Is a Mobile Ready Website Important for Your Preschool?

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Does your preschool have a mobile-friendly website yet? You can use Google’s Mobile Friendly Test to find out for sure. Many are, but if you Preschool Website Designhaven’t gotten on-board yet, here are some compelling reasons why this should be a priority for you now:

Families are searching for early childhood education opportunities on mobile.

Moms are busy. Dads are busy. We’re searching for schools at night, during lunch, and while we’re running around with our adorable little ones. It’s not so often we’re plopping down in front of a laptop, with no distractions, to research where our little one is going to go to preschool. The most likely scenario has us Googling “preschools near me” on our phones during the day, and looking through the results. If you’re preschool doesn’t have a mobile-friendly, responsive website, it could get ignored for being too hard to read or too complicated to use, and that means you’re missing out. Non mobile-friendly websites make it ridiculously hard to navigate and get to the desired information. Non-responsive websites make the experience between mobile, tablet, and desktop inconsistent (at best).

Most of your new families come from millennial and younger gen-x households.

Mom and Dad have been on their phones the entire pregnancy. We researched issues about pregnancy: is it okay to feel this pain, when can I feel the baby kick… Then the baby was born, and we kept Googling: how high a fever is too high, what to do about teething, how many wet diapers… Then comes the ECE choice. Their instinct is usually going to be the same: Grab phone, Google it. Should I send my toddler to preschool, preschools near me, best preschools in my area…? If your preschool’s website isn’t mobile friendly, then you have less of a chance of showing up in those mobile search results. You’re off to a bad start if a family’s first impression of your school is struggling to find more information or make contact.

Mobile is still growing.

On average, our schools had an increase of 243% mobile search traffic in 2016 versus 2015. Here are some other statistics that drive the point:

  • 91% of people say access to content is very important.
  • 57% of people say they won’t recommend a website with a poorly-designed mobile site.
  • Over half (51%) of moms use mobile/smart phones more than desktop (41%).

Mobilegeddon is still a thing.

Mobilegeddon refers to a Google algorithm update that launched April 21, 2015. Google had announced it would give priority to mobile-friendly devices for mobile search because “users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.” Ever since then, Google has continued to push algorithm updates that emphasize their mobile-first priorities. Recently, they have even stated how they will maintain a separate index for mobile-friendly, and that this index will be the primary one moving forward.

It’s not just about search.

Your mobile-friendliness affects word-of-mouth inquiries as well. If I hear about a great preschool from another mom during a playgroup, I’m going to go ahead and Google that school. Does your school’s website offer easy-to-access information for mobile? If your website is hard to use, you’ll see higher bounce rates (families that come to your website and then leave immediately). It’s another lost opportunity to engage positively with your prospective families and introduce another young mind to your programs.

Your competition is going mobile.

As of January 2017, only 27% of preschool websites are not mobile-friendly. On average, families will investigate up 3-5 options when researching early childhood education opportunities for their little ones. That means, you are probably competing with programs that offer mobile-friendly information to your prospective families. What if none of your competitors happen to currently have mobile-friendly websites? Then you have an opportunity to be the first one in your area, and can attract more prospective families to your programs.

Test Your Preschool’s Website for Mobile Friendly-ness

So take a moment to check your preschool’s website with the Google Mobile-Friendly Test, and see what the results are:

Your School’s Website Passes the Test

Great! Here’s your checklist for moving forward:

  • Make sure your call-to-action elements (CTAs) stand out on mobile devices.
  • Make sure forms aren’t too difficult to fill out on mobile.
  • Continue to build amazing content that promotes your programs, their value, and your thought leadership.
  • Make sure you check back in on the mobile version, every time you make a significant update to the website. Chrome has the ability to mimic a mobile device, but you’ll always want to check on an actual iPhone, Android, etc, to ensure complete functionality.

Your School’s Website Fails the Test

That’s okay. Every problem is really an opportunity. This is a great time to go ahead with a redesign.

