Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

Hello from Atlanta. Today we are starting the Academic Impressions "Improving Your Student Recruitment Communication Plan" conference. The hashtag is #airecruitcomm if you want to follow the various sessions over the next three days on Twitter. The session schedule is at bit.ly/1O8Jdr3 

My presentations are online now. See Evaluating Your Institutional Website at bit.ly/1r7BFcW and Affordability and Financial Aid Communication at bit.ly/22FN5Cg 

If you work at a college or university, ask me for an invitation to join the Top Tasks: Higher Education Website Content group on LinkedIn. We have 152 members, most from the U.S. with others from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, Netherlands, Sweden, and Trinidad and Tobago. Discussions are an eclectic mix: raising money, academic program pages, strategic plans, library tasks and more.

Reply to this email and ask me to send you an invitation to join the Top Tasks group. 

Writing an RFP this month? Check my "6 Quick Steps to Better RFPs" at bit.ly/244kECK 
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Conference Events in July and August

July 20-21 I will be at the Connect Higher Education Summit sponsored by Learning House for a presentation on "Best Website Elements for Recruiting Online Students." Review the program and register at bit.ly/1PPWYt0 

The eduWeb Digital Summit is August 1-4 in Denver. I will do a new pre-conference workshop: "Top Task Content and Design: A Strategy for Website Marketing Success." Details at bit.ly/21A4VGp

Join 7,200+ followers on Twitter at twitter.com/HighEdMarketing for my daily marketing updates.

And now here are your June marketing news and notes.
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Cartoon of the Month: Rebranding and New Logos

Is creating a new logo part of your plan to rebrand your college or university? This Tom Fishburne cartoon will help you keep your feet on the ground. Visit bit.ly/1XsgwJ3 
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Generation Z: Revelations from Marketing Research

If you recruit high school students, research on how the younger part of the 10 to 18-year-old generation prefers to communicate deserves your attention. Preferred places to communication with one another are Vine, Instagram, and Twitter, in that order.

But do not get overly concerned with what social media is most important now. The larger message from the Center for Generational Kinetics is just how screen-focused and text-oriented these people are, including the possibility that they will be increasingly receptive to online learning. 

More at wapo.st/1WAkH4S 
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Tuition Discounting: Private Sector Freshman Rate Climbs to 48.6 Percent

NACUBO reported in May that the average tuition discount rate in the non-profit private sector for new freshman last year continued on an upward path to 48.6 percent. Yes, it is possible to have higher net revenue despite a rising discount rate. Not many of these schools are doing that. 

Sobering, if not unexpected, news as a price sensitivity plague continues to spread.

More from NACUBO at bit.ly/1O8Iead 

Can cutting tuition by 42 percent help with sticker shock and boost enrollment? First year results at Utica College are promising. See wapo.st/1UpjqHn 
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Website Design: Gerry McGovern on Zombies and Hamburger Menus

Gerry continues to cast stones at some of the more popular features of website design. For a different take on an element created first for mobile read "The Hamburger Menu and the Zombie Apocalypse" at bit.ly/1UkwHkH 

One question Gerry asks: why is the search box so hard to see on so many websites? Why not put it front and center on the page? Well, one university has done just that. See the Xavier University home page at bit.ly/1SWaUPQ 
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A Higher Ed Success Story: Increasing 4-year Graduation Rate

Today we are inundated by stories about higher education disruptions, budget challenges, enrollment failings, and brand identity changes.

To escape all that to something positive, spend a few minutes to read about how University at Buffalo increased the 4-year graduation rate of undergrad students from 35 percent to 55 percent in 10 years of steady progress. No, that is not the level of super-selective colleges and universities. But it does show what is possible outside that exalted realm. The result is a brand point of special distinction. 

More at bit.ly/1O8GvBM 
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Honest Talk About Financial Aid Awards: The Real Deal from Muhlenberg College

Do colleges and universities give some students preferential financial aid awards based on how much they want a particular person to enroll? For sure. Can you read that on higher education websites? Almost never.

And so it is worth noting again that Muhlenberg College has been up-front and honest about how financial aid decision are make for about 10 years now. If there was a Hall of Fame for Honesty in Marketing, this college for sure would have a place.

