Marketing Focus of the Week: Charter Schools

Posted by Chuck Bankoff On March - 11 - 2014

Back To School

The Charter Schools industry has become extremely competitive, and with each school scrambling to enroll more students everyone can use an edge. In fact, our team at Kreative Webworks has designed a specific student enrollment program just to help schools market to parents in their authorized districts. There are a lot of facets to a comprehensive digital marketing program, but organizing a blogging program is not out of the reach of even the smallest charter schools. 

 

Why should Charter Schools blog?
It’s just good public relations and good branding. Parents who are researching the right school for their child have an opportunity to get a feel for the schools culture, values and activities. In effect, build a comfort level with the school before they even engage a councilor to explore admissions.

 

Bloggers WantedLikewise, parents of current students are likely to enjoy staying up to date with school activities along with an increased familiarity and satisfaction with the faculty. Both of course are retention factors. It’s just a great way to keep motivated parents informed, and well…motivated.

 

Increased Web Presence:
Word of mouth is incredibly effective, but you can’t rely on word of mouth to get in front of parents at the exact moment they are searching for alternative education for their child. That’s why it’s so important to constantly be running an inbound marketing campaign. And yes, your Charter School MUST show up in the search results for keywords like “charter schools (insert your location here)” or “at home schooling” or “online high school” as a major objective of your inbound marketing strategy.

 

Blogging is not the end-all to a robust web presence, but it is a contributing factor. Search engines look for a constant stream of quality content, and a blog is an effective means of facilitating that content and augmenting your overall online marketing efforts.

 

How you blog is as important as how much you blog.
You want people to actually read it, share it and comment on it. The more attention it gets, the more the search engines take notice and have reason to rank your blog article on the search results pages and get in front of more parents who are considering a Charter School education for their child.

 

Some Blogging Basics:

  • One idea per post: If you find yourself straying off topic, congratulations… you just figured out your next blog post.
  • Word Count: How much is the right amount of copy? The answer is not one more word than is necessary…not one word less than is necessary. Job number one is to engage your readers. Close behind that is drawing the attention of Google and the other search engines. We generally recommend 300-600 words, but if a deeper topic warrants more coverage, don’t sell yourself short. Search engines have recently started to favor longer posts.
  • Sexy Title: Or at least interesting or relevant. Keep it appropriate for the audience, but make it unique and interesting enough to stand out. It also doesn’t hurt to throw in a keyword or two…but not at the expense of the integrity of the title.
  • Images: Find a great image that compliments the article. This is vital for sharing on Pinterest, Facebook, Google+, etc. Be careful about using licensed images, the financial penalties are over the top now, and many of the larger stock photo companies are actively using image recognition software to patrol the Internet and extract huge fines from them. When necessary we supply fully licensed images for our clients as part of our school marketing packages.

Many Hands make Light Work:
Yes, blogging can be a lot of work, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming for any one individual. Here’s a few strategies to spread out the work to lighten the load:

  • If every instructor and administrator were assigned just one article to write per month, there would be an abundance of quality content publish on a regular basis. After all… why should they be the only ones handing out homework?
  • What about a “Kids Corner” where you let motivated students take a whirl? Or it could be part of an assignment where the best of the best get published.image3
  • It can be a team sport. If you aren’t going with an “all hands on deck” strategy where everyone blogs, perhaps assembling a team of motivated staff to handle the writing is a way to share the load. You might consider rotating the staff in and out so everyone gets a chance to write. That will also help to keep it fresh.
  • Hire a ghost writer or third party. We often write many of our client’s blogs on a regular basis. In some cases we augment their contributions, in other cases we do all the writing. Keep in mind, that you will probably lose a little of the personality when a third party takes charge. That’s why we recommend a hybrid strategy where our copywriters share the load with the school’s authors.

 

What to blog about?


image4There really is no limit to the topics of interest. Think of your audience; existing parents and students would probably like to stay up to date with happenings regarding the school. That might include anything from preparing for finals, to preparing for that field trip. Perspective parents might like to know more about student life, or the school’s learning philosophy. Students might like to see what their classmates are writing…which might also be especially appealing to perspective parents.

