The Date of the Next Client Conference Has Not Yet Been Released
HERE IS A RECAP OF OUR LAST CLIENT CONFERENCE (2017)
March 24-25, 2917 we came together at the Teen Challenge International Lakeside Conference Center in Seale, Alabama to discuss future marketing and best admissions practices. Nearly all Exceed clients participated, with a total of 54 participants. Some photos and PowerPoint presentations from the conference are included below (PDF’s of the presentations) as well as notes (bottom).
Presentations (PDF files):
Highlights of the Conference:
- Future of the Boarding School Industry: Bob Lee, Director of SE Regional Teen Challenge adolescent programs, shared some perspectives, including the need for programs to be extremely careful and vigilant about who they hire, how staff are trained, and what the program does, says and responds. More and more schools are being shut down by pressure from hate groups, new child protection laws, overzealous regulators, lawyers, and the online revelation of bad practices or rumors of abuse – true or false.)
- Reviews: We had a lengthy discussion of the renewed importance of good reviews and even positive comments about programs in social media, since reviews and “sentiment” now directly impact search rankings. Yes, Google knows everything that is being said about every program and how people “feel” about each one based on what they have said. The absence of comments about your program is a negative ranking factor, as far as Google is concerned. No comments means that your program is not important enough to be ranked well, so you can no longer avoid social media and get top rankings. And no longer can we change the name of a school if they get into trouble and rankings and admissions suffer. Google is sophisticated enough to follow the change and apply past bad sentiment, comments and reviews to the program even if it has a new name.
- Online Reputation Oversight: David discussed how important it is for clients to manage their own reputation online and to be alerted immediately of comments people are making about them. He listed low-cost tools to help you do that. Bad reviews and comments need to be dealt with immediately, and in the proper way, or they can become a nightmare and even bring regulators to your doorstep who are bent on closing you down.
- The Future of Search Engines (how your program is found is changing dramatically):
- Google is now focused on mobile searches, not desktop/laptop, since over 65% of all searches are now mobile, and that percentage is growing. Google will in the next 90 days shift to begin ranking sites based on the contents, traffic, site speed and dozens of other factors of your mobile site, not your desktop site.
- Rankings are now dynamic and run by Google’s algorithm overlaid by the new massive machine-learning program called “RankBrain”. RankBrain learns based on what people do when they visit your site. Time on site, bounce rate, return rate and other factors will be either positive or negative votes for your site from now on. Rankings will fluctuate up and down as the machine learns where to put your site, and that fluctuation will be ongoing (you could get a number of calls one day and none the next). Dynamic search results mean that an individual who is searching will instantaneously get specific results based on their own location, search history, and many other factors. To run this more effectively for the 3.5 billion web searches everyday, Google is in the final stages of development of the first quantum computer, which is 100 million times faster than current computers. It will go live within a few weeks.
- Everything you do online is now being recorded, tracked and provided (for a price) to marketers and other entities (scary!), and it affects search results because Google knows it all. There is no longer any privacy whatsoever on the web – in fact, Congress voted this week to repeal upcoming online privacy protection rules.
- The new IPV6 IP Internet protocol means that every device will have its own unique number, and the usage of that device will be therefore tracked and assigned to each specific user. Until now (with the old IPV4), large blocks of people could have had the same IP (for instance, thousands of cable users could have all been under one IP address). The move is an international attempt to pinpoint users that may be causing problems on the Internet (and it also speeds up the Internet), but of course there are many ways that bad guys can get around this by masking their IP address. So, the 99.999% of us that are not causing problems or discussing terrorist activities are also being tracked. Could IPV6 be what is referred to biblically as “666”? Interesting question. Through this change, absolutely everything you do on your computer and phone will be tracked and recorded, including where you travel, who you talk to or text, etc. No entity or person in history has ever had such detailed information about everything you do, except for God, of course. IPV6 is roughly 20% implemented today across the 40 billion smart devices in the world, and will reach 100% within 3 years.
- Search is shifting from manual entry of search terms to artificial intelligence online assistants like SIRI (Apple). Focusing on a hands-off search experience, people now and in the future will talk to their computer versus typing. In response, we need to shift content on client sites to reflect answers to questions, not just facts, which will work in your favor as far as being found by these artificial intelligence systems.
- Chat is the fastest growing method of communicating on the Internet and chat bot system will answer online questions for you. Chat systems are growing in popularity at a rate ten times faster than social media did. They now exceed activity on social media after coming on the scene just a couple of years ago. Chat will soon be the basis of most interactions with companies on the Internet, due to the advent of chat robots (“bots”). These bots are artificial intelligence, machine-based customer service voices that will answer chat-based questions. Similar to SIRI, they “hear” each question (typed or verbal) and answer it verbally in regard to your specific website/company. They have become very apt (maybe even more than humans!) at deciphering what the question is all about (and in all languages). Studies show that people are overwhelmingly more comfortable talking to a robot for support and questions than a real person, which is driving this new industry. It is expected that over 80% of all companies will shift to using bots for general customer service questions and inter-site search functions within two years. So, in the coming days as a default, boarding schools will also need to set up chat bots to answer questions, and these bots will work for you 24/7. So, for instance, a person may ask, “Is the school accredited?” The bot will be trained in advance to answer this question either quickly or an in-depth form (pointing the person to a web page that has more detail), based on the real accreditation of your school.
