t Tell: Get creative with a GIF

Because of their inherently small file size and video-like quality, GIF images are becoming increasingly popular in email marketing. Animated GIF images offer new story-telling possibilities that simply are not possible with a static image. Here's one we made for a recent email about SEO and PPC.

Finalsite-Gif

At Finalsite, we make all of our gifs using Photoshop’s timeline feature, but there are dozens of tools available to you online that create a GIF image for you like this one.

Keep in mind that some email clients won’t support GIF images, so always accompany GIF images with a related caption and call to action.

5.  Design responsively.

With the Apple iPhone email as the top email client, and 61% of consumers checking email on their mobile, emails should be designed to respond. Here are some easy-to-implement tips to make sure your newsletter looks good on every screen size.

First, set your max-width to 600px. While this won’t cover the smallest screen sizes, it will look good on most devices without any extra effort.

Second, use a single-column layout. This kind of layout is more flexible across numerous devices than a magazine-style template.

Third, make your images responsive. An easy piece of HTML to add to all image tags that will help them scale to screen size is: style=”width:100%;” You can also keep images from expanding beyond the email by adding a minimum width using the HTML: min-width: 100%; 

And of course, to alleviate your stress — test, test and test again to see what your email will look like on different devices and email clients.

Posted by mia.major in Best in Class, Marketing / Comm on Wednesday April 8 at 11:24AM
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Getting Your School on the Technology Bandwagon

Winning the budget approval for an LMS or responsive website is only half the battle. Successfully getting your entire school to think and act digitally is the other half.

New technology is always a culture change — whether it’s a private portal, responsive website, or an online learning management system. And with that change comes both early adoption and resistance from your constituents. Whether it’s a few faculty members that just won’t budge, or your entire community needing some convincing, here are some ways you can get your school on board with the new technology you’ve worked so hard to put in place.

Prove the benefits. 

Prior to implementing a new piece of technology like an LMS, conduct a survey among faculty, students and parents asking what their biggest pains are with your school’s current systems. That way, you can directly target those pains when you share the benefits. For example, if the survey revealed that 80% of parents said they wish your school had better communications, be sure to focus on how you’re the LMS improves communication. 

Depend on your early adopters.

A variety of students, faculty, and parents alike will immediately love the new technology at your school. Depend on them to endorse it, and help other constituents become familiar with it. The more members of your community you have helping you, the easier and quicker it will be to get the entire school on board. 

Make it a requirement.

Surely this isn’t the path of least resistance, but it will get you to your goal much quicker. When you require constituents to use it, they are bound to experience the benefits first hand. So, when your teachers find themselves answering a few less emails asking, “when is that assignment due again?” — they’re going to feel a little more positive about the change.

But remember — it’s all about baby steps. For example, when St. Mary’s Lynn implemented their LMS, they made it mandatory for every teacher to upload the class syllabus to their online group space. That was it. Making it a requirement forced faculty and staff to get in and use the LMS, discover its simplicity, and reap some positive feedback from students and parents. And now, the majority of teachers are using the online group space for much more than just their syllabus.  

Training, training, training.

It’s human nature to fear, and even protest, change — and the best way to combat that emotion is with knowledge. Holding training events both online and in person will get constituents up to speed and feeling comfortable for the school year. Since constituents will be using different pieces of the technology — particularly within an LMS — you should train your faculty, parents and students separately to show them exactly what they’ll be using and how to use it.

In all cases, be sure you make yourself and your team readily available to answer emails. The more connected you are to your community during this change, the smoother the transition.

Training teachers: Bring teachers back on campus early to get them used to the software. Allow about 2-3 weeks for training to be able to show them how to use every component of the technology in detail — the more they know, the better. We encourage our schools to share the abundance of online training webinars and resources with all teachers to get them up to speed.

Training parents: Most schools find it beneficial to host a parent orientation about the new technology. Holding it in conjunction with another event — like an accepted student day, or new student orientation — won’t take any additional time out of their busy schedule, and will ensure you have their attention. Be sure to stress the changes that will be made. For example, if your school recently went paperless, be sure to share the new online locations for previously printed materials like permission slips.

Training students: During their first day of classes or orientation, brief them on the technology your school is providing and how to use it. Students tend make up the majority of your early adopters, because they’re already avid users of technology — so they should catch on easily.


Interested in learning about how an LMS can improve communication and save time, paper, and more? Let us know! 

Let's Talk

Posted by mia.major in Online Learning on Monday April 6 at 01:37PM
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10 Reasons Your Homepage Isn't Getting Conversions

A homepage that doesn’t convert is marketer’s worst nightmare. It not only affects your department, but it also enrollment, your annual fund, and other departmental campaigns. Ranging from design flaws to poor content, there are some changes you can make right now to bump up those numbers before the close of Q1.