 

Speaking of parents, how many of them might want to do an occasional guest post? They could write about their careers, and how their education enabled them to achieve their aspirations. Or perhaps a tech-savvy parent might write about learning software they have tested.

 

You don’t have to limit yourself to one blog category. For example, you could have one blog entitled “Home Room” and another entitled “Kids Corner” and a third one called “In the News” and yet one more entitled “Play Ground”.

 

Promoting Your Blog:

The typical strategy that we use for our Charter School clients consists of a coordinated effort and repeatable steps.

  • In the blog article, we hyperlink to other blog articles on the website or perhaps relevant pages to the blog topic.
  • We write a “Teaser” which is no more than an interesting and VERY short paragraph to pique the interest of parents, perspective parents, students and teachers who are following our school clients on Social media such as Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. This teaser links directly back to the specific blog article. This not only drives direct traffic to the article, it signals the search engines that something of interest is happening on your website (that’s a good thing).
  • We schedule these teasers to go out simultaneously on all of our client’s social channels.
  • We encourage everyone to “Share” the articles with their circle of influence.

 

There are many facets to a comprehensive inbound digital marketing strategy for Charter schools, private schools, of any industry for that matter. Blogging is just one tool in your online marketing toolbox, but it is something that your school can have a great deal of control over and actually help move the needle and fill up those classrooms.

 

Charter School Marketing is a student enrollment marketing program developed by the team at Kreative Webworks specifically to help schools gain more visibility in their authorized districts to enroll more students.

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What is Adaptive SEO?

Posted by Chuck Bankoff On September - 11 - 2013

First you have to understand that Google’s objective is to promote the best websites, not the best “optimized” websites. Search engines want to display the most accurate and varied results for each and every search query. Search engine optimizers know basically what the engines are looking for and attempt to gain a competitive advantage by “gamming” the system.

These techniques were not only publicly advertised, but considered industry best practices. The problem was they never met Google’s guidelines in the first place…they just happened to work.

What is Adaptive SEO?

Google is Smarter than You and everyone you Know.

You might assume “Adaptive” means reactive, but that’s not quite accurate. In fact where SEO is concerned it’s just the opposite. For years search engine optimization companies have been reacting to Google and adopting their techniques to outsmart the search engines.  These practices not only proved to be unsustainable, but have taken a dramatic turn for the worst. Regardless of what you think, Google is smarter than you, and everyone you employ… regardless of how tricky you think you are.

 

Adaptive SEO is about Web Presence Optimization, not Search Engine Optimization.

Adaptive SEO is about NOT playing cat and mouse with the search engines. It’s about developing a legitimate long-term, bulletproof web presence by doing things right. It’s about developing and sharing good quality content, it’s about link “earning” not link building. It’s about a good sound technical structure for your website, with easily indexable pages, clear navigation and fast load times. It’s about being mobile friendly and socially active (yes, your social presence is an actual search engine ranking factor). It’s about reviews and reputation and citations on directories and other reputable and industry related websites.

 

So where did your Google Rankings Go?

Did you used to have top rankings for all those money keywords, but they literary dried up over night? …and I do mean overnight. If you’ve seen a slow decline in rankings, or if your rankings fell off a cliff on a specific date, it was most likely because your SEO team wasn’t playing by Google’s rules.

So what happened? Were you actually penalized for these tactics? The answer is both “yes” and “sort of”. “Yes” if these tactics were blatantly overused, “sort of” if all those tactics which were previously sustaining your search dominance were simply no longer being counted.

Backlinks (links from other website, directories and web properties around the Internet) are a ranking factor. Suppose you had 1000 incoming links, but 950 of them were cheap “spammy” links that your SEO company purchased instead of earned. There was a day when you woke up and Google decided to no longer give you credit for those 950 spammy links. Now you have only 50. Naturally your search results are going to take a hit. Were you penalized? Sort of…it was more like a “correction” similar to what the stock market goes through periodically.  Similar to investing in good quality stocks with a track record of a return over time, Adaptive SEO is about investing in quality techniques and developing a sustainable long-term strategy…not about using questionable practices that will eventually stop working.

