School websites are often one of the most underrated marketing tools that administrators have at hand. For many parents and students, their first visit to the school won’t be on a school tour or trial day – but through the web.
“We love our website, but we find keeping it looking fresh and up to date a challenge”
We often hear this from our clients. It’s a regular frustration that might seem simple but can be often difficult to put into practice, and even harder to make a regular task. So to help out, we have compiled 10 top tips that you can use to make sure that your school website is able to offer the best possible experience.
1. Use an effective content management system (CMS)
One of the biggest challenges of website management is time. From design to content and even further into SEO, websites require some investment to keep it up and running at its best.
While hiring an external agency or IT expert might seem like a great way to save resources, there are a few disadvantages, particularly when it comes to time, control and management costs. Handing over access could mean you have less immediate control of the content you want to upload. Any update you want to make will have to be detailed, discussed and emailed, which will add time and cost to any changes you want to make, no matter how big or small they are.
To save time, money and resources in the long run, make sure you can update content yourself. Do some research, find a simple and flexible content management system (CMS) and make sure you have a few members of staff who can use it. This will streamline the process and help you stay in complete control of your content while keeping costs to a minimum.
2. Make the approval process as simple as possible
From administration to teaching itself, the day to day operations of running a school can be pretty fast-paced, so it’s important to make sure that processes can be implemented quickly and efficiently, and this goes double for your website management.
Make sure you have a clear system and structure in place and determine what kind of content requires administrative input. While it’s good to get a second opinion when it comes to proofreading, it’s important to streamline the sign off process and make it as simple and easy as possible.
With a clearly defined workflow in place, you’ll be safe in the knowledge that any updates can be made quickly and efficiently, ensuring that your on-site content is providing the best and most up to date information to your visitors.
3. Divide the site into different areas with different deadlines
While it’s good to keep your website up to date, some elements will need more time than others. In most cases, this is determined by the type and nature of the content and the school’s schedule.
Some sections of your site (school news, job vacancies, etc.) will need to be updated on a weekly basis, some on a termly basis (e.g. list of teaching staff, calendar of events); and others should be checked on an annual basis, ideally in the summer holidays (e.g. exam results, admissions arrangements, pupil premium information)
To stay on top of your on-site content updates, create a content schedule that outlines when and where changes should be made and when they need to be live on your site. And to make sure everything runs smoothly, consider holding meetings at key times during the year to plan out any key events in advance.
4. Make the website the centre of your marketing activity
When it comes to marketing, schools have a wealth of resources they can use to reach prospective students. And while there are a lot of great marketing tools out there it’s your website that should be at the heart of your strategy- and for good reason.
For many prospective students and parents, a quick google will likely be the first thing they do to find out more information about your school, so it’s important to have as much insightful and up-to-date information on-site as possible.
Don’t be afraid to vary your content up – celebrate your school’s success and accomplishment with regular updates and share relevant news stories about education or local events. support your on-site copy with relevant news stories and events.
5. Assign team roles and responsibilities for website management
It’s one thing to have a great workflow when it comes to website management, but putting it into practice is another thing entirely. As a result, one of the most definitive aspects of your website isn’t just the site itself – it’s the team you have to manage it.
As you develop your workflow, take the time to consider how many people you will need and what kind of training/ experience they will need to come onboard. Not everyone needs to be an expert, but making sure everyone is comfortable and familiar with your CMS can really make a difference.
Once you’ve got your team, plan out and assign clear roles and responsibilities for everyone. Not only will this make sure that your team is on the same page on content, but they’ll also know exactly who to reach out to for specific requests and projects. With a well trained and experienced team on hand, your website will always be performing at its best!
6. Involve other staff members and ask for their input
The phrase ‘It takes a village’ is often used to highlight the role that multiple people play in the education process. Everyone has a part to play in helping students learn, from teachers and educational assistants to administrators and support workers, and they can be invaluable when it comes to creating and sourcing content for your site.
It’s not just a great way to generate new story ideas, it’s also an effective way to help your team keep their finger on the pulse of the school, to get valuable insights into the teaching and learning experience and to gain some effective feedback from the people who are at the heart of the school during the day to day.
Hold regular meetings with key members of the school and ask them to contribute to your content. Additionally, be receptive to their ideas and consider their recommendations; your website and its audience will definitely feel the benefit.
7. Encourage feedback and contributions
It’s not just faculty and staff members who can provide helpful advice when it comes to your website – indeed, why not ask the people who use it the most?
Consider reaching out to parents, students and even the governors to see what they think of your website overall. They’ll be able to give you insight in ways you may not have considered before: are there any issues with pages? Do you think there’s anything missing or something we could be doing more of or better? A quick survey can give you a wealth of feedback that can really make a difference.
They’re not just a great source for feedback, but also another great source for content. Ask them if they’d consider contributing to things like stories, find memories and photographs of their activities and accomplishments. It’s a great way to foster a sense of community across your school and an effective way to communicate that connection to prospective students.
8. Remove out of date material as soon as possible
One of the most persistent problems that schools experience with their website is out of date content, and while it’s understandable the fast-paced nature of school administration can make it difficult to stay on top of things, it’s important to take steps to make sure the information on your page is accurate, up to date and offers the best possible experience for visitors.
The best way to avoid this is to regularly assess and qualify the content on site. News stories and events have a quick turnover and can quickly become dated, so delete these as soon as they become obsolete and if possible, replace them with recent articles and insights. Once you’ve determined which content needs to be taken down, make a date in your team diary each week to remove all dated posts.
9. Resist the temptation to add many more pages to your website
It’s easy to get a bit carried away with creating content for your website. And while it’s true that the whole point of your website is to provide information to visitors, it is possible to provide TOO MUCH information – let us explain.
Your website should not only be informative but easy to navigate, and this can be difficult if there are hundreds of pages to comb through. It can also seriously overload your menus which can make moving through the site a frustrating experience for prospective parents and students.
The best thing you can do is resist the temptation to add more pages. Instead, bring your team together and ask yourselves: does this content need to be on a new page? If that’s a yes, can it be placed in an easy to spot place on the website? If not, can it be added to boost an existing page? And could it impact other pages?
Try to always fit new content into the existing structure and determine that kind of value it can bring to your website. By being aware of the implications that new pages can bring, you’ll be able to ensure your content contributes effectively to your site’s performance and the experience of your visitors.
10. Don’t be afraid to try something new
Creating content for your website doesn’t just mean written copy anymore. In the wonderful digital age we live in today, content can take on a wide variety of forms and functions, and it’s never been easier to learn how to edit videos or upload designs.
Setting up a blog is just the start – consider exploring how video can be used to get your message across online. Conducting interviews with your headteacher and faculty members is a great way to offer a more multifaceted experience to people visiting your site.
And why not go social? Social content is a great way to champion your school’s achievements and show new and prospective parents and students what your school is all about. The important thing to remember is that social media needs to be as regularly updated as your content to keep it current.
By developing more dynamic content, you’ll be able to help drive traffic to your site from multiple sources in marketing channels, increasing your visibility and reach in new and exciting ways.
Guest article from Simon Hepburn from Marketing Advice for Schools, click here to visit the site.
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If you want to find out how Blue Apple Education can help you unearth the remarkable in your school you can call us on +44 (0) 330 223 0766 or email us [email protected]