This blog has been updated since its original publishing in March, 2017.
You just reached the end of Netflix, your houseplants won’t talk to you any more, and after a long winter stuck inside at home, we’re all eager to get outdoors and soak up the warm summer sun. As the colder weather fades away, summer camps are eagerly preparing for one of the most highly anticipated summers and shifting their attention to filling registrations during the upcoming months. Whether your campers are returning for another season of fun or experiencing summer camp bliss for the first time, it’s going to be a memorable year.
We all know that your school's summer camps and programs are one of the best ways to market the value of your campus to prospective families and bring in additional revenue. However, when not marketed correctly, they can bear a huge expense for schools. So how exactly do you drive more traffic to your summer camp website and increase registrations? Follow these 10 tips implemented by our most successful schools.
1. Focus on Building a Great Website.
If you really want to drive summer camp registrations, put as much effort into the content and design of your summer camp site as your website.
Schools can promote their summer programs using a simple website landing page or a microsite. While a page on your school’s website will do just fine, microsites offer additional advantages that can make marketing your summer program more effective.
A microsite (mini website!) allows you to create an entirely new website URL (such as https://www.holtoncreativesummer.org), with its own unique design and navigation. Many schools who opt for microsites put a summery spin on their design, with bright colors and branding that make the programs all-the-more enticing.
Take note from the Landon School’s Summer Camp microsite. Not only does it have every quality of a great summer camp website, but every quality of an excellent school website. With rich value propositions, stunning photography, and tons of helpful resources for families, the Landon School’s summer camp's website is fun, engaging, and informative.
While microsites are the best approach for promoting your summer camps, having a specific page on your website dedicated to your summer camps can work great, too. For example, Thayer Academy's Summer at Thayer landing page feels like its own website, although it is nested under the Thayer.org URL.
"We wanted to make sure that portion felt special and more playful, but also part of the same family, so very consciously we decided on colors and fonts that made it feel like a camp without diverting too far from the Thayer Academy look and feel," said Joanna Gilman, Director of Marketing and Communications at Thayer.
Tight Budget or Timeline? Get a Theme Design.
While sites like the Landon School’s are awe-inspiring, we understand not every school has the time or budget to devote to a microsite. Many Finalsite schools are opting to use one of our theme designs — pre-designed templates created by our team of award-winning designers — to build a summer camp website that implements modern design best practices.
For example, check out Summer at BA, Brentwood Academy's summer camp website. The theme design exhibits numerous design best practices, including calls-to-action, and a place for video, news, and images. There’s even a handy selection tool to find the perfect program for your camper.
Marlborough School also uses a theme design for their Marlborough Summer website. The theme comes equipped with calls-to-action, calendar elements, and a photo slider, so it’s the perfect way to promote their programs and drive registrations.
2. Give Your Summer Camps Their Own Brand.
Does your all-girls school offer co-ed camps? Although you're a k-12 school, do you only offer camps for your lower school? Your design should make it clear who your target audience is, and which school the camps are affiliated to.
Create a separate logo and color palette for your summer camp sites to differentiate them from your website. This can be done whether you use a microsite or simple landing page, and it simplifies the user experience for current and prospective families to make sure they're in the right place.
For example, Summer@Carroll’s site introduces a bright secondary color palette to compliment their summer site, which helps differentiate it from Carroll School’s main web presence.
3. Talk About Safety and Health Protocols.
For campers and families who aren’t familiar with your health and safety protocols during the school year, assure families that you’re taking the extra steps to keep campers happy and healthy this summer.
Landon Summer addresses health and safety concerns head-on with resources not only about their community health plan, but also their staff training and considerations about food allergies and medications. It’s the perfect way to quell any anxiety and focus on the fun! They've even gone into detail about how their camp programming has been modified this summer and how they've elevated their sanitation and health practices.
4. Sell the Value of Your Programs.
While families are willing to drive a long distance to bring their children to a summer camp, it's important to sell the value of your programs, while eliminating any reservations a parent may have.
Including testimonials from campers or parents, like the Blake School did, encourages families and students who may have reservations about programs. Bonus if you can get testimonials from families about your school’s safety protocols!
On your homepage be sure to highlight:
- What makes your programs special
- Why the programs are a good investment
- The credentials of your summer camp faculty
Take a lesson from Holton-Arms School’s summer program, Creative Summer, which highlights the flexibility of their program by offering in-person and online experiences right on the homepage.