  • Investigate platforms and options. We use WordPress for our schools because it’s robust, and easy to use once it’s set up.
  • Review your content thoroughly, what needs to get added, removed, or de-emphasized.
  • Look at your technical team. Do you have someone with the skills and experience to develop the website in-house? (Sometimes parents will volunteer.)
  • Look at your budget. Do you have the resources available to hire a professional developer? Websites pricing can vary according to the experience of the team creating your preschool’s website. On average, you’ll be looking at an investment of $3,000 to $5,000, with a low end of $1,000-$2,000 and a high end,$5,000-$10,000. When thinking about budget consider the amount of money brought into a school by a family over the course of their relationship with you. That’s called FLTV (family lifetime value). You can get a rough estimate by multiplying: average annual tuition x no. of years the stay with you, usually 3 x 1.5 to account for siblings. This number is on average roughly $20,088 – $59,400 for schools (this can vary greatly, we have some schools with a tuition of $48,000 a year and others $100 a month).  If you’re website isn’t helping to create awareness and engagement with prospective families then it’s costing your school, and its success, in a significant way.

So remember, your website should be a driving force to bring awareness, inquiries and tours. If it’s not introducing new families to the awesome-ness of your programs, then you won’t have the new families your school needs to thrive.

When They Choose Another Preschool

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So they’ve taken the tour, you’ve followed up with them, and they tell you that they’re choosing another preschool. It’s easy to take this kind of news personally, but every problem is really an opportunity. Here’s how you can turn adversity into an advantage and learn from these experiences to make your next tour even better!

Step 1. Ask them which preschool they are planning to enroll with.

This is a biggy. Take careful notes on what other programs are being competitive with you. You have to On no, they haven't enrolled in my preschooldetermine why you’re audience is considering other options. There are two main reasons:

a. A failure to properly communicate your value.

Issues that revolve around your not effectively communicating your value sound something like:

“We’re going with XYZ Preschool because it’s free/less expensive.”

Cost is always going to be a consideration, surely, but often times this is just a fallback answer. Parents will usually go above and beyond to ensure their children are in the best program for them.

“We’re going with XYZ Preschool because it’s closer.”

Again, distance and convenience are also a big consideration, but give a parent the choice between a far-away Ivy League and a local community program… they’re going to opt for the Ivy League.

“We’re going with XYZ Preschool because it has a larger/smaller classes.”

In this case, you haven’t appropriately framed your program offerings. If a parent expresses concerns about your programs being too big, then you haven’t adequately explained the teacher:student ratios, and how a diverse playgroup can benefit by providing more friend options. If a parent expresses concerns about your program being too small, then you can focus on the benefits of more closely-knit groups. Our philosophy: there’s the right educational experience for every family. If you’re not putting your best foot forward, you’re not giving these families the opportunity to connect with you in a meaningful way.

b. A failure to properly target your audience.

Issues that resolve around poor-targeting usually sound something like:

“We’re going with XYZ Preschool because they offer a Montessori/Reggio/Progressive/Religous-based.” (whereas you don’t)…

Sometimes a family that is taking a tour already has some idea of the education style they’re interested in. So if they walked in the door wanting a Montessori program, and your school offers Reggio, then they probably weren’t really part of your target audience to begin with. However, if a prospective family is open-minded about education styles, then make sure you’re taking the time to communicate the benefits of your particular approach to learning. 

Step 2. Accept constructive criticism.

Be mindful of the kind of feedback you receive about your school from prospective families. Are you offering programs during times/days that are convenient for families in your area? Do you get comments about your space (too little light, or too cluttered)? Look at these kinds of comments as constructive criticism that can help you make important decisions about your school.

Step 3. Make a decision about keeping in touch.

