Here’s How We Operate
Why A New Website is Often Created
To achieve top rankings, websites must be focused on how the client program is set up to help its residents, with a special focus on what is unique about the program. If the current website contains a lot of unnecessary information, it will likely never achieve top rankings in the search engines. Marketing websites are most effective if they are thought of as being a brochure, not an all purpose website. For client, Exceed creates a website that the client can be proud of, and which is laser-focused on generating leads. All sites are created on the world’s most popular platform, WordPress, so if a client wishes to take over their own site, they can do so easily.
How We Got Involved in Marketing Therapeutic Schools and Programs
Over the years, David Bolthouse has been a marketing consultant to many firms and nonprofits. He has owned and operated several advertising agencies. When his teenage son got into trouble with drugs and self-destructive behavior, he was told by the boy’s counselor that he needed to be placed in a residential program. That counselor recommended a local program, which turned out to be disastrous. Two weeks after enrolling, the boy was attacked and nearly killed on campus. So, while recuperating, Bolthouse decided to do his own research to find the best program in the nation.
What he found was a small, mostly unknown program in Texas, called Heartlight. He was so impressed with the program and staff that he sold his advertising agency and moved to Texas to help Heartlight. His goal — to help that program with professional marketing and also to be closer to his son. After success with professional marketing help, the program developed a bold goal to open a new facility in every state. But after a great deal of national promotion that was producing hundreds of inquiries daily, the directors of Heartlight surprisingly changed their minds about expansion, and instead chose to stay with just one program in Texas. In the meantime, other residential programs started calling Bolthouse to ask if he would do the same for them. So, Exceed was formed as an agency designed to do that. Later, Exceed moved its offices from Texas to Los Angeles.
Exceed is privileged to work with some of America’s top therapeutic boarding schools, military schools, and private academies and rehabs. We focus on marketing schools via the Internet, since that is where people look for such programs and schools today. Exceed handles all of the marketing and technical aspects for our clients, so even small programs can have world-class online marketing and can be found right along with the biggest schools and programs.
Here is how Exceed works with its clients….
FLAT FEE: Our concept from the beginning has been to do everything under one flat fee, which is far less than what most marketing firms charge for this type of work. This helps clients know what to expect and so they aren’t caught off guard by added fees and mark-ups that are typical of most marketing or advertising agencies. Exceed also refuses to hold anyone to a long-term contract. If the client wishes to back out of the relationship, Exceed or they can do so at any time.
EXPERTISE AND CONNECTIONS: Exceed has built up expertise in the boarding school and residential program industries such that its connections and the directories it operates help quickly boost clients to prominence in the search engines, where most prospects go to find such programs.
EXCEED DOES IT ALL: Exceed works from the standpoint of doing whatever is needed to generate good qualified leads and referrals for clients, and to do so with minimal direction from the client. Much of our focus is on making the main marketing website generate many more qualified leads. We create world-class websites that work on all devices and are specifically designed to generate response and top rankings. Our team takes a lot of time up front to learn and understand each client’s standards, positioning, history and terminology. After two decades of previous involvement in brand consulting and advertising, we know that brand protection and positioning are important, and build that into everything we do.
When the Exceed team sees something that is needed to push a client forward, we dive into it with no added cost to the client. When we see a client’s engine rankings slipping or leads falling off, we are “all hands on deck” to do whatever it takes to turn that around. We spend a great deal of time and expense up front getting each client to be ranked highly nationally and regionally on the major search engines. That also include managing online advertising, which many larger clients need to participate in at times. Exceed makes no kickbacks or royalties from client advertising.
THE WEBSITE: The marketing website is a key factor in being found online, so we entirely manage and troubleshoot a fully responsive website for our clients. Any changes that need to be made (including photo changes, staff changes, etc.) are done quickly and without added cost. Exceed also manages ancillary sites, hosting and email accounts, so no one on the client’s staff has to deal with websites whatsoever. Should a client wish to leave our services, all content created for the client is transferred to the client.
BUILDING TOP “ORGANIC” RANKINGS IS KEY: Exceed’s proprietary systems and custom plugins work with the website to cause it to jump to the top in the search engine rankings, and it regularly reports what keywords the clients are ranking highly for. Ranking is important, because like “location is everything” in terms of a storefront, location in the online search engine results is everything when it comes to a client being found by parents who don’t know what to look for to help their teen; they just type in search terms like: “boarding schools,” “military schools,” “help for my teen,” etc.
Exceed knows search engines and keeps up to date on them; we attend many conference each year. We also know what keywords work to bring in qualified leads, either through “organic” search (the natural listing of sites on the search engine) or through “paid” search (or pay-per-click). Due to the complexity of online advertising, Exceed spends about half of its time just managing that (it is a daily task for each client). Some programs don’t need online advertising because they already have a strong national brand. Currently, roughly half of the programs Exceed works with do not participate in paid advertising, but as the search engines make it harder and harder to be found unless you are doing some form of advertising, most will eventually need to go into it. When they do, our online advertising experts will set it up and manage it daily, so they don’t lose their shirts on it.