1 . Your calls to action are poorly designed.

If you’re not providing your users with an obvious next step to take on your website, their next step will be to hit the back button.

Solution: Get bossy. Homepage calls to action are intended to guide your users to a next step, and a new page that meet their needs. Use calls to action that contain phrases that prompt a desirable action, such as “Apply Now,” “Learn More,” or “Explore Our Campus.” These ones from The Bear Creek School make that "next step" applicable to future and current students.

2.  There’s too much text.

A picture really is worth 1,000 words. Homepages that list facts and are cluttered with text slow conversion rates, while ones with visual content are proven to have higher conversion rates. To quote Jason Fried, Basecamp CEO, “Rule of thumb: Short paragraphs get read, long paragraphs get skimmed, really long paragraphs get skipped.”

Solution: Keep text short and scannable, and balance it with images, infographics and videos. Bulleted lists and headlines break up text, making it easier to scan and digest quickly — especially on mobile devices.

 

3.  Your headlines are boring.

If you wanted a student to read one thing about your school, what would it be? You have 0-8 seconds to capture your users’ attention. Headlines are your chances to say as much as you can in as few words as possible. Due to their brevity, crafting headlines takes effort and time.

Solution: Be original. Take risks. Know your audience. Write headlines that evoke emotion, and resonate with your viewers. For example, instead of using the headline "Athletics," try making it sounds more original, like this example from Baylor School.

4.  You’re offering too many choices.

You walk into a bakery and see six cupcake flavors you like. It’s easy to say, “I’ll take one of each, please.” But when it comes to your website, a user can’t make the same kind of take-all decision. Offering too many options can lead to confusion about a next step, and ultimately cause them to revert back to search.

Solution: Track your most popular pages in a tool like Google Analytics or Finalsite Dashboard, and use calls to action to link to those pages. Also offer calls to action that relate to the page they’re on. Example: “Apply Now” can go on a homepage or admissions page, but doesn’t really belong on a page about athletics or academics. 

5.  You make forms hard to find.

Messmer Catholic

How many times does a user need to click or scroll to find the first piece of content they can actually engage with? If you want your user to do something that requires time, effort, and even money, don’t make it hard for them to do so.

Solution: Those new, action-oriented and targeted calls to action you’re working on? Use those to link to actionable content, like forms! Messmer Catholic Schools uses these four calls to action to link to popular and timely pages and forms.

6. You forgot to express what makes your school unique.

It's like telling a joke without a punchline. You’re constantly competing with other schools to enroll an increasingly smaller pool of applicants. If you can’t prove you’re worth their time, they won’t bother wasting their time to engage with your school on campus or online.

Solution: Share what’s unique about your school in every facet of your homepage. The way your site works and the way it looks both play a role in this. We love this defining panel from Green Farms Academy's homepage.

7.  Your navigation is a mess.

Your navigation should provide website visitors with precise direction as to where to go next — and it shouldn't feel like a scavenger hunt. Even if you don’t use call to action buttons, users who are interested in your school will opt to peruse the navigation to find what they’re looking for. But if your navigation is cluttered and confusing, they won’t waste their time.

Solution: Analyze your website data to see which pages get a lot of traffic, and which ones have high bounce rates. Prioritize and organize your navigation to optimize the experience for the user — not by what makes sense to you.

8.  Your website loads incredibly slow.

Nothing kills conversions quite like a slow load time. Today’s user wants information, and they don’t want to wait for it.

Solution: First, be sure you’re using a reliable website platform. Second, make all your content web-optimized. Reducing the file size of embedded photos and videos will makes your site load much faster, providing users with the content they want to see, quicker. If you use Finalsite's Multimedia manager, images are automatically made optimized for web. If you need to resize photos for other places on your site, tinyjpg.com and tinypng.com are really good at minimizing file size without losing quality.

9. You’re not a team player.

Teamwork is the core of a successful website. And even if you’re the sole person responsible for maintaining and updating the website, getting feedback from your co-workers in admission, advancement, and athletics about what they think goes a long way.

Solution: Conduct surveys or form a small web team to get feedback on the needs and wants of your co-workers. Even if you don’t implement every idea, getting feedback on what your calls to action should say, which pages you should link to, and what constituents are asking for, can help improve the experience.

10. You’re not responsive.

It’s no longer the “mobile future,” but the “mobile now.” If your user can’t view your homepage from their device they can’t engage with it. While 91% of users still use a pc or laptop to search the Internet, 80% are also conducting searches from their smartphone.   

Solution: Go responsive! And if you think it’s expensive, think again. Every website built on Composer, our new CMS, is 100% responsive. And, our brand new themes make responsive design affordable for virtually any budget — meaning you can have a brand new, responsive website in as little as 60 days.