See "The Real Deal on Financial Aid" at bit.ly/1TKjG7Y
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Student Recruitment Website Myths: Take a Brief Survey

Michael Stoner and Gil Rogers are collaborating again on a new edition of their research comparing how high school students use the web in exploring college choices and how people who work in admissions, marketing, and enrollment management think high school students use the web.

The first edition was, shall we say, filled with disparities. Help Michael and Gil with the 2016 effort to see how much the gaps have closed by completing the short survey at bit.ly/1sWR0hB
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Public University Enrollments: Growth in Out-of-State Students

We continue to get interesting information from Jon Boeckenstedt at DePaul University. In this case, Jon is letting us easily track state-by-state changes in the percent of undergrad students that universities in the public sector have been enrolling between 2002 and 2012. 

You will not find many where the percent has decreased. The reasons may be many. Some of would say a primary element is a desire for the increased tuition revenue these students pay. Or, as in the case of the University of Maine, just a way to counter a falling in-state population.

Compare the change in your state with others around the country at bit.ly/1UBIUEm 
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Public Support for Higher Education: 46 States are Below 2008 Levels

One reason for the increased interest in out-of-state students noted above is the fact that in 46 states higher education funding for the public sector remains below pre-2008 recession levels. Only Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Wisconsin are higher. 

The largest decrease is in Arizona at 55.6 percent. The lowest decrease is in Alaska at just .6 percent. Find your state among the others at bit.ly/1ssXS6C 
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Marketing Communications Note: Do Not Use Prior-Prior Year with the Public

Admissions and financial aid professionals are reacting in different ways to the FAFSA change that will allow earlier filing for financial aid and possibly earlier awards. Some people predict massive disruption. Maybe chaos. Others think everything will be just fine. I vote for the latter sentiment.

Whatever your thoughts, "prior-prior year" is an example of higher education jargon that we should not be using to communication with potential students and their families. How about "New, Earlier Financial Aid Opportunity" for the next year? Or something similar. And positive. Maybe even a benefit.

Do not take the University of Cincinnati approach. Do not headline your website page so that the first thing people see when the page opens is "Prior Prior Year" at bit.ly/1U1vvW8 

For one alternative, here is a clean and simple chart that uses the "early" word twice at 1.usa.gov/1U1waH3 
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Tuition Prices and Student Debt: The Australian Example

For a look at how these two related issues are being debated in Australia, see the Times Higher Education review at bit.ly/1Xsug6y 
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Highest Room and Board Charges: The Top 10 Schools

This is a U.S. News list that most people are happy not to make. Four schools are in New York City (but not Columbia or NYU or Fordham) and two are in Boston (but not BU nor Northeastern.)

The highest 2015-2016 room and board rates are at bit.ly/1Pvap3A 
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Most Popular Topic in May Newsletter: Customer Journey Mapping

Tom Fishburne's cartoon and comments on the challenges of customer journey mapping was by far the favorite. If you missed it, visit bit.ly/1XYIBEf 
________________________________
Be a marketing champion on your campus.

Bob Johnson, Ph.D. 
President
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC
__________________________________________
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Increase your marketing success with these services. Contact me for details at bob@bobjohnsonconsulting.com 

Communication Audits
Expert Marketing Communications Website Reviews
Top Task Website Design Research with Gerry McGovern
Writing Right for the Web: Webinars, Conferences, and Campus Workshops
Competitive Website Reviews and Secret Shopping Projects
Hello in May. Now that the traditional May 1 enrollment deposit date has passed, many of you are entering the "summer season" devoted to controlling the number who might melt away and adding new people to the total. Best wishes for success to everyone.

If you work at a college or university, ask me for an invitation to join the "Top Tasks: Higher Education Website Content" group on LinkedIn. We have 116 members, most from the U.S. with others from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, Netherlands, Sweden, and Trinidad and Tobago. Discussions are an eclectic mix: raising money, academic program pages, strategic plans, library tasks, and more. 

Reply to this email and ask me to send you an invitation to join the top tasks web content group. 

Preparing an RFP soon? Visit my "6 Quick Steps to Better RFPs" at bit.ly/244kECK 
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Conference Events in June, July, August

"Improving Your Student Recruitment Communication Plan" is an Academic Impressions conference June 6-8 in Atlanta. Review the agenda and register at bit.ly/1Tf5xje to improve your enrollment conversions. My two sessions: website evaluation and affordability content.

