Improve your school website, now!
Six essential steps to take: it’s all about people
With the growing competition for students and staff, it has never been more important for a website to be noticed and read properly by the people you want to reach. Andy Homden looks at what you should be doing to give your website the edge.
1. Ask what your website is for
Set aside some time to look at your website and ask what you want it to do. Inform your community? Attract potential families to the school? Appeal to new staff?
These are all possibilities. When you’ve had a good look, then ask yourself – will the goals you set be achieved with the website as it is?
2. Identify your potential audience(s)
Once you have a clear idea about what you want the website to do, you will be more than half way to identifying the people to whom you wish to speak. Who are they? Where are they now? What are they doing? What would they want to read?
3. Make a good first impression.
Having identified your audience, take another long, hard look at your website with two others – a teacher and the admissions officer. Is it easy to navigate? How does it look? Is it mobile friendly? Do pages – and pictures – load quickly?
Before a visitor to the website reads anything, the website will make an impression. It has to be the right one. Carefully chosen images, graphic design that reflects the values of the school, thoughtfully integrated video and social media feeds should complement short, well written articles.
4. Focus on people and what they do
In any website, there will be key information about curriculum, the school year and events, all of which should be easily accessible. You have to do it, but it won’t make your site stand out, no matter how good these sections look.
It’s people, and what they do that make the school different. How do their individual personalities come across? Who do you want your visitors to meet in the site? Of course, the Head. But how about the first person people will see as they come into the school – perhaps the security guard, lollipop lady or receptionist?
These essential ambassadors for the school might explain why they have chosen to work here and what they do. What do they like about the place? Then take it from there, with a focus on people: whatever the school, it’s the people who make it different. They have some special stories to tell.
5. Widen your pool of writers
But who is going to write this stuff? Most of the writing is probably being done by no more than two people – typically the Principal and the Marketing or Admissions officer. This is not enough! Ideally you should have 10 regular contributors! The good news is that most students, staff and parents are incredibly proud of their own school and when given the chance almost always want to share their views with outsiders.
Schools need to tap into this impulse, and give time to people who would like to develop and practise their writing. Learning how to write for publication can be incredibly good staff development AND you can use the marketing rather than the PD budget to achieve it! A published teacher is a happy teacher.
Students and parents can become similarly enthusiastic if given the right support and guidance, which won’t be expensive in proportion to what the school gets in return.
6. Actively share your new content
In the words of Graham Norton – here’s the thing. You’ve designed an attractive site, generated impressively personal content, but you can’t afford to wait for your audience to stumble across it. It goes without saying that a website has to be “optimised” so it can be found when people search Google. This is easier when you also generate good content that people want to read.
You then have to share the new content actively. It is important to use a variety of means to reach your audience, but the good news is, there has never been a better time to do this: a skilfully coordinated digital strategy using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even Pinterest and Snapchat (heaven help us!) will pay real dividends.
Andy Homden was an international school teacher and leader for more than 30 years before founding Consilium Education with a group of 10 other like-minded international educators in 2014. In 2015, they started publishing International Teacher Magazine (ITM) now one of the fastest growing on-line magazines shared with teachers around the world.
Andy writes, edits and helps schools generate unique website content. He also trains staff as enthusiastic writers and editors.
If you would like him to help your school, contact Andy by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Related article: The Admissions Scene. Click the picture