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What type of marketing works best to increase enrollment in private schools?

Have you been investing large amounts of money in paid ads and still can’t manage to get those enrollment numbers up? Perhaps your mind is going a thousand per hour thinking about what is going wrong and what marketing approach will really answer the mystery of how to increase enrollment in private schools. With competition fierce and families seeking the best educational fit, it’s crucial to invest in marketing strategies that yield real results, and by that, we mean high-quality leads that have the potential to become new parents in your school. In this article, we’ll explore the various marketing approaches such as organic traffic and social media, commonly used by private schools and analyze their effectiveness (or lack of) in attracting and retaining students. Keep reading to uncover the key tactics that can make a real difference in driving enrollment numbers.

Understanding a school’s enrollment funnel

Understanding and effectively managing your school’s enrollment funnel is crucial for attracting and keeping students. The funnel comprises distinct stages: Awareness, Consideration, Conversion, and Loyalty. During the Awareness phase, the focus is on educating potential students and their families about your school’s values and offerings. In the Consideration phase, highlight your institution’s unique features and how it meets individual needs. Successful Conversion occurs when prospects enroll, but ongoing engagement is essential. Finally, in the Loyalty phase, leverage satisfied students and parents as advocates to attract new prospects and strengthen your enrollment pipeline. But what is the best type of marketing approach to get there? We explain them below.

1. Organic Search: Where most high-quality leads come from

Enrolling a child in a private school is a significant decision, impacting both their future and the family’s finances. While some schools invest an unjustifiable amount of money for brand awareness or just because everyone is there in social media ads, discerning parents often avoid these in favor of a more genuine search. High-end parents start their search for a school online and select the few best, carefully skipping those shown in ads and selecting from the best ones – meaning from the ones that appear prominently on the organic section (known as the “real” section of the search results) -.

2. SEO: Improving the quality and quantity of traffic

SEO, or search engine optimization, is crucial for schools and districts to attract prospective families and maintain visibility in the digital landscape. Unlike direct or paid traffic, SEO focuses on improving both the quality and quantity of unpaid or organic traffic from search engines to a website. Implementing effective SEO strategies involves ongoing efforts rather than a one-time setup, since search engine algorithms evolve constantly, thus demanding regular updates to maintain relevance and ranking.

Strategies such as publishing and updating relevant and authoritative content, incorporating internal and external links, and using descriptive language for images contribute to improved SEO performance. Furthermore, SEO offers various advantages, including cost-effectiveness, broader audience reach across all stages of the marketing funnel, and a high return on investment compared to paid advertising. With 30-60% of traffic typically originating from organic search, schools must prioritize SEO alongside other marketing efforts to ensure a steady flow of traffic and engagement.

3. Google Ads: More leads, less enrollment, below-average quality

Google Ads are excellent for capturing impulsive buyers or consumers with no time to consider quality, who will click on the first link they see because the stakes are low. These ads often attract families who lack commitment or are easily swayed by minor factors like pricing differences. For example, a typical Google Ads parent would submit multiple inquiries for many schools, then would become hard to contact to schedule a tour or in case of scheduling one, be a no-show. Therefore, these leads, while plentiful, tend to be less reliable and may not materialize into enrollments. When it comes to how to increase enrollment in private schools, Marketers may favor Google Ads for their lead generation prowess, but without proper follow-up, these leads can be pointless.

4. Social Media Ads: Popular but with diminished ROI

Social media platforms boast vast audiences, but when it comes to critical decisions like selecting a premium private school, the effectiveness of social media ads diminishes. Decision-makers are wary of the distraction and lack of seriousness inherent in social media advertising. Deep inside, they know that the quality of the audience they are trying to attract won’t make any important decision – such as choosing a premium private school -, from a social media ad, shown while scrolling, between a post of some celebrity gossip and an ad for a plumbing company. These decision-makers are the ones tired of the phone ringing with unqualified leads. But the logic ends there; when they have the chance to “be there too” and spend thousands on having their institution trending on Instagram like an influencer.

Unfortunately, Social Ads are professionally optimized to spend the ad budget effectively. The schools receive a large number of likes and comments, hundreds of either low-quality or even fake leads (especially on Facebook), and fill-up marketing reports that show high numbers of “conversions” and that everyone is “happy”. Except for the admissions director who really knows where the qualified leads come from.

5. Social Media: How to really use it for private schools

Social Media is great for many industries, but for private schools, it works well when applied in these two scenarios. The first one is when the school publishes candid “real” posts regularly about what is happening at the school. In this case, authentic, behind-the-scenes posts offer insight into the school’s culture and community, resonating with engaged parents seeking genuine connections. The second good use is strategically utilizing social media ads to carefully “retarget” interested parents only. This means displaying ads exclusively to parents who found the school’s website in online searches until they go back to the website inquiry form and complete the school tour request.

While paid ads and social media may seem like go-to options, their effectiveness in attracting high-quality leads and converting them into enrollments is often questionable. Of course, social media is perfect for building community engagement, but its effectiveness in driving enrollment is limited. Google and social media ads, also often fail to capture the attention of decision-makers seeking serious educational options for their children. Therefore the answer to how to increase enrollment in private schools lies in the power of organic search. Fueled by strategic SEO actions, it emerges as the most reliable avenue for generating valuable leads as it carries a sense of authenticity and credibility, resonating more deeply with decision-makers seeking serious educational options for their children. By focusing on these avenues, private schools can effectively navigate the competitive landscape and secure enrollments that contribute to long-term growth and success.