- Charter Schools
There are so many marketing options available to schools both offline and online. Your marketing department is left with the important decision - where do I invest my time and budget? In this post, we're focusing on digital marketing for charter schools that can help you with student recruitment. Specifically, we're going to share five innovative strategies to help get your marketing campaign off the ground.
Marketing in the Competitive School Landscape
If you're wondering whether marketing is truly necessary for your charter school, the answer is yes! Charter schools compete with public, private and online schools, so you have to develop an innovative marketing strategy to capture the attention of parents and students. So, how can you do that? Traditional marketing modes, such as radio spots, newspaper ads, and local TV ads, are typically not the best way to market your school — especially if you want to keep your spending low.
Digital marketing is a better alternative to outmoded traditional ads. With digital marketing, you benefit from:
- Better tracking: While traditional advertisements often leave you wondering about their effectiveness, you don't have to wonder with online ads. For example, Google Analytics provides you with detailed data about how your ads are performing. If you're marketing through your own website, you can rely on the site's analytics to monitor key performance indicators. Paying attention to the data can help you continuously improve your marketing campaign. Finalsite's CMS, Composer, seamlessly integrates with Google Analytics to give you better insight into your site's web traffic.
- Better targeting: Digital marketing also offers more refined targeting options. You can handpick your audience based on factors like age, income, gender, interests, and location. You can also specify certain days and times when you want your ad to be visible. Traditional advertising doesn't give you this level of control.
- Better exposure: Taking a quick glance at the people around you will make it obvious that people spend far more time on their laptops and smartphones than they do reading a newspaper or listening to the radio. If you want to reach prospective families where they’re spending their time, the answer is to focus on the Internet. Social media, in particular, is a great avenue for gaining exposure online.
Now, let's focus on five strategies you can use to market your charter school online.
Looking to enhance your social media plan? Download our social media calendar template for free!
1. Google My Business
One of the easiest and most important marketing strategies for any charter school is to take advantage of Google My Business. Google's goal is to help Internet users find what they're looking for quickly, and Google My Business listings are an effective means to that end. When you search for a specific business, you should see a listing for that business that includes basic information like the address, phone number and open hours. Some businesses also include other details like a description, photos and more.
Google My Business listings also come up when someone conducts a search like "schools near me" or "high schools in [city name]." These local searches will typically bring up a map along with Google My Business listings. By clicking on a particular business, the information expands. School searches tend to be more localized, so it’s important to optimize your school’s Google My Business listing to help it rank in local searches.
To capitalize on your Google My Business listing, make sure you claim the listing so you can edit and add information. At the very least, make sure the basic information like your phone number and address are correct. Next, turn your attention to adding details like a brief, enthusiastic description and photos of your facility and school community.
Another important component of your Google My Business listing is your reviews. Did you know that 90% of consumers read online reviews before they decide to visit a business? Since parents spend a significant amount of time researching school options, it's only fitting that parents look at reviews to learn about a school to see what current families and alumni have to say about their educational experience. Reach out to current and past families who you think would represent your school well and encourage them to write online reviews for your charter school.
Even if you're somewhat familiar with Google My Business, it may surprise you to know that you can also post news or blog content that stays visible for a week. You can also use Posts to help promote admissions events. Event-related posts will stay live until the event date so you don't have to worry about reposting them. The Posts feature provides an excellent marketing opportunity that costs you nothing.
2. Google Ads
Another strategy that also involves the search engine giant, Google, is to purchase ads. With Google Ads, you choose what keywords you want your ads to show up for. You can target your audience by factors like where they live and age. With display ads, Google gives you the option to target parents too. You can monitor Google Analytics to find out how your ads are performing and adjust your campaign if necessary.
Google Ads are pay-per-click (PPC), which means you pay only when someone clicks on your ad. Google determines whether to display your ad based on whether you have the winning bid compared to other schools or companies who may want to target the same audience. Your ads can appear in search results as text ads, at the top of the page before organic results, or they can appear as banner ads, known as display ads, somewhere on the web. A third option is remarketing ads, which specifically target people who have already visited your website. Finalsite's PPC consultants can help your charter school with developing and managing a PPC strategy based on your charter school's unique goals.
How can you use Google PPC ads? Here are a few strategies to try:
- Branded campaign: Especially if you're a new school, start by bidding on your school name. This is an easy way to make sure you dominate searches for your school and have more control over your branded results by specifying what you want Google to show parents about your school in your ad.
- Competitor campaign: You can also bid on other school's names so you get in front of prospective families who are already looking at other schools. Keep in mind that if competitors see you’re bidding on their school name, they’ll likely follow the same strategy and bid on your school name, so it’s critical that you get a pulse on if they’re running paid ads in Google and how much they’re spending.
- General charter school keywords: You should also consider bidding on search terms that have to do with charter schools, including local search terms for charter schools in your area. This will help you reach the people who are most likely to be interested in finding your school.
- General school keywords: You can also go more general by bidding on general search terms for schools such as "elementary schools near me." This strategy casts a wider net, so you'll reach more families, but a large proportion of these families may not be interested in your school. You can help prevent irrelevant traffic by developing a strong negative keyword list (list for keywords you don't want your ads to show up for) and by monitoring search traffic that’s triggering your ads and making any necessary adjustments.
3. Facebook Ads
Google isn't the only valuable advertising medium on the web. Another great ad platform for charter schools to consider is Facebook. With well over 2 billion active users, Facebook offers the potential to reach a huge audience. Since Facebook users supply a lot of information about themselves, it also makes it possible to carefully target a very specific audience. Like with Google Ads, you can run Facebook ads year-round or temporarily before an admissions event to drive interests. Finalsite's Social Media consultants can help develop a tailored social media strategy for your charter school's admission goals.
