Hidden Gems is the blog page for all things Diamond.
We cover topics relevant to Higher Education, Career and Proprietary Schools.
In this 2nd part of my 3-part Blog series: Parallels: Provide Guidance, Engagement and Resources to Increase Enrollment, Retention and Referrals, I identify how basic reward systems can help with engagement and retention. While these are strategies used to improve student achievement, Recruiters need to include this information in their recruiting strategy. The older demographic of the Career school student, needs additional resources and encouragements that may not have been available during their K12 experience. Communicating what you have to offer -by example, will go a long way to improving your recruiting. And as you’ll see by the end of this article, will generate referrals to build your recruiting pipeline.
Recognition and rewards strengthen student resolve and build motivation. But please be cautious not to over-simplify this process. Too often you see the word “Success” used, when “Accomplishment” is more accurate and better defines the actual circumstances. Don’t diminish your students’ achievements with over-hyped praise. Adult learners are often best supported with balanced, legitimate recognition. Understand, adult learners, are probably used to, even fed up with, the current practices of over-praise and "awards for participation” for children, they’ll know when you’re doing it to them. To keep adults encouraged and engaged, recognize actual achievements.
Communicating your “Culture of Achievement” during the Recruiting process can bolster student confidence in the ability of your school to support and engage them. Communicating that you know the difference between success and accomplishment can make you believable.
In this competitive Career Schools market, the ability to communicate that you provide ongoing encouragement, with real-world & grounded solutions, can go a long way to earning someone as a new student. This functionality is also core to student engagement and can dramatically improve retention rates, depth of knowledge, and very importantly, referrals.
Some Quick Suggestions to Enhance Your Learning Environment:
Provide Motivational award sessions every month
- Honors list
Successful externships Lists,
- Passing certifications,
- and getting a job
- Give out Lapel Pins as well as paper certificates as the Awards
- The ability to publicly present their success, and your schools pride in their abilities, is a powerful motivator
- On your internal student Website, create a Recognition Page to showcase the award winners
- Photos are appreciated by all, remember if this is viewable by family, it can be a powerful motivator
- Keep this page updated and timely
- If you don’t have a student recognition web section, add it!
- Create and encourage Student-lead organizations
- Provide Industry Specific Peer Advisors & Tutors
- Hold Regular Student Appreciation Days
- Spring or Summer picnics where students can bring their family for fun in the sun
- Bowling nights / Leagues
- Running / exercise clubs
- Robot Wars teams
- Schedule Volunteer activities that can build bonds
- Blood drives
- Campus clubs
- Tutoring- possibly for extra credit
- Industry specific activities
- Spring Break volunteer opportunities
- Hold Student contests that can build camaraderie through friendly competition Contests should focus on the outcomes that are most important to your students’ success:
- Attendance goals,
- Passing certification exams,
- Raising money for charities.
- If you don’t already, add formal graduation ceremonies
- These build a sense of accomplishment for the student and their support structures (parents, family, colleagues, etc.)
Career school courses and programs vary greatly in length, so some of the above ideas may not be ideal for your specific situation, but use the list to spark your imagination and create your own programs.
Search for ways to provide methods to encourage growth and to help students succeed and fully engage in the learning process. The more you can promote a sense of belonging and of achievement, the better you can reinforce the material and graduate top-notch professionals who represent the type of employee that your market wants to hire. And that is your true measure of success. This, of course, is both their goal, and very importantly, yours.
There’s no better time than now to expand your “Culture of Achievement” strategies to build confidence in your students, helping them to engage and feel a sense of belonging and community with your school.
In my final part of the 3-part Blog series Parallels: Provide Guidance, Engagement and Resources to Increase Enrollment, Retention and Referrals, I outline ways to highlight the end result – the career, as a way to recruit and to improve engagement. I also point out how to serve more than one master: the Student, and the Employer.
Improving Web Ranking for Career Schools
Every business, whether you're Career School or Amazon.com, needs to pay close attention to search engines, web rankings, and other such geeky things.
You see, in today's’ world, if you don’t appear near the top in a Google/Web search, you might as well not exist. Consumers – and this includes your prospective students, are able to gather a LOT of information quickly and with very little effort. They also have very short attention spans.
What does this mean to you?
- You need to appear on the 1st page of any internet search,
- This means #’s 1-4 on mobile devices!
- You compete intensely with other career schools in your region,
- Your message needs to:
- Pique their Interest and Spark their Imagination
- Provide a positive vision of their future
- And, you have just 4 seconds to do this!
- Address and Alleviate their fears
- (I address many of these topics in other Blog Posts)
Students and consumers today are far better informed than ever before. And they use the internet to get this information. It’s vital to be the 1st to get their attention, and then hold their attention with useful information that is personally relevant. I address many of these key topics in my other Hidden Gems blog entries.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: I refer to a number of websites and resources in this (and future) blogs. Neither I, nor Diamond SIS make claims as to their effectiveness, value, safety, or anything else for that matter. We get no compensation from anyone for mentioning their name and do so only as points of reference for the reader. We invite (and recommend) that you do your own research. OK, I think that covers all the legal stuff. The point is – we can’t guarantee anyone else’s products or services.
What can mere mortals do to improve their Web Ranking?
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a complex and rather advanced topic, so in this article I’m going to focus on some basic tasks that you (or your webmaster) can do for little or no cost. While basic in nature, I do strive to provide concrete, useful and more in-depth tools than typically found in similar articles. These quick tasks are the fundamentals of website design – yet are still often overlooked, that most businesses should review and address them frequently.
