If you ask marketing professionals what are the top 3 secrets to a successful business, they’ll tell you, “Location, location, location.”

It’s been the dream of many schools to have a “better” location – closer to the main road for better visibility, closer to the center of the community to encourage business support, and for some, to be within a more densely populated area.

With the 19-20 school year upon us, you may take comfort in knowing that your school indeed has a new address!  No, it’s not a physical brick and mortar location, it’s your URL – your Uniform Resource Locator.  You may better know it as your school’s address on the Web.

If you’re still thinking that your Web site is something nice to have, or wishing that it could be better, it’s time to stop wishing and make it happen.  Your Web site is now the first stop for parents interested in checking out your school.  They don’t look in the Yellow Pages anymore.  They go online to a search engine like Google or Bing, type in a few key words (or, keywords, as they’re referred to in Web design), and hopefully, your school pops up as one of the first “hits” they see.

While much has been written about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) so that your Web site becomes one of the top results that visitors see, along with companies that will assist businesses in optimizing Web sites, it’s very important to realize that your Web site and your Web address are not synonymous.  For instance, www.schooladvancement.com is the URL for this Web site which I purchased about 15 years ago.  I then had to purchase “hosting space” so I could create the Web site which could be accessed by the URL.  Therefore, in a very real sense, your school can be compared to the “space” which your Web site occupies, and your school’s “mailing” address can be likened to the school’s Web site’s URL.

You may have also noticed that I always make sure the two words “Web” and “site” are separated, and that Web is always capitalized.  This was the standard, that is, the “best practice,” of Web design in its early stages.  You’ll now routinely see “website” since it’s been accepted into today’s vernacular.  Similarly, “Internet” was always capitalized since it was considered to be a proper noun because it referred to a location, in the same way we refer to a structure, city or country.  Today, nearly everyone refers to “the internet” as just another aspect of our lives that’s taken, all too often, for granted.

If your school’s Web site address is not an easy one to remember, consider buying one that is, and then forwarding it your school’s current Web site address.  Rather than singling out a particular school as an example, I’ll use a local non-profit, the Norwin Play It Forward Fund, as an example.  The fund’s Web site is built on http://www.norwinplayitforwardfund.org.  However, over the past ten years of its existence, it has also become known by its letters, NPIFF, or NorwinPIFF.  So, if the organization wanted to use www.NorwinPIFF.org or www.NPIFF.org, as long  as those URLs were available, it could forward them to the real address, just like you can forward email from one account to another, or paper mail from your house to the location to which you’re moving.  The company you purchase the URL from (such as GoDaddy.com, or other provider), will allow you to forward the URL that’s easier to remember or spell to your current site’s URL.

This practice is also very helpful when updating your current Web site for your school.  If you decide to completely overhaul your school’s presence on the Web by building a completely new Web site, you may have to create it on a completely new URL.  You can then take the URL that folks have become accustomed to and forward it to the new site, rather than trying to maintain your current site while building a new one within the existent structure.  Of course, the company you engage to create your new Web site will assist you with this process.  Marketing and promoting one URL allows you to reinforce your school’s information to parents of current and prospective students rather than attempting to let them know of your school’s new address when your Web site moves to a new location.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2014-2019 (Original Publication Date: 20140818)