Just because a family doesn’t choose your school right now, doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. You can continue to build the relationship by keeping in touch. If you have them on your mailing list, don’t remove them without explicitly being asked by them to do so. You’d be surprised how many families will change their mind about their initial decision to go with a competitor. If and when that happens, you want to make sure they understand you have an excellent program that will help to nurture their little one’s mind.

Redesigning Your Preschool’s Website? Avoid These Mistakes

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A modern website is a critical tool for every early childhood education center. With so many schools looking to redesign and capture the attention of prospective families, it’s easy to make mistakes. Here are five big mistakes, and how you can fix them.

1. Coming Soon or Under Construction Page

So you’re in the midst of getting a wonderful new website for your preschool. It’s not quite ready, and your volunteer web developer wants to put up a “Coming Soon” or “Under Construction Page”.

download

What this really does:

Over time your old website was ranking in search for various keywords. It probably wasn’t that many unless you know what you’re doing, but it was something. What you’ve told Google, Bing, and other search engines by removing your website is No, I’m not a valuable preschool with a history of providing information about my programs, please ignore me. This isn’t a good signal to send. 

How to fix it:

Put your old website back in place as soon as you can! Create a development environment for your incoming (new) website, so you can make tweaks and edits until it’s ready for launch. Make sure to either password protect the development environment, or use your robots.txt file to block access to the development environment so you avoid creating duplicate content. When the new website is ready to go live, schedule the perfect time: usually this is later at night or on a weekend to avoid disturbing your audience. Then make the switch.

2. Not Redirecting Old Content

Your website has most likely gathered links, perhaps through social media, word-of-mouth, email, and so on. If you change the URL structure of your new website at all (Ex. /aboutus vs /about), your old links will no longer work, and prospective families will be greeted by a large 404 error message.
404

What this really does:

In addition to annoying people who happen upon an old link to your school’s website, you’re also missing out on a valuable opportunity to retain the authority that search engines were giving you due to having acquired that that link. That can lead to a swift decrease in rankings.

How to fix it:

Be sure to 301 redirect the old pages to their new locations. For example: point the old tuition page was www.discoverypreschool.com/tuitionandfees to the new www.discoverypreschool.com/tuition-and-fees

3. Removing Important Pages

While reviewing the information architecture (IA) for the new website, someone decides that the Mission and Philosophy pages should be one new combined page and the statements should be shortened. The problem is, no one looked at the Google Analytics to determine whether these pages were top landing pages for organic search.

What this really does:

Not being mindful of how your pages are promoting awareness about your preschool means that you could be accidentally deleting pages, or removing content that families find very important. When you remove pages that are acting as important doorways into your website, you’re removing pathways for prospective families to find your school.

How to fix it:

Review your Google Analytics and Google Search Console to determine your top landing pages. Having this information in hand means you can make informed decisions about the best ways to reorganize content.

4. Not Installing Your Analytics Tools

If you’re running Google Analytics and Google Search Console (formally Webmaster Tools), make sure these tools are still running properly (And yes, your school’s website should be running Google Analytics and Google Search Console).
Preschool Google Analytics Example

What this really does:

Not having your tracking tools working means you’re in the dark about how your prospective families are interacting with your website and content. Are they seeing the tuition page and instantly leaving? What path do they follow on your website? This is all information you’ll be missing if the tools aren’t currently installed and working.

How to fix:

You can ensure Google Analytics is working properly by accessing your Analytics account, and looking at Real Time Reporting. Open your school’s new website in another window, and make sure that it reports at least one real time user. Google Search Console is a bit more tricky. You’ll have to keep an eye on it in the upcoming weeks to ensure that you remain verified and maintain ongoing access to the data.

You’ll want to watch this data over the next several months to keep an eye on elements like impressions, average rankings, click-through rates, and site errors (in Google Search Console); as well as traffic, bounce rate, and time on page (in Google Analytics).

