Your website is one your school’s biggest marketing investments. Keeping it up to date is a big job. Optimizing its performance is an even bigger one. And knowing when it’s time to overhaul the whole thing? That’s downright overwhelming. Here, we’ll share five things to consider when you’re contemplating the right next step for your site.
You may be reading this blog because you’re an incredibly talented and optimistic marketer looking to optimize your workflow and resources, in a quest to better understand how to leverage your most powerful marketing tool: your website. You also may be reading this because you’re hoping the experts at Metric Marketing have the magical answer to the question everyone asks: how often should we be updating our website? You’re in luck because we have the answer (insert drumroll here). The answer is this: it depends.
We know, we know. But don’t roll your eyes just yet! By looking inward and determining your school’s unique marketing needs, you can easily create a system of implementing website best practices that will make you a webspert (website + expert = webspert?) (nevermind) in no time.
Because they’re the questions you’re asking yourself, the frequency and tools you’ll use to maintain your website are completely unique to your brand–no two websites or workflows are exactly alike! However, we’ll share a couple of tips, tricks and themes you can start using today to set a website up for success.
1. Identify your KPIs
It may seem obvious to some, but evaluating your data is key to setting up your ongoing website best practices for increasing conversions and basking in web success. Put more simply, evaluating the data your website brings in answers the question of how successfully your website is performing.
If you were to choose a part of this process to start with, begin by taking a look at your conversions. Even before that, identify what qualifies as a conversion for your school. This may be clicks to inquire, clicks to apply, clicks to donate or registrations for events–just to name a few).
Once you’ve gotten a handle on what you’d like to track, focus in on the success of those key performance indicators (KPIs). This will lay the groundwork for where to go next and how to approach your website adjustments to maximize your overall conversions. Keeping an eye on your KPIs ensures that you’re making updates for a strategic reason–and making sure that your effort makes an impact.
2. Build your toolbox
Once you’ve put together your game plan of what you’d like to track on your website, it's time to turn attention to how you plan on tracking it. We recommend Google Analytics as the powerhouse tool for all of your website tracking needs. However, Google will soon be upgrading to a new version called GA4— one of Google Analytics’ most powerful new platforms. If you’re already familiar with Google Analytics in its current form, we recommend getting to know the new features of GA4 before the mass rollover in 2023. If you’d like to introduce Google Analytics to your current toolbox, starting with GA4 now is the way to go.
Metric recently took a deep dive into the benefits and features of GA4—we did the work so you don’t have to! Take a look at some of our favorite GA4 updates in our Marketing Guide For Schools here.
3. Evaluate your wins
Wins = Conversions. These wins will be determined by your particular organization’s goals, and can be interpreted by a number of tracking tools. Taking a deep dive into particular measurement points such as your Page Per Sessions, Bounce Rate, and Session Durations (to name a few) can tell you a lot about the successful performance of your site–and where your opportunities to improve might be hiding in plain sight.
As you review your KPIs, are yourself:
What are these values telling you about your content?
How can you improve these areas to ultimately drive conversions?
Pro Tip: According to Metric’s websperts, a school website that converts around 2% is a well-converting website.
Scary word, right? Fortunately, we are not the IRS, and auditing your website (probably) won’t put you in prison. Doing a full-site audit is a great project for those summer planning months when you’re looking ahead to plan your event calendars, annual fund campaigns, and setting new enrollment goals. Going though your website periodically–and making necessary changes and improvements–is an investment that will keep your website functioning well over a longer lifespan (plus it helps to ensure a great first impression).
Here are some ideas on where to start:
Check for broken links, outdated information, or content that could use some different context (i.e. update an event promotion page to include photos from the e, a thank you for attending, and a save the date for next year)
Place appropriate direct links and calls-to-action throughout areas of heavier text
Add alt text and/or captions to images to ensure good accessibility
Review photos to check for outdated permissions
Follow links from social media or other host sites to make sure customers are reaching the landing page intended
Ensure that your copy is aligned with your SEO goals
Kevin MacNeil, our Vice President of Accounts says, “Websites can be thought of like trees. If the branches and leaves are growing out of control, you’ll lose sight of the areas where you have control.” In other words, too many one-off pages, dead links, or messy data in the backend of your website creates chaos–and leaves no way for your team to accurately evaluate the data, or even use that data to efficiently carry a customer through the sales journey.
If during your audit, you’ve found more obstacles than routine clean-up can adequately address, it may be time to consider a website redesign. How often does this typically happen for schools? According to our recent study with NAIS, “over three-fifths of schools [redesign their website] every four to six years. Less than a quarter do so more frequently, while just 16% redesign their website every seven to eight years. Only 1% of schools have not redesigned their website in eight or more years.”
Read more about important things to consider before taking on a project like this here.
If you’re at the point in your website deep dive where steps 1-4 have been completed—congratulations! The bulk of the toughest work is behind you. It’s your responsibility now to ensure that your hard work does not go to waste.
Regular website updates can include anything from blog posts or news stories, event and calendar updates, introducing social media feeds to your site, or even updating evergreen pages with new hero images here and there—showing the audience that your website is the most up-to-date tool for them to use throughout their exploration process is key to building trust in your customers.
If your team is small, finding content stewards in other areas of your organization to help with regular maintenance may be key to staying on top of it. Find folks who understand the umbrella goals of your marketing efforts who can apply website best practices to their contributions. For example, train your Athletic Director on your website’s back-end so they can regularly update game schedules, scores, and athletic highlight stories. Good writers are also a plus! They key is to ensure your recruits understand their responsibilities and are familiar with–and on board with–your marketing priorities, your brand voice and style guide, and your expectations around content management.
Ultimately, tackling your website can feel like an enormous undertaking. Setting up good habits is a great way to ensure it can become a part of your daily practice, and not consume your entire life.
At Metric Marketing, we develop measurable and practical strategies to help private and independent schools like yours to make the most of your marketing efforts. We'd love to discuss your private school's marketing requirements with you. Contact us today to speak with our marketing professionals or sign up to receive more marketing tips in your inbox.