Learn More

Posted by mia.major in Best Practices, Marketing / Comm on Thursday April 2
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3 Lessons Learned from The Hun School of Princeton’s Magic 8 Campaign

What do a magic 8 ball, 1,800 views (and counting) and The Hun School of Princeton have in common? 

They’re all pieces of their most successful admission notification campaign to date.

“It’s a funny thing the way it came together,” said Maureen Leming, Director of Communications and Marketing at The Hun School of Princeton. "Last year my admissions director had this idea to send all our accepted students customized magic 8 balls as a notification of their acceptance.”

SO cool, right?

The idea was creative, but in 2014 it was also completely last minute. So they tabled it and reimagined it this year. And although initial thought was to mail actual magic 8 balls to all accepted students, Hun went digital. Taking the form of a landing page built by our designers, the magic 8 ball lived online — which was perfect for their campaign. You can check it out for yourself!

Start to finish, the landing page took 4 weeks to complete: one week for the proposal, 2 weeks for the concept, and 1 week for edits. And they couldn’t be happier about the results. 

“We’re a school with strong and progressive academics, but we also aim to make learning fun,” said Maureen.

“The idea of the magic 8 ball landing page was our way to share our culture with our accepted students.”

When they were ready to share the landing page with their accepted students, Maureen crafted an email that asked the question, “Have you ever anticipated a decision so much you’ve consulted a magic 8 ball?” The email linked to the landing page with a giant image of a magic 8 ball with the hashtag #hunmagic.

“The feedback has been phenomenal,” said Maureen. “It only went to a couple hundred families, but its been viewed over 1,800 times — and we haven’t even posted it to social media yet.” After generating that kind of response, Maureen knew that she and her team had created something special.

And we think so too. Here are three key takeaways from this extremely successful campaign.

Lesson #1: You need to be unique, yet relevant.

While planning, Maureen and her team decided they wanted to create a fun experience for accepted students, was appealing to students and their parents, was nostalgic but current, rational and relevant.

“The strong and talented students we are all trying to attract are applying to multiple schools,” said Maureen.

“Every single opportunity to communicate your school’s DNA is important. And for us that’s creativity and joyful learning. So we thought, what better way to articulate that in something as big as an acceptance letter and turn it into something that fun?”

Seems like a complicated set of requirements, but the magic 8 ball was the perfect fit. “A mom in South Africa emailed and said that all of her kids have Magic 8 balls and she did as a kid as well,” said Maureen.

Lesson #2: Teamwork is the key to success. 

The Hun School of Princeton tries to do something different every year to entice accepted students to become enrolled students. But this magic 8 ball campaign was one of their most successful to date. “Every once in a while you know you grabbed onto something special,” said Maureen.

“It was a true collaboration between marketing and admissions and when that happens it can be pretty special. The more your teams work together, the better. Admissions tasks aren’t just for your admissions team. Getting other department involved to tap their creativity can fill those extra seats you need.”

Lesson #3: Think of each marketing effort as a campaign.

“We’ve always approached opportunities with the ambition to make a campaign around one idea,” said Maureen. “So it goes beyond just the 8 ball, but how we can make it shareable within our other communications. And the result has been extremely successful.”

“Not only are the accepted students sharing their images on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with #hunmagic, but we also asked our alumni to share what inspired them at while attending Hun using the same hashtag," she explained.

Going beyond social, each year Maureen and her team create an accepted students video to share on accepted student days. This year, they will work in all the shared images from the #hunmagic tag.

And to top it off, The Hun School managed to get fully customized magic 8 balls with the school’s logo and magic 8 ball answers in the form of “hun-isms.” They will be handing them out on accepted students day.

Posted by mia.major in Success Stories, Admissions on Wednesday April 1 at 11:14AM
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Four Steps to a Complete Website Content Overhaul

We wish evaluating website content was as easy as flipping a coin. Heads we keep the content. Tails we delete it.

And while it isn't easy, it is absolutely necessary. To help, we've condensed your website content evaluation to four easy steps, from initial analysis to curating new content.

Step 1: Analyze current content

Evaluating what you already have on your website will give you an idea of the work that lies ahead of you. Typically, if you've managed content on a more frequent basis, you should be in good shape. Conduct your content evaluation using these four questions:

1.How old is this content?

Content that's more than one year old — with the exception of your school's mission statement and other evergreen content — is subject to evaluation.

2. How relevant is this content?

With users' attention spans getting shorter, the content that's on your site should be crafted to engage your different audiences. Your content should be timely and interesting. Ask yourself "would I enjoy reading this?"

3. What is the voice of this content?

Did you let numerous faculty members write their own pages? While divvying up the work seems like a good idea to lighten your workload, over the years it can produce a variety of voices, tones, and messaging.

