School website: make it great again!

Every business needs a website. But businesses are moving away from a website that is static and information-heavy, instead they are becoming more and more interactive and customer-focused. Schools are the same: our website is our greatest marketing and sales tool. It is a shopfront that not only reaches far and wide to audiences globally but can also impact individuals deeply. It is your brochure to the world, your connection to the audiences that you wish to attract. It is your most powerful communication channel, and it’s free to use.

If schools have to choose one area to prioritise their marketing budget, your website, or its development, is it!

This article suggests the top three things that you can do to make your website more effective in its purpose, and thus will boost your student recruitment and brand building efforts.

Number 1, content cull! It sounds harsh but we have seen so many websites get carried away with educational jargon and wordy articles about the benefits of an international education, for instance, which lose (rather than build) connection with their audience and worst still: your customers will get lost within an array of not-so-relevant information. By the way, parents hate getting lost on a website! So go through your website and carefully update or take out content that is actually aimed at an audience other than your prospective parents. In other words, cut out unnecessary content. Maybe that content is best placed on the intranet, or an internal platform, for teachers and existing families. (Read our article on “What’s the point…” to decide what is necessary and unnecessary content.) Keep your website lean with information that is straight-to-the-point and facilitates recruitment of students.

One of the schools I worked at managed to increase customer acquisition, average time on site and doubled enquiries the minute they halved the amount of content on the website.

Two, “A picture says a thousand words”. This is a simple idea but if implemented well, can yield incredible results. Invest in a good camera if you don’t have a photographer. Stage some photo-shoots with the students, teachers and even parents, if you can arrange it. (Do spend a bit of time selecting your students from a diverse background, representing a cross-section of Year groups and go for students who will bring “life” to your shots.)

Build up a library of powerful images that you can use. What are powerful images? They’re the ones that stir some emotions in you. The ones that make you smile when you look at, or the ones that inspire you, or make you return to, again and again… Those are the images that will captivate your audience and draw them into the school, connect with the school and aspire to have their children at your school. About 100 different ones can last you a whole academic year.

Pictures can be made just that bit more interesting when you attach an annotation, which can make it more meaningful and further bridge the audience and the school.

Check out a fine example of creative annotated images on the home page of StCuthbert’s College.

Last but not least: ease of contact. Customers get frustrated when they can’t get a contact. No matter lovely your website is, your audience is a person and they want to speak to another human. Let them get in touch with you easily. We love the customer-centric approach used by Purple Bricks– ok, not a school, but there’s so much good practice on this property website that we can all take heed. They clearly don’t want any customer to slip away and make the ability to get in touch so ridiculously simple. It is “in your face” every second that you scroll their site. (By focusing relentlessly on a strong customer-friendly strategy, they experienced a 30% increase in their share price in just under one quarter in 2016, whilst other companies in the same industry experienced falling share price.)

So these are our top tips for making your website great again (to use a familiar slogan!). Enjoy making some modifications to your current website… and enjoy it even more when your google analytics data go green!!

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