Content Marketing Your Boarding School
Most parents and students are finding out about your school - and others - over the internet. Great schools that master this tool are thriving.
As you know the days of putting an ad in Southern Living and waiting for the phone to ring have passed. (Did those days really exist?) Most parents and students are finding out about your school - and others - over the internet. Great schools that master this tool are thriving. Great schools that treat the internet like print (infrequent articles, buying ads, gate-keeping information) are not growing. By introducing content marketing at the boarding schools where I was involved in marketing, we were able to reduce or reallocate some of our advertising budget while growing our enrollment and making more parents advocates for our school.
So what is content marketing? First and foremost, content is why people use the internet. You are reading content on our site right now. We have written this content to attract you to our website. Soon you will say to yourself, "Hey, these dapper gentlemen know what they are talking about!" Then you will let us know how you feel by contacting us, filling out a form, or subscribing to our newsletter. We will then become the best of friends and help you bring awesome new students to your school. Finally, you will tell everyone how great we are.
Just like you, families expect to find answers to their questions on the internet.
Just like you, families expect to find answers to their questions on the internet. Content marketing helps determine what content your audience is looking for, then provides fresh, valuable, and relevant information in the best possible format. You are the expert; show it.
Content marketing is not cold calling, popups, hard sells, spam emails, link farming, purchased advertisements, or any other unsavory practice. It is hard work that provides real value by educating and building relationships with your audience.
Another major benefit of content marketing, which is sometimes called inbound marketing, is that it helps with your Search Engine Optimization. More content and more links to your site will increase your ranking on search engines. As your ranking rises and your content becomes more visible there will be more eyeballs reading your message, more people finding your school, more links to your site, and more people contacting you. Content is the best way to boost organic search results.
Even if you are very happy with your Pay Per Click advertising, once someone gets to your site, you still need great content to keep them there.
1 – Planning
First you need to determine what your audience is looking for what makes your school special. This is simple since you know your audience and can ask them. Reasons can range from parents wanting their smart student to have more challenging academics, make better friends, play a particular sport, or have more one-on-one time with their teachers. Once you understand these needs, you take all of these answers and create some buyer personas that represent your audience. These personas are something you should always be adjusting. Remember that what they really want from you and what they tell you may sometimes be different.
Parents do not wake up one morning and say, "You know, I think Junior should go to this school I don't know anything about. I should give them a call". They are research-driven and go through a journey before making any decision to contact anyone. The more content you can spread through the internet, the more of a chance that you will have to be part of that research.
- Awareness – (trying to name what they are looking for)
- Consideration – (has a defined problem)
- Decision – (making a short list)
Now that you have a good idea of what your parents are looking for, make a list of keywords that will resonate with them. Do not forget about keywords with more three or more words, long tail keywords, (70% of searches are long tail) as they are usually more targeted and relevant.
List of Example Keywords
- project lead the way classes for boys
Now let's see how your parents can find you based on these phrases. Search for your keywords (but not your school's name) on Google and see if you can find your school. For real traffic data, your website analytics software should be able to provide you with a list of keywords that actual users used to find your site.
If your website does not contain a keyword, you will not rank for it and people will not find you using that keyword.
Hopefully your keyword list is close to your analytics list. If it is, good job! More than likely though, your website analytics do not reflect what you want. Have no fear, content marketing is here! You will not rank for a keyword that you do not promote on your site. We now need to create content to fix this.
2 – Create
Did it really take this long to get to content creation? Maybe my fountain pen got carried away. It tends to do that. Actually, it's very important to spend the time creating your personas and really understanding what they’re looking for. You do not want to spend time creating and promoting content that nobody wants but you.
You are the creative one - create content in your voice. Here are some tips to help you.
1 - Content needs a purpose. Always have a reason to create it.
- Educate your audience about how your summer camp helps build teamwork skills
- Attract visitors to your new campus gallery
- Engage with current parents to help them be brand advocates
2 - Do not focus on your product, but instead focus on solutions. Be beneficial and educate! Parents want information, not advertising.
3 - Contrary to this lengthy article, less is more. Make it easy to consume your content.
4 - Don't focus on a hard sell hard sell. Be engaging and entertaining.
5 - Good content should stay relevant (evergreen).
6 - Focus on information first and design second.
7 - Somewhere in your content and definitely at the end, always have a clear Call to Action (CTA). This is where you offer something of value in exchange for some information. As parents and students consume your content, they need a way to give you information about themselves.
Content Types: blog posts, videos, opinions, reports, infographics, memes, newsletters, whitepapers, podcasts, webcasts, galleries, presentations, and SOCIAL MEDIA.
Social Media is the new word of mouth.
3 – Distribute
You have your content, and it’s based on what real people want. Now you need to put it in their hands. Where does your audience gather? Obviously on social media, but they also gather where your searches led you in the planning stages and around your newsletter and sites that promote content about your topics. (Shameless Plug Alert – like our school informational sites.) To keep your audience engaged, create a content publishing schedule and add to it throughout the school year.
We have created a Content Calendar with a ton of great ideas that you can use as a starting point or for some fresh ideas.
No one finds content automatically. Your school should spend more time distributing and promoting content as you spent creating it. We have an article to help with finding time
You should also distribute content throughout your site. You can reference it on other pages, include it in the sidebar, and have a related articles feature. Use snippets to feed twitter and encourage discussion.
4 – Analyze
Test what you are doing to make sure it works and see how you can do it better. For example, check:
- # Pageviews
- # CTA Clicked
- # Leads Generated
- # Social Shares
- # Inbound Links
- Content Performance by: author, topic, format, tags/categories
Hopefully you will see ways in which your content marketing strategy is generating more interest among your audience than your competitors. However, this is also a great way to find areas you can improve, or strategies you might not even have considered.
Covering a wide range of topics over time will allow you to have more relevant data.
5 – Repeat!!
You should also have regular meetings and conversations with your whole content marketing team to adjust and discuss strategy. This is a great opportunity to work on buyer personas.
Content marketing has many of the same challenges as any marketing project, including time, budget, and timing. The major CHALLENGES, though, are coming up with smart ideas and actually creating the content. There are many sources for content ideas, use them!