July 20-21 I will be in Louisville at the Connect Higher Education Summit sponsored by Learning House for a presentation on "Best Website Elements for Recruiting Online Students." Check the program and register to join us at bit.ly/1PPWYt0 

The eduWeb Digital Summit is set for August 1-4 in Denver. Early discounted registration is open until May 9. Most sessions are online now at bit.ly/1Y4lXdt 

Join 7,200+ followers on Twitter at twitter.com/HighEdMarketing for my daily marketing updates.

And now here are your May marketing news and notes.
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Cartoon of the Month: Customer Journey Mapping vs. the Marketing Funnel

The marketing funnel concept was created in 1898. More than 115 years ago. Might it be time to move away from the funnel concept in admissions?

See the Cartoon of the Month at bit.ly/1XYIBEf 
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Emoji Marketing: Innovation at the New School

Can emoji carefully created to represent what is best about your school help your student recruitment communications? Objective evidence is not in yet, but if you like to stay abreast of new ideas you will want to learn more about the new emoji venture at the New School.

Read the details of how it was done using Snapchat and download the "NEWmoji" board for iPhone or Android when you start at bit.ly/1pX9BZ9 
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10 University Website Design Guidelines: Update from the Nielsen Norman Group

The people who have spent as much or more time as anyone on the planet studying what makes websites work and what does not have just updated an earlier report on "University Websites: Top 10 Design Guidelines." Must reading for your marketing team.

Some things have changed, some have not. My new favorite, but not new to the guidelines: the perils of being "cool." You will also find advice on "about" content, academic programs, photos and more at bit.ly/1VHloJ6
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Content Strategy: Take Note of the "Most Career-Minded Generation"

The Atlantic reviews the results of research from the venerable UCLA survey of new freshmen: today's generation of college students is more interested than in the past in the monetary results they can expect from their college degree. That means more than restating the higher life-time earning potential of a college graduate vs. a high school graduate. 

If you need more evidence to convince people on your campus to create more easily accessible content about the jobs and earnings of your students in the years after graduation, start with The Atlantic article at theatln.tc/1SzHvPd 
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Perils of Testing a New Logo: The Emerson College Video

Emerson College had an itch to create a new logo. And as usual, not everyone was pleased at the result. Two enterprising Emerson students took to the streets of Boston to ask other Emerson students what they thought of the new image. The comments will make the creative folk cringe. 

Watch the "Emerson Reacts to New School Logo" video and decide for yourself if the investment was worth the result at bit.ly/1rrcv9M 
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Blessedly Brief Inquiry Forms: A Professional School Example

The longer you make an inquiry form on your website, the fewer people will complete it. Forms that require only basic information to respond to a potential student will do best. Undergrad forms, for example, often ask for far too much personal information. Graduate and professional schools set a better example.

A recent online ad from the Medill School at Northwestern University took people to a very simple form: First and last name, phone and email, and planned date of entry. That was it. See a blessedly brief inquiry form example at bit.ly/1Yty4B1 
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Website Speed: A Financial Times Test

The Financial Times is planning for a new website. As part of that plan, research was conducted on the impact of various reductions in site speed on visitor engagement, measured in part by the number of articles read. Results for smartphone, tablet, and desktop visitors were gathered.

Overall, slower speed indeed reduced visitor engagement. Results differed somewhat by device. Mobile users, for instance, were somewhat more patient than desktop users. For details of the study to share with your web team visit bit.ly/1Y3w0jk 
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Marketing Campaigns: No Longer Relevant?

Victoria Grieshammer wants us to abandon traditional marketing campaigns and adopt the idea of continuous conversation with the people we hope will enroll with us. And she makes a convincing case for why the idea of a "marketing campaign" locks us into thinking in a way that does not work well in this digital era.

See her 7 points about "Starting Conversations with Your Audience" at bit.ly/1SVhtoq
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Usability Testing: 8 Variations Defined

If you are thinking about website upgrades or just want to review your options for a continuing review of your site, the Optimal Workshop web usability guide is a great place to start. 

You will find a 5-point definition of "usability" followed by brief and clear definitions of 8 types of usability tests, including recommendations on how to best combine various approaches.

