Written By: Nicole Fullerton, Communications and Marketing Manager
From communicating with a large, diverse population to driving enrollment, your website is perhaps your most versatile, most effective, most powerful marketing tool for your private school. In fact, according to recent web research from Stanford, 75 percent of users admit they judge an organization's credibility based on a website's design and function.
That's why your website needs to be professional, well-designed and easy to navigate. In a sea of increasingly polished websites, however, it can be difficult to make your site stand out from the competition's. This is particularly true for the hyper-competitive private school market, where each school is trying to sell its unique story to a very specific audience.
How can you lead visitors from a simple Internet search to an admissions visit or a donation? Here are a few tips:
Define Your Audience and Focus on Their Needs
Schools typically cater to a large audience: current parents and students, alumni, donors, and prospective families. Each of these groups is equally important, and trying to cater to all of them in one platform can be overwhelming.
To make your website the most effective marketing tool possible, narrow your focus to the two groups that know the least about your school—prospective families and potential donors. Highlight information about the admissions process, upcoming events, ways to give and the school's unique strengths. In addition to promoting strengths, you want to provide a user-friendly experience that will encourage your visitor to schedule a tour, apply or support the school.
Pay Particular Attention to the Homepage
The homepage is usually the most visited page on any site—but that doesn't mean it's the most read. According to web analytics company Chartbeat, 55 percent of users spend fewer than 15 seconds actively on a page. So it's important that your homepage quickly captures visitors' attention and encourages them to explore the website further.
How? First: Prioritize your content. Place new stories and calendar events, for example, higher on the page so users don't have to search for these items—and lose interest in the process. Additionally, your homepage should quickly showcase what your school is all about. Photography, video and recent triumphs can give users a quick overview, without weighing the page down with long blocks of text.
Show Your Story
Few things resonate with visitors more than clear examples of why your school is their best choice. Compelling imagery and videos, student testimonials, and colorfully designed infographics create an emotional response, enabling your visitors to see themselves at your school. Similarly, showing your story can help persuade a donor to invest their money in your school. Crisp professional photography, videos featuring faculty members and students, and infographics that highlight recent "wins" for the school add a personal touch that visitors will identify with.
Clear Calls to Action
In most cases, visitors are looking at your website because they're already searching for information. To convert that interest into action, your site should direct visitors to their next course of action. "Join us," "apply today" and "support our mission" all work much better than a simple "click here," for example.
There's no guarantee visitors will return to your website, so you want to immediately pull them in. And once they're in, you want them to act! With the right focus, compelling images and clear direction, your website can draw potential students and donors, pique their interest, and move them to action.