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Step 4: Understanding How Parents Search for Schools

5 min read
Sep 14, 2023 8:00:00 AM

7 Steps to a Better Student Recruitment Plan: Step 4

Welcome to the fourth part of our seven-part series, 7 Steps to a Better Student Recruitment Plan! You can learn more about this series here, or go back to Step 3, or skip ahead to Step 5.

In the previous three installments, you’ve learned how to set good recruitment goals, how to tell a convincing story about your school, and how understanding your families’ circumstances can help you create relevant messaging and experiences for them.

Today, you’ll learn how families search (“shop”) for schools.

Understanding How Families “Shop” for Schools

How you’d shop for a new car is similar to the way in which parents and guardians “shop” for a new school. Both situations require a significant amount of involvement and emotion.

First, let’s identify some circumstances under which you’d purchase a new car: 

  • Your current car is too old and you want to upgrade
  • You’re tired of your current car and want something new
  • You (or someone else) wrecked your current car
  • You’re buying a car for a first-time-driver teenager

You can see how each circumstance is a bit different and how a car seller would respond in a different way based on those circumstances.

When you last bought a car, you probably went through these fairly standard steps:

  • You Googled different cars and made a list based on your interests and necessary features
  • You read online reviews and solicited opinions from trusted friends and family
  • You test-drove a few cars that seemed promising
  • You purchased a new car

This is a fairly standard buying process for a car. And it’s also similar to the steps parents take when looking for a new school.

So let’s talk about what you need to do during these different phases to make your school stand out, starting with the first one: the Google search.

One of the most important things when you’re trying to improve your school’s enrollment is to ensure that when people Google “schools near me” or “best middle school,” your school shows up — and that it does so as close as possible to the number-one position.

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Assignment #7: Google Your School

If parents can’t find you on Google, your chances of enrolling their child drop. So let’s do a pulse check on your site’s current Google ranking:

  • Open up a new browser window
  • Switch to Incognito mode
  • Google your school without using your school’s name

use google incognito mode to search for your school

Note: If you don’t switch to incognito, Google will rank your site artificially higher because you probably go to your homepage often, which skews what Google shows you.

Where did your school’s website rank?

  • Was it at the top?
  • Second or third?
  • In the map section?
  • Did it show up at 12th place (or beyond)?
  • …Did it not show up at all?

If your school has an awareness problem (remember learning that back in Step 1?), this exercise can reveal why few families know of your school’s existence. If your school doesn’t show up in Google searches, nobody can discover you through the #1 place people go to for information.

But how do you show up higher on Google?

For-profit companies spend millions of dollars to help them get to the front page of Google but there are a few things that you can do that, while they don’t guarantee, will help you stand out.

  1. Ensure your site is mobile-friendly. Google hates non-mobile sites and ranks them lower. And if you have ever struggled to read a website on your phone, you probably hate them too. To check if your site is mobile-friendly, Google offers this free service
  2. Ensure your site has no broken links. Broken links tell Google your site is poor and not well-maintained. This free service by Google helps check if you have broken links.
  3. Get some basic SEO on your site. If your school website is a WordPress site, consider installing Yoast or another SEO tool to help you increase your ranking.

This stuff can be intimidating. You didn’t get into education to be a digital marketer. And you don’t need to become one!

If you have room in your budget, consider partnering with SchoolMint for SchoolMint Engage — a suite of products and services aimed at helping you improve your school’s online presence.

Watch the video below to see how we helped a new charter school improve enrollment with SchoolMint Engage!

Assignment #8: Claim Your Profile on Review Sites

When you were searching your school on Google, did school review sites (like Niche or GreatSchools) come up in the first few results? That’s because review sites are really good at ranking highly on Google.

And oftentimes, parents start their search for a new school on these sites.

However, these sites will automatically pull data about your school from outdated resources, leading to inaccurate information about your school being put on full display to new families.

Do you see the risk? The main third-party source of information about your school is wrong. But it’s an easy fix!

claim your school's profile on niche

Take 10 minutes to “claim” your school. Click the prompt to claim your school, then fill out the information they have to ensure the story of your school is correct — information such as your school’s website URL, your physical address, your school’s phone number, and so on.

The other benefit to doing this is that these sites are often linked to the real estate sites in your area. If you’re trying to attract new families moving into your area (a group of people mentioned in Step 3 last week), this is a great way to get in front of them.

You are now more than halfway through this series. Congratulations for sticking it out! Get started with Step 5 when you are ready to move forward with your student recruitment strategy.

If you want to learn about school review sites and how they can help enrollment, check out the additional reading below — or get in touch with our enrollment experts directly!

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