Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

May 2010 Archives

The impact of effective online marketing on higher education websites varies quite a bit from school to school. That's not exactly a surprising revelation.

Consider these random notes after preparing a new presentation (Adult-friendly Websites: A 'Best of the Best Review') for Carol Aslanian's next Education Dynamics conference that took me through many different websites in search of the 19 examples I'll be using in Chicago next week.

  • Easy to find academic programs: For most potential future students, "adult" or not, learning what programs are offered is the first thing they want to do when starting to pick a college. Few schools make this easy to do right from the home page. One of the best "can't miss" examples is at the DeVry University home page.
  • Easy to find online programs: Online education is booming today so why not give people an quick list of everything you offer online? Too many schools require visitors to scroll through the complete list of programs to find the ones marked for online availability. Ball State University does it better on this special page for online programs.
  • Transfer credit evaluation: Most undergraduate adult students have taken courses elsewhere. One of their goals in selecting a college is to learn which of those earlier courses will transfer toward the new degree. Most schools don't seem to offer informal online evaluation of previous courses. Instead, potential students are usually told that they'll find out after they've applied and been accepted. Indiana University of Pennsylvania departs from the norm with their online evaluation page.
  • Payment options: It isn't easy to find out how people can pay for their courses. Northern Arizona University presents 4 options that easily pass the "scan and find in 5 seconds or less" test at their special "Payment Options" page.
  • Social media connections: Many but not all schools today are including icons for social media sites somewhere on their websites, although from the placement it sometimes seems that they don't want people to find them. University of Phoenix increases social media visibility by including new updates for Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube on an "Online Communities" page.
  • Quick start to Chat: I found several examples of a real-time chat opportunity. That's a good thing for people who have an immediate question about something on the website. But don't ask people to complete a detailed survey so "we can serve you better" as a requirement to send a chat question. Keep your chat form as simple as the example from Phoenix.

Those are a few examples of website features to create and/or avoid on a website with high student recruitment impact.

Best Adult Student Recruitment Website

People often ask me to recommend a single "best" website.

I'm always reluctant to do that since few sites combine the best features found by searching through many. That said, the search for examples for this presentation eliminated that reluctance. Nothing's perfect, but the best overall website I've found for adult student recruitment is at Walden University.

Graduate Student Recruitment Conference in NYC in July

If you have a special interest in recruiting graduate students, join Carol Aslanian and friends for "Graduate Student Marketing" at the Harvard Club on July 29.

Check the presenters and be a participant after you read the programs details.

That's all for now 

Social Media Empire: University of Chicago Magazine is (Almost) Everywhere

Regular readers know that I've long featured the University of Chicago's alumni magazine as an early and excellent example of moving a print publication to online status without using a PDF format or some form of "flip" technology. It has been included in every presentaton of "Writing Right for the Web" for at least 3 years.

The May-June issue of the magazine is online now.

When you visit, you'll likely see entry points at the bottom of the front page to the social media world. The magazine isn't only online at a traditional website, it has extended itself into Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube.

Check each one to get the full flavor of how the magazine is integrating itself into the social media world:

And how about the social media giant at Facebook?

Prefer an email newsletter?

If you don't find a favorite way to stay connected here and prefer the "old media" world of email, you can also sign for a bi-weekly email newsletter. Check the archives at

In the Future?

Is there an app for this? I haven't asked directly but let's not be surprised to find an app for University of Chicago coming for the iPad and similar mobile devices in the future if they continue to grow in popularity.

Stay tuned.

That's all for now 







May greetings to everyone as the first count of enrollment deposits here in the U.S. tells many of our colleges and universities how their fall enrollment classes will compare to their expectations. Best wishes that everyone had a successful early May tally.

You'll see from the first Seth Godin item below that attention is building around the transformation of higher education that started in 2007. Old school higher education marketing from the past 15 to 20 years is dead and done. Exactly what will replace it is not entirely clear, but value for money is likely to play a much more important role. Be sure to check the Eastern Michigan University entry here to see how one school is making a bold move to gain marketing advantage from this.

Adult students will grow in importance for many of our colleges and universities. That is why I am looking forward to the upcoming interaction with many adult enrollment specialists at Carol Aslanian's next adult student recruitment conference in June. To join us, register now at

Do you have a friend or professional colleague who might enjoy this newsletter? Recommend they subscribe at

And now, here are your marketing news and notes for May.
Seth Godin on the "Meltdown" in Higher Education

While he is not raising new issues for many people in higher education, a recent blog post from Seth Godin gives wider exposure to the idea that higher education as it has existed for the past 20 years or so is about to "crash and burn."

His six reasons range from dated marketing to high prices to bad accreditation requirements. All of this is in the context, of course, of the crashed economy.

For the details, check the Godin blog entry at
Berea College and Shell Oil

Fortune Magazine used the example of Berea College to highlight "scenario planning" at Shell Oil as one way for colleges to examine their alternative futures.

Fortune notes that while this might sound similar to strategic planning, the method is better suited to organizations that must contract rather than grow. And Berea is looking at a serious contraction in the total college budget from $43 million to $37 million next year and more in future years.