Author Alan O'Neil makes this important point: No matter the resources you have, "there is always something you can do." Check the possibilities at bit.ly/1rOgQob 
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Transfer Students: 10 Schools that Enroll the Highest Numbers

US News is issuing a serious of short reports culled from the data collected from their annual ratings survey. And thus, this report.

The University of Central Florida leads the way with 6,299 students after a 65 percent acceptance rate. In 10th place is the University of North Texas with 3,756 students and a 76.4 percent admit rate. Most selective is Cal State - Long Beach, enrolling 3,833 transfers after a 33.3 percent acceptance rate.

Check the full list at bit.ly/1ObYe5S 
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A "Dangerous Obsession" with Elite Universities: Only 4 Percent Attend Them

Jeff Selingo draws attention in the Washington Post to the "dangerous" results for higher education policy of an excessive fascination with the practices, including admissions rates, of a very small number of schools that enroll a very small percent of the people going to college. Elite schools, in his definition, admit 25 percent or less of their applicants.

Actual admit rates are rising at more schools. Regional public universities enroll 40 percent of the people attending college. All public universities enroll 80 percent of the U.S. college population. Find more data to bring us down to earth and closer to reality at wapo.st/26LRjvC 
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Most Popular Topic in April Newsletter: "Ultimate Web Writing Cheat Sheet"

Good to see that last month people were in the mood to improve the quality of their web writing. Tips start with the value of page title tags for SEO results and move on from there atbit.ly/1M7rI9o 
________________________________
Be a marketing champion on your campus.

Bob Johnson, Ph.D. 
President
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC
__________________________________________
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Increase your marketing success with these services. Contact me for details at bob@bobjohnsonconsulting.com 

Communication Audits
Expert Marketing Communications Website Reviews
Top Task Website Design Research with Gerry McGovern
Writing Right for the Web: Webinars, Conferences, and Campus Workshops
Competitive Website Reviews and Secret Shopping Projects

An April hello to everyone. And best wishes for a successful enrollment deposit time as that traditional May 1 date approaches colleges and universities here in the U.S.

Are you interested in content marketing strategy and web design to quickly and easily meet visitor expectations? Do you work at a college or university?

If "yes" is your answer to both questions, ask me for an invitation to join a new LinkedIn group,Top Tasks: Higher Education Website Content. We have 102 early members, most from the U.S. with others from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, Netherlands, Sweden, and Trinidad and Tobago. Discussions underway include alumni donations, library tasks, top task results for student recruitment, and the tension between strategic plan priorities and website content task priorities. 

Email me at bob@bobjohnsonconsulting.com and ask me to send you an invitation.
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Conference Events in June, July, August

Improving Your Student Recruitment Communication Plan is an Academic Impressions conference June 6-8 in Atlanta. Review the sessions and register at bit.ly/1Tf5xje 

July 20-21 I will be in Louisville at the Connect Higher Education Summit sponsored by Learning House. Check the details and register to join us at bit.ly/1PPWYt0 

The eduWeb Digital Summit is set for August 1-4 in Denver. Early discounted registration is open and most sessions are online now at bit.ly/1Y4lXdt 

Join 7,200+ followers on Twitter at twitter.com/HighEdMarketing for my daily marketing updates.

And now here are your April marketing news and notes.
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Cartoon of the Month: Virtual Reality as a Shiny Object

Are you talking on your campus about the potential of VR as a marketing tool? 

Cost to purchase the headsets aside, circulate this Tom Fishburne cartoon before you chase too quickly after the latest shiny new object from SXSW. Laugh and think about the future atbit.ly/1RQPWAZ 
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300 Best Value Colleges: The New Forbes Ratings

Forbes is out with the 2016 listing of 300 "best value" colleges and universities. While public research universities dominate the top levels, you will find a much more varied list as you scroll through to see how you and your competitors fared.

You can sort by public or private sectors, bring up an alpha list that includes individual rankings, or search by name for a school of special interest when you visit atonforb.es/1X4bQ8g 
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April Fool's with a Bite: Difficult Website Designs Are Better 

April Fool's day is past but the 5-point Nielsen Norman Group critique of website designs that are too simple has lasting value. Struggling with difficult design elements will make people better humans. And is that not a worthy goal for colleges and universities? 

