Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

January 2011 Archives

Increasing the Marketing Power of Higher Education Websites

Do you rely on FAQ pages on your website to answer the most "frequently asked questions" about your university or an office within it?

And if you do, are these really, truly the most frequently asked questions?

And if the first questions people see on an FAQ page really are asked frequently, why are those not prominent in the navigation? A true FAQ is a "top task" that deserves a prominent place in the navigation scheme of your site.

When I review websites, two FAQS that often appear at the top of an admissions FAQ page tell me that people are not approaching this from a marketing perspective: "When were you founded?" and "What is your mission?" are questions that I'd bet real money are seldom heard by admissions reps at recruitment events.

Avoid "lucky bag" Solutions

Yesterday my Customer Carewords partners Gerry McGovern and Gord Hopkins presented a webinar on "Web Customer Support Best Practice." That's when I heard Gerry use a phrase that was new to me, "lucky bag," as an apt description of a person's probability of finding the FAQ item of interest when they arrive at most FAQ pages.

Rather than really answering frequent questions, most FAQ pages reflect internal political decisions similar to those that create "Quick Links" or are used as another form of public relations to present what an organization would like people to read about itself. Even when that's not the case, FAQs often grow in length in an unrealistic attempt to include far too many questions that might be asked sometime by somebody, regardless of frequency.

Best to Dump FAQ Pages

In response to a question at the end of the webinar, Gord gave the answer that fits most often: "It is usually better to dump them" than to keep FAQs on a site and risk frustrating visitors who will not find what they need to find on the site.

If you truly know that something is frequently asked about, consider it a top task and change your navigation to reflect the importance it has. The marketing power of your website will improve as a results.

Download the Webinar

If you missed the webinar, you can download the slides and a recording of the wise words at http://www.customercarewords.com/webinar-previous.html

That's all for now 

·  Join me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HighEdMarketing

· Subscribe to "Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter" at http://www.bobjohnsonconsulting.com/newsletter-subscribe.html 

 

 

Best wishes for a very happy new year to all 4,000+ subscribers, old and new. I am looking forward to another fine year of conference presentations, webinars, and client projects as we explore together the always challenging world of higher education marketing.

If you have something special to share with your colleagues, consider submitting a proposal to SUNY CUAD or eduWeb2011. The call for papers is open for both meetings. Check SUNY CUAD at bit.ly/gSDCq9 and eduWeb2011 at bit.ly/hHrEvS

My own 2011 presentations start this year with two in January: the NAGAP Winter Institute in Fort Lauderdale (Social Media and Graduate Student Recruitment) at bit.ly/gvZ5Sp and a Magna Publications webinar (6 New Essential Elements in Web-Based Marketing) at bit.ly/eWt1BY

Gerry McGovern, my partner in Carewords research, has a free webinar upcoming January 17 on Web Customer Support Best Practice. Register at bit.ly/gDfNeU

Late in December I took a few quiet moments to reflect on the past year. Visit my blog at bit.ly/huH54q for "Higher Education Marketing and the Future: 8 Notes from 2010."

Refer a friend to subscribe to this newsletter in 30 seconds at bit.ly/17Letl

And now here are your first marketing news and notes this year.
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Best Values at Public Colleges & Universities

New York wins the top 2 places in Kiplinger's 2011 report on "best value" public schools for out-of-state students. SUNY Binghamton takes the first spot, followed by SUNY Geneseo.

UNC at Chapel Hill does best overall, taking first spot for in-state students and third for out-of-state students.

See how your school fared against competitors, including average debt at graduation, when you visit www.kiplinger.com/tools/colleges/
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3 Myths: How College Students Use the Web

Jakob Nielsen tested 43 college students from four countries including the United States to learn more about how they use the web. Tests like this shed insight on web use that every marketer and web designer ignores with peril. If you recruit graduate students right from college, pay special attention.

Myth #2 is especially important: "Students Crave Multimedia and Fancy Design." What students really crave is the ability to complete tasks quickly, with a minimum of effort.

Check the other myths at www.useit.com/alertbox/students.html
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Recruiting Without Paper: 2011 Update

This was a popular topic at my conference workshops and tutorials in 2009, particularly speculation on the future of the printed view book.

News from the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show suggests that indeed printed view books may well vanish 3 to 5 years from now if the rapid adoption of iPad-like tablets takes place as anticipated.

Plan for a future recruiting students without printed view books after you read about how people are discovering practical reasons to own a tablet in the AdAge article at bit.ly/gGM6lO
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Tips to Optimize Press Releases for SEO Visibility

Most colleges and universities do not do an especially fine job of exploiting the potential of press releases for increased search engine visibility.

Search engines like new content and press releases are added to websites regularly. That might be a winning combination for SEO. But scan most releases and you will not find much use of the internal links that search engines use to explore a website in depth when they exist. Page title tags sometimes do not reflect the specific topic of the release.

Website Magazine offers the click-through link tip and other easy steps to gain more SEO advantage from your existing press release content at bit.ly/hxP0zx
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Law School Marketing: Less than Truthful?

The Sunday Business section of the New York Times yesterday included a leading story strongly suggesting that many law schools were less than honest with future students about their prospects for success as lawyers.