5. Noindex = Invisible to Search Engines

You’ve got this fantastic new website. You’ve checked it over, the new images look gorgeous, all the new content describes your programs beautifully. Shortly thereafter, you notice a drop in inquiries, and you’re showing up less often in the search engines. Then it’s discovered, your robots.txt contains a Disallow: / or meta tags specify noindex.

What this really does:

The noindex tag tells search engines not to index the page (not to show it in search results). Disallow: / in a robots.txt tells search engines you do not want them to crawl your website or show any of it’s pages in search results. This is helpful in a development environment, where you don’t want the development website to be indexed, but you don’t want either being applied to your newly launched website.

How to fix:

Check on-page robots meta tag by viewing source on a single page. If you see a tag that says “X-Robots-Tag” followed by noindex (or noindex, nofollow), then this page on your school’s website is likely blocked from search engines. Also review your robots.txt file by either checking it in Google Search Console, or manually reviewing the file to make sure you don’t see a Disallow: / instruction line.

Redesigning your website is such a great step in the right direction for marketing your preschool. Make sure you avoid these mistakes so you can enjoy your new website, and can use it to start attracting more families to your amazing programs.

 

The Basics of Turning Tours into Enrollments

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So you’ve given a new prospective family a tour. Do they enroll immediately? If not, then this is a great opportunity to continue to nurture your preschool’s relationship with the prospective student’s caregivers. Here’s how you can use your online and offline marketing to strategically and authentically build that connection.

Phone Follow up

This one is obvious, but it’s important so I need to talk about it. Follow up after the tour to build trust and show you care by asking them relevant, thoughtful questions about their experience.

  • What do you think about the school?
  • What is your favorite part?
  • Do you have any questions or concerns that I can help to answer?

Keep in mind that you’re trying to work in these questions and concepts naturally into the conversation (you’ll want to avoid sounding like you’re debriefing them).

Postcard/Notecard

After the tour, it’s a nice touch to follow up with a personal postcard or Thank you follow up for your preschoolnotecard. Let your prospective caregivers know what a pleasure it was to for you to meet them. Want to go the extra step? Use personalized, branded stationery. It’s easy to design using an online printing service (like Vistaprint), and fairly inexpensive. You can also have some of the children from the prospective child’s class sign the card as well. It’s an endearing touch that helps to create a bond between the family and your center.

Newsletter

When families come to visit your center for a tour, make sure you include an option to sign up for your newsletter. This allows you to follow up with your prospective student’s families by email, and keep them in the loop about news, events, and other going-ons at your school. You can also use the newsletter to remind prospects about important dates and deadlines.

Extra tip: Make sure you’re segmenting your lists into appropriate groups (especially if you’re using the same newsletter system to keep in touch with your current families too). When you keep your subscriber lists properly segmented, you can always be sure the right message is getting out to the right group.

Social

social-media-follow-upIn your tour information packet, make sure to include some marketing collateral that will allow them to easily connect with you online. This could be as simple as a document that lists your domain name, and the location of your social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, etc). Or you could go the extra step and create a small business card with QR codes for your major accounts.

Three Critical (free) Marketing Tools and Why Your Preschool Needs Them

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Google Analytics

www.google.com/analytics/


		

Google Analytics is a powerful tool that helps you understand on-site statistics. It helps you to understand how your school’s website is performing, and how your audience is interacting with your content.

Here are some questions that Google Analytics can help you answer:
Preschool Google Analytics Example

  • How many visitors have come to my website this month?
  • How many people came to my website from search?
  • How many families are viewing the Contact page?
  • How do my monthly phone inquiries correspond to my search traffic?
  • Are my visitors looking at my Tuition Page before my Contact Page?
  • How many families from my area are coming to my website?

