Looking to increase – or maintain – your school admissions numbers for 2022? Focus on digital marketing strategies proven to keep those enquiries coming in!
- Google Analytics
- Persona Profiling
- Digital Advertising
- Website Optimisation (SEO)
- Content Marketing
- Social Media Marketing
- Video Marketing
Google Analytics has been my number one digital marketing strategy for over 10 years and for a good reason—data is like gold to a digital marketer and Google Analytics is a wealth of information:
- How visitors found your website
- What their interests are
- How old they are
- Where they live
- What they’re in the market to purchase
- How many visits it takes them to convert (i.e. register for an Open Day or contact you)
- What pages they’re viewing on your website – and what they’re not
- Any technical issues your website may have
- Which marketing or social campaigns are the most effective
- The keywords your website is ranking on in Google
The list of insights is endless, as are the opportunities to use this data in your marketing—personalising your website, advertising, social media .. you name it! Your website data is far more valuable than many realise. Even if you’re not using this information yourself, your digital agency should be. Ensure you’ve added analytics tracking to your school website. Whilst you’re there, you might as well set up the new Google Analytics 4 tracking code as well. G4 is Google’s new analytics platform and as it’s in its infancy, I’d recommend gathering data from both platforms. You can set both up on the same Google Analytics account.
2. Persona Profiles
Next on the strategy list are Persona Profiles. Let’s face it, if you don’t know your audience, how can you sell to them?! Persona Profiles are fictitious representations of what your ideal target audiences look like and should include everything from where they live to what they’re purchasing online. As you can see above, you can gather quite a bit of information from your Google Analytics alone. If you’ve already set up Goals in Google Analytics (ie when a parent registers their child via your website) the data you gather will be even more valuable as those are your converting audiences. In addition to the basics such as age, gender and location, you’ll want your personas to include:
- The websites they frequent
- Which social platforms they’re on
- Their concerns and challenges
- Why they chose your school
- The key messages you want to convey to each persona
Keep in mind that times change and so do your parents. Review your profiles on a regular basis. Last year’s parent may not be this year’s parent. COVID has certainly proven that to be true! Keep your profiles current and use this valuable information in your advertising, website messaging, social media and content strategies. Make your content and messaging relevant to your audience!
3. Digital Advertising
Digital advertising is essential for today’s school as it’s the quickest and most effective way to reach new parents. Of course, each advertising platform varies in reach and effectiveness, but Google Ads has, by far, the largest reach globally. Facebook (which includes Instagram) is currently facing challenges with the iOS 14 update resulting in limited reach, however, there are still some schools that find this an effective platform. But I do see ad fatigue on Facebook as a smaller audience can result in the same audience shown your ads over and over. With that being said I would always recommend doing your own Facebook vs Google Ads comparison. Same budget, same geo/demographic targeting and same messaging to see which channel works best for your school.
If you’re looking to get the best results from your digital advertising consider an ongoing campaign rather than just before an Open Day. A longer running campaign will not only be more effective in increasing your brand awareness but will also allow you – or your provider – to optimise your messaging and targeting for the best possible ROI.
4. Website Optimisation (SEO)
A longer-term strategy, SEO is still a valuable component of digital marketing. Begin optimisation by connecting Google Search Console to your Google Analytics account to determine the phrases you’re currently being found on and how you’re ranking on the keywords your prospective parents are searching for. Remember you can’t be found on a particular keyword or phrase if it’s not on your website. Use free tools such as your Search Console and Google Ads to select the best keywords and optimise your website accordingly.
Don’t forget to claim your Google My Business and Bing for Business accounts for local SEO. When searching for a ‘prep school’, search engines will first look to deliver ads and a map showing schools in your area so be sure you’re on there – and optimised. Claim your GMB account here if one has been created on your behalf already.
5. Content Marketing
Content is the backbone of your SEO allowing you to be found in search engines and subsequently reach new parents. Based on what’s important to your target audience (go back to your Persona Profiles) you can create a content strategy to deliver key messages in the right place, at the right time. A school blog is a perfect platform for sharing your content as you can continually add to it. The key to writing a blog that attracts prospective parents? Write about the concerns and issues your target audiences are actually searching for! Start typing in your search and Google will even provide you with the most popular searches …
- What are the advantages of single-sex education?
- Questions to ask when visiting a school
- Dealing with anxiety in children
- Boarding vs Day School, which one is better?
6. Social Media Marketing
I don’t care what anyone says (it’s usually those not doing it), social media can be a great platform for connecting with your audience, but it’s also a LOT of work. Therefore a strategy to determining its effectiveness is mandatory. Start by going back to the WHY. Why are you on social media? What’s your goal? Refer again to your Persona Profiles and your Google Analytics – which social channels are your audiences on and how effective are those platforms in helping you to reach your goals? Just because you have 52 Twitter channels – yes, I know of a school that actually does! – doesn’t mean that you have to keep them. If that’s not where your audience is, signpost your Twitter account to the platform they ARE on. If you’re not sure if your social is working or not, create SMART goals and give yourself a finite amount of time to determine if that’s the case. Again, your Google Analytics is going to tell reveal so much about the impact your social media has.
7. Video Marketing
Schools should no longer rely solely on content and photos if they want to compete online. To stand out you’ll want to have some videos in your school marketing toolbox. Some of you may already have your glossy brand video but could be overlooking a few very powerful – and a lot less costly – videos:
- A Day in the Life – try a recording from a student’s perspective, not the airbrushed marketing version
- 360 Tours – who wouldn’t want to walk around your campus before making a commitment to visit in person?
- Testimonials – both parent and pupil videos are great for closing the deal
Ideally, your video marketing strategy would include videos for each stage of your admissions funnel – awareness, interest and decision. In fact, the 3 above probably fit the bill very nicely. Remember you don’t have to spend a fortune – or a lot of time for that matter – to successfully use video in your school marketing mix.
Podcasting for schools is a fairly new concept but one that is already proving to be extremely valuable. Used to stay connected with your existing parents, to set yourself up as a thought leader in the education space, to attract new audiences, or to improve your SEO, podcasting is a long-term strategy that will put you one step ahead of your competitors. Think of your podcast strategy as a content strategy on steroids. Ensure you have a plan on who you’re targeting and what it is you want to get across. Podcasts are showing up in Google so be sure to share your episodes across all the key platforms to ensure you show up in search results as well – your website, your social channels (including YouTube), as well as platforms such as Spotify and Apple. Not ready for your own podcast just? Consider advertising on one! Check out platforms like Podcast Media or Advertisecast.com to learn more. Either way, get podcasting on your radar sooner rather than later. (psst…watch for an upcoming blog from the brilliant Simon Jones of Bonjour)