The tone of the article is set by the subhead: "Deans Say Graduates are Working. They Don't Say How Many Are at Home Depot." Why not? According to the Times, pressure to maintain enrollments that generate large classes and high net revenue is intense.

Take an excursion into another PR challenge for higher education when you read the story at nyti.ms/dNNkdN
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Social Media Marketing: Start a Mash-up Page in 2011

Are you making people scurry around the Internet to find out what you have on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and everywhere else?

Patrick Powers has pulled together a list of the "best social media mash-ups in higher education" at bit.ly/iiVjMK that includes University of Maryland - Baltimore County, Missouri State Tufts, Vanderbilt, William and Mary, and the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Visit to find screen shots and links to websites that combine recent social media postings from a variety of places on a single website page. Be sure to read the comments from people adding new locations.
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Early Decision Apps Boom for 2011; Admits a Different Story

In 2006 binding early decision programs were under fire as discriminating against people who could not afford to surrender the lure of competitive merit scholarships and financial aid awards in return for guaranteed admission to their first choice school. Harvard, Princeton, and University of Virginia abolished binding early decision programs. Few followed them.

Early admission applications are booming in 2011, according to stats reported in the EducationLife supplement of the NY Times. Of 39 schools listed, 32 have seen increases for 2011 entry. Admits, on the other hand, were up at only 9 of the schools and were down by as much at 51 percent at University of Richmond.

Most of the 39 have used early admission to fill large percents of their freshmen class. Five have filled 40 percent or more of the places. Twenty others have 30 to 39 percent of their classes in hand. Boston University is the only school in single digits, with 9 percent of an estimated 4,000 new freshmen.

Check the list from American University to Williams College at nyti.ms/gPocaX
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Top 10 Ad Agency Website Design Mistakes

Higher education can plan to improve website impact by reviewing this list of 10 design mistakes common in the advertising world. The first two are my favorites: bad search and using PDFs for regular content that people are expected to read online.

Check your site against the other top mistakes at bit.ly/feeL20
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Future of Email on College Campuses

Frankly, I was surprised by the response to this news when I did a tweet on it last week: at least 7 RTs and over 70 visitors to an InsideHigherEd story reviewing the official and unofficial ways in which email will continue to play an important role on college campuses.

The marketing lesson: "old" forms of communication often evolve rather than disappear and for at least the immediate future that is true of email. Plan to continue to include email in your student recruitment communication plans. Teens and adults will indeed read it as a valuable source of official information from schools that interest them.

The original story on "How Will Students Communicate?" is at bit.ly/fDgl16
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Public Relations and Higher Education

You really have to wonder just how dense people can sometimes be.

That thought went through my mind after reading a story about 36 top executives in the University of California system who were concerned that expected increases in retirement benefits might not be forthcoming.

Higher education leaders who truly are interested in preserving favorable public opinion, not to mention just doing the right thing, will take care to lead sacrifice rather than attempting to shield themselves from it.

See if you agree after reading the story at bit.ly/fphaZE
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Marketing Impact from Twitter

Matt Creamer has an insightful AdAge column exploring the marketing impact of Twitter, starting with the fact that is it extremely difficult to measure. We often know that activity is taking place, but measuring the impact of the activity on conversion steps is where things get murky.

The answer is not that Twitter has no marketing role. But an official presence is not mandatory for marketing success. Apple has no official Twitter presence. Steve Jobs is not on Twitter.

Keep Twitter (and other social media) in perspective. Read the column and the comments at bit.ly/h7bZho

For now, I'll continue my Twitter marketing updates at twitter.com/HighEdMarketing
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My Upcoming Conferences and Webinars in 2011

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

January 20-21, National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals Winter Institute, Fort Lauderdale, FL: "Social Media and Graduate Student Recruitment." Register at www.nagap.org/conferences/Winter10.asp

January 26 webinar: Magna Communications, "6 New Essential Elements in Web-Based Marketing." Seminar outline and registration are at bit.ly/eWt1BY

March 31-April 1, Education Dynamics Carol Aslanian Conference: Converting Credits to Degrees: 38 Million Adults to Recruit, Chicago, IL: "Creating (or Re-Creating) an Adult-Friendly Website." Review program and register at bit.ly/gMFchz

May 3-5, J.Boye Conference Philadelphia 2011, Pre-conference tutorial "Mobile Communication Challenges in Higher Education" and "Susquehanna University: Achieving a 90% Positive Web Rating." Register at www.jboye.com/conferences/philadelphia11/

June 8-10, SUNY CUAD Annual Conference, Saratoga Springs, NY: A "core faculty" person for marketing issues for presentation and personal meetings. Program details available soon at www.sunycuad.org/annual_conference

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 bob@bobjohnsonconsulting.com
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That's All for Now

Be a marketing champion on your campus.

Bob Johnson, Ph.D. (bob@bobjohnsonconsulting.com)
President and Senior Consultant
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC
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Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Increase your online marketing success with these 6 services.
• Customer Carewords Research with Gerry McGovern
• Writing Right for the Web On-Campus Workshops
• Marketing Communications Website Review
• Competitive Website Reviews
• Content Copywriting Services
• Usability Analysis

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