With current uncertainty forcing child care centers to close or significantly reduce the number of children they serve, many are wondering how they’ll approach community outreach efforts once centers can return to more normal operations.
There are a variety of ways child care centers can market themselves in their communities, but perhaps the most critical element in any center’s marketing mix is its website. In a recent webinar hosted by Early Childhood Investigations, education search marketing guru Jenny Munn provided practical ways centers can take this time to optimize their websites – resulting in higher search engine rankings. Fran Simon, early childhood subject matter and technology expert, also joined the webinar to provide her insights on the website structure to maximize its impact.
For those unfamiliar, search engine optimization (SEO) is a way make your website show up higher in searches so that families can find you more easily.
Jenny had a number of recommendations to help improve centers’ SEO. First and foremost, she said it’s critical to keep your site as current as possible. Failing to update content and keep the site fresh can negatively affect rankings and search results. To do this, she recommended not only exploring avenues for expanded content (i.e. news, events, videos and hyperlocal information), but also doing a page-by-page audit of your website to check links, images, copy, forms, bios, FAQs and other content that could be outdated.
Website content is crucial, particularly content like blogs, news and other information that can be used as a resource. When it comes to content focus, Jenny said to address both current trends and evergreen content (or content that can be used all year round).
Examples of trend content include:
- Cold & Flu Season: Keeping Your Baby Healthy
- Summer Activities for Toddlers
- Spring Break Local Events to Keep Kids off Technology
- 2020 Childcare Trends Parents Care About
Examples of evergreen content could include articles on:
- What to Look for in a Preschool
- Why Parents Choose Us Over Other Daycares
- New Parents: Tips for Finding the Best Infant Care Near You
Jenny recommended making a calendar to help you plan out your content. “Since it can take several weeks for Google to index and rank new pages, it’s important to plan ahead,” she said.
Jenny also talked about the importance of evolving your website from what she called an “Evergreen Brochure” to a “Lead Generation” site. What does this mean? If your site reads like a brochure, it typically focuses on the factual information about the child care center or school, including its history and services offered. To move to a more lead generation approach, Jenny recommended you:
- Structure your site to focus on the visitor. It should be more about them and their needs.
- Show your program’s personality.
- Be clear, direct and authoritative – it should be immediately apparent whom you serve and why someone should take that next step with you.
- Make sure to have a call to action (CTA) on every page.
To help you craft the right language, Jenny suggested you read the online reviews of your business and your competitors. By seeing how parents and families speak about child care centers, you’ll be better equipped to mirror that language back to them on your website.
When it comes to website architecture, Fran provided guidance around the basic information that should be included on a child care website. That information, which is often located in the top navigation, includes:
- Family Resources
- Locations (this one is critical, as families often search for child care centers based on where they live)
- Tours and Enrollment
- Email Signup
- Contact Us
At the bottom of the page, she indicated the importance of having your contact info (including address, phone and email) as well as any links to your social media channels.
In terms of content, Fran advised considering the following website areas:
- Health Information (you’d most likely link out to credible organizations like your local health department versus creating this content yourself)
- Regularly Needed Forms
- News (about your program and community)
Once you have your website architecture optimized, it’s time to dig into keywords. Jenny said it’s helpful to put yourself in the parents’ shoes and brainstorm the keywords they may type into Google to find out more about local child care offerings. Using the right keywords are critical.
Case in point: the word “daycare.” Jenny said many of the child care centers she has worked with do not like to use the word daycare “because they don’t take care of days, they take care of children.” However, when you look at the difference between parents searching for “daycare” versus “child care,” the results are staggering. Daycare wins out by a large margin, so while you may not like to use that word on your website, you have to consider the positive impact it could have on your search optimization.
Localization is also an important part of any child care center’s SEO strategy. As Jenny pointed out, often parents search for child care centers close to them. Often, parents may not even visit the child care center’s website initially, instead relying on the Google My Business profiles that come up in their searches to get more information about location, hours and reviews. With that in mind, it’s important to set up a Google My Business account to make sure your business’s profile shows up.
Some additional tips Jenny provided on improving SEO include:
- Use backlinks. These are when another site (for example a real estate agent website, Facebook, Yelp, etc.) links to your site. The more quality backlinks you have, which give you more validity, the higher ranking you’ll have in Google searches.
- Amplify your content by promoting it on your social media channels. Make sure to link back to your website.
Finally, Jenny pointed out that SEO is not a one and done process. It’s all about iteration. “Small changes add up over time, it’s like a muscle you build,” said Jenny. “If you can make incremental improvements to your site, they will add up and build momentum that will positively impact your SEO results.”
For more information about SEO, you can access the slides and resources here.
To view the webinar, click here.