Hello everyone. Last week, I announced that we are starting our eight-part series on a Digital Marketing Health Check for your school. Today is the first part and we will be looking at your school’s website because I feel that that is the most fundamental part of your digital marketing strategy.
Don’t send any paid traffic to your website until you can tick these things off that we’re going through today. As I mentioned last week, we have a 60 point checklist that we will go through and you can score your school as we go. It’s perfect timing if you’re planning for your marketing strategy, this is basically your to-do list for your digital marketing plan.
You can get the toolkit with the checklist on my website, it’s mararoberts.com.au/schools-marketing-toolkit.
This is what makes schools’ marketing so unique is that it’s a long follow-up process and there’s a lot of nurturing and re-engaging that needs to happen. A lot of schools miss out on doing that so we’ll be going through that as well.
Own the Platform That You Sell On
So let’s get started on your website. The first thing that we need to have a successful school’s website is that we need to have a strategy that fundamentally enables us to own the platform. We all have these salespeople that come to us and say, “Oh, do billboard ads, do magazine ads,” they call us a few times a week and harass us to say, “You should try this new form of advertising.”
But my top recommendation for schools’ marketing is that you actually own the platforms that you advertise on. For example, putting a lot of effort into your school’s website and redirecting money into other forms of advertising, into your website where you can optimise it, make sure it’s converting the right way, it looks great, and it’s a fantastic resource.
Instead of investing in those digital listings, you know, there are hundreds of listing websites at once, 2 or 3,000 dollars a year for a listing on their site. Instead of spending money with them, why not invest in search engine optimization in your own website to get that same traffic directly to your school, instead of showing your school amongst hundreds of other schools. So that’s my first recommendation, own the platform that you sell on.
Mobile Friendly Website
The next thing that you need, the most crucial point that you need for your school website is it needs to be mobile friendly. This is called responsive design, and it means that when you look at your website on a mobile phone that it actually fits the screen, it’s easy to read, it’s easy to scroll down with one hand. It not only needs to be mobile optimised, but it also needs to be fast on a mobile device.
So Google recognises that most people that are browsing on their phones are perhaps browsing on data and so your website needs to be really light and data friendly as well.
Page Load Speed
The next important element that you need to look at for your website is the load speed. Now, school websites can get pretty comprehensive, and that’s great. But the most important thing for your website is that it needs to have a really quick load speed. So when you’re making decisions like should I have videos on my homepage? How many images should I have? It’s really important that you balance that with your load speed so your images need to be low on data and I would recommend that you go for a load speed under three seconds.
Anyone that’s using search engine optimization software, they would start getting warnings if any of your website pages were loading over three seconds. So keep the content light and simple when you are designing your website.
Now I know this sounds simple but we are going to be advertising your school to a range of audiences in the local area but some people may be travelling to the area. Already the first question on top of parents’ minds is, well, where is the school if they haven’t heard of you before? So make that really clear on your website, especially on the homepage of your website.
Another point when it comes to contact details is to have your telephone number directly available on the homepage of your website, actually every page of your website. I like to put the contact details on the top right because that’s the expected place that people are going to start looking when they want to contact and find you. You want to make it really easy for them.
Another thing to do, looking at mobile friendliness, is to have this number, be a click-to-call number so that people don’t have to go and copy the number into their phone.
Another thing to mention when it comes to contact details and when you are tracking individuals based on their behaviour on your website is you can actually give every user a unique telephone number so that you can start taking your tracking and analytics through to the phone number. That’s really handy when you have information on website usage but you don’t really know how that converts offline.
The next thing that you need for your school’s website is an opt-in. Schools will have different opinions on this based on their service offering, their audience and that’s okay. You can either have a download that’s available or you can have your prospectus and fees that’s available once people give their email address. But the number one mistake I see here from schools is that they have an opt-in, it’s for something, for a resource that’s not really that valuable to their visitors and it’s not really separating out people whether they’re interested in inquiring or they’re current parents and things like that.
Another mistake that I see is that the opt-in is too detailed. They’ll get to a landing page with 20 questions about their child’s history and medical history and academic history and interests and things like that. So I recommend a layered approach to this, have an opt-in that simply asks for the email on that first point of contact, that first time that you’re gonna gather your inquiry’s details and then you can always broaden that information later on down the lane as they engage with you in your nurturing process.
I always recommend having the opt-in on the homepage, the reason for this is, I always design school websites with my enrollment inquiries in mind. I always focus toward enrollment, instead of trying to serve all my audiences on the homepage. My homepage is always made for enrollment inquiries and then I’ll have a subdomain for parents. That kind of just separates it out cleans out the audiences and helps you to speak directly to the people that you are trying to connect with.
Then the last thing that we need is analytics. Analytics is another foundation of your marketing strategy. No decision should be made without an evidence-based approach. I often see people re-design their whole website without having any base information of what they think would work and what evidence they have to make those decisions. Just to get started with analytics, you’d have to have Google Analytics installed and then you’d want to get monthly, weekly, even daily reports on how many visitors you are getting to your website, as well as things like what the bounce rate is, you should definitely not have a bounce rate above 40 to 50%.
You should also have information on the number of conversions on your website. So of all those people that visited your website, how many visited the enrollment-based pages and how many people put through an inquiry? And that is just the foundational analytics that you’d want to use to report to your principal and to use for your own information. You should see a cycle of continuous improvement as you improve your website.
Websites are Hard Work
Anyone that’s re-designed a website or designed a website from scratch knows it’s hard work but the most important thing to remember is that it doesn’t end with the design of your website. The website work never ends, you should always be improving and there is always a cycle of continuous improvement as you are building on your digital marketing strategy.
So, in that checklist, this 60 point checklist that I mentioned, I have some fundamental questions there that you can ask yourself. You can give your website a score out of 10. Hopefully, that gives you a bit of a checklist of what you can do to improve your school’s website.
Great, I hope that helps. We’ll see you next week where we’ll be looking at Facebook ads and we’ll be looking at your Facebook ad strategy as a whole. I hope to see you next week.