If you're wondering how to increase private K12 enrollment, you're in the right place. Let's take a look at five EASY things you can do to take your website to the next level. This video will show you how to move people from visiting your website to scheduling tours.
Best of all, you don't need a huge marketing budget to dramatically improve the success of your website marketing efforts. By the end of this process, your inner marketer will be jumping for joy.
Transcript of the video:
Want to book more tours for your school this school year? Get excited because you are about to be privy to secrets that top performing schools use to book more school tours!
The top five secrets are:
Search Engine Optimization
Clarifying your Message
Having Great Photos
Calling to Action
Let's back out for a moment and explain where this topic fits into your marketing plan now.
First, we have the community, which is the people who live within driving distance of your school and have a school-aged child. Next, we need to get them to your website. Third is that we need them to book a tour, which is going to be primarily on your website, or they may call you, but they're going to get your phone number from your website. Lastly, they sign up.
So how do we get them from step one to step two? Well, advertising and so on, but we're going talk about SEO (because that’s free!), “Visit Us” (typically there's a button on your website that says “visit,” “reply here,” or “shadow day,” and that's how people book one-on-one tours of your school), and lastly, once they book a tour, is enrollment and payments.
Hopefully all of the parents who sign up and become part of your school family are going to refer other families, and start the cycle over.
So today's training is going to focus on getting people from your website to booking a tour. For many of you, that will be a “Visit Us” button.
I should point out that Gradelink is a school information system as well, and there we have admissions, payment systems, and deferral programs. We also have a lot of parent communication within our parent portal and a lot of student success tools. I should also mention here that if you don’t know what Gradelink is, you can visit gradelink.com/brochure and download a brochure! We do integrations with Apple, Office 365, Renaissance Learning, Star, Schoology, and others.
All right, now let's jump in.
1. Leveraging Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to help prospective parents to find your school
First we’re going to talk about Search Engine Optimization. Search engine optimization, or SEO, is all about being found online. There are a lot of misconceptions about what that entails, but there are certain things your school can do to optimize your website. Some methods, including “pay-per-click”, in which you pay for your school to be found online, can be rather expensive. However, there are other, more budget friendly (even free!) ways to make your website more accessible. This includes that art of SEO.
One of the key steps in the SEO for your website is to plan your Google My Business profile. This is the search result that shows up first, and it can be found on the side of the search results, especially when you're searching for a specific type of school in your area. Google has the convenience of organizing the results so that you are shown the most relevant information to what you're searching for. A lot of you may have already have your school on Google My Business, but it may not be actually owned by your school. If this is the case, you will need to claim your Google My Business profile by clicking the result link. You’ll want to gain access to the ownership and clean up the profile so that you can start adding great photos and writing an excellent description of what the school has to offer. Also make sure that the Google My Business profile is separate from any other entities that may come up when you search your school, as this will dilute the SEO for your school.
Another way to get to the top of search results is to get good reviews. Five star reviews on multiple websites (such as Google Reviews, Yelp, etc.) look great for your school. People leaving reviews for your school can encourage and even incentivise other parents, students, and staff members to also rate your school highly, which will boost your search results. You will see a significant boost in SEO once your school gets a certain number of good reviews. Other ways to up your SEO through reviews is to get reviews on websites that are specifically oriented to educational institutions, such as Great Schools, Private School Review, and so on.
Another way to help the school’s SEO is to make sure that you include keywords in the website links. For example, instead of a bunch of page IDs, numbers, and gibberish, you want have clean permalinks that are able to be read by search engine bots. This means Google and other search engines will be able to discern exactly what kind of content is being displayed on each page of your website. It's also easier for people using your site to know which which page they're looking at and what kind of information to expect from it.
In summary, in order to have increase your school’s SEO, you want to make sure you clean your Google listing. Put up proper photos and a great description of your school. Ensure that the listing is separate from other institutions or organizations that may be associated with your school. Get plenty of good reviews, either on Google Reviews or any number of education review websites. Lastly, make sure you put keywords in your website links.
2. How to clarify your marketing messages so parents can understand what your school does and you can boost your enrollment.
