It's nearly the start of school — it's also crunch time to prepare your school's digital marketing strategies for the new academic year.
Digital marketing for schools includes a slew of tools and strategies, and it can feel overwhelming — especially when there isn't a ton of time or there's no marketing plan in place. With the time you do have before the busy schedule kicks in, there are a few easy school marketing projects your school can invest in for the biggest ROI, and these are:
- SEO optimization
- Improving your social media marketing
- Improving your email strategy
- Building landing and giving pages
So...where should you invest your time? Focus on your school's end goal:
- If you want more website traffic, you'll need to focus on social media and search.
- If you want more website conversions, you need to build better landing pages.
- If you want more community engagement, you need better email.
What can you do to help achieve those goals before classes begin again?
Project #1: Optimize Your School's Website for Search
- Time: 4-5 weeks, depending on experience
- Budget: You can do SEO on your own for no cost, but we do recommend investing in professional consulting for this type of project to receive the biggest ROI. If you're interested in an SEO project, you can team up with our experts to have a strategy ready for the start of the school year.
What the initiative entails
1. Keyword research
Keyword research is the most important step in the SEO process, as driving the right traffic to your school's website is the key to success — ranking for the right keywords can make or break the success of a website.
By researching the keyword demand for schools like yours, you can not only learn which phrases to target with search engine optimization, but also learn more about your prospective families as a whole.
While free tools do exist for keyword research, such as Google's Keyword Planner, they can't help you determine the quality of that keyword.
The total time investment for this part of the initiative is 10-14 days, or more, depending on your market, skill level, etc.
2. Craft title tags and meta descriptions for all your website pages
Your website pages' title tags are crawled by Google to help determine your page's relevance. When you don't have them completed, or accurately completed, you're missing out on a lot of website traffic.
Title Tags: Use a keyword 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 that's described. For title tags, you have about 50-60 characters.
Meta Description: 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 important to entice searchers to click your school's search result.
If you have Finalsite's content management system, Composer, this can easily be managed in your Page Settings:
The total time investment for this part of the initiative is 7-10 days or more, depending on the number of pages on your website and your ability to discover keywords). If you're short on time, start with your most popular pages according to Google Analytics.
3. Use these same keywords in your H1/H2 tags and page content on top hit pages (think admissions, tuition, employment, homepage)
Because Google crawls more than just your title tag to determine relevance and ranking, you'll want to use your strategically selected keywords in your H1 and H2 tags, and paragraph content. Don't overdo it to the point where it's obvious, though!
The total time investment for this section of the initiative is the longest, taking about 21+ days or more, depending on your number of pages.
FREE COURSE: SEO & Digital Advertising Fundamentals for Schools
Project #2: Improve Your School's Social Media Marketing
- Time: To build a real social media strategy, you'll need to dedicate at least 10 hours per week to build it, and 10 hours per week to maintain it. Over the next month or so, you have the opportunity to audit your content and create a plan based on what's working, what's not, and where you want to go.
- Budget: Of course, social media is technically free, but it's become a pay-to-play marketing tool, which means if you want your content to be seen, you'll need to invest in an ad strategy. If you're doing ads in-house, plan on spending about $250/month on social ads. However, we do recommend partnering with a company (like Finalsite!) to save you time and make the most of your budget.
What the project entails
1. Analyze your school's current social media presence
Take a look at what you're currently doing, what's working, and what's not. Ask yourself:
- Which posts get the most engagement?
- How often are we posting?
- Are there any networks we can forgo for the sake of quality?
- What is our competition doing?
Then, determine where your audience is and who you want to target. Here's a quick demographic overview:
- Instagram: Students + Young Alumni
- TikTok: Students
- Facebook: Parents, Alumni
- Twitter: Current families
- LinkedIn: Alumni
2. Create a social media plan
Once you've done an audit of your current social media presence, it's time to create a goal-based plan. Based on your target audience and end goal, you'll need to:
- Make a commitment to a number of posts per week, per channel
- Map out important events that need to be promoted
- Create branded graphics for each social network
- Come up with 1-3 branded hashtags you'll use on all of your social posts
- Make a list of campaigns you'll need to run or social media trends you want to do (like #TBT)
- Invest in a scheduling tool
Project #3: Improve Your School's Email Strategy
- Time: Email strategy has three main components — design, lists, and distribution. Creating templates can take a while per custom template depending on skill level and complexity — Luckily, Finalsite Messages has some beautiful templates for inspiration.
- Budget: If you're using Finalsite Messages, investing in your email marketing isn't going to cost you a dime, and it can offer some huge ROI, so this is the perfect project!
What the project entails
1. Create new, responsive templates for your different newsletters that use best practices
Make a list of all the different kinds of emails your school sends (or wants to send!) during the year, such as newsletters, letters from the head of school, community announcements, open house invites...etc. Then, prioritize them by how frequently you send them.
Once you've done that, it's time to start building! Because we know email marketing is complicated, we have quite a few resources available for you, including:
- 10 School Newsletter Ideas (For When You Feel Like You Have Nothing to Share)
- Your No-Fail Recipe for Building the Best School Newsletter Layout
- Email Automation Best Practices: 8 Tips for Getting Started
2. Create an email calendar
Meet with your admission, advancement, athletic, and administration teams to come up with a comprehensive calendar of all the emails that you need to send during the year. While nothing is set in stone, this helps you realize when you're sending too much or not enough communications and adjust accordingly.
3. Segment your email lists (if you haven't already)
You can easily create dynamic lists prior to sending an email using Finalsite Messages but if there's an import list you need to have in the system, or new target audiences you want to reach, prep these ahead of time.
4. Create a newsletter sign-up on your website
If you're spending all this time improving your email newsletter, you want people to read it! Add an email newsletter sign-up form that just asks for a first name and email to build your lists of subscribers.
Project #4: Build Landing Pages for Inquiries and Donations
- Time: If you're using Finalsite Composer and you have all the necessary content, building new landing pages can be done in less than an hour.
- Budget: $0, woo-hoo!
What the project entails
Streamlined school inquiry and donation pages shouldn't just be a single page with a long form. In most cases, potential applicants and donors are visiting that page from search, social, or from your main navigation — meaning you provide that form zero context as to why it would be filled out.
If you want a higher conversation rate, and boost inquiries and donations, the structure and content of your page need to change dramatically to look something like this:
Harvey School provides an effective inquiry form through Finalsite's enrollment management system, SchoolAdmin, to create a streamlined and personalized admission process. Here's what you'll need to do to build your new inquiry and donation landing pages:
- Write new, compelling content
- Find or create multimedia (videos or photos work!)
- Find or repurpose testimonials
- Create a new, short form
Time might seem like it's running out, but there's still the opportunity for last-minute, yet simple projects to support your school's marketing plan, boost your lead generation, and help increase enrollment. As the start of school approaches, your private school's online presence and marketing and communication strategy will be ready to hit the ground running!
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 Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.