As a school administrator, you need to consider the primary purpose of your school's website. Is it to attract new students or run as a site for important notifications and announcements?
When used correctly, a school website can become a core marketing tool. Consider these nine ways to improve your school website to unlock its possibilities of improving your school's image and exposure.
Why engagement matters for schools
A vibrant online presence works as a marketing tool because it engages both parents and students. If you're wondering why that matters, consider this: engaged visitors on your website are much more likely to help spread the word about your school.
A functional website is great to get all necessary information to the parties in question, but one that seeks to actively engage its visitors encourages them to share its content on social media. Through creating a school website that aims for this goal, you can shape the conversation happening around your school and its neighborhoods and improve your perception and reputation as a result.
Here are eight ways to create an effective website for your school.
1. Include an interactive calendar
Almost every school website, regardless of region, now features a calendar that highlights important school events on its website. Mashable has a great list of more than fifty calendar options you can use for a website. But if you're simply using a listing of events, you may miss out on a significant engagement opportunity.
Instead, consider including social sharing buttons that enable parents and students alike to let their friends and acquaintances know about the events they're about to attend. Depending on the nature of your website backend, you can even create an online registration system to better help you keep track of your potential visitors.
2. Feature a parent's section
Parents love to know what their children are doing while at school. So why not create a section on your website specifically for them? That section may hold important forms they have to fill out for their kids, notes from the district's PTA, upcoming events related to parents, relevant contact information, and more.
Parents have the highest chance of becoming engaged visitors and even brand ambassadors for your school; they love sharing content about their children on social media. The more actively you engage them on your website, the more likely they will be to return the favor and spread the word about your school and its events.
3. Provide opportunities for feedback
Because visitors who feel involved are more engaged, you should also be sure to offer clear opportunities for feedback on your website. A “contact us” form, along with a clearly visible phone number and email address, allows parents to get in touch with the school whenever they need. The resulting goodwill typically results in higher engagement on other pages of your website.
4. Start a student-run blog
Feature your students and their successes by creating a student-only blog. Through blogging, students can interact with each other and their teachers in an educational way that’s unique from the classroom experience. Encourage future newscasters to interview teachers and write up spotlight articles. Writers and artists can share creative content. The scientists can reveal the findings from their latest experiments.
WordPress is the most popular blogging platform out there. You can set up a WordPress blog yourself within minutes, or have some of your tech-minded students handle the installation.
5. Optimize for mobile
Your students will naturally appreciate a website that is as accessible and user-friendly on their mobile devices as it would be on a desktop. But don't underestimate how much of a difference it makes for parents, as well. In fact, the age range in which your school's parents likely reside makes up the single biggest percentage of mobile internet users. To get and keep them engaged, mobile-friendliness is paramount.
6. Track the results
If you don't know how your website is performing, how do you know whether it's successful? Fortunately, you no longer have to be a marketing professional to track basic metrics like total visitors and their average time on your site, which is a strong indicator of their engagement. Free tools like Google Analytics can give you these success metrics easily and without cost, enabling you to track (and allow you to determine where to improve) your school website.
7. Offer Behind-the-Scenes Content
Rehearsals of a play, football practice, or simply a lunch room during a study hall period all work well. Students love to share this type of content if it involves them, while parents feel they know more about what's going on, and can feel pride about their children.
As a result, this type of behind-the-scenes content is almost sure to get you more shares and comments than any other feature of your website.
8. Prioritize your website
In the end, improving your school website comes down to a single variable: prioritize it. Simply spending time and thought on the type of content that should live on your site, and how you can best use it to maximize its success, will play a crucial part in making sure that your visitors not only come to your website to get the information they need but stay to be engaged.
Of course, prioritizing your website is often easier said than done. Most school administrators don't have the time to include the website in their strategic thoughts. Fortunately, this prioritization does not have to be an isolated effort. Make it a team effort. An assistant coach taking a couple of pictures at practice, or a student shooting a time-lapse video of a theater set assembly, only takes minutes and can improve the effectiveness of your website significantly.
In the end, that effectiveness is what matters most. You may not realize it, but your school's site can and will play a crucial part in keeping up school spirit and improving the perception of your district in the local area. Parents and students alike will love to engage with a format that's specifically designed to do so, and the above tips can help you get there.
Photo credit: Georgejmclittle/Shutterstock