- Independent Schools
- Product Best Practices
As the Summer at Santa Catalina website tells us in a live, stylish countdown clock, the first day for many summer camps is just over 250 days away from middle of November. It may be a little too early for most families to begin their summer 2019 plans, but now is the perfect time for your school to get a head start on creating the perfect summer camp and programs website.
Your summer camp website is the starting point for most parents. If you’re serious about increasing registrations, avoid boring, uninspired web pages with uninteresting content and confusing navigation that can quickly turn away prospective families. Instead, get creative and make a great first impression that converts those prospective families into new happy campers.
To help get your creative juices flowing, we’ve come up with nine tips to help you along the website design and creation process. Feel free to use any or all of them to build your perfect summer camp and programs website.
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Tip #1: Build an incredible, engaging website
The first step along the creation process is actually designing and creating the website. Who would have thought? And you already have a choice to make this early in the process. Do you want a separate microsite or a landing page built into your current school’s website.
Microsites allow the greatest flexibility and customization because they create an entirely new website URL with the potential for unique designs and streamlined navigation. Take a look at Lawrence School’s Summer Camp microsite for inspiration.
Your journey on their microsite begins with a unique custom URL (www.summeratba.com), and continues with rich value propositions, compelling photography, attention-grabbing videos, and plenty of fun animations (such as the color-changing background). On top of providing an enjoyable and informative browsing experience, Lawrence School’s Summer Camp microsite has everything you’d expect from a top-quality school website.
But microsites aren’t the solution for every school. Having a dedicated page on your school’s website can work just as well. For example, Thayer Academy’s Summer at Thayer landing page feels like its own website thanks to branding and designs specific to that page, despite being nested under Thayer’s school website 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.
Tip #2: Use theme designs during a time or money crunch
For schools looking to save on money, or those that need a quick website turnaround, theme designs are an excellent way to build a summer camp website. These Finalsite themes are created by our team of award-winning designers and implement numerous best practices.
Take a look at Brentwood Academy’s summer camp website, Summer at BA. Brentwood Academy chose a theme design that showcases numerous design best practices, including calls-to-actions, videos, news, and an impossible-to-miss “Register Now” button at the top of the web page.
Brooks School also chose a theme design for their Brooks School Summer Programs website. Built in calls-to-action, calendar elements, and a photo slider are the perfect way to promote summer programs and increase registrations on a time or money-sensitive budget.
And best of all, theme designs can be created and live in as little as 14 days.
Tip #3: Create unique branding for your summer camp
While creating a beautiful website is step number one, making sure your website clearly establishes and reaches a target audience is step number two. Parents need to know if your all-girls or all-boys school offers co-ed camps, or if your k-12 school only offers camp programs for grades k-6.
Create unique summer camp branding through a separate logo and color palette so visitors know immediately that they’re viewing information about your summer camp, and not your school’s default website. This is crucial for both microsites and dedicated landing pages.
Summer at Lawrence’s microsite features unique branding while incorporating all the key design and color elements of the school’s main website. This way, families know they’re viewing content specific to summer camps, but they also know it’s tied to your school.
The Potomac School’s Summer @ Potomac landing page features a fun and playful design appropriate for their target age of 4-15 year olds, while also creating contrast from the school’s sleek, modern website that appeals to a larger population.
Tip #4: Drive home the value of your programs
Alright, so you’ve created your summer camp’s beautiful microsite or dedicated landing page with unique branding. What’s next?
All that time and hard work goes to waste if you don’t properly sell the value of your summer camp and programs. For sleepaway camps, families are more than willing to drive across the country and send their kids to your summer camps for weeks at a time, but only after you’ve clearly established value and eliminated any reservations parents have.
By now, you already know the common reservations every parent has about summer camps. Will my child enjoy being away from home for several weeks? Will they make new friends? How structured are the days? How much is my child getting out of the cost investment?
The list goes on and on. That’s why it’s important to highlight what your summer programs offer directly on the homepage of your microsite or dedicated landing page. Be sure to highlight:
- What makes your programs special
- Why your programs are a good investment
- The credentials of your summer camp faculty
The Summer @ Potomac landing page does exactly that by highlighting their program’s impressive qualifications and unique strengths directly on the landing page.
Tip #5: Promote through search engines
While it may be tempting to broaden your marketing horizons, it’s important to remember the largest driver of traffic to your microsite or landing page will be optimized search engine results. Prospective families searching for a summer camp or programs are likely to begin their search on a search engine.
In fact, 93 percent of all online experiences begin in a search engine, and 83 percent of those start with an unbranded search. For example, prospective families likely begin their search in Google by searching for “summer camps near me,” or something similar based on location.
Prospective families can also search based on type of camp or programs, such as website development camps or horse-riding programs. You want to make sure they find your summer camp and programs above all others with higher placements on the results page, especially considering 75 percent of users never click past the first page of search results.
To properly promote your summer camp and programs through search engines, you need to make sure your microsite or landing page is optimized for search by editing your title tag and meta description.
