11 Tips to Create a Stop-Them-In-Their-Tracks School Website
Your school’s website is your number one marketing tool for attracting prospective parents to your school. In fact, I would guess that EVERY single prospective parent goes to your website prior to calling you, signing up for a tour, or attending an open house.
Making your website an asset that tells your school’s story and makes prospective families want to learn more is one of the most important things you can do to improve your school’s enrollment. And it is one of the most important and foundational things to get right. Spending money on digital ads to drive traffic to your website will be a waste of money if people can’t find what they are looking for or if they don’t have a positive experience on your site.
Here are our Top Eleven Tips to Create an Effective School Website:
Ensure that your school website is mobile enabled
The majority of traffic on the internet is via a mobile device -- in 2020 that number reached 53%. And this number is higher for people in lower socioeconomic classes who primarily use their phone to browse the web. If your site is not mobile enabled, you are potentially providing an extremely poor customer experience to those who are trying to view your site with their phone. Additionally, Google will actually penalize you with lower rankings if your site is not mobile.
Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Here is a site where you can check for free.
Ensure that your school website is registered with Google My Business
It does not matter how great your website is if prospective parents can never find it. Ranking high on search terms is an incredibly challenging process, but one of the easiest and free ways to do this is to register your site with Google My Business. In this approximately 20-minute process, you will verify your site with Google and provide a more comprehensive set of information about your school to Google. Here is a short (15 minute) video that we put together that walks you through the steps.
Register your school website with Google Analytics
How well is your website performing? What key words are drawing people to your site and is your traffic coming by them typing in your name, or finding you via search? The answers to all of this and more are available to you with Google Analytics. Another free tool from Google, their analytics platform is fairly simple to set up and will provide you with a wealth of tools that you can use to analyze why your site is performing well or what you need to tweak. Google also offers a number of free training courses to help you begin to master the analytics that go into their reports.
Target your school website to the prospective parent
You have several different channels to communicate to your existing parents: take home folders, email addresses, texting, and in-person visits. Your website is one of the only ones that you have that can communicate with prospective parents.
Move all your content for current parents over to a drop-down menu that is for current families and make sure the rest of your site is oriented towards the prospective family. Ensure that you understand what their objectives, goals, and potential barriers to engaging with your school by developing customer personas and design your website to get them to take the next step in their enrollment journey.
A picture tells a thousand words
Websites should be designed to grab a reader’s attention quickly. With the short attention span that most people have, nobody is going to read through four paragraphs of copy to try to get to your main point. Your site should rely on graphics and pictures to tell your story. If your page has over 500 words of copy on it, re-evaluate it to see if you can express your point visually.
And please do not use stock photos for your website! You have hundreds of opportunities to take pictures of your students and staff. Using them as your visuals will be much more effective than a stock image – that might be used on a competitor’s site!
Make your faculty the stars of your website (and your school)
Your amazing and dedicate faculty is what sets you apart from all the other school options. As a parent, I want to be wowed about the talented professionals who will be shaping my young children. Utilize your faculty page to brag about your teachers. Do not just use the yearbook picture and give me their name and email address. Tell me about where they went to college, their favorite moment in teaching, what they love about their job. Bring them to life and make them the stars of your school.
Show me other families that love your school
Prove to me that you are a great school by including testimonials from other happy parents who will sing your praises. This “social proof” or “digital word of mouth” is critical for making parents want to engage with your school. Who trusts testimonials or online reviews? Millennials! Every school is racing to understand and attract those younger parents. Testimonials are a simple (and yes free) way to do it.
Tell me more about your school than just your promotional story
Having a faculty blog or musings from the head of school is a great way for prospective parents to gain insight about the culture of your school. Not only do blogs help increase your likelihood of showing up in a Google search, but they allow parents a much deeper understanding of how your school works. Good blog content also can easily be repurposed to help you maintain an active social media posting volume. Finding content to post across social media is challenging and this gives you another source of content.
Include links to your social media
We live in a day and age where you must maintain a presence on multiple platforms to gain the attention from prospective parents. Having them as part of your marketing universe increases the chances of them being exposed to your message. Since they will only be exposed to your messaging on your website when they visit, you want to have them interact with you in a medium where your messages are being pushed out to them in their social feed. Getting them to like or subscribe to your social media channels makes them one step closer to enrolling their children in your school. Additionally, you can identify them and start to proactively market to them.
Identify your website visitors
Just having a lot of traffic on your site is worthless if it does not translate into enrolled families. You need to do everything you can to try to get them to give you their contact information. Luckily, there are a bunch of ways to do so -- from request more information forms to newsletter subscriptions to lead magnets. You need to try to identify them so you can market to them past their one visit to your website. And make sure when you are designing your forms, that you make this as simple and low commitment as possible. All you need to start marketing to them are name, email address and grade of the child.
Make it easy to move to the next enrollment phase
Visiting your website is not the end of the enrollment journey. It is the researching step that families take before they engage with you in the form of an open house, a tour, or a shadow day. if signing up for one of these events is the goal, are you making it as easy as possible for parents to register for an in person engagement?
You should have multiple calls to action (CTA) buttons through the site, directing parents to register. Some high performing schools use “sticky navigation” where the links to their enrollment steps (learn, visit, apply) stay on every page of the website.
Even if you do not use sticky navigation, you should ensure two things when it comes to your enrollment events:
- First, a parent should be able to register for one of these events within 3 clicks. If it requires more than that, you are not making it easy for them.
- Second, always, always, always let them register for one of these things online. Asking somebody to pick up the phone and call you to register is making it difficult. Most of us, and specifically millennials, would much rather email or register online that calling and playing phone tag for three days.
Getting your website right is the first step in building a strong enrollment system for your school. For more information about how Bright Minds Marketing can help your school increase enrollment, set up a free consultation.