People need to know what you sell. Parents are looking at multiple schools at a time, and they want to know quickly and easily what sets your school apart. Let's say you've got ten seconds for a parent to figure out what it is that your school offers, how are you different from the other schools, how it will better their lives, and how to either tour or enroll with your school if they decide it is a good fit for them.
To determine if your website works with the average parent, try this exercise: Show your school’s current website to a friend who is not in the education field. Tell them they have ten seconds to take in the website. After the ten seconds is up, tell them to stop looking at them website. Ask them the following questions:
What do we offer?
How would it make your life better?
How would you go about obtaining the service or gaining more information?
If they don’t have the answers to these questions about your school after ten seconds, chances are real parents visiting your site don’t, either.
When it comes to stating your message clearly, identify what the school’s focus is. Perhaps the school focuses on education, building character, getting into a good college, spiritual development, and so on. Pick one and, once you are able to identify it, you can state really clearly what it means to your school and go on to explain how your school builds this pillar in its students. After stating this mission clearly, describe some examples of this message being applied at the school. People love happy endings, so if you can give them real-life a application of your mission that affect students positively, they will be more likely to want that experience for their own child, and believe they can achieve that by signing up at your school.
3. Great Pictures are crucial to communicating the value of a private school on your website
Not only should you have stories of successful students at your school, but you should also have plenty of pictures to back up your claims of meeting your message.
What really goes strongly with having a clear message about what your school is about is photos. You need to have photos that show the essence of the message you are trying to convey, so whatever happy ending that you're promising if they sign up at your school is what you should show in your photos.
A popular way to show engagement and sincere enthusiasm at your school is to get candids of people. Often when people say “cheese,” the picture can come out looking pained, staged, and unreal. What you want is people looking genuinely happy to be at your school, so have lots of pictures of people genuinely laughing and participating at the school.
Another thing to remember when adding photos is to include different environments within your school setting. Take a picture in every single spot of your school. Maximize everything that your school has to offer. Show people interacting with each other, show the after school activities that occur, and so on.
You can do all of this with an iPhone, just make sure to use the correct settings to have your photos come out looking professional and exciting.
When it comes to photo layout, you want your website to convey the feelings your photos capture. If you have a lot of fun photos, arrange them so that they are pleasing to look at while still getting the message across. Get creative with this part! Basically, you want your photos to be fun, real, and expressive of the school’s message. You want parents to remember those smiling faces!
4. Why having a call-to-action CTA on your website is important
Ultimately, you want parents visiting your site to either enroll or schedule a tour. A great way to ensure more parents are doing this is to directly tell them that this is the next step on your website. Many schools that get a higher number of tours use a scheduling app to schedule tours. You can put in a scheduling button on your website that links directly to your scheduling app. Make sure the button is clear and easy to access. Once parents click that button, it takes them to a page where they can enter their phone number, email, how old your child is, etc. This form cuts out sending someone in admissions or the principal an email to an already impacted inbox and going back and forth trying to figure out what time you can meet and allows the school to automatically schedule tour appointments quickly and easily. It is a good idea to include the scheduling button in multiple places, so if the parent is scrolling or switching pages they still have access to the scheduling option.
You can then sync up your Google Calendar (or iPhone Calendar, etc.) to include the scheduled appointment, and you’re ready to go!
5. Why responsive design matters
Responsive design is the concept of approaching website design with flexible layouts. You want to make your website easy to navigate and pleasing to the eye for those visiting it. This includes mobile website design. Does your website appear on mobile devices in a friendly, legible way? There are several misconceptions, as well one of the main misconceptions, that people have about mobile-friendly websites. If your website shows up on a mobile browser, then they think that it’s mobile-friendly. That is not the case. What mobile-friendly really means is that your website is able to respond to whatever screen size your user is holding in their hand, and is still going to be able to be reading the text and see the images. All the important items are going to be apparent to the user first pulls up your website on their mobile device.
