by Jayson Schmidt, Preseason
Last week, I made the case for why your department’s athletics website probably doesn’t help you own your brand or recruit better. This week, we’re taking a look at how to get started with a recruiting site and some custom solutions.
The management of your recruiting site goes down one of two different paths––– “all-in-one” packages that manage most of the process for you or self-managed solutions that give you more freedom and responsibility. Here’s how they differ:
– Website builders are all-in-one solutions that combine hosting (the server that houses all your web files) with a web builder. Think of companies like Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly.
– Self-managed sites are hosted on a server of your choice (we often use Bluehost) and allow you to install the programs, add-ons, and software you prefer (like WordPress.org).
#ProTip: WordPress.com offers several paid tiers of service, while WordPress.org is a free, open-source software you can install on any server. Nowadays, server solutions like Bluehost also give you the ability to manage WordPress automatically without any installs.
– Website builders make it easy to design your site with a no-code interface. You’re often limited by the templates provided and users have zero access to a “backend” with more options.
– Self-managed sites give users the ability to make a fully-customized solution. You’re only limited by the amount of time or your technical expertise.
– Website builders are like renting a home. You don’t own anything except for what you put in it. You’ll pay monthly for as long as you want a recruiting site. Depending on the solution, you may have trouble “moving out” if their web builder is unique, too.
– Self-managed sites are like owning a home. Everything is yours, you can make it look exactly how you want it to look, and you can move it at any time. There are greater upfront costs, but lower monthly charges and therefore less expensive long-term.
– Website builders can be created in the $14-40/month price range and are cheaper if you prepay one year in advance. Most include a free domain name for one year.
– Self-managed sites can be hosted for as cheap as $2/month. Many include a free domain name for one year.
Note: Managed WordPress solutions are self-hosted with a faster and more intuitive setup, while also giving you the ability to customize your recruiting site on the backend. Their prices are comparable to hosted sites.
There are positives and negatives to every approach. Despite having a heavy coding background, I opted to use Squarespace at my last school because I didn’t have the time to code beautiful things. For the first year, we were able to create our site for $72 (half of the normal rate, though Squarespace no longer runs an education discount). It turned into a cost-effective and visually appealing solution that we ran until our department wanted to bring the idea to every team.
Remember the three E’s? Your recruit’s digital experience should be easy, efficient, and enticing.
If you can achieve that using the steps above, you shouldn’t wait another moment. Recruits are looking for key differentiating factors along their journey –– how you tell your story is one of them.
This article is the second in a series on custom-built recruiting sites and the sixth in a series on athletics branding. Jayson Schmidt is a former NCAA Division II head coach and managing partner of Preseason, a creative agency that helps colleges win.
Struggling with your brand or just simply want an edge on the competition? Preseason can elevate your story and deliver it to recruits, fans, and donors.