Does your summer camp website drive registrations? Request your free website report card to find out today today!
5. Promote it in Google Search or on Social Media.
Every spring, Google sees a major spike in searches around traditional summer programs and camps, as evidenced by the latest Google Trends data:
Because 93% of all online experiences begin in a search engine (and more than 80% of those starting with an unbranded term like "summer camps in Nashville”) it's important to have a summer camp website that is optimized for organic search.
In order to help your summer programs page rank well in search, you'll want to ensure you've also optimized your summer camp landing page or microsite for relevant search terms. You can use a free tool like the Ubersuggest Chrome extension to see what searches have the highest volumes in your area.
So for example, schools in the Atlanta, GA area may want to include “Summer Programs in Atlanta” in their website optimization strategy.
Editing your title tags and meta descriptions is the easiest and most effective place to start:
- Title Tag: The title tag represents the page's title and can be seen on the tabs in your browser or in the headline of a search result. Title tags help both the search engines and internet users identify what your pages are about. Best practice for title tags is to create unique, relevant titles for each one of your pages.
- Meta description: A meta description is another .html tag, but its purpose is to describe the page. Like title tags, it's important to have unique, relevant descriptions for each page and make sure to include a call-to-action!
Here is an example of these SEO best practices set up in Composer:
In addition to your title tags and meta descriptions, optimizing content on your website pages to include the same keywords can help boost your rankings.
For schools who don’t have the time to do keyword research and optimize their website content, many schools find that investing in PPC (Pay-Per-Click) ads offer a much higher ROI than other forms of advertising. PPC ads in Google can almost immediately make an impact on your summer camp’s website traffic.
In addition to ensuring your summer programs site gets found in search, targeting families on social media is another great way to get the word out. For most schools, advertising on Facebook and Instagram will offer the greatest bank for your buck. Before you invest any time or budget into social media ads, be sure to read this blog: What Makes a Good Social Media Ad? It outlines six best practices for ensuring your ad gets seen and clicked.
6. Segment Summer Camp Program Information.
Most schools offer more than one kind of summer program or camp (especially post 2020), so making it obvious from the get-go what your school offers will be the key to setting you apart from the competition. American Heritage School uses the homepage of their summer camp microsite to let website visitors choose what they want to learn more about: summer camps, or education.
This "choose your own path" method makes it easy for prospective registrants to find the programs and information relevant to them. It’s a brilliant approach to encouraging summer camp prospects to select the type of camp that best fits their needs or personality.
7. Have an FAQs Page.
This simple addition to your summer camp's website can greatly reduce the number of phone calls to your office and increase your number of registrations. An FAQs page is often one of the top-hit pages on your summer camp website, so use your real estate wisely and make it easy to find.
Accordions are the easiest way to set up an FAQs page, just like Breck School did for their Summer Programs:
8. Add Social Proof.
Because summer camps are an additional investment for current parents and a new investment for registrants who aren't already a member of your school community, integrating quotes and other forms of social proof is one of the best ways to sell the value of your summer programs.
For example, Taft does an excellent job showcasing campers and sharing their positive experiences, like their favorite memories, summer goals, and their hometowns.
Or, you can add a panel of quotes from different faculty, parents, and students who have attended your summer camps on the homepage, as Thayer does here:
9. Integrate Social Media.
One of the easiest ways to have up-to-date content on your summer camp website, without a continuous investment of time, is through social media. Taft School's Summer at Taft's homepage uses a feed of all social media posts related to the school's summer programs. It is a fun, easy, and authentic way to share more information about your school's summer programs.
10. Have Fun!
Summer camp is meant to be fun, and the website should reflect that. Santa Catalina School's Summer at SC's website has a few elements that scream "fun!" We love their imagery, especially this infographic, which shares some interesting (and cute) stats:
And the site's countdown is both a gentle reminder to prospects it's time to register and is a fun element to get summer camp registrants excited!
In addition to these fun elements, the site's playful design is appealing to their all-girls audience and mimics the whimsical, feminine design of their main website.
With warmer weather around the corner, we couldn’t be more excited to finally get outdoors, discover new passions, and make new friends. This summer will be a crucial year to introduce new families and welcome returning campers to your school’s summer camp. With these tips, you’ll be able to better market your school’s summer program, and filling up your summer camp registrations will be a (summer) breeze.
Just don’t forget the sunscreen!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Web and Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, story-telling, coffee, and creating content that connects.