|Posted - 14 November 2016
3 Tips for Showcasing Your School Online
by Jon Moser, CEO and Founder of Finalsite & CIS Affiliated Consultant
Since 1998, our team at Finalsite has worked with schools around the world helping them with their websites and online communication needs. The pace at which technology changes and advances is astonishing; more than ever, a school’s website is a critical component for successful marketing, branding and engagement. Having a comprehensive communication platform is crucial for success as consumers become more savvy, competition heats up, expats are diminishing in some markets, and teacher recruitment becomes increasingly more challenging.
1. Make sure your website is current and relevant
The early days of static websites are gone and now schools have to embrace mobile technology, the power of Google and social media. Visitors to a school’s website make quick judgments based on first impressions, have shorter attention spans and want and expect instant access to content. The standard as to what is a “good” website constantly changes and schools need to frequently evaluate their website and online communication channels to make sure they are meeting the demands of their market.
We continue to stress that your school’s website is your front door to the world. First impressions matter and studies still show that you have 7 seconds to make a great first impression. When a prospective student, current parent, potential faculty member or successful alumni visit your site, you want and need to capture their attention.
With upwards of (and in some cases more than) 50% of schools’ site traffic coming from mobile devices, schools that don’t have a responsively designed site risk losing visitors quickly. There are also some key design trends that have come out of this responsive world. In order for a site to work on multiple devices, designers use a grid system that allows elements to be rearranged and resized in a particular format depending on the screen size.
The idea of storytelling is often used when planning a school website. Many schools have a scrolling homepage that showcases:
- the value and mission of the school in photographs and video;
- news updates and blogs; student profiles;
- college admittances and eye catching infographics.
By the time visitors finish scrolling down the page, they see that you have an active community, they are engaged and they can see themselves fitting in. Some sites that do a great job with storytelling include:
- Saigon South International School
- British International School of Stavanger
- TASIS Switzerland
- The American School of Milan
- The American School Foundation
- The American International School-Riyadh
2. Monitor your SEO to increase site traffic
The increase in international schools during the past decade has been explosive. The International School Consultancy (http://www.iscresearch.com/) group reports that there are over 8000 English-medium international schools, and that this number will continue to grow. When families are looking for an international school they most often head to Google. They might type in your exact school name (branded search) or they might search on international schools in x-city (unbranded search). Google is constantly updating their algorithms and the ways results are displayed, so making sure your school ranks well in searches is critical and requires constant monitoring.
Your website’s Content Management System should allow you to easily maintain your search engine optimization data and should provide you with site analytics so you can make data driven decisions for improvements. For more competitive markets, it might make sense to take advantage of paid Google AdWords as well.
Another important element to search is that Google often drives traffic to interior pages of your site such as Admissions, Fees, Employment or Curriculum. These interior pages (what we refer to as “Landing Pages”), need to be given attention as well. If you only show your fees without showing any value, there is a good chance people might exit your site. It helps if your landing pages tell a story in order to engage and inspire and you can do this by incorporating videos, photos, infographics, student testimonials, and other marketing collateral.
A few sites that focus on interior pages include:
3. Engage Your Community through Social Media
Depending on your country, culture, security and privacy restrictions, social media means different things to different people around the world. Among our clients, we still see that Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are utilized in the international school setting. We also know that prospective and current families are craving things that are real and authentic but they don’t want to spend a lot of time on it. Social media is the solution.
Your community is already social: coaches are sharing photos of games on Facebook; students are posting Instagram photos from their Duke of Edinburgh Expeditions; teachers are tweeting about #elearning; while directors are tweeting #ibresults. These are all great stories that you should share as there is no better story than one that comes directly from the source.
In our daily interaction with thousands of schools, we realized that we needed to bring social media back to the schools’ websites so that the content and conversations were all in one place. We created a new feature called Finalsite Feeds that enables schools to aggregate and monitor posts and hashtags from more than 15 social networks and then publish to their websites. It’s very flexible with built in monitoring tools and approvals and enables schools to have constant, up-to-date content WITHOUT additional effort.
This is perfect for the robust international school, often with a one-person-team, who is trying to showcase on a daily basis their vibrant community and why it is worth the investment. This is the theory that fueled the redesign of Ellington Public School's website.
One thing is for certain, website technology will continue to change and our team at Finalsite is excited about helping schools by continually providing innovative and creative solutions so that schools can share their stories efficiently and effectively using the latest in tools.
About the Author
Jon Moser is a Member of the CIS Affiliated Consultant Network. As founder, CEO, and current Board Member of Finalsite, Jon is passionate about web trends and strategies that impact education. For more than fifteen years, Jon and Finalsite have been committed to providing cutting-edge web technology for clients. He is a frequent advisor, keynoter, blogger and presenter on all things web related.
More than 1500 schools in 75 countries choose Finalsite’s web marketing and communications platform for its award-winning design, best-in-class web software, and integration with 50+ ed tech partners. We provide an intuitive website management tool, a robust, paperless enrollment solution, a learning management system to enable blended learning and flipped classrooms, and internet marketing services.