Of course, you’re welcome to contract with a professional SEO services company who can work wonders, but for this article, we’re going to focus on effective SEO tasks that we mere mortals, can accomplish in a short amount of time.
Let’s get on with it: Quick Projects to Improve your Web Rankings:
The internet uses Keywords to understand what topics and content are relevant to your site. You should have Keywords appropriate for your Career School on ALL of your web pages. You can have different keywords on each of your pages – although it’s suggested that you keep certain “core” words the same on each page– like your school name.
Keywords on your web pages have less value today than they did in years past – the search engines are much smarter nowadays and not so easily impressed. But make no mistake, they are still VERY important for 2 reasons:
- These are the Key Phrases that you expect your prospective students to use when searching for schools like yours – and this is VITAL for improving your standing in search results
- Content is King: When keywords are mirrored in the relevant content of your website, the Search Engines DO consider this valid information for higher ranking in in search results.
Important: Don’t “stuff” keywords into your content. I just explained how important Keywords are – but be careful not to needlessly repeat keywords in an unnatural way. The Search Engines are very smart nowadays. If you go crazy repeating your keywords in the content, they’ll know. Keyword stuffing is not good for your readers and will most likely result in a lower - not higher, page ranking.
Sample Keywords for a Nursing School:
Nursing school,CNA school, RN school, online nursing degree programs, your school full name, nursing degree, other common name for your school, LVN school, registered nurse, bachelor of science in nursing, master’s degree in nursing, doctor of nursing practice, associate degree in nursing, RN to BSN to MSN, graduate certificates, MSN Family Nurse Practitioner, Nursing Programs, Associate Degree Nursing, ADN, Bachelor of Science Nursing Degree, BSN, Practical Nursing Diploma Program, Vocational Nursing Diploma Program
Create Page Names:
Each page of your Web site should have a useful and descriptive page name. This is different than the page “title”, so be sure that you add appropriate page names to make the most of what Search Engines can do!
Create Page Descriptions:
Search engines also rely on unique Page Descriptions. These are VERY short (150 characters -INCLUDING the SPACES) so Make. Every. Word. Count!
Write useful & relevant Page content:
Make certain that the words you write on each page are relevant and correspond to the keywords, Page Descriptions and Page Names. I’ve always preached “Content is King!” and in web rankings this is truer than ever.
Review Pictures and Graphics on your Site:
Each image has a file name and an “alt” tag. The Search engines actually use the images file name as a factors in your ranking – so consider using names that actually describe the picture, i.e. “Successful_Welder_fixes_car.jpg” or “Happy_CNA_assists_Patient.jpg” also, be sure to add the “Alt” tag to EVERY image. This single feature helps considerably with ranking and is a hidden gem for boosting your web profile.
This topic can go on for years, but not here. These are incoming hyperlinks from other web pages to your website. The more backlinks you have pointing to your site, the more popular it will be. Backlinks are incredibly important to achieving high page ranking.
The one thing to do regarding links is to make certain that any time you or your website are mentioned in the news or on the web, be sure to have links to your website added to those mentions. Whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, a local High School, Volunteer organization, Chamber of Commerce, one of your Employers – anywhere possible, get links from other websites to point to yours. This is one of the most important things you can do to improve your website ranking.
Conversely, it also helps to add links to other organizations. Like your accrediting agency, the Dept. of Ed., other large, established organizations that lend credibility to your school. Outbound links give search engines a clear idea about your website/page because relevant links help establish authority. As always, Content is King – so only link to relevant, valid and logical websites from each page.
Every time you add or remove pages and content from your website, be sure to update your Sitemap. If you have no idea what this is, most of the programs that you use to build and manage your websites will have quick instructions on how to do this.
Essentially, a Sitemap is a directory of all the active pages in your website and how they are connected. The Search engines use this information when they “crawl” your site, gathering the information used to rank your site.
OK, What’s next?
Once you’ve updated your website and added the above features to your pages and images, be sure to submit your site to the search engines.
Spiders, spiders everywhere: Submit your Site
A spider is a program that visits Web sites, reads their pages and other information then creates entries for their search engine. Google has spiders, Yahoo has spiders, Bing has spiders … these things are crawling around the web 24/7. All the major search engines have similar programs. You might also hear them called "crawlers" or "bots."
Step 1: Manually Submit your Site to Google and Bing. This is simple and will only take a few moments:
Step 2: Next, submit your site to a broad range of other search engines. While the sheer number of users on these are much lower, this does get the attention of the Web Ranking elves and will assist -in a small way- in establishing your website.
Broad Search Engine submission (Free)
I’m only going to lightly touch on pay-for services in this blog. There are so many, and they are so broad, that this is not the appropriate forum for such a large discussion. But here are some basic notes.
Google Adwords and Bing Advertising are the most well-known and reliable tools for increasing page ranking and awareness. They require a monthly budget to be allocated and based on the keywords used by people when they search, your School will be displayed as a featured ad. This Pay-Per-Click advertising is VERY powerful and is also Very effective.
Many National and local companies can provide SEO services. They can be expensive, but they can also be well worth it. But don’t expect results overnight – from ANY of the methods discussed in this blog. Achieving top-rankings will take time, literally months, so listen to these experts and carefully weigh the value of what they offer. Perhaps do all of these free steps 1st, then after 3-4 months, decide your next step.
Now that you’re drawing more potential students – don’t squander the opportunity!
Now that you’re drawing and attracting more potential students, its imperative that you don’t lose them. You need to take every action possible to keep their interest and convert them from someone merely “browsing”, to someone who is directly committed to becoming a student at your school.
I provide a number of ideas about improving Recruiting and Referrals in upcoming Hidden Gem blog articles, stay tuned!
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