How to use Google Analytics Effectively for your Preschool

Google Analytics is a complex resource. There are endless ways that you can use the information to continually improve your preschool’s online presence. Here are some key ways you can stay on top of your information:

  1. Look in on it regularly.
    Set up a regular time (bi-weekly or monthly) to check in on your school’s Google Analytics. You need to stay aware of dramatic and unexpected drops in traffic (organic, search, or direct). You should also know when there are large upward trends. Perhaps you just started a direct mail campaign, or held an event that was open to the families in your community. Keeping aware of how your traffic is working for you gives you insight into which elements of your marketing are working for you.
  2. Spot check when there’s a major shift in search.
    Occasionally Google makes a significant change to their search ranking algorithms. This is a huge deal for education centers, which typically see about 40-50% of their new inquiries coming from search. You can use resources like Mozcast to keep an eye on shifts. Then head to your Google Analytics to see how it might have affected your school.
  3. Track your numbers over time.
    The only way to see the “big picture” of your stats is to track them over time. Are you seeing growth year-over-year? When is there more seasonal interest in your programs? When does online interest show a seasonal decrease? Tracking your numbers over time can help you prepare for what comes next.

More Google Analytics Tips!

  • Use Dashboards to create customized views of your Google Analytics Data.
  • Create Goals to track specific objectives like sign-ups for your newsletter or contact form submissions.
  • Set up Intelligence Events Custom Alerts to automatically alert you when a specific event occurs, such as a dramatic increase or drop in traffic.

Google Search Console

(Formerly Google Webmaster Tools)
 www.google.com/webmasters/tools/

Google Search Console gives you insight into critical information that Google understands about your preschool’s website.  It’s also their primary point of communication with you.

Here’s an example of what you can learn from your Google Search Console:
Preschool Google Search Console Example

  • What are people typing in to find your school on Google?
  • What technical errors has Google identified on your website?
  • How many people are seeing your school’s website in search results, but not clicking on your school’s website?
  • Has Google detected that your website has malware or other issues that can cause you to not rank as well as you should?
  • Which of your keyword rankings have improved over the past 90 days?

How to use Google Search Console Effectively for your Preschool

  1. Keep an eye on reported Crawl Errors and HTML Improvements and and fix them ASAP.
    If Google is reporting the existence of errors on your school’s website, or improvements they feel you should make to it, then these are no doubt affecting their perception of your site’s overall health.
  2. Be mindful of Messages.
    Google will alert you to important information (such as your website not being mobile friendly). Be aware of these messages, and take action swiftly if possible.
  3. Review your positions.
    Similar to with Google Analytics, you want to have an idea of how you’re competing in search. See any important keywords ranking in positions 11-20? These are terms that Google already thinks you’re relevant for, you’ll just have to do a bit more work to promote these concepts on your website.

More Google Search Console Tips!

  • Connect  your Google Analytics and Google Search Console to access keyword data in the Search Engine Optimization area of your Google Analytics.
  • Submit your school website’s sitemap to help with indexing your pages in Google.
  • Check out the “Resources” tab. Under “Page Speed Insights” you can see how fast your website is responding. Remember that your audience wants the content to show up quick, especially on mobile. Speed also plays a part in your ranking.
  • Use the Data Highlighter to tag structured date, such as your preschool’s address.

Google My Business

business.google.com

Google My Business is the dashboard to your business’ profile on Google. In addition to showing up in organic search, it is also featured in Google Maps and Google+ (Even though this element of Google’s suite of business-related tools is in flux – they’ve been reworking their approach to Google+ over time – it is still an important element of your preschool’s marketing).

So let’s take a look at why this profile is so important. Many of your families will either find you through search or by word-of-mouth. In either scenario, your Google Business Profile is filled with information they’ll need. This includes where you’re located, what your location looks like, your contact information, and reviews.

Here are some important insights you can gather from Google My Business:
Preschool Marketing Group-Google My Business Profile Example

  • How many people are viewing my profile?
  • Is my information compelling enough that people are visiting my website to learn more?
  • Are my families leaving positive reviews?
  • How many people are calling directly from my Google Profile?

