Here are some tips on how to use school review sites to find new students and improve your school’s online reputation.
One of the most overused and least understood terms thrown around in marketing these days is “millennials.” Too often, people use millennial to mean “a young person who does something I don’t understand.”
It is easy to see why people make this mistake. There was a time several years ago when millennials were the kids who spent all their time on social media and smartphones. Well, guess what? Those millennials grew up.
Millennials Are Now Your Students’ Parents
Although the specific beginning and ending years vary, people generally agree that millennials’ birth years range between 1980 and 1997. This puts today’s millennials between 25 and 42 years old.
Millennials aren’t your students anymore. They’re a significant portion of your school’s parents. They’re still using smartphones and social media, but they’re also using technology to find the perfect school for their own children.
Millennials also have very specific concerns.
Having come of age during the Great Recession and often being burdened with student debt of their own, millennials are having fewer kids than their parents. This means schools everywhere are competing for a shrinking number of students.
Your Prospective Families Are Online
True to their roots, millennials are still online. And the generation coming in right after them, Gen Z, is no different.
The “word of mouth” that used to determine a school’s reputation isn’t happening at Little League practice or backyard barbecues these days. Those discussions have moved to the internet.
In fact, 80% of millennials want to read online reviews to help them form their opinions about everything from restaurants to household products, to, yes, schools.
Why Online Reviews?
Even in the atomized world of online shopping, millennial consumers still want outside input to help them decide which products to buy.
When doing their research, the easiest place to find this information is through popular review websites that aggregate the opinions of large numbers of real customers.
For restaurants and most local businesses, the most important review site is Yelp. For travel, it’s Tripadvisor. Businesses and organizations of all types need review sites.
And schools are no exception.
Watch my video below for a brief video on the power of online reviews for K-12 schools, then keep reading to learn even more in-depth.
Understanding Review Sites for Schools
It’s important for every school or district to check out their profile(s) on the three major school review sites and ensure the information listed is accurate and up to date.
Review the following on each site:
Make sure that your address is correct.
Ensure the phone number listed is the best one for prospective families.
Check that the link to your website is working.
You likely already have all this information on your website. But the fact is that most parents and guardians will begin their online research with generic Google searches like “best schools in Cleveland” or “Detroit public schools.”
Even if you’ve worked hard on your school website’s SEO, it’s almost impossible to outspend and outrank the big review sites on Google.
These sites will dominate the front page of most generic searches on Google. This means that it is quite likely that the first time a parent or guardian finds out about your school is through your Niche, GreatSchools, or PublicSchoolReview profiles — so you better make sure they have your information correct.
You don’t need to purchase a premium profile or any of these sites’ services to make sure the data provided about your school is accurate. You also don’t need a premium profile to ensure the reviews of your school reflect the opinions of real people and are appropriate.
This means there’s no reason for you to not do basic maintenance on these sites. It’s just that many schools don’t realize the power of online reviews.
The truth is that school review sites can make a big difference for your enrollment numbers and your school’s reputation.
The Power of Online Reviews
According to Bright Local, 77% of consumers always or regularly read reviews when browsing for local businesses. And more importantly, people by and large trust online reviews just as much as a personal recommendation.
Reviews are powerful!
One thing that these sites do very well is they “own the search space for schools.”
For example, imagine you or a prospective family searches one of the following phrases:
Public schools [your city]
Schools in Denver
Best school in Boise
STEM schools of Philadelphia
If they’re not searching for your school or district directly by name, chances are extremely high that school reviews sites will show up first in search results.
So if a parent or guardian doesn’t search for your school by name and is looking for their education options, chances are high they’ll learn about your school from the information listed on that site.
And since school review sites are often your school’s first impression, you need to make sure it’s a good one.
Here are the three things you need to do to make these review sites work for your school.
1. Claim Your School on Review Sites
Visit all of the major school review sites and search for your school. If you haven’t already done so, claim the site for your school. This is free and a very easy process.
2. Check School Review Sites for Accuracy
Since review sites for schools pull information from many different public databases, sometimes the information is wrong. You should visit each review site and verify that what they are saying about your school is correct.
3. Encourage Happy Families to Leave Reviews
Encourage your happy parents, guardians, students, and staff members to leave honest reviews about your school on these platforms.
While you can’t change or remove bad reviews, you can encourage happy families and staff to leave reviews. This will grow your rating and ensure the majority of reviews on these sites are positive.
What’s Your School’s Online Reputation?
School reviews and review sites are powerful sources of information about your school. And they’re here to stay. What you can — and should — do is ensure the information they have about your school is good information.
As long as prospective parents and guardians are flocking to these review sites to research schools, monitoring your online reputation needs to be part of your student enrollment efforts.