10 Online Marketing Tips for Schools to Increase Enrollments
Reading time: 8 minutes
Private schools are businesses and attracting enrollments are as important as finding customers.
But the problem is that so many schools are still relying very heavily on traditional local media such as newspapers, direct mail, and billboards.
So let’s discuss a range of online marketing ideas for schools to increase enrollments.
Online marketing strategies can target your audience, are measurable, and are considerably cheaper and more sustainable than traditional media.
PLUS:You have a target audience that is super-hungry for content and an industry not fulfilling their hunger.
10 marketing tips that schools and colleges can implement NOW
1. Improve your website experience
Like most websites for business, you have a great opportunity to provide a good experience, leaving the parents with a positive impression.
Your website needs to be a lot of things including:
- It should be responsive. If parents visit the site on their mobile device and it is hard to browse and navigate, they’re not likely going to spend the time to eventually find what it is they’re after and eventually leave unsatisfied.
- It should be fast. If you want to leave a positive impression on potential and existing parents then you want your web pages to load fast. Nothing annoys us all more than a slow website. Test your website.
- Whether a visitor is looking for a specific form, policy or looking for department contacts, for instance, they don’t want to be spending 5 minutes to find it. Make sure your site is easy to navigate, ensuring that all visitor objectives can be reached in as little time and in as few clicks as possible.
- Professional. If your site is still running sounds, spinning icons or stock images then your site is not doing you justice. It doesn’t take much for the parent of a potential new enrolment to make a connection between a poor website and the education their child will receive.
2. Improve your organic search visibility with SEO
Parents are conducting research long before they come to you asking questions. This is why having a search engine presence is vital in your efforts to attract and engage parents.
Let’s say you’re a parent moving into a new area and you’re looking for schools for your kids, what do you Google? I can tell you that 1,830,000 people worldwide and 40,500 in Australia each year search a keyword phrase beginning with ‘Best School in ?’. (Info supplied by Google Keyword Tool)
How does your school rank in the search engines when you search the best school in your area?
Does it get on the first page? If not then you have some serious work to do.
3. Get more search traffic fast with Google Adwords
This is where perhaps your greatest, most immediate opportunity lies. Advertising to parents at the very moment they are showing intent. An opportunity ignored by print, billboards, and direct marketing.
But it is easy to leave money on the table if you don’t know what you’re doing. Planning a successful online advertising campaign with Google, Bing or even Facebook requires some understanding of the platform as well as identifying how your audience interacts with them.
Identify your objectives. It should be something simple like getting contact details to call them back. Trust your staff to close the deal. Then ask yourself a number of questions including – Is it appropriate to advertise year-round? Who exactly are you advertising to? Parents of what age groups? Parents that are first researching or those that need to make a fast decision? Each of these questions should direct your objectives and approach. How will you measure conversions? Most likely a form submission.
There’s some key tips to follow when advertising with Google Adwords. You may not know but the better your ads, the less you will pay.
Here are just a few tips:
- Write ad copy that uses your keywords and is compelling enough to encourage parents to click on your ad.
- Send the parent to a landing page that speaks directly to the audience you identified for the campaign.
- Understand what the parent who clicked on your ad is expecting from the page and deliver it. Make sure it is clear what you want the parent to do on the page and make sure there is little friction, ie Don’t add a 20-question long form.
- Monitor your advertising performance. Identify what ad groups, ads and keywords are driving conversions and what the ROI is on each of them. You will soon identify money-draining segments that can be either improved or paused in favour of putting more money into the performing ads.
4. Build a community on Facebook
Facebook is great for businesses and brands to create an online community and generate conversation. For a school or college, it can be another vehicle to provide information to parents, families and students. Upload videos, post events, run polls, ask questions and generally improve communications.
The goal in this instance is to create a community for parents and students. This will likely mean creating two separate pages.
Further to the basic page and activity to engage your community, Facebook advertising has tremendous flexibility and it could be used to advertise to prospective students and parents fitting the target audience.
The tactics should depend on your objectives.
Do you have an Open Day coming up? Identify your audience. Is it parents of primary school students looking for secondary school options? You can nail this audience down and more with Facebook advertising. Just make sure again you know how you will measure the success of the campaign. If it is simple exposure then you can pay for impressions and evaluate it that way. Or send them to a landing page where you get their details for a private VIP tour on OpenDay.
Know that Facebook has some more advanced advertising products including remarketing and custom audiences. Remarketing allows you to advertise to parents who have visited your website. Custom Audiences allows you to advertise to your email list.
Got an email list of current parents?
Upload it to Facebook and they will use a number of identifiers to find a ‘similar audience’ with similar characteristics that will be ripe for you to advertise.
