It's the first week of July, and while about 51% of Americans say they're taking vacation this month (including me!), it's also crunch time to prepare your school's digital marketing strategies for the new school 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. But there are a few key digital marketing strategies your school can invest in for the biggest ROI, and these are:
- Social Media
- Your Website
That being said, unless you're dedicating a full 40 hours per week to your school's digital marketing efforts, you might not be able to accomplish all of the above in the next couple of months.
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.
So what can you do to help achieve those goals in about two-months time before classes begin again?
Initiative #1: Optimize Your School's Website for Search
- Time: 6-8 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. In this case, you'll want to invest a minimum of $3,000. If you're interested in investing in an SEO project, you can team up with our experts to have a strategy in place before the beginning of the school year. Learn more.
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 — meaning, ranking for the right keywords can make or break the success of 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 Adword 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 the very first thing crawled by Google to 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 being 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 importance to entice searchers to click your school's search result.
If you have Finalsite 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 ability to come up with keywords). If you're short on time, start with your most popular pages according to Google Analytics
Need help with title tags and meta descriptions? Download our Beginner's SEO Worksheet.
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 over-do it to the point where its obvious, though.
The total tie investment for this section of the initiative is the longest, taking about 21+ days or more, depending on your number of pages.
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 two months, 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 is quickly becoming a pay-to-play marketing tool, which means if you want your content to be seen (especially on Facebook), 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 (Great for recruitment)
- Facebook: Students, Parents, Alumni (Great for recruitment)
- 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 # of posts per week per network
- Map out important events that need to be promoted
- Create branded graphics for each social network
- Come up with 1-3 branded hashtags you will 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 such as Hootsuite, BufferApp, or SproutSocial.
Project #3: Improve Your School's Email Strategy
- Time: Email strategy has three main components — email design, email lists, and email distribution. Creating templates can take 2-3 hours per template depending on skill level and complexity. However, cross-department communications are essential to come up with an email distribution calendar, so plan on spending at least 30 days getting emails as set in stone as they can be.
- Budget: If you're using Finalsite eNotify, investing in your email marketing isn't going to cost you a dime, and it can offer some huge ROI. For schools with smaller budgets in 2017, this is the perfect project!
WHAT THE PROJECT ENTAILS
1. Create new, responsive template 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:
- eBook: The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing with eNotify
- 8 School Emails to Inspire Your Marketing and Communications
- The Email Newsletter is Not Dead — But Yours Might Be
- How Immaculate High School Increased Email Click-Through Rates by 480%
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 rearrange accordingly.
3. Segment your lists (if you haven't already)
While you can quickly create dynamic lists prior to sending an email using eNotify, 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 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 (we did it at FinalsiteU!). But, if you need to hunt down the necessary resources, it may take a bit longer.
- Budget: $0, woo-hoo!
WHAT THE PROJECT ENTAILS
Because we wrote an entire blog and hosted a webinar on this topic, I'm not going to dive into all the details here. But, here's what you need to know: 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 more inquiries and donations, the structure and content of your page needs to change dramatically to look something like this:
Short, simple, effective. 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
Watch this step-by-step webinar tutorial to learn how to build effective landing pages to increase inquiries and donations.
GET MORE TIPS, STRATEGIES, AND PROJECTS
These projects were taken from our recent webinar, How to Build a Killer Marketing Strategy this Summer, which dives into even greater detail on the projects covered in this blog post. Download your on-demand recording to dive deeper into these projects today.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia plans and executes a variety of inbound marketing and digital content strategies. As a former TV and news reporter, freelance cinematographer and certified inbound marketer, Mia specializes in helping schools find new ways to share their stories online through web design, social media, copywriting, photography and videography. She is the author of numerous blogs, and Finalsite's popular eBook, The Website Redesign Playbook.