Parents want the best for their children, especially when it comes to education. Over the past few decades, the education space has become increasingly more competitive with more paid and free education options available to parents. Charter schools provide students with a strong start to their learning careers, but there is still a lot of competition to contend with.
We understand that your school has a passion for providing parents and students with an option that best suits their needs. But, if your school doesn't have the right marketing plan to match those passions, your school may fall short of its enrollment goals.
Digital marketing is key in reaching a wider audience, and the more families who see what your charter school has to offer, the faster your student body and application pool will increase. Schools turn to Finalsite to leverage the decades of experience working with schools like yours across the public, independent and charter school landscape. Below are tips to improve your charter school's online presence and give more families a new education option for their children. Any of our consultants would be happy to discuss these in greater depth.
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Before you can effectively use marketing to your school's advantage, you need to analyze your school's audience thoroughly, play to your strengths as an institution and make the benefits of attending a charter school clear to parents.
If you want to create an effective marketing strategy or campaign, you'll need to:
- Relay your purpose: As a school, your mission should be the center of each student's educational experience. If your charter school has a specific curriculum focus integrated into classrooms, such as learning the arts or preparing for college, it can be a significant draw. Your marketing strategy should include your institution's purpose in a way that shows passion for teaching and learning and emphasizes who you are responsible for serving, within and outside of the classroom.
- Understand your audience: Depending on where your school is located and what it specializes in, if anything, your audience will be comprised of different types of parents. You may cater more towards individuals with certain religious beliefs or political leanings, or your institution may provide a better alternative to overcrowded or underfunded districts and students with special interests. Analyze the surrounding areas and tailor your marketing campaigns to reach those target audiences.
- Present the value: Your charter school has "value". Whether it offers advanced or specialized curriculum, has programs for students with disabilities or provides a welcoming, low-cost alternative to traditional institutions, your marketing should show parents the value of your charter school. Testimonials from current or former students and their families are an excellent way to showcase the real effects.
- Emphasize advantages: Each type of school — traditional public, private, online and charter — has a set of advantages and disadvantages. Every individual school within those categories also has benefits and flaws. Highlight your strengths as a charter school and an independent institution. Include details like your high standards for education, tailored learning spaces, and inclusive environment. Your marketing should emphasize the benefits of enrolling, for students and parents.
- Demonstrate credibility: One of the biggest concerns with seeking alternative options for education is making sure schools and instructors are credible. Establish your institution's standards for teachers and their curriculum, mention your accreditation status and show parents why your charter school is a competitive option for their child.
- Create a brand: With a cohesive and appealing brand, your institution will be easily recognizable and appeal to a broader audience. This includes logos, color schemes and content pieces that show the personality of the charter school they represent. All elements of online marketing should stem from the branding, creating a distinctive look and professional feel for everything from ads to social media pages to websites.
Once you've established these details, you can begin creating a marketing strategy that works best for your institution, brand, and audience. Your strategy should incorporate each of these elements through several different platforms and methods of advertising, including a professional website and active social media pages.
With information about your target audience, you'll also be able to create an honest emotional appeal. Speaking to people's concerns and desires will trigger an emotional response, strengthening your marketing and increasing the memorability of your ads and brand. These kinds of messages may include student and instructor testimonies, the school's values, stories, and case studies.
One of the essential elements of charter school marketing is having a professional, easily navigable and attractive website. Your website is where most interested parents will look for more information, what shows up in search results and what will serve as a representation of your institution as a whole.
It is crucial that your website's landing page makes a good first impression and encourages parents to browse the site further. Parents looking at the page are likely to stop and return to their web search if it is too difficult to read or navigate.
Websites are multifunctional and provide an easily accessible outlet for information about your charter school. Finalsite can help your school create a beautiful, professional site that is sure to impress prospective families. We offer free audits for school websites and keep a portfolio of redesign projects so you can see the difference a great design makes to your branding and enrollment strategy.
Website Features to Include
Your website does more than just represent your charter school — it can persuade parents to enroll their child. The quality of a site is indicative of the quality of its respective institution, meaning visitors will assume your school's status and value based on your online presence.
The more information your website can provide while remaining well organized, the better. Sites offer many options in terms of relaying information, including:
- Email marketing: Email marketing is a direct form of advertising and conveying information. You can set your website to automatically send professional emails to an interested parent's inbox, provided they subscribe to them. These emails can be used to notify parents about upcoming events, follow up with previous inquiries or promote the school in general. Receiving personalized email correspondence will make recipients feel welcome and familiar, encouraging participation and enrollment.
- Current news posts: Having a news section on your website will provide parents with easily accessible news about current events, schedules, successes, and general developments.
- Blog posts: Some site setups even make it possible for students and community members to contribute blog posts, without needing administrative access. Allowing for student, teacher and family perspectives will strengthen your site, gain the trust of those who view it and give them an honest idea of what the school community is like. Adding blog content to your site also helps from an SEO perspective too, so it's a win-win situation.