Start with "Make navigation joyfully surprising" and end with "Gamify the user experience" atbit.ly/1Y4Bmum 
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March Madness: 2016 Net Price Madness Bracket

Robert Kelchen, assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, has a special interest in pricing, costs, and discounts. For the 4th year he has created a March Madness basketball bracket based on the invited "colleges with the lowest net price of attendance."

Over the first three years his picks have won just two games (Wichita State in 2015). See how he did this year when you check his bracket at bit.ly/1X6Smjt 
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Too Many Student Inquiries: 3 Steps to Reduce Your Numbers

If your future student inquiry pool is too large, these 3 steps will help reduce the number using your online inquiry form. First, require a user name and password before starting the form. Second, ask people for the exact date of their high school graduation. Third, require the high school CEEB code.

If you would like more inquiries from potential students who visit your website, copy this blessedly brief "Request Information" form from St. Mary's University at bit.ly/1UuX7W6 
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Student Recruitment: Does the Admissions Funnel Still Make Sense?

The funnel concept survives and thrives in student recruitment conversations and plans despite the advent of stealth applicants, digital communications, rapid-response expectations and more. But should it?

In an AdAge article Jason John argues that "In Today's Digital World, the Sales Funnel is Dead." Yes, the focus of this article is on consumer sales. But the primary point is applicable to higher education: we can no longer control the order in which a person seeks information for a enrollment decision or when they will seek it. Old style marketing communications plans, designed to create movement through a funnel from awareness to enrollment, no longer work as well as they once did.

Find more on how people think and act in the digital era and the adaptations we must make to influence them at bit.ly/21Xs301 
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Writing Right for the Web: An "Ultimate Web Writing Cheat Sheet"

Here is a quick easy-to-review list of the basics from Aimee Beck. Print copies or send the link to anyone on your campus who prepares web content, especially the people in various departments who do not do this on a regular basis.

This is especially valuable if you are interested in search results. The cheat sheet starts by reminding us that the title tag on a web page remains the most important element in getting a good search response. Anyone responsible for content on a web page should also be responsible for the title tag on that page.

See more good tips at bit.ly/1M7rI9o 
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College & University Presidents: Inside Higher Ed 2016 Survey Results

What do 727 public and private sector college presidents think about these 6 topics: Race relations, Presidential selection, College Scorecard, President Obama and higher education, Guns on campus, and Budget and finances?

Opinions differ more in some areas than others. Most presidents (84 percent) believe that race relations on their campuses are good to excellent. And most (88 percent) do not believe that letting students carry concealed guns on campus will make them safer. Opinion is more divided on whether or not President Obama's "overall treatment of education" has been good, with 41 percent giving the president an A or B and 29 percent a D or F. 

Read a summary of results and download the complete 27-page PDF report at bit.ly/1Y6wxAt 
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Faster Website Speed: 8 Tips from Target Marketing

Kylie Lobell does not think we pay enough attention to website speed as an important marketing element. I agree.

In her article for Target Marketing, Kylie reviews 8 steps that taken together can improve the speed and thus the visitor experience on a website. My two favorites were the 1st (Identify Speed Issues using Google PageSpeed Insights) and the 6th (Forget the Fancy Home Page).

The complete array of 8 tips to improve your website speed is at bit.ly/1SvajEn 
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Digital Marketing: 5 Myths to Remember

Do you agree with Benny Coen that your website and your email are more important for your marketing success than your social media presence?

Social media is not unimportant but controlled expectations and attention to website and email will produce happier marketers. Coen notes that when top brands post on Facebook only 6 percent of their followers see the posts. 

Wise words to help you plan more successful marketing in the digital era at bit.ly/1RCYv2U 
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Most Popular Topic in March Newsletter: 22 Higher Ed Top Task Websites

"Best Practices for Top Task Web Design: 22 Higher Ed Examples" was the most popular item last month. Visit the presentation slides at bit.ly/1Rr78Qb 
________________________________
Be a marketing champion on your campus.

Bob Johnson, Ph.D. 
President
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC
__________________________________________
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Increase your marketing success with these services. Contact me for details at bob@bobjohnsonconsulting.com 

Top Task Website Research with Gerry McGovern
Communication Audits
Expert Marketing Communications Website Reviews
Writing Right for the Web: Webinars, Conferences, and Campus Workshops
Competitive Website Reviews and Secret Shopping Projects
March greetings. Today's newsletter arrives while I am at an Academic Impressions conference with old colleagues and new friends as we explore the best steps forward in a website redesign. Follow along today and tomorrow morning on Twitter at #aiWebRedesign. 

