Updated: Mar 8
by Trevor Waddington, Principal, Truth Tree
Are you having a devil of a time executing your digital marketing strategy? Feel like you need a miracle to get the results you want? Do you need a divine nudge to make it to the promised land?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, the answers you seek are below. Here are our 10 commandments of digital marketing for schools to shepherd you through 2022.
1. Thou Shalt Have A Digital Marketing Strategy
Every school needs a marketing plan that includes a digital strategy. Tactics within should consist of SEO, SEM, and SMM, among others. If you are running ads for your school without a plan, you need to step back and answer these questions.
Do you have a defined marketing message?
What are your marketing goals?
What are your enrollment goals? (there's overlap, but your marketing goals should differ from your enrollment goals)
Who is your target audience?
What digital platforms will you choose?
2. Thou Shalt Not Keyword Thy Own Name
Point blank, you don't need to keyword your school's name in ads. If someone is searching for your school by name, guess what, they are looking for YOU.
There are two exceptions:
1. Other schools are keywording your name, pushing your organic snippet below the fold on page one.
2. One or more schools in your marketing share your name or have a very similar name.
3. Thou Shalt Speaketh Like A Parent
Did you hear the story of the parent who searched for the "best upper school near me?"
Neither did Google.
Many independent schools have a lower and/or upper school.
However, you can see that's not a term people use. We are not suggesting you change the names of your divisions. We are saying that the language on your site needs to mirror what people look for if you want your organic listing to be optimally ranked.
Therefore, if you have a lower or upper school, it's advantageous to have terms like elementary school, middle school, and high school interspersed on your website.
A few ways to do this include adding the popular terms to your meta tags and descriptions, as well as image tags.
Here's an example of what we may recommend on your upper school page.
Before: In our upper school, students…
After: In our upper school, high school grades 9-12, students…
4. Thou Shalt Market For Intent Over Vanity
A 2020 survey of school marketers showed that almost twice as much money went toward display and social ads over search ads.
Parents don't go to Facebook, cross their fingers, and hope to see an ad for a school. They go to Google, type or say something like, "private schools near me," and off they go.
If you're not visible on page 1, you've reduced your chances of getting clicked by up to 200%, and they may start their search journey without you.
The reason schools tend to emphasize social advertising over search is because it's more visible, and in earlier times, it was easier to do.
Search engine advertising is not as glitzy because it's just words, but it's where 70% of the action beings and more than 90% of where some action will occur. Don't be left out.
5. Thou Shalt Be Patient
WebFX says 3 months. ChatterBuzz says 4-12 months. Insel says 12 months. While there's some debate about how long it will take, all the "big-time" digital marketing firms agree that it takes time for your ads to make a legitimate impact.
"But Trevor, we launched a campaign yesterday and are already getting impressions and clicks!"
That's to be expected. Even though you see activity, these platforms need significant processing time to collect quality data to effectively serve your ad to the right audience.
At Truth Tree, we often see the discarded remains of short-lived campaigns that ran for three weeks because the school didn't see immediate results.
6. Thou Shalt NOT STOP Marketing Outside Admission Season
You may have an admission season, but school search season for parents is year-round. Just watch this video ;)
Of course, there are ebbs and flows, primarily the weeks surrounding Christmas and Independence Day, but even then, people are still searching. We've helped schools gain massive awareness that impacted enrollment because their ads were the only ones running. So don't discount advertising your school when sipping eggnog or waving an American flag are in fashion.<