- Online forms: Hosting online forms on your site provides a simple way to receive and deliver information. They can create an easier application process for families and a quicker evaluation process for staff. Forms are perfect for contact and information pages, allowing visitors to input their contact details and ask questions. If designed correctly, they work well on desktop and mobile views, so visitors can fill them out on their computer or smartphone.
- Social media integration: Maintain brand consistency, and increase social media engagement and awareness by curating social media posts from different platforms to display on your site with Finalsite Feeds.
All of these features, available through Finalsite's platform, will help encourage further interaction on your website and make it easier for families to take the next step in the admissions process.
Digital Marketing Strategies for Charter Schools
For people to find your website, you'll need to take advantage of digital marketing. Digital marketing campaigns and strategies have a significant impact on how many visitors your site has, and in turn, how many students enroll at your charter school.
Online visibility — or, where your site shows up relative to the top result in a browser search — is crucial to website engagement. A vast majority — about 83% — of all browser searches don't include brand names, meaning people are searching with general keywords such as "charter school near me." If you can catch their attention, your site and school will flourish.
Several tactics can help you improve your website's visibility, including:
1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO tactics involve analyzing popular search keywords for your industry and including them on your website to boost the amount of traffic you receive. Say "elementary schools near me" or "charter schools houston" are two search terms your school wants to rank for organically. Including these exact phrases or similar variations in the content of your website will help shift it closer to the top of the search results. These phrases are known as long-tail keywords, which most people use when browsing. With Google's search algorithms constantly changing, it's also important that your website has a solid content strategy that provides relevant, engaging content to prospective parents such as blog posts and refreshing your site's content on a regular basis. SEO tactics are free and effective, but they do take a bit longer to improve your site visibility. If you want faster results, you can easily use this method in conjunction with other forms of advertising.
2. Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising
PPC ads, like Google Ads, are one of the most affordable forms of advertising — you only pay for the ad when people who are browsing click on it. These ads show up in search results and are based on keyword searches. So, if a person searches your keywords on a browser, your website's ad will be promoted to the top of the results and marked as an ad. To set up PPC ads, you first determine a budget, then pay for keywords under which you want your site to show up. Choosing single and popular words, like "schools near me," costs more and puts you up against a lot of competition. But, selecting long-tail keywords, which are phrases like "charter schools near me," often cost less and make your site more visible in specified searches.
3. Social Media Campaigns
Taking advantage of social media sites like Instagram and Facebook is one of the most effective ways to improve online visibility, as long as the pages are well maintained and updated frequently by a manager. Creating a friendly and informative social media presence encourages other users to interact with your pages and potentially visit your main site. Social media also allows you to post pictures and videos, dates of school events, daily updates and any content that showcases your school's brand and attitude. Generally, these campaigns are more geared towards engaging users and are an excellent vehicle for emotional appeals, giveaways, and contests. The success of these campaigns is measured in the amounts of daily views and engagements your posts and pages accumulate.
4. Online Reputation Management (ORM)
Managing online reviews from current students, alumni and parents is important to visibility as well as building trust. Prospective families look to reviews as a judgment of your school's quality and character. Including real testimonials on your website can be persuasive. ORM can also improve search results, as 88% of users trust reviews they find online as much as they trust personal recommendations. Creating a business page on review sites will allow you to respond to individual reviews, help resolve conflicts and thank positive contributors. Activity like this shows your charter school cares about the experiences people have with you.
Overall, whatever methods you choose, your campaigns should focus on informing and engaging users and encouraging the recruitment of students. Tailor them to your intent and establish an end goal before you commit to a marketing strategy.
Additionally, the most critical part of all of these tactics is having a strong website to back them up. Before tackling any new strategy, make sure your charter school has an outstanding website to work from first.
Solutions for Increasing Enrollment at Your Charter School
If you are looking to increase your charter school's enrollment, you need to make your online presence known. In a sea of search results and education options, your brand needs to catch the attention of parents and keep their interest.
The best way to show that your charter school is professional and credible is by creating a consistent, cohesive brand and marketing strategy, on and offline. Keeping all of your pages and materials connected with the same color scheme, fonts, logos, overall message, and tone will show how much your school cares about organization and putting the right foot forward.
While creating an attractive, easily navigable website is the most critical element of building an online presence, your institution should also take advantage of digital marketing strategies. Keeping the end goal of increased enrollment in mind, choose the methods that work best for your school and combine them to get the best results possible.
Depending on the size of your school and its available funding, the most effective option for you may be to hire a digital marketing consultant that will take care of your online presence entirely.
At Finalsite, we take education seriously. We are the digital marketing partner your charter school needs to increase enrollment and become a competitive option for education. Our services include award-winning website design, consultation for online marketing tactics, setting up communication tools and providing you with all the support your school needs to succeed.
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.