Digital Strategies for Attracting More Students
Online marketing is no longer about picking services like an entrée from a Chinese menu. Everything is now so codependent and interrelated, that with few exceptions, individual strategies won’t stand on their own.
Search rankings effect traffic. Visitor engagement influence search rankings. Social media traffic signals search engines. Content influences search and visitor engagement. Reviews effect conversions. Your website architecture effects your sites “stickiness”. And your calls-to-action affects your enrollment pipeline.
Many of our school clients initially approach us about SEO (search engine optimization) thinking it’s a specific thing, and a singular goal. The reality is, SEO is just one important piece among many important pieces.
Authors Note: Our guide: “25 Website ‘Must Haves’ for Schools” is free to schools and educators, and you can download your own copy at the end of this article.
How Do the Pieces fit Together?
Search Engine Optimization: Google try’s to emulate human behavior, and if human beings appear to be interested in your schools’ site, so will Google. SEO is the culmination of many things… some more important than others. In fact, Google has over 200 different ranking factors in their ranking algorithms. You can’t just “do” SEO without doing many different things. Driving traffic to your website is extremely important, but then what?
User-Centric Website: All roads lead to your school’s website. Search, social, online and offline activities will typically funnel everyone to your website. Sending perfectly good traffic to a perfectly mediocre website will be disappointing to you and your audience. Your website is a destination, and the most likely place where your next best customer will act on your call-to-action.
Your website doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does have to be built with purpose, and with your audience in mind. You can do so much better than an information dump on a series of brochure pages. You can give a parent or student a feel for your schools culture.
Content: Google looks at your content to see if you match each search query. Google is smart, but if you don’t write extensively about what parents and students are looking for, how will Google know what you do? If you aren’t writing about what parents are searching for, why would Google display you in their search results?
Time on Site: Are visitors staying on your website long enough to show interest? Just writing content based on keywords to attract search engines isn’t sustainable. If human beings don’t find your content interesting, neither will Google. If you can keep parents on your site for any length of time, that signals Google that you have something interesting to offer.
Page Depth: Are parents and students visiting multiple pages on your site? When someone goes to one page on your website and quickly leaves, that’s called a “bounce”. That’s a negative signal that you probably don’t have much to offer. When you lead a visitor down a path (presumably towards a specific call-to-action) Search engines view that as engagement, and you get credit for being interesting…or at least relevant.
Customer Reviews: Getting visitors to your website is half the battle, but converting them into enrollments is the goal. Parents want to know that you’ve made other parents and students happy. Whomever has the best reputation wins. Period.
Lead Nurturing: Not everyone is ready the first time they visit your website. Big decisions and big ticket items take patience and persistence. Lead Nurturing is an advanced strategy, but one that pays dividends if done professionally.
Off-site Traffic: Are visitors coming from other sources? One of the more misunderstood factors is how Social Media plays into your search rankings. Google doesn’t give you credit for “Likes” and “Shares”, however they do give you credit for engagement on your website that stems from Social Sources. This is called “Social Signals”.
Social Signals, an Example: Suppose that you’re responsible for enrollments at your school. You write a blog post about “The 10 Signs Your Child is Being Bullied at School”. You’re not currently recognized by Google as an authoritative website, so your blog post doesn’t show up in the search results.
Suppose now, you write a “snippet” or “teaser” promoting the post, and syndicate it out through various social media (multiple times). You do a good job, and entice parents of school aged children to click on the link and go to your website to read the full blog posts.
The blog post is well written, and the reader stays on that page for several minutes as they read through the article. Then, perhaps they click on another link on the page and investigate more of your website.
What just happened? Well you just brought someone from the comfort of their Facebook or Twitter or (insert social media here) page, and they spent time on your site and found it intriguing enough to view multiple pages. You just “signaled” Google that you have something interesting to offer. These are called “Social Signals”.
Here’s what Doesn’t Work
Driving good traffic to a poor website doesn’t work. Having a great website that gets no traffic doesn’t work. Being a social media superstar with no plan to harvest the attention doesn’t work. Getting everything else right, but having no reviews, or poor reviews doesn’t work. What works is a full 360◦ strategy that that takes control of your consumer’s entire experience.
Want to learn more about driving traffic, leads & students to your website?
If you would like some hints about how to properly leverage your schools biggest marketing asset, you are welcome to download our guide: “25 Website ‘Must Haves’ for Schools”. It’s easy to read, and it’s free for schools and educators.