When prospective families first drive up to your campus, what do they see? What feeling do they get? How are they greeted?
I’m sure you’ve put some thought into this. To make a good impression, you may have nice signage welcoming them to campus, or maintain beautiful grounds. You may have student ambassadors waiting to greet them, or offer coffee and snacks upon their arrival.
In short: you want to make a good first impression—because first impressions last.
Those first impressions, however, don’t only happen once these families drive up to your school's door. In fact, they may happen much, much before they ever set foot on campus. That’s because, your school’s NEW front door? It’s the website homepage.
Your school website’s homepage may just well be the first thing about your school a prospective family experiences—so it’s critical that you have a welcoming strategy behind it.
So how can you extend your hospitality, and tell your story, right from your school’s homepage? Here are six things to keep in mind while crafting your school website homepage strategy:
1: Catch Their Eye & Their Interest
Today’s website users are used to instant gratification—and they’re used to scrolling through social media to get it. Play to this habit by turning your homepage into a scrolling story.
Imagine that a prospective student or parent will ONLY visit your school's homepage. What do you need them to know about your school right away? It’s not only about grabbing their attention with an eye-catching visual—the best homepages also appeal to the audience’s main interest or need, or address their concerns, right up front.
Consider beginning your homepage strategy by pairing a strong statement with a visual like Sanford School. They use their powerful storyline (Find Yourself at Sanford) to help position what the school is all about, and they draw people in with the impressive video of their campus.
If prospective families stopped scrolling there, they would have something to remember about Sanford.
The Hidden Cost of Online Video
While having a video play on your homepage can be very intriguing, it can also slow down your website’s loading speed, which can deter from the user experience. You need to weigh the pros and cons of having a video versus a still image when developing your school's homepage strategy.
2: Show Them The Elevator
The elevator speech, that is. Your school website’s homepage is a lot like an elevator—users hop on it, move up and down, and jump off in mere minutes. If you want to introduce yourself, you have to do it fast.
That’s why it’s a good idea to include a positioning statement on your homepage. A positioning statement is usually one or two sentences—tops—that packs a lot of punch in only a few words (that’s why it can be so challenging to craft!).
Your school positioning statement should cover several key story elements:
- The desired outcome you provide to your students/families
- The specific audience your school serves
- The unique approach or benefits you offer in order to achieve your outcomes
By having this quick statement on your homepage, you’ll answer your audience’s questions and concerns upfront, and leave them with a lasting impression of your school.
Learn more about writing your school’s core story elements in “Does Your School REALLY Have a Story?”
3: Explain The Difference
It’s not enough to tell them a story—you then need to prove it. Once you make your introduction and capture their attention, take the opportunity to point out what makes your school different.
Picture your visitor looking at your website homepage while also having the websites of all of your competitors open in the same browser. What will make them remember your school once they exit the window?
Include any of these differentiators on your homepage. Pair them with compelling imagery, and then allow your users to click through to learn more about them if they are interested. This gives prospective families control over what they want to learn about.
4: Introduce Your People
From students to alumni to faculty and staff, there’s nothing like seeing the real people behind your school brand to give website visitors a sense of your personality.
One way to do this is to feature diverse student stories on your school website homepage. Choose students that embody the traits you aim to grow in your school population, and let them tell the world how your school has helped them cultivate their passions. This can be done in either video or written format.
Another option: highlight the fantastic accomplishments of your faculty. By demonstrating the expertise of your leadership and your teachers, you are building trust with prospective families.
5: Tell Them What’s New
Once the story is told, back it up by showcasing your latest news, events or blog posts in a feed on your school's homepage. This will reinforce that you’re not just walking the walk; you’re also talking the talk.
While I personally don’t like to see a heavy emphasis placed on calendar items (as these are usually more geared to current, and not prospective, families) they can show that you have a vibrant campus and enriching student life.
As you decide what news or events to feature on your school's homepage, always think about it from the point of view of prospective families. What will THEY find interesting or impressive? Remember, your school's homepage is a marketing tool, first.
6: Call Them To Action
Yes, just like every other page on your school's website, the homepage should have a strong call to action.
If a new visitor scrolls all the way through your school's website homepage—reading your messaging, learning about your students, exploring your differentiators—what do you want them to do next? What path do you want them to take?
It’s important that you help guide them in the direction that is the most helpful to your admissions process, so think through all possibilities when crafting your homepage strategy.
By using your school website homepage as a marketing tool and storytelling platform, you will strengthen the effectiveness of your entire website.
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