157 Florida Independent School Websites Reviewed

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In November I had the opportunity to present two workshops at the Florida Council of Independent Schools (FCIS) Conference. For my presentation on “Recruiting Families in a Web-Based World,” I reviewed all 157 FCIS member school websites.

I have also implemented this same research for the ADVIS, NYSAIS and VAIS with similar results (5 ADVIS School Websites That Tell Their School’s Story; Top 5 NYSAIS Websites; 7 Key Findings from 89 Virginia Independent Schools).

As a result of my review, I made some interesting findings that I wanted to share with you. While several of the schools are clearly focused on using their website as their primary marketing tool, many schools still need to invest in this core strategy.

45% of FCIS Websites are Responsive – While a number of schools have made progressive in adapting their websites to a responsive design, over half of the Florida schools have not. This is a significant issue for websites today. A responsive design will allow for a website to reorient its design to the browser format and size, which most importantly include Smartphones.

13% of FCIS Websites have a Blog – This finding surprises me. Blogging is considered to be a core inbound marketing strategy today. If implemented correctly, a blog strategy can produce a steady stream of content that is relevant for current and prospective parents. It will also help to drive significant traffic back to the school’s website. Some examples include:

9% of FCIS Websites Tell Stories – Storytelling should be the foundation or your website strategy. With less than one-tenth of the FCIS schools actively sharing stories about their people and programs on their homepage, most school websites miss out on this opportunity to bring their school to life. The following are a few examples of websites that tell stories:

60% of FCIS Websites have a News Section on their Homepage – This is one of the bright spots among the FCIS school websites. However, many schools fail to produce and publish frequent news content. With so many great things happening every day in a school, it is critical to share news on your website. Some examples include:

2.4 Average Score for FCIS Websites (5-point scale) – Using a 5-point scale, I quickly graded all of the FCIS school websites. With an average score of 2.4, much improvement is needed to focus on this critical marketing presence on the Web. Some of the best websites in the FCIS are:

47 Average Score on HubSpot’s Marketing Grader – Hubspot has a free tool to analyze your website (https://marketing.grader.com). I plugged in every FCIS school’s website URL and a score from 1 to 100 was given for each school. The average score indicates that significant improvement is needed to increase the effectiveness of this key strategy. Academy at the Lakes has the highest score of 84, which indicates their commitment to inbound marketing strategies.

As you consider these findings, it is important for you examine your school’s website by asking yourself these questions:

  1. Have you invested in a responsive website design?
  2. Are you utilizing a blog on your website and in your marketing strategy?
  3. Are you bringing your school to life on your website by telling stories about your people and programs?
  4. Are you communicating news stories about the great things happening at your school every day?
  5. Does you school’s website make a great first impression and is it marketing-focused?
  6. Have you implemented best practices in search engine optimization, content development, call-to-actions and more on your website?

These are just a few of the questions that will help guide you as you work to improve your school’s website and inbound marketing strategy.