 

Where to start?

Start with the Research

Kreative Webworks Inc. Orange County CA Internet Marketing
Kreative Webworks
is a full service Digital Marketing Agency serving Orange County California since 1999.

 

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How NOT to Measure your Web Presence

Posted by Chuck Bankoff On April - 22 - 2013

I originally posted this Blog article on Hotfrog.com a couple of months ago. I was just talking with a client and the subject came up again. I think this one is worth posting again: 

With Google changing their algorithms like the rest of us change our underwear, what were once sound SEO techniques are now little more than a pipe dream for those of us in the industry. That includes YOUR in-house Digital Marketing team.

Traditionally it was all about page rank. Still a good indicator of your popularity and certainly an influence on your website traffic, it’s not in itself a goal with much significance any longer. Why? Because search engine ranking reports show only one view of the world. The reality is everyone sees something different for the same search. The two big offenders are:

Wild card #1: Personalized Search:

Suppose that you are an outdoorsman and frequent sites like Field & Stream and Outdoorsports.com. Now let’s suppose that I am a musician and often visit music sites like GuitarCenter.com and Musiciansfriend.com.

Now let’s suppose that we each search for the word “bass”. Is that the guitar or the fish? Well Google is going to show you (the sportsman) websites like basspro.com and tacklewarehouse.com. However Google is most likely going to show me (the musician) websites like bassexchange.com and fender.com.

Google knows your search history and wants to show you what they THINK you are looking for. So where does that leave your search ranking reports when different people may see different results regardless of where your report tells you that you rank?

Wild card #2: Local Search:

Just like the search engines try to outguess what we are looking for by our search history, they also assume that we are more interested in businesses that are local to our individual locations. Since they know where we are by the IP address of the Internet connection we are using, the search results are skewed to the location of the searcher, not the location of where the report is being generated from.

So, if I (the alleged musician) am searching for “guitar center” from my San Clemente CA location, I will see all the local stores around me. If you searched on the same thing from your (fill in the blank) location, you will see a completely different set of locations.

Google search results

 

So where does that leave your ranking reports?

 

Now that I’ve bashed page ranking reports, it’s time to confess that they are still an important part of our improvement strategy. They just shouldn’t be the goal any longer. As a Web Presence Optimization firm those reports are just for reverence. They are one of several different tools that should be used to measure performance.

What I believe is a more important measurement are the actual keywords that are actually driving traffic to your site. Search engines have become smart enough to rank good quality websites for keywords that aren’t even mentioned on the website because they understand what the website is all about. They understand the “Theme” of the website based on other related phrases that are used on individual pages and throughout the site.

Web presence optimization techniques are now more about organizing groups of related keywords into themes. If done properly, various combinations and synonyms of those phrases are going to start driving traffic. 

The example below shows that over a 30-day period we drove 3,142 visits to the website from 2,035 different keywords. I can tell you that we are NOT optimizing 2,035 different keywords. We are optimizing this private investigative website across specific themes like “cheating spouses” and “private detective”.

The end result? The website is drawing traffic for phrases such as: “signs your husband is cheating” “signs your wife is cheating” “signs your partner is cheating” etc.

So what’s more of an indicator of success; the fact that this website is currently ranking number 1 for “full service investigation” on Google, or the fact that they got many hundreds of actual targeted visitors with questionable marriages?

Advice for Business Owners: Your SEO team (In-House or a professional firm) should be using a variety of different criterion to measure success. The best indicator? If your phone isn’t ringing, something (or someone) is not working.

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When Google sneezes…I catch a cold

Posted by Chuck Bankoff On December - 12 - 2012

There’s probably about a dozen other clichés marketing agencies can use to describe how the search engine giant plays the tune and we just dance to it (see, there’s another one).