My presentations from the website redesign conference are online now. "Best Practices for Top Task Web Design: 22 Higher Ed Examples" is at bit.ly/1Rr78Qb and "Key Web Writing Principles for Higher Education" is at bit.ly/21kE1pJ 

Either session is available in a version customized for presentation on your campus. Contact me at bob@bobjohnsonconsulting.com 

Last week I finished the second of a two-part interview with Rob Liesland at Xavier University on how Xavier came to create the most unusual website home page in higher education. Start with the Part 1 at bit.ly/1OiKfJY and continue to Part 2 at bit.ly/21uHv5q 
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Conference Events in June, July

"Improving Your Student Recruitment Communication Plan" is the topic of an Academic Impressions conference June 6-8 in Atlanta. Review the session and register at bit.ly/1Tf5xje 

July 20-21 I will be in Louisville at the Connect Higher Education Summit sponsored by Learning House. Check the details at bit.ly/1PPWYt0 

Join 7,135+ followers on Twitter at twitter.com/HighEdMarketing for my daily marketing updates.

And now here are your March marketing news and notes.
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Cartoon of the Month: Personas, Helpful or Silly?

They can be either one, of course. If not done with restraint, they can reflect what marketers think they should reflect rather than reality. 

Wise words from marketing cartoonist Tom Fishburne after his "Buyer Personas" cartoon are atbit.ly/1oKRHZX 
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Increasing Online Inquiries: 7 Landing Page Flaws to Avoid

If you are not getting as many online enrollment inquiries as you wish, check "Landing Page Flaws that Kill Your Conversions" from Kissmetrics. 

The first flaw is especially important and often found in higher education: Too much information required. Two others included here: too much text and, especially for mobile, too slow to download.

For the complete list to check to start increasing your landing page conversions, seebit.ly/24t28l5 
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Breakpoint: Reviewing the Changing Higher Education Marketplace

Here is a new book from Jon McGee, vice president for planning and public affairs at the College of St. Benedict and Saint John's University, on change faced by public and private sector schools. 

Books on change in higher education certainly are not scarce. I have not yet read this one but am including it here after reading an interview with the author that included questions on pricing (complex and not seldom understood by people outside admissions and financial aid) and probable closings (not many likely but expect severe strain on quality of life elements). 

Decide if you want to read "Breakpoint: The Changing Marketplace for Higher Education" after checking the interview at bit.ly/1QBReit 
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Financial Aid Awards: 3 TV Shows Include Family Reactions to Awards

Laugh or cry as you read the script from 3 TV shows with episodes about the family reaction to opening a financial aid award package in a newsletter prepared for clients by a college counselor.

Note that the counselor, in responding to a comment, advises that "There is no rhyme or reason to how financial aid departments disperse aid" that lets people compare awards from different schools.

Decide how real the TV scenarios are when you visit bit.ly/24thea6 
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Admissions Applications: Before Sending Get a Review from Admission Counselors

People who want extra advice about the strength of an admissions application can get it from an "Admissions Checkup" service.

For $399 for a first application and $179 for additional apps, 3 former admissions counselors will read an application and provide advice on how to make it stronger. People in a hurry can add $175 for expedited service in 24 to 36 hours.

Admissions officers doing the review have worked at the 49 public and private sector schools you can see on the site, starting with Assumption College and ending with Yale University.

Start your visit at bit.ly/1LKjMW2 
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Muhlenberg College: Mandatory Mentor Program for New Students

Retention rates have assumed new importance in higher education marketing. A new program at Muhlenberg College offers an interesting option other schools might consider to have a positive impact on retention early in the college experience.

The Muhlenberg plan requires every new student to have a parent or alumni mentor who matches their career interests. The program is mandatory for a single course but students can continue on after that if they wish.

While this seems a challenge to organize and execute, the potential is high. The plan was introduced by the college's new president. More details are at bit.ly/1UoEwJU 
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Writing Right for the Web: New Typography Trends

Stay up-to-date with what you might expect to see from your creative design friends and agencies by reviewing "Typography Trends Every Marketer Should Have on Their Radar."

