Seven Mistakes Private Schools Make on Their Website

In the past week I have reviewed over 200 private school websites. Some of the websites are really good, and some of them are really bad. 

Your school’s website should be your number one marketing priority. It should be the strategic focus of your energy and resources in your school’s marketing and enrollment effort.

In my review, I was surprised to see some of the mistakes that are being made on private school websites. Without showing you these examples, let me highlight these mistakes for you: 

1.            Not telling your school’s story – It amazes me that we have a tool available that we have control over, yet our schools often fail to tell their story in a real and compelling way. Honestly, most of the websites look the same. They all have similar navigation structures, photos of smiling students and a calendar on the home page. However, most of the sites I reviewed did not use their own space to tell stories of their students, faculty, staff, parents and alumni. Instead of trying to get your story printed in a local newspaper, you should tell your school’s story on your website.

2.            Not using a drop down menu – I don’t know about you but I am used to websites that have drop-down menus when I hover over a topic that is interesting to me. I don’t like it when you can’t see what’s below “academics” or “admissions” from the main menu without clicking on the actual menu item. Your menu should drop down and provide easy access to where the user wants to go. 

3.            Not including social media links – Social media offers key channels for your school to tell your story. Whether your focus is on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or the newcomer Pinterest, it is important to include their icons as links to your social media pages. I was surprised to find that some private schools do not have these links on their home page. It needs to be there.

4.            Not using orientation copy on your homepage – Search engines are concerned about content, not design. Your homepage should include some copy that provides a keyword-rich overview of your school. While your page title and headings will help to drive search traffic to your site, search engines are also interested in scanning your copy to find relevant keywords that you actually use. It does no good to stuff keywords into the back-end of your site unless you include them in your copy. Copy on your homepage is an important component in the design of your website. Remember, your homepage is the page that is most viewed and linked to from other sites. 

5.            Not using a call to action – It is critical that you use a call-to-action on your website, especially on your site’s homepage. Typically, your homepage is where your prospective parents will land (unless you’ve built a specific landing page for your campaign).  Once they arrive at your homepage, there needs to be a call to action to encourage them to respond in some way. You might want to include a menu button that says, “Click here for Admissions Information” or “Apply Now.”

6.            Not marketing to prospective parents – Once a new family lands on your website’s homepage, it is important for them to easily find information that is relevant. Some schools not only include admissions in their top level navigation, they have also included special call-out menus to encourage the prospective parent to take the next step. The next step might be to “view our virtual tour” or “hear what our parents have to say” or “apply now.”  

7.            Not programming your photos in a slide show – Some schools still use Flash programming to showcase photos and key messages on their homepage. While this might look cool, the downside is that Flash programming does not appear on an iPad or iPhone. This is a definite mistake you don’t want to make.

Are you making any of these mistakes on your school’s website?

What other mistakes do you want to add to my list?