To build long-tail response, over time Exceed adds hundreds of pages to our clients’ websites, all of which will be feeder pages causing parents to come to the website as they search for answers using various search “localized” terms. These pages are “white hat” and unique enough that they have never been considered “thin content” by any of the search engines. Exceed helps clients be found by searchers all over the country. Most clients achieve a doubling of site traffic from organic search each year for the first 3 years, and more gradual growth thereafter.
MARKETING AND SALES HELP AND REFERRALS: Exceed also helps client get better in the form of handling and managing leads. We have built a custom Lead Manager System that our clients use to manage and follow-up with leads and referrals. This system is forever free to our clients, even if they cancel our services.
Exceed Helps Clients Build Momentum
With boarding schools and therapeutic programs, it is paramount to be found in the search engines. If you are not found in the way that people search for such programs today — by the Internet — you will not fill your beds. And that is can be especially true if your program is in a remote area. Fact is, you may not be able to depend on attracting any more than a handful of students/residents/patients from your local area each year. Instead, you need to be able to cast a much wider net to catch the attention of people all over the nation. Furthermore, if your program or school is not especially low in cost — nor highly desired due to its reputation, location, campus, or special services — it will be difficult to pull in residents from farther than 250 miles away.
Over a number of years, new programs can build up their brand, reputation and name recognition, but to get started they will need to do a lot of “shouting” to get people’s attention, and that is incredibly costly on a national level. One way to keep costs in line is to gain “organic” (free) rankings in the search engines for important keywords (search terms) that people use to find such programs or schools. These free listings in Google, Bing and Yahoo are difficult to gain for the most important terms, since the competition is fierce and Google favors older websites. But Exceed has legal and ethical methods of doing so that are unique in the industry. One of many tactics we employ for our clients is that we somewhat covertly link all of them together, and since we have so many clients in the same industry, the search engines look at that as a mark of approval on each website in that network, even if a site has no history and little traffic so far.
So, why is it important to gain top rankings in the search engines? First, because with each drop in the position that a site shows up in the search engine results for any particular search phrase or keyword, far fewer people will find or click through to your website. The numbers of click-thru’s drop quite dramatically from search results position (SERP) #1 to #10, and then more gradually from #11 (second page of search results) down to #30. If your site in not found in the top 30 results for major related keywords, people will generally not find your program and not visit your website.
Secondly, rankings are important because the search engines apply a “relevancy factor” to the keywords that are targeted via online ads (often called “pay per click”). The cost per click is a bidding process and it can also vary widely depending on how relevant the term is to your website. This keeps advertisers who have deep pockets from monopolizing the entire web and putting their ads everywhere, regardless of how relevant their product is to the searcher. If they were allowed to do so, it would present a bad search experience for the user, and the search engine’s reputation would be damaged.
Search engines determine relevancy based on the same principles as are required to gain top organic rankings. If your website is not ranked highly for relevant keywords, it will therefore cost a lot more to bid for the terms you need to be found by, or your ads may not show up at all. And just like the organic rankings, the further your ad is down the page of search results, the less people will click on it. Generally speaking, those who bid high enough to get in the top 3 paid search results, as bolstered as well by the relevancy factor, will get 70% of all the search traffic. Those from positions #4 on down will get what is leftover and to lesser and lesser amounts the further they are away from that top slot.
The Internet works based on momentum. Traffic and rankings build or fall off based on various factors that the search engines build into their algorithms and now with Google’s “RankBrain” machine learning. Contextually relevant links from other similar sites and site traffic are still major factors to achieving top rankings and more traffic. Therefore, the traffic drawn in from paid advertising will also push up your organic rankings, and your organic rankings will push up your relevancy factor, your advertising cost will drop, and on and on it goes as momentum builds. The greater the momentum, the more people will be visiting your website and for less cost.
So, both SEO (search engine optimization) and PPC (pay per click advertising) are often required in order for people to find your website when they otherwise do not know your brand. They will search with phrases like “boarding schools for girls” or “residential treatment centers for teens” and unless your program is found by those terms (either organically or via paid ads where we bid on these key phrases), you will not get any leads.
With your each client’s participation with Exceed, you also gain free featured listings in our growing number of highly ranked directories, including:
- MilitarySchoolUSA.com – #1 military school site
- BoardingSchools.us – A top boarding school directory
Other directories are in development.
But that’s not all…a number of streams must be cultivated for generating leads in addition to your online presence and online marketing. These other streams include: referral services, counselors/therapists, schools, government officials, juvenile authorities, and social media. For the most part, national advertising venues will be too costly for most programs, but every effort should be made to gain free publicity locally, regionally and nationally.
David P. Bolthouse
Marketing Services for Residential Schools and Programs