Remember 3 basic points: accept only fonts that people can scan quickly when a page opens, do not use a font size so small that you make people squint to read them, and make sure you have high contrast between text and background. And you might want to avoid the "swirly and curly serifs" included here.

More on what to expect in 2016 at bit.ly/1UoDg9E 
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Website Design: Nielsen Norman Group on Thriving in the Mobile World

With the initial rush to convert large screen sites to responsive design sites for mobile viewing behind us, the Nielsen Normal group is here with a review of the present-day options for website design. You'll find mobile apps, mobile-only sites, responsive design, and large-screen only sites covered here.

For insight into the usability pros and cons of the various approaches, including 8 comparison points between "mobile-dedicated" and responsive sites, visit bit.ly/1LKgAcQ 
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Most Popular Topic in February Newsletter: For the First Time, a Tie

An equal number of people clicked to visit the Cartoon of the Month on the challenge of matching creative efforts with brand reality (at bit.ly/1nqNMQJ) and my LinkedIn article on "6 Great Website Examples for Engagement and Top Task Completion" (at bit.ly/1mfWFMl). 
________________________________
Be a marketing champion on your campus.

Bob Johnson, Ph.D. 
President
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC
__________________________________________
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Increase your marketing success with these services. Contact me for details at bob@bobjohnsonconsulting.com 

Communication Audits
Expert Marketing Communications Website Reviews
Top Task Website Design Research with Gerry McGovern
Writing Right for the Web: Webinars, Conferences, and Campus Workshops
Competitive Website Reviews and Secret Shopping Projects
Xavier University Story Continues: Creating the Most Distinctive Home Page in Higher Education

Last week I presented the first two answers to questions I sent along last year to Xavier to learn more about how they decided to position a "Search" box and the dominant feature of the university's home page. 

Here today are the next two answers from Rob Riesland, Director for Web Services in the Marketing and Communications Office. If you missed the first two questions and answers, you can start with those first if you wish.

Thumbnail image for IMG_0913.PNG

What did you do to ensure that your "search" function worked well enough to make this change?

Nailing the search was the key to making this work. We decided to enhance our current Google CSE (free version) by implementing our own, manually-maintained autocomplete script on top of the Google search. This gives us the fine-grained control that we desire.

To start off with, we automatically added every academic program to the search suggestions. The analytics tell us that this is one major area that prospective students are looking for. We also added all of the university offices, in their own category, with a lower priority than the academic programs.

We also added general search terms. We have been tracking search for years and know what people are looking for during different times of the year. We set minimum annual and monthly thresholds for search counts and used that data to add important search terms to the suggestions. This data is reviewed on a regular basis, with slightly lowered thresholds each time, and new items are added as needed.

Lastly, we told everyone on campus what we were doing, asked them to search for items that are important to their department, and let us know if there is anything we need to do differently. We did not receive much feedback from this round, but I think it was an important part of the process.

Over the past few months we have added several items to the search as needed. This is an important ability that allows us to adjust as needed and as requested by the departments on campus.

How will you measure success going forward? Who is responsible for monitoring results?

We measure success in two ways:

Are people using the results? We have extensive analytics on the search box and we track if people are using the search suggestions or if they default to the standard search. It should be noted that we also display up to 4 suggestions on the traditional results page, in case people make it that far.

We are also looking at user behavior over time, tracking how many site visitors, especially external, use the search vs the traditional navigation techniques.

The new information architecture of the whole site requires regular review and looking at the search box will certainly be part of that. This process will be run by the Office of Marketing and Communications, in collaboration with other departments on campus.


Marketing Opportunity: Learning more about Top Tasks and Carewords

There is of course, great marketing opportunity here. 

I'll be looking forward to learning more about what "new" or first-time visitors search for most often. That's a key indicator of the top tasks that website visitors want to complete. And creating a website that let's people complete their top tasks as quickly and easily as possible is more important to marketing success than anything else on the site. 

Especially important: Are visitors searching for content that is not already on the website? And if it is present, what happens when visitors land on the page with that content?

This is also a fine opportunity to learn more about the language people, especially future students, use. Those are the "carewords" that will engage people throughout a website.

That's all for now.

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Bob Johnson
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