4. How is your content organized?

Paragraphs, drop-downs, lists, photos: they all serve a niche of email content. Organize your content in a way where it makes sense. For example, sharing a list of clubs available at your school alongside photos works better than text-heavy paragraphs.

5. Is the content mobile-optimized?

Going responsive isn't just about having a website design hat looks great on mobile. Your goal should be to make a maximum impact with a minimum amount of words. Short headlines (about 60-75 characters) and a minimal amount of text will win you mobile conversions.

Step 2: Purge unwanted content

Old content; long, wordy paragraphs; pixelated photos; entire pages that no longer serve a purpose: it's about time they all get canned. Purging content is the first thing you should do after you evaluate your website in its totality.

While you're evaluating, make a list of all the site pages or content you'd like to remove, why, and if you intend to replace it with something else. And while it may be hard to part with content you've worked hard on, you'll feel better once you hit "delete."

Step 3: Refine and rewrite useable content

Chances are, you won't need to delete every last piece of content on your site. Some of it will just need a little TLC. Whether you're looking to give your website content a more "casual" tone, or you'd like to clean up some wordy paragraphs for a better mobile experience, tidying up the content you have in place will give you an idea of what you already have and what you still need.

Step 4: Craft new, interesting content

Don't just write new content; create new ways to share your content. Make a list of the pages that need to be created or completely re-worked, and the optimal way to share that content. Opt for infographics to share fast facts, and videos to share your schools core messaging. Drop-down lists (like this one on Wildwood's admissions page) make it easy to provide lots of new content without cluttering pages.

Posted by mia.major in Marketing / Comm on Monday March 30 at 01:52PM
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Is an Online Admissions Workflow the Right Choice for My School?

Every day you have hundreds of decisions to make, from how many shots of espresso you'll need to make it through your Friday, to which students' files you'll review.

One decision that should be a no brainer? Whether going completely paperless in your admissions office is a good idea.

Truth is a paperless admissions process is an ideal fit for virtually any school. It saves you countless hours of work, keeps families and admissions staff more organized, improves transparency, and keeps information confidential. But in case you're still not sold, here are some telltale signs that there is a better way to manage your admission funnel.

The way you review files is complicated.

Hybrid admissions workflows just don't cut it. Accepting applications and files online that are managed elsewhere is creating an extra step in your workflow, rather than eliminating one. Whether you already review files online using a shared folder like Google Docs or Dropbox, or you're still passing envelopes around the office, if you're spending more time organizing your files than you are reviewing them, investing in a completely paperless system should save you time.

Key workflow enhancements: time-saver, improved organization.

You're stuck sending hundreds of declined notices.

Tasteful declined notices have always been an important part of the admissions process. But, what if you could eliminate the need to mail hundreds (or thousands) of those? Paperless admissions systems like FinalsiteApply allow you to send decision notifications virtually. That way, you can spend more time investing in campaigns that yield ROI — like a cool accepted students video.

Key workflow enhancements: lower mailing costs, instant gratification for applicants, time-saver.

Your applicant checklist is a jumbled bunch of post-its (on both ends).

Is "organizing my to-do list" on your to-do list? Checklists are meant to keep you and your applicants on task during the application process, but they can easily become a game of "who's who" in your admissions office. Digitalizing your to-do lists and making them accessible to your admissions staff and families will make it clear as to what's been completed, and what's missing.

Key workflow enhancements: time-saver, improved organization, less paper.

You spend more time on the phone than doing anything else.

If you had a nickel for every time a parent called to "follow-up" on an application you could probably retire from working in admissions — am I right? A complete online admissions system makes it easy for applicants and their families to log in and see the status of their application, missing checklist items, and even their notification of acceptance.

Key workflow enhancements: time-saver, improved communications.

Incomplete applications plague your free time.

From calling applicants, merging duplicate entries and even sifting through files thinking, maybe I lost that recommendation, managing incomplete applications can be a job in itself. With a paperless admissions system, you'll never have to waste another minute figuring out what's missing or leaving voicemails — it's all done from a centralized, secure system.

Key workflow enhancements: time-saver, improved efficiencies.

Your board is on your back about enrollment.

Nightmares about failing to meet your enrollment goals? We hear you loud and clear. Each opportunity you have to interact with a prospect is an opportunity to share something about your school. Online admissions is becoming a standard among schools, especially as the SAO becomes more and more widely adopted.

Offering a complete admissions workflow to families, rather than just an online application, sets a standard for the experience at your school and offers a more enjoyable experience to applicants. And, since they'll have to login to their admissions dashboard through your website, they'll be interacting with your school more than if they just submitted an application.

Key workflow enhancements: potential to increase enrollment, further your school's mission online.


Want to learn more about our paperless admissions system? Visit www.finalsiteapply.com to lean more.

Posted by mia.major in Admissions on Friday March 27
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