Online marketing for school admissions: what works (& what doesn’t!)
Marketing is something almost every corporate business does, but now more and more schools are now seeing the importance of marketing themselves to ensure that their admissions pipeline remains buoyant and they are setting themselves apart from the competition. And whilst traditional print marketing is still very popular among schools, online school marketing is what schools should be focusing on. Online marketing offers all the same benefits that traditional print marketing does but with much better return on investment (ROI) and data capture.
But it’s difficult to know when to start.
That’s why we’ve broken it down for you into 7 simple tips. Starting with...
#1 Improve your overall website experience
Like many commercial websites, you have the perfect opportunity to provide a great experience, leaving both current families and prospective families with a positive feeling. After all, your website is likely to be the first piece of your school prospective families see.
Start by answering these four questions:
- Is your website responsive? Meaning it’s equally as easy to navigate on mobile, tablet, and desktop.
- Is your website speed up to scratch? Test your website’s speed.
- Is your website easy to navigate? Make sure you have a clear menu on your website and don’t over saturate it with too much information. If prospective families have to search around for answers, you’re likely to lose them.
- Does your site have a strong design? I don’t know about you, but if a site doesn’t look appealing to me I’m more likely to click off it so make sure your website looks the part.
Once you’ve got the answer to these questions, you’ll be on the right track to making sure your school’s website is the best it can be.
#2 Local Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is your best friend
We all know how much research goes into a big decision, and what’s a bigger decision than deciding where to educate your child? Especially when it comes to paying for an independent education, which may well be one of the most expensive outlays you’ll ever have to make.
That’s why you need to make sure prospective families can find you when they’re conducting this research. Parents will start their research by Googling “best schools in TOWN”, “best academic schools in TOWN”, “best schools in TOWN for sports” and so on. So you need to make sure your school is appearing in those results on search engines.
Have you checked how your school ranks in the search engines when you search for the best school in your area? Does it get your school on the first page? If not then you have a lot of work to do.
And that’s not as difficult as you might think, even if you don’t have the expertise to do this in-house, you can hire an agency. Many agencies have years and years experience in SEO, and have worked with top commercial businesses as well as schools, they will be able to offer quality advice as well as really improve your local SEO.
But don’t forget, SEO doesn’t improve overnight. Any good SEO agency will tell you that really improving your website’s SEO takes time.
#3 Build a closed community on Facebook
Facebook is the perfect platform for your school to communicate with the whole school community, whether that’s parents, grandparents, alumni or sometimes even current students. There’s over 44.82 million UK residents on Facebook, and it suits the demographic you want to reach.
There’s so much you can do with a Facebook business page for your school, but you can do one better by creating a closed Facebook group for your school’s community.
This way you can make sure that members of the group are relevant to your school’s community by setting up an approval system for members. It’s a great way to communicate school information to everyone, quickly!
Plus, you’re creating a community for your school’s parents. For example, if a parent is getting rid of some old school uniform, they can post in here. If a parent needs information about sports day, they can post their question in the group.
If prospective parents know that there’s going to be a safe community to communicate with other parents, you’re sure to have an edge against the competition.
#4 Email marketing is a great tool
Email marketing is usually the quickest, simplest, and most cost-effective way to market to prospective families. It’s also really fast-paced, so you only have about 8 seconds to grab their attention and keep it!
You can take a basic approach and send a weekly or monthly email newsletter to existing parents. That’s easy. Or you could split your parents' database into year groups, extra-curricular teams, and so on, delivering them personalized and tailored messages.If you have the data from prospective parents that have attended open days, we would also advise creating a list for them and sending them relevant school updates, so they’re kept in the know. This will also show them that when/if they do join your school, they’re always going to be kept up to date with school goings-on.
#5 Make use of video marketing
We all know how powerful video marketing is, and so if your school isn’t already utilizing this power, now’s the time to start!
While it may seem that producing videos can be an expensive process, it actually doesn’t have to be. Plus, even if you do opt for hiring a professional video company, once the video has been created, you can distribute it to a mass audience with no ongoing expenses. But if you did want to create videos more often and on a smaller scale, your smartphone is the perfect tool. So, let’s say only Mum attended your Open Day and she goes home completely convinced of your school and ready to sign her daughter up. Now she needs to convince Dad of the school too, so she hands him your expensive prospectus. He’s still not convinced, so Mum opens up your school's website to show him the powerful 45-second video on your homepage of children his daughter’s age learning, playing, engaging and, above all, loving their school experience. Now you have Mum and Dad on board and another sign up for September.
#6 Improve your online reputation
Online reviews are just as important as personal recommendations these days. That’s why you should be actively encouraging online recommendations as well as personal ones.
We would start with Google, as that’s where prospective families tend to start their search for a good school. And the more 5 star Google reviews your school has the higher up the search results you’re going to appear.
So the next thing to do, is to start asking parents of current students to leave a couple of words in a Google review. Now there’s no direct link to this, making it a bit of a pain for parents when they’re after something quick and easy.
#7 Start a blog
Blogging is a great way to communicate school goings in a fun and informal way. It also plays a huge part in improving your SEO.
The aim of your school’s blog should be to provide valuable information for current and prospective parents. But today we’re focusing on prospective parents, so you want to make sure that any content you publish to your blog is valuable to them and shows these families what this school could do for their child.
You could even ask some of the students to write blog posts about school trips, extra-curricular activities and day-to-day school life.
Digital marketing is so important these days, and your school’s admissions can really benefit from it. So take our tips on board and you’re sure to see the results.