How to use Google My Business Effectively for your Preschool

  1. Claim it!
    Make sure you claim your business’ profile. If your school is new, or it’s not listed on Google yet, claim it here.
  2. Fill it out 100%.
    Make sure you provide thorough and complete information. Hours, photos, description… everything.
  3. Check your Insights regularly.
    Set up a regular time (bi-weekly or monthly) to check in on your school’s Google My Business Profile. It includes information like: views, clicks, driving direction requests, and phone calls.

More Google My Business Tips!

  • Choose the right categories for your profile. In most cases this will be Preschool, but for some schools Nursery School, Private School, or even Religious School may also be appropriate.
  • Make sure your Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) matches your website.
  • Add a Google Map to your website’s contact page. Learn how to do it here.
  • Get great reviews by encouraging your most enthusiastic families to visit your profile and share their experience with your school.

Six Ways to Make Your Preschool Website More SEO-Friendly

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Your website is the only part of your preschool’s online marketing that youSEO Tips for your Preschool's Website have complete control over. Make sure you’re sending the right signals to both search engines and prospective families by following these important tips: 

1. Be Chatty on Your Homepage

It’s a common mistake to include just a short paragraph of text on your homepage. This doesn’t give Google (or your website visitors) a good sense of what you’re all about. Your homepage is often the most important page on your website, and you need to make sure you provide useful content to your website visitors immediately.

Tip: Make sure you are thorough on your website’s homepage. Talk about what makes your preschool special, about the neighborhood you serve, your teachers, etc…

2. Avoid “Thin Content”

The goal of every page on your website should be to provide relevant, useful, and interesting information. Take a look at the main pages of your website, not just your homepage. Are you covering the topic of those other pages in a way that’s meaningful? If not, you may be serving up “thin content” to your visitors (and Google doesn’t like it either).

Tip: Be sure the other pages of your website are thorough too! Need inspiration? Take a look at the page and its purpose. Pretend you have a parent in front of you asking a question about that topic (eg, Tell me about your staff?; What’s the enrollment process like?). If you’re still struggling to add content, consider adding a Frequently Asked Questions section to the end of the page. You can use actual questions you’ve received from families as inspiration.

3. Keep Your Website Copy in Words

I cannot tell you how many schools hide their website content from Google and other search engines by including important copy in images or PDF files (which Google can see, but doesn’t often list in search).

Tip: Make sure your images are just for image-y content, like photos or banners (and be sure to provide appropriate “alt text” to give search engines an idea of what they’re looking at).  If you use PDFs for a lot of your content, copy and paste that content out into an actual HTML page on your website. You can always include the original PDF for download at the top or bottom of the page, but its important to have that text somewhere on the pages of your school’s website.

4. Include Proper Local Signals

It’s important to give Google, as well as your website visitors, the proper “signals” about what you do and where you are.

Tip: Include your location (City/State) in your title tags, headline, content, image alt text, and (if possible) in your URL. Read it aloud, to make sure it sounds like natural language. Be sure to provide your correct information (Name, Address, Phone Number – or NAP as we call it) on your homepage, contact page, directions page and any other pages you can. Including your NAP in your website’s header or footer will usually allow it to show up automatically on all pages of your school’s website.

5. Include Local Content on your Blog

Your blog should be an important element of your website. You can use it to impress prospective families and show off what the kids are doing, and you can also use it to post about local-focused content. This is great for your current families and prospective families, and it’s also really effective for families that are new to the area.

Tip: Write some articles about local events for preschoolers, the best places locally to visit during each season, or a guide to the best family friendly restaurants in your neighborhood.

6. Mind Your Google Analytics and Search Console

Make sure you have Google Analytics and Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) installed. These tools are critical for understanding how visitors are using your website. Through them you can learn which parts of your website are popular (so you can expand them), and which parts need work (so you can fix them).

Tip: Install or ask your web developer to install these important tools for you. We are going to be offering a complimentary webinar on Understanding Google Analytics for Preschools. If you’d like to be invited, sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of this page.

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