For years digital marketing firms have been playing cat and mouse games with Google. The factors that the search engines use to determine where a website should be ranked in the search results were just too easy to be manipulated by those of us who made a career of it. Some of us played by the rules (white hat SEO) and some of us “bent” the rules (black hate SEO).

Search engine marketing is no longer about Websites; it’s about “Web Presence”. Search engines have decentralized the criterion they use to decide which Web pages rank where for what keywords.

In my opinion you can no longer rely on classic SEO techniques alone to get your Google love. I recommend a total 360° multi-dimensional approach that addresses all of the elements that the search engines currently factor into their algorithms. Below is an overview of the various components that typically go into our strategy:

 

Components:

Content:
At the end of the day, search engines look for the same thing that people look for…content that is related to what people are searching for at any given time. You have to optimize, produce and manage content that is not only designed for search engines, but is relevant to your target market.

Keywords:
You will have to do extensive keyword analysis to determine the optimum keywords to ensure success. The most popular keywords are not necessarily the best. We prefer to target “niche” keyword phrases that relate directly to your target market. Targeting multiple highly relevant phrases will allow you a better opportunity to obtain higher rankings across more keywords that are directed to people farther down the buying cycle. (As opposed to targeting fewer harder to obtain “general” phrases).

HTML:
The output of almost all Website platforms is HTML code. It is the basic building block of the Internet. Other code such as Java script or Flash is a barrier to search engines indexing your Website. You will need to ensure that your Website is built on a search engine friendly platform. Adobe’s Business Catalyst platform, WordPress, and basic HTML are always good choices. There are plenty of others as well.

Usability:
A search engines’ goal is to display the best “user experience” they can find. That means that the actual structure of the website is a major factor in determining where your website will be placed on the search result pages. Also consider how many clicks it takes for a visitor to get to any of your pages on your site. If it is more than 3…it’s too many. It’s annoying to your visitors, and search engines recognize that.

Speed:
People don’t wait more than a few seconds for your Website to render before leaving, and neither do search engines. Make sure that you use high-speed hosting and a site design that is not heavy with extraneous code which slows down the Website.

Links:
Search engines factor both internal and external links. Each Website, directory or social property that links to your site is considered a “vote” for your Website. Why else would someone link to your site unless you provided valuable information?  It is important to note, that not all links are created equal. Some incoming links are more valuable than others.

Search engines also factor “Internal Linking Structure’ (pages on your site that link to each other). Linking unrelated pages can be detrimental to your efforts. However linking relevant pages strategically in a “silo” structure will increase what we call “link juice” and consolidate the relevancy of your keyword themes.

Blog:
Search engines love blogs because by their very nature blogs are updated frequently…and search engines like fresh relevant and original content. Blog posts are indexed relatively quickly and are treated as a Web page of information by the search engines. Search engines rank Web pages… not Websites. You will want to ensure that your blog posts are designed to rank for specific keywords, but not at the expense of your human visitors.

Social Media:
No longer just a buzzword, search engines factor what they call “Social Signals” that indicate that you are interacting with your target market (thus indicating that you are relevant). Aside from the obvious advantages of interacting directly with your consumers and driving traffic back to Your Website, best industry estimates are that Google factors between 9% – 14% of their search ranking algorithm based on social signals.

Analytics:
In order to make incremental improvements we must monitor and make incremental adjustments to certain KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) such as:

  • Bounce Rate
  • Average Time on site
  • Top entry pages
  • Top exit pages
  • Traffic by keyword
  • Etc.

Reporting:
Analytics must be distilled into a meaningful report that can be analyzed to show trends and progress without all the noise of the raw data.

Design:
Search engines are concerned with the structural aspect of design, not necessary the aesthetic aspect. It is imperative to design the website around both usability standards and search engine preferences (which typically mimic human usability factors). Remember usability…

These 11 factors are just the main ingredients that go into search engine optimization. They don’t even address other aspects of an entire Web Presence Optimization program that includes profiles and pages from LinkedIn, Facebook, twitter, and reviews on Google+, and Yelp and Citysearch, etc….

At the end of the day, its Google’s world, I just live in it.

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