- Title tag - Title tags represent the page’s title and can be seen on the tabs you open in your browser or in the headline of a search result. Title tags help users and search engines alike identify what your web page is all about. Be sure to create unique, relevant title tags that are as specific as possible without becoming too lengthy.
- Meta Description - Meta descriptions are another form of .html tag that describe a web page, this time through longer, unique, and relevant descriptions for each page. Make sure to include some form of call-to-action!
Summer at Santa Catalina offers a great example of both.
And here’s how that example looks through a Google search.
Search engines also feature Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising for a higher return on investment (ROI) than other, more traditional forms of advertising, such as print and radio advertisements. Search engine ads place your summer camp and programs higher, usually on the top, of the results page, meaning more people are going to see your ad. This translates to more people discovering your summer camp than would through a natural result lower down on the results page.
Tip #6: Segment your summer camp program information
Most schools offer numerous forms of summer camps and programs. After all, your student body is diverse with many interests and a large age range.
The sheer number of summer camp and program options can make it difficult to advertise them all to prospective parents without overwhelming them with too much information. One of the best solutions is to segment the information based on what visitors want to learn more about.
Remember those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books you read as a kid? Segmenting your information works exactly the same by giving prospective families a starting point and letting them craft their own user experience by selecting only what they want to see.
From that page, prospective families can filter the school’s entire catalogue of summer camps and programs through “Select a Grade” and “Refine Your Search” options to only display content relevant to what those families are interested in learning more about.
Tip #7: Create an FAQ page
FAQ pages can be both a no-brainer and an easy-to-forget addition for every website. These web pages are so incredibly valuable, but they can slip down the priority list during the design and creation phase of building a microsite or landing page for your summer camps and programs.
They aren’t the most exciting pages to create, but FAQ pages can greatly reduce the number of phone calls your offices receive and increase the number of registrations. They are also one of the most viewed pages, so make sure you use your real estate wisely. Be sure to add the questions you hear the most, and make sure you fully answer the question in the clearest, most accurate way possible.
We find that the accordion style is the easiest way to create an FAQ page. It’s simple, clearly displays every question, and hides information until the question is clicked on, preventing the FAQ page from quickly overwhelming prospective families with too much information at once.
Tip #8: Use social media as much as possible
Once your microsites or landing pages are up and running, it’s important to use social media as much as possible to highlight your successes and reach new audiences. Prospective families love seeing current families talk about how much they’ve enjoyed your camps and programs, and how much they look forward to returning every year.
This authentic form of advertising resonates more with prospective families than nearly any other kind of advertising your school can create. Plus, you likely have dozens, if not hundreds, of people using social media to talk about your summer camps and programs, creating a nearly constant stream of content to fill your web page.
With that in mind, social media feeds from Finalsite are an excellent way to incorporate those social media posts directly on your microsite or landing page. Why make visitors travel to another page when you can show them the same content directly on the page they’re already visiting?
Taft School’s Summer at Taft’s homepage incorporates social media feeds so every visitor sees up-to-date news information and the latest tweets from all of your happy families.
When adding social media feeds to your microsite or landing page, make sure you create a unique, simple, and easy-to-remember hashtag that families can include in their posts to boost your school’s visibility on social media while keeping all of the tweets in your feed relevant just to the camp or programs.
And if you want to take your social media presence to the next level, you can work with our team of social media experts to further increase your summer camp and programs social media reach and improve engagement through social media ads.
Social media ads can nearly guarantee that someone viewing your school’s social media feeds are going to see information about your school’s summer camp and programs.
Plus, prospective families already spend a lot of their time on social media. You should match their time investment with an equal investment in social media ads. Our team can help your school make data-backed decisions about where, when, and how to effectively use ads.
Tip #9: Personalize and localize the payment process
If marketed correctly, your summer camp and programs can attract prospective families outside of your school’s state. People could even be viewing information about your camp and programs from outside of the country. That’s great! But what isn’t great is when they decide not to enroll their child or children in your summer camp or programs because they can’t submit payments in their preferred currency or payment method.
Can you blame them? We’ve all been there. Who hasn’t tried paying for something online only to give up in frustration because a website doesn’t support the payment method you use or support the currency native to your country?
Finalsite Payments prevents that problem with support for more than 110 accepted payment methods and 100 supported currencies throughout 180 countries and 29 automatically translated languages. Finalsite Payments empowers families to pay the way they feel most comfortable no matter where they are in the world.
You can even combine Finalsite Payments with the Personalization element so prospective families only see payment information relevant to them throughout the payment process. A parent in Connecticut paying for their child’s summer camp would see completely different information from someone paying from another state or country.
When marketed correctly with appropriate investment, the microsite or landing page for your school’s summer camps and programs can be an excellent way to market the value of your school to prospective families and bring in additional revenue. By following these nine tips that our most successful schools use, your school can design and create an equally incredible microsite or landing page that’s both informative and fun.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite’s Product Marketing Specialist, Andrew writes blogs and creates videos to share information about all the latest and greatest Finalsite products. Andrew has more than 10 years of video production experience and a journalism education from the University of South Carolina. He is excited about bringing his experience and expertise to Finalsite.
- Web Design