When events are canceled, how do you find families?

Have your events been canceled due to the Coronavirus? Ours have too. It’s been an inconvenience but one thing we know for sure. Our agency is still recruiting foster parents.

Actually, we have a tool we use that acts like an employee working 24/7 solely on recruiting. So, we don’t have a need for large gathering events. How is this possible? Our website does all the work for us. It is our “employee.”

Just five short years ago, we would have been in a panic had the Coronavirus come out then and shut down our events. We were reliant on events to bring in potential foster parent leads. The only way to bring in new leads at the time (besides referrals) was to find a local event, put up a booth, hand out fliers, have a gift basket drawing, and layout a clipboard for potential foster parent information. And now? We all know that for the moment, those events have ended.

Are you feeling the strain and worry? The country still has just as many, if not more, children who need a safe place to lay their head at night. How will we ever find more parents if we can’t attend events?

Child abuse and neglect will spike in times of stress.

In these unprecedented times, when large segments of the country are under a shelter-in-place order, the unemployment rate has skyrocketed, and people are worried about having food on their tables. Unfortunately, one thing is certain- child abuse and neglect will also spike. This is not a time to be lax in finding foster parents for your agency. It is quite the opposite. Children need foster homes now more than ever and potential foster parents need to find your agency.

Your website is the answer.

Right now, it might seem counterintuitive to work on improving your website when so much seems uncertain. But to keep your agency up and running for the long haul, this is exactly what you need to do.

Industries that have been shut down are pivoting. Many coffee shops and restaurants are now offering curbside pickup and delivery which for many wasn’t an option before. I have seen some restaurants and even a local hair salon turn their focus into becoming a grocery or essential supplies store. Last night, I personally ordered a grocery kit for 4 from a local restaurant that had added this new service to their website. This ingenuity might be the only way for businesses to survive this trying time. The only way that foster agencies can pivot is to help people find their websites.

How can you make your website work for you?

A couple of basic questions:

  1. Do you have an application on your site?
  2. Do you have a contact form?
  3. How about a FAQ page about the foster parent certification process?

And the biggest question of all: Can Google find your website, read it, and rank it in their search results according to the most relevant keywords people are using?

Many people think that if they build a visually appealing website and hit the publish button, their website will automatically appear in Google’s search results. Unfortunately, it is a bit more complicated than that. That’s why Google has Certified Partners in the field who specialize in these kinds of things. I’m not a SEO expert but I will explain it to you as I understand it.

Once your website goes live and is ready for Google to start ranking it in search results, it is important to submit a Site Map in the Google Search Console.  Google robots will use it to crawl your site. Google will then rank your site on its search listings based on a multitude of factors, but the number one thing it’s looking for is keywords. AKA, what people are searching for on Google compared to what your website content is about.

There are plenty of free keyword research tools out there, but the most effective one (since you’ll be using it anyway) is the Google Search Console. You’ll find the Performance Report inside which will show you  pages on your site that are getting the most clicks. You can use this to find Opportunity Keywords. These are keywords which are ranking lower on Google that you can include on your website and start ranking higher.

The Google Keywords Planner is a common starting point for researching new keywords in an industry. This tool “gives you insight into how often certain words are searched and how those searches have changed over time. This can help you narrow your keyword list down to the ones you really want.”

Google Trends is another tool that will help you along the way. When we observe people’s searching trends, we’ll be able to figure out the language and keywords to use in our copywriting.

Take the words “foster care” and “adoption” for example:

We can see that there are a lot more searches for adoption than foster care.

In fact, 30-40% of foster kids go into adoption.

Maybe people in your region don’t fully understand how adoption through foster care works. So, you can use the search volume difference as an opportunity to educate people and gain new foster families.

Creating new and engaging website content should be a key part of your marketing and foster parent recruiting plan. You can hire a professional blog or content writer to help you. But if you haven’t worked up to that yet, hire someone in-house who is passionate about marketing or has some experience in blog writing. Having a blog on your website shows Google that you are updating your site and offering fresh content. This will keep the Google bots and ranking algorithms happy.

Pivoting and keeping up with current marketing tactics is essential in business today. While not everything can be done online, we have seen that many things can be moved that way. From online orientations to finding potential parents, it’s important that we use all the resources available to us to help children in need. How nice it is to have an “employee” that works for you 24/7?

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