There’s a lot to consider when planning your school’s admissions open house and event marketing is key to ensuring the fruits of your labor result in strong attendance.
Here are 5 ways you can promote your school’s open house online to drive event awareness, inquiries, and registrations.
1. Optimize Your Admissions Pages for SEO
Before you send an email or spend a dollar on marketing the event, you must ensure there is a place on your website that outlines the details of the event in a clear and compelling way. The page should not only include basic information about the event and logistics but also mention why the event is a critical step in the admissions process. Include other ways families can visit the school in person or virtually if the open house dates don’t work for them. Always have a call to action for registrations or interest form completions, even if you don’t require registration for the event. The benefit of doing so is that you capture that prospective family’s information and can market to them meaningfully, whether they come to the event or not.
SEO is simply the act of optimizing your page in search. While the content of the events page is key, you will then need to ensure the page is indexed, which can be done with Google Search Console, so that it shows up in search results. (Check out more of the benefits of Search Console for schools here). Scan the page title and metadata to ensure it’s accurate and includes the basic keywords you want to appear for (e.g., your school’s brand name, independent or private school, grades served, and the name of the event itself). If you are guilty of having outdated pages on your site that show up in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page), you will want to clear those up by setting up redirects to the new pages and adding no-crawl tags so that Google stops showing the old pages in the search results. The benefit of setting up the redirect, even if you end up deleting those outdated pages, is that it replaces any old links that users may have from social media posts or emails, and sends them to the latest and greatest page.
Lastly, consider an evergreen event strategy to increase the chances your page shows up. This means having an always-on events page with content that is always live and accurate. When there is no event to market, simply include highlights from the last event, and let families know planning is in the works for the next one and to check back. You can also include a form so they will be the first to know when events are published. This evergreen event page will allow you to maintain a call to action and lead-capturing year-round and avoid having to re-create new pages and delete old ones which will help the page's SEO.
2. Ensure Your Event Registration Process is User-Friendly
There’s an old saying when it comes to SEO that reads, “If content is King, then user experience is Queen”. This means your Open House page and registration process should have an easy and smooth experience for the user on both desktop and mobile. Test this yourself by going to an incognito browser, and Googling your school’s name in conjunction with the words “open house” or “admissions events”' to ensure the right event's page appears in the SERP. What are the page titles and descriptions? Are they accurate and compelling to click on? Next, you want to ensure the events page is also easily accessible through your website menu. Don’t rely on pesky pop-ups or alerts on your homepage alone. It’s important that users and website crawlers can access these pages through your site's navigation menu.
You will also want to check the page speed. Here is a great free page speed tool for doing so. Once on the page, the last user experience test is to actually go through the effort of reading the content and registering for the event while on your mobile device. Pay attention to the confirmation message and email message that ensues. In this user experience test, if you have trouble finding the event page and converting/registering, then chances are parents will have a tough time too!
3. Leverage Free Channels for Your School’s Event
Once your event page is optimized for search and user-friendly for parents, it’s time to market the event and drive traffic to this page. Email marketing is certainly your low-hanging fruit. This means emailing all of your constituents, prospects, and other people who have opted into your communications already. Consider including currently enrolled families in your open house email list, as they are ambassadors for the school and will share the emails with their friends and family. Once you have your email outreach and email follow-ups in place, there are a number of other free channels to tap into. From Facebook and Instagram to LinkedIn and TikTok, always ensure all of your school’s social media pages have posts about your upcoming events and link directly to the open house page on your website.
Remember to leverage a number of school search and business directories to promote your events. For example, school search sites like niche.com have an events section you can leverage (although some of these features come at a cost).
Google Business Profiles allow you to run posts highlighting your upcoming events, for free!
4. Explore Paid Digital Advertising Efforts
Once you’ve set up a strategy for the free channels to promote the event, you should consider paid media to strengthen your reach and ability to engage families at this critical time of year. Google Ads is a top choice for open house campaigns. Here’s why: Within the platform, you can capture someone’s interest in the moment they are searching for you, or for private schools in general, via Google Search Ads (this is a method of inbound marketing). Within the same platform, you can simultaneously push banner ads out to people while they are reading content on various websites (considered outbound marketing). What’s more, you can include video assets promoting your event on thousands of publishers and YouTube. You can target by keywords and interest, and layer in household income targeting, geographies, and more. Another benefit of Google's self-serve ads platform is that it is pay-per-click (PPC), which means your impressions are free, and you only pay when someone clicks on the ad and gets to your landing page. More on Google Ads for schools in this blog.
Once you’ve maximized your Google Ads efforts within Search and Display, tap into those very same concepts, and expand your reach through Microsoft Ads, which includes inventory on search engines like Bing, AOL, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, and others. Social media ads are also a great way to build event awareness. Paid ads work well on Meta (Facebook and Instagram) as well as LinkedIn. Both have an end-user platform that school marketers can master themselves with some time and training. If you don’t have the resources for a full-on paid social ad campaign, consider just boosting events or posts on Facebook and Instagram. Mobile Location Targeting Ads, also known as geofencing, can also serve as a great outbound marketing strategy. With geofencing platforms, you can track if any of the devices you target ended up back on campus on open house day. For all paid media efforts, you must carefully set goals and choose platforms and audiences that make the most sense for your school. In order to maximize your clicks and track ROI closely, always remember to have a dedicated landing page strategy as well.
5. Tie Everything Together with Analytics Data
In order to answer the question, ”Which marketing influenced open house registrations the most?”, you need to include Google Analytics in that data. To get started, make sure the event pages and registration forms have Google Analytics on them, and that you're capturing the registrations as a custom event or conversion with your Google Analytics 4 account. From there, you can append tracking parameters to your final destination URLs (also known as custom UTM codes), so you can see which sources and campaigns led to traffic and registrations, or other meaningful actions. Not only should you tag paid media (PPC, Display Ads, Social Media ads, etc.) with UTMs or have auto-tagging in place, but you should also track emails and print, too. Things like yard signs and event postcards are trackable with QR codes with UTM parameters in place. For help, check out Google’s resource for creating custom UTMs. Google Analytics data, coupled with your CRM data and surveys, will give you plenty of insight as to which forms of marketing led to a well-attended event.
In summary, it’s critical to ensure your event pages are optimized for SEO and user experience as a first step to marketing your open house. From there, always explore free channels before you dive into paid media. Finally, remember to establish goals and set up tracking to ensure all efforts are evaluated properly, and establish ROI for each channel so that you work smarter, not harder, each open house season.