With mobile sites that have mobile-friendly navigation, a lot of school websites have giant, beautiful menus on their desktop sites, but when you go to the mobile site, they think that just installing a plug-in is going to fix everything. But it creates a very messy experience for the mobile user. You also want to have images that are fluid and are going to look very good on users’ mobile devices. There free apps and plugins that can achieve this. They can take a desktop site and automatically make it responsive, but there is no guarantee that it is going to do a good job based on various factors related to the configuration of your site: how it was built, etc., so those free options may not necessarily be the best solution to implement an automatic, quick fix. What you really need to do is make sure that your website design is fully responsive and possibly even have some parts of the site that are dedicated to mobile devices.
When addressing the responsive design of your site, remember to make it easy to navigate and that all the photos, links, and buttons can also be accessed.
Just to pull all of this back into Gradelink, we do offer website services here! You can get a simple landing page or a pre-built template. We call them Quick Start, and we have a pre-designed website layout. Then what we do is we change out your logo and your colors and put your content into that template, so it is customizable to a certain extent. It's got all the features that we talked about in this post, including the scheduling a tour button. If you need something a little bit more customizable, we have that option as well. In all of these options we offer hosting and regular maintenance, tutorials and training.
We also do a 30-point check if you’d just like someone to review the website you already have, and it's free!
Question: Can we design for mobile first?
Vince: Yes, that definitely is an option, however in our experience if you're using a proper site builder such as WordPress then you'll be able to just design separately for mobile and for desktop, and even sometimes for tablet, so that you'll have three separate designs for your website. That makes sure that they're completely and fully optimized for whichever device is being used to access it.
Steve: So does that mean that when you go into WordPress or Wix or whatever, there is a button to edit the menu on the websites? Like a different menu from the desktop?
Vince: Yes. Many of the popular website builders, such as Wix and WordPress, do have that option where there's a separate tablet versus mobile versus desktop builder.
Steve: Are those services typically free or paid?
Vince: Usually paid.
Steve: Are they expensive? Can you ballpark the price, it is about five bucks or a hundred dollars?
Vince: You would probably be looking at somewhere in the $200 to $400 range.
Steve: $200 to $400. But that gives you all the templates for desktop and mobile –
Vince: It does but the thing is you still have to build your own site.
Steve: Oh gosh. $200-$400 gives you the template but you still have to build it. Well, good to know.
Question: How should I link a scheduling app to my website?
Steve: Linking the scheduling app is really easy. We recommend Acuity.
Vince: Embed it.
Steve: The instructions are in the scheduling app itself. Basically, you can either put in a link to another site, or you can embed it. Don’t link it because when you link it then it says Acuity at the top of the page and you don’t want people to leave your website, you want them to stay.
Question: Are you familiar with design for sites hosted on HubSpot?
Steve: Yes, we're familiar with HubSpot designs. HubSpot is a great tool. For those who are not familiar with Hubspot, it's something that's paid for, and they do a lot of inbound stuff. It’s got a price tag available with it. We don't have anything against it. It just might be easier to use a free website builder such as Wix or GoDaddy that do these five things automatically.
Question: We are in the process of redoing our website. Should we have you review it now or wait until it is more complete?
Steve: Review now because if there's major changes that you need to do –
Vince: You'll save time.
Steve: Yeah, even if you just had a review of a sketch of what you are planning to do, that would be a good place to start.
Question: How important is social media integration like a scroll of social media?
Vince: If you’re referring to an embedded feed. Social media is important –
Steve: I think we lost some people with the social media feed scroll. I think what they are saying is on some websites you can show an live feed of your Instagram or Twitter so people don’t have to visit your Twitter page to see your tweets. So how important is that? If you do it well, then it’s great
Vince: It can contribute to your social media especially if it’s an active account. So make sure you keep posting regularly.
Steve: But if your posts are not that good, then I think it's not helping you at all.
Vince: Right. You want to make sure there's quality posts that will actually generate some interest on social media.
Question: Do you need Instagram for a private school?
Steve: You don't necessarily need it. There's plenty of schools in the United States that don't have Instagram. Yes, it could help you if you use it well, but we've seen people who spent too much on trying to optimize their Instagram when they should focus their attention elsewhere.
Steve: That’s it for today’s show, we hope you have learned some valuable information on creating the best website for your school.
Vince: Be sure to check out the services offered at Gradelink, and have a Happy New Year!