Read more from Fortune at
How Important is Your Home Page?

Your home page is declining in importance. Review the reasoning and the stats behind that message from Gerry McGovern at

One culprit is Google. A typical Google search for any college or university brings up 8 popular alternatives starting places to the home page, often including admissions, athletics, alumni, and academic programs.

If you have Google Analytics on your site, check the stats for "landing pages" most used by people coming to your site, especially for new visitors. You might well find that while the home page still leads, it gets less than 60 percent of new visitors. Plan to track that stat quarterly as one objective measure of the importance of your home page.
Email in the Social Media Era

If you still doubt that email is alive and well as a marketing tool (or you need to convince others on your campus), then be sure to read the Writing Matters column that reports on two different sources of the same information: the more people use social media, the more they use email.

Email is not the same tool today it was 10 years ago. That said, email remains a strong conversion technique for people interested in who you are and what you do. As always, the secret is in providing beneficial content to those you seek to influence.

Check the details at
Taglines: Take this Higher Education Quiz

After reading the last New York Times Education Quarterly, I put together a quick two-part tagline quiz based on 8 actual college and university taglines.

As you read the taglines, imagine what type of school each seems to fit. Then follow the link to the home page of the school using that tagline. Does the tagline help you imagine the college or university that uses it?

Next search the home page for the tagline. Hint: in some cases, you'll see it almost immediately. In others, you will not find it at all. Integrated marketing is not alive and well everywhere.

Take the tagline quiz at
Mobile Marketing and Fund Raising

Most of the mobile marketing attention right now is focused on student recruitment but a new generation of people is willing to donate money online. That especially important for the success of annual fund campaigns.

The inevitable result is that people are developing iPhone apps for the not-for-profit sector. For mini-reviews of three introduced earlier this year visit

Pay special attention to the caution that it might not be wise to ask for an email address right up front before a person even downloads the app.
Adult Student Recruitment and Social Media

Allow me a moment of shameless self-promotion. If adult students are an important part of your enrollment mix, read my interview with Education Dynamics on "Attracting Adult Learners in the Social Media Era" at

Recommendations include creating very clear content on transfer credit practices, including how to get an early review before applying for admission, and making this content easy to find from the first special landing page created for potential transfer students.
How Rural Students Select Colleges

The Chronicle of Higher Education summarizes results of new research on the best way to recruit rural students, particularly those that aspire to prestigious graduate schools.

The report notes that elite schools do not do well in recruiting students from rural areas. On the academic side, top rural students are very interested in attending elite graduate schools and make success at this an important criterion as they begin to search for an undergraduate institution. This is yet another indicator that outcomes information indeed is an important marketing element early in the recruitment cycle.

More on this and other factors at
Tuition Freeze to Gain Market Position

Eastern Michigan University, one of 4 large regional universities in the state, is using $300,000+ to promote a just-announced freeze on tuition, room, and board for 2010 as part of an "Affordable Tuition First" campaign.

That is not yet a position taken by other public universities in the state at a time when state funding is being reduced. EMU has created a web page to highlight tuition increases at other public universities. To see the unusual competitive online presentation visit

Details of the marketing strategy are included in an article by the Ann Arbor News at
New in Online Publishing

If you're interested in online publishing, be sure to subscribe to the new UMagazinology blog at

Content is eclectic, for sure, but topics are easy to scan for what most interests you.
Mobile Marketing 101

If you are new to the topic, visit the ClickZ column by Ron Jones for a quick summary of the technology behind four types of mobile marketing at

Jones isn't quite convinced that 2010 is indeed the often predicted mobile marketing year but if it is not, 2011 will arrive soon. All signs are that mobile will continue to grow in marketing value.
My Upcoming Presentations in 2010

Attend an upcoming conference to share questions and answers with people like yourself who are building a competitive edge in higher education marketing. Join me at one or more of these events.

May 4-6, J.Boye Philadelphia2010, Philadelphia, PA. "Perils, Pitfalls, and Pleasures: Moving Print Publications to Life Online" and Bates College case study by Jay Collier. Register at

June 3-4, Education Dynamics Aslanian Group Seminar, Marketing to Adult Students, Chicago, IL "Adult-friendly Websites: A 'Best of the Best' Review" and "Web Analytics: A Guide to Improving Recruitment Success." Register at

July 21-23, ACT Enrollment Planners Conference, Chicago, IL Pre-conference workshop, "'Mobile in the Marketing Mix': Myth and Reality for 2010 and Beyond" and conference session: "International Student Recruitment: Best Practice Website Features." Program details and registration at

July 26-28, eduWeb2010, Chicago, IL Follow the conference program as it grows at

July 29, Education Dynamics Aslanian Group Seminar, Marketing to Graduate Students, New York, NY. Register at

November 3, webinar: Academic Impressions, "Writing Right for the Web." Details coming this summer.

Increase ROI from your online marketing. Expand the writing, editing, and search marketing skills of people on your campus. Host a campus workshop on online marketing.

Contact me at
That's All for Now

Be a marketing champion on your campus.

Bob Johnson, Ph.D. (
President and Senior Consultant
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

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