Several types of Facebook ads are available. Here are some forms of Facebook ads your charter school may want to use:
- Image ads: Image ads are the most popular Facebook ad option for schools. Be sure to use high-resolution images with bright colors to capture people's attention. An excellent subject matter for your image is students interacting with teachers and having fun in the classroom.
- Video ads: Video ads are another popular option. Creating videos is more involved, but they can engage Facebook users. In one survey, 71% of consumers said they find Facebook video ads either relevant or highly relevant.
- Slideshow ads: Slideshow ads offer an innovative hybrid between image and video ads. This format allows you to combine a series of images or videos along with text and sound to tell a story. This way, you can showcase all the amazing aspects of your school.
- Carousel Ads: Carousel ads also allow you to use up to 10 images or videos within one ad. Users can swipe from image to image and click on links you provide. This can be a great way to showcase different programs and age groups in a creative format.
Facebook and other social media platforms provide plenty of free opportunities for marketing outside of paid ads, too. Finalsite can help you make the most of your social media presence across a variety of sites with our social media integration tool, Feeds.
4. Content Creation
You can also use your own website to market your school. Of course, every aspect of your website should show off your branding and provide information about your school, but if you want to generate admission leads, one of the best ways to do that is through blog content. Content is one of the top three factors that determine how you rank in Google, so creating solid blog content is an excellent strategy to drive traffic to your site. In the competitive school market, having a blog can help you stand out.
Unlike ads, blog posts shouldn't focus on your school. Instead, they should share information, opinions or advice that would be relevant to your prospective families. Here are some ideas for topic categories you could cover:
- Study tips
- Child development insight
- Parenting advice
- School socialization tips
Within these categories, be sure to be specific with your focus and the title. For example, you could publish an article titled "Study Tips to Help Improve Math Scores" or "Tips for Starting at a New School Mid-Year." Content quality should always remain a top priority, but one of the keys to your blog's success is how frequently you post. At a minimum, we recommend blogging at least once a month, but once per week is ideal. Again, though, make sure you're putting out quality content.
If you're not sure how to get a blog started on your website, Finalsite has the perfect solution. Finalsite Posts allows you and others to post content on your website without the need for an admin login. You can encourage teachers and members of your administration to write their own posts. Then, you can edit them before publishing. Since it's an extension of your site, Posts seamlessly integrate with your site's branding. Posts also conveniently supports a C.O.P.E (Create Once, Publish Everywhere) methodology so you can use the content in multiple ways throughout your site to serve your marketing purposes AND important constituents like current parents.
5. SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
If you want your website to rank well organically in search results, you should focus on your site's search engine optimization (SEO). Sites that show up on the first Google search results page get 91.5% of traffic share, so if you're not showing up in the first page of search results, parents are going to find out about other schools, instead of finding your school.
We've already talked about a couple of ways to market your school that also improve your SEO — optimizing your Google My Business listing and posting content on your website. But there are other ways you can help your website rank better. Through SEO:
- Researching keywords: Take some time to find out what keywords prospective families are searching. You'll want to perform keyword research to find out what keywords parents are using to find schools similar to yours and make sure you're incorporating them into your SEO strategy.
- Optimizing title tags and meta descriptions: Pay attention to HTML elements like the title tag and meta description for all of your web pages, including blog posts. These elements will be what people see online when they're searching. Make sure to include your target SEO keywords in title tags since they influence search rankings, and provide information about your school in the meta description to entice parents to click on your result over a peer school.
- Correcting 404 errors: One of the simplest ways to improve your SEO is to make sure you clean up broken links on your site, known as 404 errors. The HTTP 404 Not Found Error tells a searcher that the webpage they typed in or clicked on can't be found. To help provide the best user experience, make sure you clean up broken links with the help of Finalsite's redirect feature.
- Improving internal linking structure: One way to think of websites is like a map or a physical space someone can navigate. Internal links are a way of helping them move to different places in this space, whether it be your contact page or a blog post. A strong internal linking structure can help keep people on your site longer as they learn more about your school. Also, internal linking helps search engines understand your site's architecture and how pages relate to one another on your site; talk about a win-win!
- Enhancing your website design: Web design is another critical factor for SEO. When someone clicks on a link to your site, the landing page should load quickly, look professional and engage visitors with the content they're looking for. Pay attention to trends in Google Analytics regarding people's experience with your site, including page views, average time spent on the site and more to evaluate how you're doing.
Web design can be overwhelming if you don't have the right tools, and great web design that improves your SEO is possible with a best-in-class marketing and communications platform. That's why Finalsite's Composer, a content management system (CMS), is specifically designed to empower schools to build a professional, engaging website and maintain it with ease.
Make Finalsite Your Trusted Digital Marketing Partner
At Finalsite, our focus is schools just like yours. We want to provide charter schools and other educational institutions with the tools they need to succeed in the digital space. Digital marketing doesn't have to be a daunting task. Take some time now to learn more about Finalsite’s services for charter schools.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As an Internet Marketer on Finalsite’s Consulting Services team, Sarah has worked with over 100 schools domestically and internationally to improve their online presence with SEO and PPC. In her free time, she can be found spending time with her dogs (#dogmomlife), going to comedy shows with her boyfriend, and trying new restaurants in pursuit of the best gluten-free dishes.