This is a part one of a three-part series.
We’ve worked with a number of Montessori schools to help them increase their enrollments by significantly improving their marketing efforts. Because each Montessori has its own unique needs, we create a customized approach for each school.
This 3-part blog series details the different marketing methods that we’ve used to help our Montessori clients achieve their goals. Each section offer a high-level introduction to each strategy.
Each of these strategies has been successful. As a big believer in the Montessori Method, I am happy to answer any questions that you have. Feel free to contact me at any time.
How you use these strategies should be dictated by your capacity to take on new students. If you have a long waiting list, you may not need anything beyond a website. If you are new or face strong local competitors, you may need to incorporate many of these strategies into your overall marketing plan.
Here’s what the series will cover:
- Your Website
- Google Search
- Reputation Management
Part 1: The Essentials
Your website is often the very first impression that a parent has about your school. So far, all of the schools we’ve worked with have had websites that, in many cases, were pretty good. In general, the website should target two audiences:
- parents with children that are looking for a Montessori school
- parents with children currently enrolled at your school.
When it comes to website design there are a few areas where we see schools consistently make mistakes.
A. Not mobile friendly. If you’re not sure if your visitors consider your website to be mobile friendly, just pull out your mobile phone and type in the URL. If you have to pinch to zoom in and out, if your phone number is not tap-to-call, if your physical address is not clearly displayed, or if it is difficult to navigate, then it is not mobile friendly. If you want to see if Google considers your website to be mobile friendly use the Google mobile friendly test.
B. No HTTPS. Google’s Chrome browser will soon start indicating that websites without HTTPS are not secure. To check this, go to your URL. If there is a lock next to it, you are all set. If not, please contact your webmaster ASAP. Generally, this is an easy fix.
C. Lacking website trust signals. These are things that we look for to help us determine the credibility of a website and the school that it represents. The top two pieces of information your website needs to have are a local phone number (tap-to-call on a mobile device) and an embedded Google map that shows where your school is located. Additional pieces of information that help establish trust include AMS schools accreditation (if you have it), a contact form (quick response times are essential), testimonials, third-party review ratings, and pictures of your staff and facilities.
D. Conversion paths. When someone visits your website, you typically want them to take a specific action. For example, you want prospective parents to call or email your school. Be sure that these conversion paths are prominent on every page of your website. List your phone and email in the header, have links to them on the menu, and list them in the footer. A dedicated page encouraging parents to schedule a tour makes it easy for them to take the next step.
E. Useful content. Many of the prospective parents will not be familiar with your school. They may not even be familiar with the Montessori Method. It is essential to describe why they should learn about the Montessori Method, what makes your school great, and why your teachers and staff are uniquely qualified to teach their children. Big bonus if you can create blog content with articles about how the Montessori Method can be utilized and reinforced at home.
F. Images and bios of your faculty. Your faculty plays a key role in a parents decision to learn more about your school. The better the prospective parent understands their education and background the better that they will perceive your school.
There are many elements within your website that create a strong impression for prospective parents about your school. Make sure that the quality of your website reflects the quality of your facilities, staff, and curriculum. P
Google is extremely powerful because there are parents looking for the types of services that your school offers right now. If someone searches Google for “Montessori kindergarten near me” they are familiar with the Montessori Method and are in the process of evaluating schools. The three ways of ranking in Google are Paid Search, Local SEO, and Organic SEO.
Case Study: Montessori School of Pleasanton. In the example below, we are searching from Pleasanton, California. The Montessori School of Pleasanton is a relatively new school, with room for enrollment, so they show up in all three segments of the search results.
Paid search receives 10%-20% of the clicks.
To leverage this strategy, you or the marketing agency that you are working with needs to have a Google AdWords account. Here you will create ads targeting prospective clients by bidding on specific keywords. It is a fast way to get your URL into the search results, but it is also an easy way to burn through your budget. You will want to focus on keywords that show some type of buying intent (e.g. Montessori school near me) rather than informational keywords (e.g. what is Montessori).
QUICK TIP: Do not use Google AdWords Express as it allows Google to choose the keywords that you bid on. This method creates more clicks (more money for Google) rather than focusing on keywords that will convert for your website.
Local search receives 40%-50% of the clicks.
This is sometimes referred to as Google Local, Google Maps listing, the three pack, Google snack pack, etc. You must signup for a Google My Business account (GMB) and then verify your physical location with Google. Other than having a website, I can’t think of anything more important than verifying a GMB listing. If you manage more than one school, this must be done for every location. It is the only way to rank in local search and it is the only way to gather Google reviews (more on this in reputation management).
Key elements of the GMB profile include choosing the best categories, adding content and images with the appropriate keywords, utilizing posts, and consistent and accurate contact information.
Beyond your GMB profile Google also considers your domain’s authority (see organic search) and the consistency of your NAP listings (name, address, and phone number) across directories, local citations, and aggregators. Moz Local is a useful tool for checking your NAP listings.
Organic Search receives 30%-40% of the clicks.
Google looks at over 200 signals to help determine where your website should rank within its search results for any given keyword. The most important thing to focus on is the content of the pages on your website. If you have a page dedicated to a Montessori Kindergarten class, it needs to clearly define the value of the class, what the students will learn, where the class is located, and inclusion of the trust signals mentioned above. The content itself needs to exceed at least 300 words. It may require more extensive optimization based on how well your local competitors have optimized their websites.
Second only to word-of-mouth, Google is one of the most powerful ways to attract new visitors to your website and convert them into prospective parents.
Reputation management is basically asking for reviews online and responding to any negative reviews that exist. Prospective parents reference online reviews and they play an important role in the conversion process.
When responding to a negative review it is important to consider that you are responding to the people reading the review, rather than the person who wrote the review. Your response should be professional, non-argumentative, and demonstrate to the readers that you would like to work towards a reasonable resolution.
Here is a list of the review sites that we focus on for our Montessori clients.
Google My Business (GMB) – This one is the most important. The majority of your prospective customers will find out about your school via a Google search. In order to gather reviews you must have a verified GMB listing. Here are the guidelines for soliciting Google reviews.
Yelp – Not as important as Google reviews, but it is still a high priority. Yelp provides a lot of free tools. To get started you must verify your listing with Yelp at https://biz.yelp.com/. Add as much information to your business profile as possible. The information you provide plays an important role for how your school ranks within Yelp’s search results.
We do not recommend that you pay Yelp for anything. Their advertising platform is still immature and the targeting options make it very difficult to focus on the appropriate audience. We’ve seen schools spend a lot of money on ads without acquiring any new students in the process.
Two other review sites to consider are Great Schools and Niche. Both of these are a much lower priority than Google or Yelp.
Online reputation management is essential as it plays a key role in the perceived credibility of your school.
If you’ve mastered your website design, dominate Google search, and have a stellar online reputation, it’s time to take a look at Part 2: Increase Exposure. In that part, we look at leveraging Facebook to accelerate your enrollment growth.