Why Independent School Digital Advertising Isn’t Just for Open House

School children holding a Back to School sign.

It’s fall admission season – marking your independent school’s launch of Google and Facebook ads! The smartest strategy, though, is to balance your digital admissions advertising throughout the year. If your ads are limited to just one season, then there’s a good chance that you won’t see business during the rest of the year.

Beyond Open House.

This Open House season, you’re cooking up ways to attract prospective families and students to take a tour, attend a “parlor” meeting with other families, shadow current students, or grab a cup of java with the head of school.

Your strategic planning is focused on numbers. How many prospects can you attract? How will you find and convert them to register for your admissions event?

Many independent schools are using Facebook or Google to find their target audience. They’re launching ads that tout the unique benefits of their schools, hoping to convince prospective parents to register for one of their get-to-know-us programs.

Schools spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, during Open House season to launch digital ad campaigns, which in many cases target the same audiences. So, with this onslaught of digital advertising, how is your school supposed to stand out from the crowd?

Even more reason that your digital advertising should be year-round. Reinforce your seasonal advertising with strategic, year-long reminders that promote your school and allow prospects to become familiar with who you are and what you can do for them.

Discover when and how people are searching for you.

Yes, it’s important to spread the word about your admission events when they occur. But did you consider that people may be searching for schools before and after fall events?

According to Leadcon.com, “Identifying when your season actually starts for your buyer is extremely important for timing your seasonal marketing.” In this case, the buyer is your prospective family. And if you think that your prospective family is searching for you only during Open House season, then you might want to think again.

As part of Kalix’s ongoing research efforts, I recently completed a one-year Google Trend search to learn when people in the U.S. actively searched on the keyword “private schools” and “independent school.” Here’s a graph of what Kalix learned:

Graph of Google search for "private school" vs. "independent school" in 2018.
Google search for “private school” vs. “independent school” in 2018.

Notice that more viewers searched on the keyword “private school” beginning January 1 through February. The search peaked in mid February and leveled off through mid-April, peaking once again in mid May and dropping in the summer months. Searches for private and independent schools picked up in August, as expected, but remained higher the first part of the year as compared to the September through November Open  House season. We also found that the plural of “private school” and “independent school” underperformed the singular version of those terms.

The following is a list of related top keywords that are also searched on throughout the year, and how those searches perform:

Graph of top keyword searches for private schools 2018
Top Google keyword searches related to “private schools” in 2018.


Graph of top keyword Google searches on private school in 2018
Top Google keyword searches related to “private school” in 2018.


Graph of top Google keyword searches related to independent schools in 2018
Top Google keyword searches related to “independent school” in 2018. NOTE: Keyword searches for “independent schools” were brand-oriented.

Google trends inform us that people are searching for you throughout the entire year, and not just seasonally. Most important, the search for private schools is even greater after your Open House season.

Advertising early can be a key to success.

What do we do with all of this information? According to research, advertising early is important. If your admission events are in the fall, then you should begin promoting them in the summer when there’s less traffic on the internet and less competition for the same audience. This allows for a small budget where on Google, for instance, the spend could be as low as $100 per month prior to your primary marketing months.

Google favors brands with ads that show an ongoing history on its site. By advertising year-round, your ads will get a high “quality” score. And your consistent advertising efforts can, in turn, help to boost performance of your admissions event ads during Open House season.

There will be highs and lows in ad performance throughout the year. But if you target relevant keywords, and not those that are too broad, you’ll be able to:

  • Spend less each month on your ads;
  • Be seen when people search for you, and;
  • Eventually close the deal.

Ongoing advertising on Facebook may also reap benefits.

Nobody really knows what Facebook’s algorithm is built on. However, we do know that when brands consistently publish valuable content through organic and paid channels and Facebook Groups, they are most likely to expand awareness, get greater engagement on their posts and generate higher traffic volume to landing pages, which ultimately turn into higher conversions.

Facebook ads that you can publish throughout the year may include any and all of the following objectives:

  • Lead generation:  Allow viewers to fill out your form directly on Facebook without incurring additional steps that could sway them from interacting with your call-to-action.
  • Traffic ads: Drive viewers to your website and various landing pages to boost awareness and familiarize your target audience with the qualities and services your school offers.
  • Engagement ads: Boost the number of people who visit and interact with specific pages on your website such as: blog posts, upcoming events, alumni stories, etc.  Just remember to boost the post via Ad Manager and not from the front of Facebook. This way you have a greater capability to direct the performance and optimization of the ads.
  • Conversion ads: Register viewers to events such as Open House or campus tours and drive prospective donors to contribute to your annual campaign.
  • Present your school from different angles and with different messages, images and formats. Make use of dynamic still photos, video, slide shows and audio.

Keep in mind that when you advertise on Facebook and/or Google during the fall – not to mention the beginning of the holiday season –  you not only compete with other independent schools, you also compete for ad space with more affluent brands that spend more dollars vying for the same audience. Those fall ads force the stronger competition to drive up the auction for either newsfeed placement or keyword search. And you end up spending even more dollars to be seen.

Finally, in advertising only seasonally for just two or three months out of the year, there’s not enough time to test and gather data that will inform you on how to optimize and boost ad performance. Advertising throughout the year offers the ability to:

  • Split test ads.
  • Try out different copy and images to see what works best.
  • Learn what types of audience mixes work better than others.
  • Discover where viewers most engage with your ads – via mobile, desktop, other social platforms when they appear in relevant news or information sites.
  • Determine the best type of location targeting, e.g. zip codes vs. regions vs. radius.
  • Retarget the people you’ve driven to your website with awareness ads.
  • Drive down ad cost and more.

Digital advertising is an excellent resource for independent schools to rely on to expand awareness and conversions. Advertising throughout the year will keep you top-of-mind when it’s time to convert those all-important viewers into prospective families and students.

Do you need help with your school’s digital advertising? Give Kalix a call, and let’s begin a conversation on how we can help you boost your school’s presence on the Web. Call us at 410.662.5925 or contact us here.>>

Gerri Baum is digital and social media manager for Kalix Marketing.


Looking for other Strategic Planning advice? Check out other Kalix’s posts on this important subject:

6 Digital Advertising Marketing Mistakes You Might be Making




President’s Notes
Jonathan Oleisky

Jonathan Oleisky

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