5. Continue to engage with your students and alumni on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a social media tool with the key aim to provide a vehicle for professionals to network online. It doesn’t sound relevant, does it? Give me a minute and I might just convince you that it has a place.
LinkedIn has company profiles and this provides a great opportunity for a school or college to create their own profile. It will be great for your search engine performance and a school is a great way to encourage individuals to connect, bringing me to another key benefit.
Starting a school or college LinkedIn group and encourage ex-students to join. If this LinkedIn group can help to bring ex-students together in a professional manner then it will strengthen the relationship with the school and help to improve its image and brand.
6. Communicate regularly with email newsletters
Email newsletters are low-cost, promotional and communication tools. You can take a basic approach and send a weekly or monthly email newsletter to existing parents. That’s easy.
Or you could use your website and other assets to build a database, use segmentation to deliver personalised and more tailored messages, implement marketing automation to provide a better online experience, and so much more.
7. Start producing online video
Online video is one of the most powerful communication and promotional tools available.
Whilst up-front production and editing costs are involved to produce a professional video, it can be distributed to a mass audience with no ongoing costs. When compared to the costs involved with a print advertisement (incl artwork) and the fact that print has a short lifespan, a video is a more affordable and effective alternative.
Upload your video to YouTube and start your own YouTube channel. Upload it to your Facebook and LinkedIn pages.
Is video relevant?
Let’s just say you didn’t get both parents to the Open Day and Mum goes home having been convinced of the experience, what does she do? She gives Dad a heap of your (expensive) brochures but does he get the same experience? No. But what if you showed him a 90-second video? It is more powerful and more effective. Now you have both parents onboard.
8. Improve your online reputation
This can involve more traditional PR tactics to acquire online exposure on influential websites and by influential people. But as an entry point, you should be looking at improving your online reviews.
Some reports out have highlighted that online reviews are as important as personal recommendations.
So by actively encouraging online reviews, you have an opportunity to influence potential parents’ decision-making before they’ve even made contact with you.
There’s going to be a number of places you want to publish reviews/testimonials.
The first place you should look is at your website. There is every likelihood you are already doing this but know that you can have these testimonials marked-up with what is called ‘Review Schema’. If you do this, Google may use the info to add a structured snippet to your search result – making it stand out from the competition. This fantastic little feature will attract more clicks to your search result.
The next priority for your online reviews is your Google My Business listing.
Let’s test this for you.
Google your school name and on the right-hand side of Google’s search results you will see what is called your ‘Knowledge Graph’. In amongst the info is ‘Reviews’. This is where you want to demonstrate a strong position with a large number of reviews and of course, when the parent of a potential student checks out the reviews, the overall sentiment is positive.
Consistently acquiring reviews will be a huge bonus for you, not only for your performance in Google but for helping to influence prospective parents. I should warn you though, be careful with how you encourage the reviews.
9. Use your offline communication to leverage your online activity
Whilst I have chosen to focus on the online opportunities, it is imperative to integrate online and offline by using your current communication tools to promote your online efforts.
Tip: If you’re going to advertise in the local newspaper then at least include your web address.
For instance, promoting your Facebook page, your e-newsletter, your LinkedIn profile and group and your online videos. Here are just a few suggestions:
- All significant outdoor signage should have your website address
- Envelopes going out to parents could also have social media details
- Communication going out to parents should have an option to subscribe to the e-newsletter
There are so many ways in which a school or college can help to integrate online and the offline. Once it’s done properly you will be amazed at how quickly you get results.
10. Maintain a blog and continue to produce valuable and engaging content
Blogging is the perfect tool for establishing knowledge in the marketplace and it provides a valuable tool to improve search engine performance.
Posts specific to various educational topics could be contributed by the Principal. Remember the aim should be to provide valuable information for parents, whether that be parents who are beginning to research, are ready to enroll their students, or have students already enrolled.
Staff and students could be engaged to write guest posts.
Imagine the opportunity to assist in developing students’ journalism prospects and the promotional value in having students published.
Ideally, you wouldn’t stop at just blogging. Understand the information parents are looking for and look to fill the gap. This might include infographics, Slideshare presentations, checklists, or more.
I seriously had so many ideas for schools to capitalise but these are the ten that made the list.
TAKE-AWAY: If you’re going to be running your school as a business then you must understand your consumer. Understand how they seek and consume information and how best to engage them.
Quentin Aisbett is the strategist at OnQ Marketing. He has a specific focus on local and mobile SEO, content strategy, and marketing automation. Blogging all the time, tweeting even more so. Pick his brain on Clarity.fm.
Maximize Your School Marketing
Maximize Your School Marketing offers school administrators effective ways to enhance their existing school marketing strategy using the essential elements of public relations, media relations, social media, community partnerships, and fundraising.