Thanks to the internet, information is more accessible than ever. As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to make sure all the information available about your school accurately reflects its value.
In short, if you want to control and tell your own story, you need effective online presence management.
In previous posts, we’ve referred to your online presence as your “digital storefront.” In this post, we’ll define exactly what that means, why you as a childcare center owner should care, and how you can create the best digital storefront possible.
What Is a Digital Storefront?
What do you imagine when you hear the word “storefront”?
If you’re like most people, you imagine a brick-and-mortar structure prospective customers can drive by. To make a good first impression, you as the business owner make sure the landscaping is immaculate, the trash is picked up, and the signage is clean and tidy.
The exterior of your business colors prospective customers’ assumptions about how the interior is run. It helps them decide whether they want to buy what you’re selling, without ever stepping foot inside.
Today, we don’t need to hop in our cars to get a first impression of a business. We just need to look online.
Your digital storefront is your business’s entire digital footprint. It’s anything a potential customer may encounter online while researching your business, and anything that can make a first impression.
How you showcase yourself in the digital world holds immense weight, and as algorithms get smarter and systems change, business owners must also adapt.
Bottom line: It’s not enough for your school to be top-tier. Your digital storefront must be exceptional, too, which means keeping up with online presence management.
More Than Your Website
Your digital storefront is anywhere you show up online. This includes your website, of course, but it’s so much more than that.
It’s your social profiles, your Yelp reviews, and your map listings. Potential customers visit all these platforms and paint a mental picture of what your business is like.
Think about directories where your information may be inaccurate. Inconsistencies between directories don’t just confuse parents; they confuse algorithms. As a result, Google may rank your information lower in SERPs.
These systems are continuously evolving, and changes happen fast. What worked five or ten years ago won’t necessarily work now. For example, SEO best practices have moved from being strictly keyword based to more user-experience (UX) based.
Consider user experience every time you work on online presence management. If prospects don’t have a good experience during that first visit to your website or your social media, they won’t be back.
You need to pay the same attention to your digital storefront as you do to your school’s building and landscaping. Using poor-quality photos on your website is like letting weeds grow in front of your school. It ruins your chance of a great first impression.
In addition to your website, there are five digital platforms we strongly suggest keeping updated as you carry out online presence management. Let’s unpack each one, including why it’s important and how parents might visit it.
You’d be surprised how often parents find local businesses through map listings — and how often childcare centers ignore them.
Not only is it crucial to list your business on every major map application service (Google Maps, Bing Maps, Apple Maps, and Waze), it’s just as important to make sure your information is consistent across these apps.
Note that Apple Maps pulls information from third-party sources, such as Yelp. So, even if you have a love/hate relationship with Yelp, you need to make sure your information is accurate there.
While Google My Business is the most obvious place to start for business listings, it’s far from the only listing you want to maintain. After all, your NAP (name, address, phone number), hours of operation, and URL (website address) will all be featured in these listings, and you want those available everywhere.
As we mentioned, Yelp is well worth the effort, especially since Apple Maps draws its information from the Yelp directory.
Bing is also quite underutilized and may be worth your time. Although it’s a distant second to Google in terms of search volume, it still accounts for 8.85% of global searches.
Think of social media as an opportunity to create a catalog for your business. It’s a chance to tell your story through photos and videos as people scroll. With the right strategy, you can answer frequently asked questions right in your feed.
As of this writing, the best platforms for childcare centers are Facebook and Instagram.
Online directories of childcare facilities should always be up-to-date and accurate. How else will you put your best foot forward?
The three most common and well-known directories are Winnie, GreatSchools, and Care.com.
Yelp can be a tricky platform, but it’s essential to have accurate, up-to-date information about your school listed there.
Additionally, paying attention to your online reviews is always better than ignoring them. As we’ve said before, reviews can make or break your business. They’re the backbone of good online reputation management.
Making the Best First Impression
Online presence management is all about making the best first impression possible. Your prospects should be so impressed by what they see online that they can’t wait to come in for a tour. Follow the tips above to give your school its best chance of growing.
We understand managing your online presence isn’t easy, especially when you’re also managing the day-to-day operations of your school. But it’s still necessary, and absolutely worth it.
If you need someone to lighten the load, we’d be glad to help. Give us a call to discuss what we can do for your school.
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