- IMPORTANT! Google Search Results Carousel of Logos of Boarding Schools – about 45 day ago Google decided without advance notice to add a carousel at the top of search results for top-level searches for keywords like “boarding schools”, “Christian boarding schools” and “boarding schools for boys” and “therapeutic boarding schools”. This carousel was previously only used for entities like restaurants and local services, so it has not been an issue. To get all of our clients into these carousels, we will be sending out a questionnaire to collect some of the information that Google requires as a minimum in order to be listed in the carousel. This information will be added to Wikipedia and SCHEMA and a Google Plus/Places site must be in place. Once the information is accepted and Google finds it (this can take weeks), your school will be listed in this carousel as well. In the future, the results in this carousel will also be what verbal search lists as options. Schools which had this detailed information already listed in Wikipedia, Google Plus/Places and SCHEMA are the ones who are already showing up now in the carousel.
The New “Lead Manager System”: David unveiled the new Lead Manager System that has been under development for more than a year. He discussed its properties and benefits, including ease of use. A great deal of research and a no holds barred approach was taken to make this system the best it can be for improving the follow-up of boarding school and residential program leads, adding as many automated marketing and follow-up processes as we felt were needed to make it a great tool for clients – for which it will be forever free to them (even if they leave Exceed). The system has the added benefit of direct referrals from one program to the next (any client), without fee, and a switchable Call Center option (all calls for a period of time answered in your name by the Best Choice staff – without cost). The system automatically routes all calls to the Call Center for a day, an hour, or during lunch, nights, vacations or weekends.
Lead Manager System Features:
Easy to use interface requires little training
Works on all platforms (desktop, table, mobile)
It is secure/inquiry form is secure
Leads assigned, so one person is responsible
Lead inactivity is reminded to ensure that none are neglected
Referrals can be made through BCN or directly to any other client
Call Center option can be turned on and off or set automatically
Graphic follow-up emails (and attachments) and timed drip marketing campaigns
API to email services and marketing automation systems
Tracking codes to/from advertising platforms (important!)
Easy one-click download of data and addresses
Only administrative users can make system changes.
- Directories: Exceed has either purchased or recently created directory sites to help promote our clients. We have done this because Google tends to favor “aggregated” directory sites in search results for high-level keywords like “therapeutic boarding schools”.
- Sites where all clients are already listed/featured:
• BestBoysRanches.com (boys programs only)
• TeenChallengeSchools.com (TC only)
• ChristianBoardingSchoolReviews.com (Christian programs only)
• ChristianBoardingSchools.org (Christian programs only)
- Sites that are newly purchased or created and may or may not have our client listings in them, but will soon (as appropriate):
• ParentHelp.net (teen parenting articles site – in development)
- Sites where all clients are already listed/featured:
- Exceed’s Work on Client’s Behalf: Dave and Matt Harbert (Exceed Technical Director) discussed what Exceed does for its clients and how that work continues to expand as we fight with Google for best rankings for our clients and defend against hackers (thousands of attempts are made to hack your website every day!) It all continues to get more and more complex as Google gets more sophisticated about ranking sites for different specific devices and platforms and those also continue to expand and get more sophisticated. Google’s goal is to make all websites load instantaneously on mobile, with no delay, and sites that are not set up this way will suffer in the rankings. Of course, all of the other advances of how the search engines work will be integrated into client websites.
- Best Choice Network: While the BCN entity is no longer a part of Exceed, we have installed it as the major “Call Center” component of the new Lead Manager System. Scott Smith discussed how clients can get the most out of the Best Choice Network as an alternate referral source, expelled student placement service, or call answering service.
- Admissions: We had a long discussion of Admissions Best Practices led by Tara Akers, Scott Smith and Rebecca Boone. Many great thoughts and ideas were shared, including the services of Best Choice Network to help clients with referrals and as an alternate admissions triage service.
- Insurance: Darren Reynolds led a good discussion of how he set up his program for being accepted for insurance payments. He discussed the procedures, services needed, benefits and pitfalls. It led to a great number of questions from those in attendance.
- Program Entry, Family Retreats and Aftercare: We had a good discussion among the group of the best ways to start students in a program (some are taking the kids out into the wilderness for a few days to start them out right and calm them down before they start), how and why and when to conduct family retreats, and the necessity of a strong aftercare program (your work is not done when they leave campus!). Each of these should be a strong consideration in an age when great results, strong parent support and great reviews will be everything for your future enrollment success. Programs that are not producing strong results and great reviews will quickly go away.
- Online PPC Advertising: David discussed how complex PPC advertising has become and how necessary it is for larger clients (programs with more than 30 students) to be involved in PPC in order to be getting a consistent number of leads every day. Google is forcing programs in “pay to play” and yet has also built in a huge number of ways to target and exclude individuals based on their location, demographics, history, and many other factors. This helps us target potential searchers better and to bid appropriately for each keyword. The inclusions and exclusions factors are tweaked daily to generate the most leads for our clients at the least cost per conversion.