Fifteen years ago at this time, the marketing tip to schools was, “Get a Web site,” since if they were on the Web at all, it was a Web page. If a school had a Web site, it was “Update it constantly!” At that time, the big change was moving from a dial-up line to a broadband line. Even in 2000, there were school administrators who believed that Web-based marketing was a passing fad. That’s understandable, since people in radio thought television was a passing fad when it made its commercial debut in the 1950’s.
Today, a Web site for your school is a necessity, since it’s how parents of young children are finding out about your school, and, perhaps even more importantly, finding out about what others say about your school. Remember that parents talk to parents – not only in line at the grocery store, but online, on blogs and on Facebook too (which, by the way, has only been around for 16 years). And please don’t think that a Facebook page can be your school’s online presence. Facebook is not a marketing tool for your school, even though businesses promote themselves through Facebook. Facebook is actually a retention tool. You’ll be hearing more about why in an upcoming series of articles on SchoolAdvancement that focus on retaining students from year to year. That’s going to be especially important during this coronavirus pandemic and the new “Covidian” era.
Ten years ago, “Make sure it’s inviting and interactive” was the advice of the day. Mobile devices were just coming into vogue, and the Web site became a true communication tool, rather than just a repository for information. Web developing companies were working with schools to create an excellent Web presence since a new generation of parents began enrolling their children in kindergarten. The Millennials are the first generation to embrace social media as an important part of their life and connect with one another. Unlike their Generation X predecessors, who’s mantra could be “It’s all about me,” the Millennial’s mantra could be “It’s all about us.” Interestingly, their “us” is not the neighborhood reminiscent of the pockets of ethnicity found in cities where immigrants to this nation settled. Their neighborhood is stored in the cloud, connected wirelessly, and able to be contacted with a “#” phrase tapped into their handheld computers.
Five years ago, schools no longer needed 2 Web sites – one for access via a computer and the other which can be accessed via a mobile device, since a Web site could be designed to be “responsive,” meaning that the screen resolution adjusts automatically based on which device the site is accessed.
Today, that’s changed again, since your school needs a responsive Web site for marketing your school to parents of prospective students as well as the community at large and alumni to drive development revenue, and a branded app for your school’s current parent community! Reasons why will also be part of the articles on Retention.
Another piece of advice from a decade ago, however, still has validity today, namely, “Make sure your school is able to be found.” Go to your favorite search engine and type in the just the name of your school, and see if your school appears in one of the first 5 entries. If not, you may need to “optimize” your Web site.
Just as metacognition can be defined as “Learning about learning,” metadata is “information about information” contained on your Web site. It consists of “Keywords” which search engines “spiders” seek out when people type certain “search” words into search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo (and your school can still earn a penny for every search that’s done on GoodSearch). If you’re “All Saints School,” since “All Saints School” is somewhere contained on your Web site, the Web site for your school could be pulled into the search results…somewhere.
And that’s the bad news. Your school may be the 395th ranking, and there are few parents that will hunt through all those pages to find your school’s Web site.
Of course, the more information a parent puts into a search, the more detailed the results are. “All Saints Academy, Corning NY” will bring you to All Saints Academy in Corning, NY first. However, if parents simply typed “All Saints Academy,” they may get All Saints Academy in Columbus, OH or Winter Haven, FL, or even a school half-way around the world. The Web is, after all, a worldwide thing.
More often than not, however, if parents are looking for a Catholic school for their child, they may just type in “Catholic School” and the city or town in which they reside. But, if it’s around this time of the year, and the news media has reported that a local Catholic school will be closing, that’s more than likely the first “hit” that a prospective parent will encounter…which isn’t what a parent of a prospective student in your school wants to see.
There are companies that talk about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for your Web site. This is done by including “Metadata” in the Web site’s “Head” area, incorporating “Keywords” that pertain to and are unique to your school. Those words in quotations might be items you’re not familiar with – but the person that maintains or manages your Web site NEEDS to be familiar with them. Just so you know:
- “Optimizing a Web site” means that your school’s Web site has information in it that describes your Web site so that it can be the highest possible ranking when someone searches for it on the Web.
- Metadata is information contained on your school’s Web site about your school’s Web site.
- The “Head” area is data or information that is not viewable by the person looking at your Web site. Information can be put into the Head area only by someone who has administrative rights to edit your Web site. If you’d like to view what this information looks like, right-click this page and choose “View Source.” This will show you the html code for the site. The first pieces of information comprise the “Head,” while the viewable portion is the “Body” of the code. In the Head area, you may see “Keywords.”
- “Keywords” are words that describe anything and everything about your school. Some sample “Keywords” you might want to use if you lead a Catholic school are “Catholic,” “Catholic School,” “Faith-based,” “Education,” etc. You can use phrases as well as words, too. The more “Keywords,” the more your school has a chance of appearing in search results.
Then again, if your school is teaching students the importance of coding and to write code, you may be very much aware of the keyword metadata in your Web site’s Head.
Also, the number of times a Web site is visited plays a big part in where it appears in a Search ranking. Sites that are visited most often appear at the top of the list…so if your parents aren’t visiting your school’s Web site regularly, ask them to visit it at least once a day to increase your “hit count” – even if they have a special app that designed for them to access information specifically for them, and not a parent of a prospective student.
These are additional things you need to be aware of as you attempt to engage more and more parents in order to increase enrollment in your school. And with today’s new normal of streaming classes, online learning and even the potential of online meetings, the use of technology will become more and more important for your school’s future.
And it’s not a passing fad.
© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2005-2020 (Original Publication Date: 20050321)