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 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 best therapeutic boarding schools, military schools, and private academies and rehabs. It focuses on the Internet since that is where people look for such programs and schools today. Exceed handles all of the marketing and technical aspects, 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: Exceed’s concept from the beginning has been to do everything under one flat fee, which is also far less than what most firms charge for this 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.
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. The work is all done behind the scenes with little interaction. But don’t worry because the Exceed team take a lot of time up front to learn and understand the client’s standards, positioning, history and terminology. Exceed has been working in this niche for over ten years now, after previously coming from a strong brand consulting background, so brand protection and positioning are built into everything Exceed does.
When the Exceed team sees something that is needed to be done to push a client forward, they dive into it with no added cost to the client. When they see a client’s engine rankings slipping or leads falling off, they are “all hands on deck” to do whatever it takes to turn that around. They spend a great deal of time and expense up front getting each client to be ranked highly nationally on the major search engines. That also include managing online advertising, which many larger clients need participate in at times. Exceed makes no kickbacks or royalties from managing advertising.
THE WEBSITE: The marketing website is a key factor in being found online, so Exceed entirely manages and troubleshoots that for its clients. Any changes that need to be made (including photo changes, staff changes, etc.) are done quickly and without added cost. Exceed also manages hosting and email accounts, so no one on the client’s staff has to deal with their website whatsoever. Client sites are created in WordPress, so if the client wishes to make changes themselves, or manage the site after leaving us, they can do so through an easy interface.
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 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. At this point, 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.
Back to your website, over time Exceed adds hundreds of pages to client 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. Many parents look for a program or school in their own back yard, and yet most therapeutic programs don’t want kids from close by due to runaway risk, so 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 gradual growth thereafter.
MARKETING AND SALES HELP AND REFERRALS: Exceed also helps client get better in the form of handling and managing leads.
Again, if at any time along a client wishes to pull out, the website, domain, and all Exceed creative work will be the theirs to use. Exceed will give the client the passwords and back out of it immediately. The only down side for the clients at that point is that the links and Exceed’s proprietary plugins (to help search engine placement) will be removed, so the client will gradually fall back in rankings.
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:
- BoardingSchools.us – top boarding school directory
- MilitarySchoolUSA.com – #1 military school site
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
Exceed Marketing Solutions, LLC – A California Corporation
1921 Grant Avenue #A, Redondo Beach, CA 90278