trent-college-website-ukThe SchneiderB blog post ‘Are You Making This Mistake When Using Google and Facebook Ads for your School?’ recently caught my eye during one of my many daily Twitter perusals.

The reason it caught my attention is that as Marketing Manager for a large UK independent school, creating a strong digital marketing strategy, which of course features integrating online advertising, is something I have been working hard on over the last couple of years.

Like for many of today’s marketers, this technology sprang up and gained importance after my formal education and so learning is a constant feature of my working life. I thought I’d better read this article to ensure I wasn’t doing something very wrong!

I was relieved to see that the piece focused on a topic I have been working on extensively – ensuring we have a range of relevant, targeted school website landing pages that work alongside online advertisements in order to be specific and interesting to our website visitors. Phew!

Worth a mention is I have also used landing pages as an essential part of our Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy, so that our organic search rankings are also benefiting from this tailored content. It was very refreshing to see another educationalist channeling energy and resources into the development of this area.

In traditional school environments elevating the importance of a school engaging with potential pupils and students in new digital ways, and a school embracing that engagement as part of its everyday agenda, can be challenging. The amount of work that goes in to refining communications channels to ensure they are specific and convenient for visitors cannot be underestimated.

As consumers in the modern digital age we want easy access to lots of information, with immediate answers at our fingertips. We also want this at a time convenient to us and this not only goes for consumer goods but for researching a school for our child. We expect to search and easily find what we are looking for instantly.

Finding an interesting advert about art scholarships, which then takes you to a school’s generic homepage, or an admissions page, is just not going to hold your visitor’s attention. At best they have to spend a few tedious seconds navigating through your website menu locating the information that attracted them in the first place, at worst they simply can’t be bothered to do so, or they feel cheated by a misleading advert and simply leave, never to return. Remember, you know how to navigate your school website, that doesn’t mean it makes obvious sense to a first-time visitor.

After the main content for our website was created a year ago, setting up various Google Adwords campaigns, and adding more specific landing pages that these direct to, has been an ongoing task.

Refining budgets and keywords, tailoring adverts and landing pages in accordance with these, is, undeniably, a time-consuming process. But when we know the vast majority of initial research by parents when thinking about schools is conducted on the internet, and that our admissions team report that the percentage of parents who first get in touch via the website rather than via phone or through agents is ever increasing, it is clear that this process is essential.

It is sometimes hard to keep this in mind when the task and its outcomes are mainly invisible; We are not hosting a big open event, or showing the latest advert in the paper, or flashing around a glossy printed tome about our fabulous school, but toiling away tailoring web content that the majority of our stakeholders will never see.

Yet this first stage is absolutely vital in ensuring parents who are searching for a school like ours are:

  • finding us in the ever-expanding and increasingly influential online world
  • are then connecting with us by viewing relevant and interesting content
  • then, and most importantly, are contacting us.

It is this vital first step that opens the door for us to properly introduce people to all that a Trent College education can offer.

The biggest successes we have had with our landing pages so far are those for our international audience. We recognised families are often looking for the same qualities in a school. But at the initial search stage cultural differences, as well as obvious differences in language can be significant.

Therefore, instead of having just one landing page linked to an international summer school ad campaign or a boarding school campaign that tries to communicate with all nationalities, we have started to build up a range for different countries. These include key facts in their own language and a direct booking form or enquiry form on those pages. We are starting to see clicks onto these more specific ads and time spent on the landing pages increase. Most importantly, booking forms are being filled in directly from these web pages.

If you understand your customers and their needs, you would tailor how you communicate with them in person. It only makes sense to also refine your advertising campaigns and web content to equally meet their needs when communicating with them in a digital format.