Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

April 2011 Archives

Writing Right for the Web: Fix the Horrors or Lose Your Audience

In this era of online communication, "Writing Right" is my most valuable marketing presentation. 

    • If you don't "Write Right for the Web," other elements of your content strategy will fail. Common website horrors (dense copy blocks, complicated sentences, PDF and "flip" publications, over-sized photos and more) will destroy your marketing effectiveness.
Since 2007 I've been presenting "Writing Right for the Web" webinars with my friends at Academic Impressions in Denver. More than 400 colleges and universities have participated.

And I've been doing on-campus workshops on "Writing Right for the Web" for content creators and content stewards since starting at University of Missouri in 2006. The last was at East Stroudsburg University in February. The next one is set for August at University of Nebraska - Lincoln.

San Diego: 2-day "Writing Right for the Web" event with an SEO Extra

This year in July something new is coming your way. Sponsored by Academic Impressions, we're offering an in-depth 2-day extended version of "Writing Right," including an extra optional session on writing to increase search engine visibility.

I'm excited. We'll have time to slow the pace, exchange challenges and solutions among everyone attending, and work together on practical exercises.

Content strategy isn't just about getting the right content. Equally important is the craft of presenting that content to engage impatient visitors in the first 5 seconds after they land on a page at your site.

In this mobile era when more people are visiting your website from smartphones, you have even less room for error on that tiny screen.

Check the full agenda and send a team to San Diego. Return home with new skills and new enthusiasm for improving the content on your website. Impatient web visitors will love you.

Online: "Writing Right" Webinars May 19 and May 26

Webinars offer a cost-efficient, fast-paced 90-minute review of the most important elements in preparing content for website engagement, complete with "best practice" examples from higher education websites.

Every question is answered in writing after the event, often with links to even more information. The result: you teach me something new at every webinar that gets added as an update to the next version.

My next "Writing Right for the Web" webinars are May 19 and May 26. Register for one or both of the two sessions that focus (1) writing for traditional websites and (2) writing for social media and mobile sites.

That's all for now.

Writing Effective Website Links: Simple, Clear Language Wins the Day

Earlier this year a college creating a mobile website had a dilemma: what to name links from the website itself to social media sites that included Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube.

So an enterprising fellow went along to the University Web Developers listserv and asked the folks who create and maintain websites for suggestions on how they would handle the task. 

The answers received nicely illustrate the urge to get creative with website language vs. the desirability of using terms that visitors (in this case, current students were identified as the primary audience) will immediately recognize.

When "Writing Right for the Web" it is almost always best to stay with conventional expressions that are in wide use. When you want people to make a right turn, just say "Make a Right Turn" rather than invent new ways of describing the desired action.

It was a popular query. Here are the 11 responses received:

  • "Socialize With Us"
  • "Connect With Us"
  • "Social Networks"
  • "Social Media"
  • "Social Media Directory"
  • "Get Social with (initials of school)"
  • "Connect With Us"
  • "Stay Connected"
  • "Social Media @ (initials of school)"
  • "Social Media"
  • "Connect to (initials of school) Social Media"
I'll cast my vote with the two people who recommended the most simple solution possible: "Social Media." That advice came from Eric Stoller and Andrew Bauserman at College of William and Mary. Clean and simple and immediately understood by anyone visiting the page. Click on that and you expect to arrive at a list of the available social media sites. 

"Social Media" was one of the first thoughts of the person who asked the question, Paul Dempsey, director of electronic communications at Dickinson College. Paul asked the question for use on a planned mobile website. This is a case where the same solution works equally well for both traditional and mobile sites.

"Connect With Us" doesn't work nearly as well. That might mean a place to email, call, or write someone on campus. Initials of the school probably are not needed either. Most people will assume a link to "Social Media" is to sites sponsored by the school operating the website.

May 19 & 26: "Writing Right for the Web: Traditional, Social Media and Mobile Sites"

Review what's planned for the next "Writing Right for the Web" webinars as we explore content, style, and presentation to boost the effectiveness of your online content 

Visit the session description and registration pages.

Join me for the next two-part webinar session with Academic Impressions. 

That's all for now.

Hello to everyone as the first days of April tease us with a slow introduction to spring. Best wishes to everyone counting enrollment deposits from traditional students as we count down to May 1.

Next week I will be finishing my pre-conference workshop on mobile marketing for the J.Boye Philadelphia2011 conference that starts May 3. Check the higher education track of a conference with a distinct international flair at

My next "Writing Right for the Web" webinar series is set for May 19 and May 26, covering traditional websites plus mobile and social media. Register for one or both sessions at

Links to summer conferences for SUNY CUAD, ACT, and eduWeb2011 are at the end of the newsletter. Hope to meet many of you out and about the land this summer.

Call for Papers for the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education in November is open until April 8. Still time to submit a proposal at

And now, here are your marketing news and notes for April.
Net Price Calculators: Good, Bad, Terrible

The fall 2011 deadline for net price calculators on higher education websites is fast approaching. So far, progress toward effective tools is mixed, at best.

Two elements are at play here. First, how easy is it to find the calculator? Some schools seem to hope that nobody will find it. Second, how easy is it to complete? The closer to requiring the equivalent of FAFSA completion, the fewer people will bother with it.

College Access and Success visited 16 calculators to prepare a 14-page PDF report. You can link to the report and recommendations from

In a footnote, the report includes the schools visited but does not link individual names to the examples used. I was able to find one that stands out above others for introducing the calculator in a way that will likely inspire people to use it. Check the Carleton College effort at
SEO: 6 Tips for Website Images

The right images are can add to the marketing impact of a website page, from the first 5 seconds when a human visitor arrives at the page to the quest for better results from search engine visits.

ClickZ highlights 6 ways to help search engines connect better with the images you use. My favorite is #1: make sure the image is relevant to the page content. An image might be "worth a thousand words," but only if it helps connect people to the page content in 5 seconds or less.

Increase the SEO effectiveness of your images with a visit to
Staying Connected with Future Students: Mobile is Key

What is the best way to get news to future students in your database?

Pew Internet in a new March report outlines the shift to a preference for getting news on mobile devices. Only 28 percent of people surveyed, for instance, said they would have a problem staying up-to-date if their local paper disappeared.

The ongoing rise of smartphones and tablets is responsible. Future versions of a recruitment communication mix should make sure that news about events important to potential students is available on a web page that is easy to read from a mobile device.

The Pew Report outlines the future at
Social Media: Check MyYearbook for Teen Recruitment

My Yearbook claims 20 million teens have signed up at this social media site that promises to connect teens to people who live near them.

Register and visit the MyMag section where you may see the same display advertising from DeVry University that was playing on my last visit. I'll be watching to see if any email advertising comes along to my secret shopper email.

A note on mobile: the site owners are buying apps for Android phones as they expect these to spread more rapidly among teens based on pricing that is much lower than an iPhone, sometimes even free. Mobile access to MyYearbook is now at 33 percent of all visitors and growing.

Visit the site at

Note: if you register for this, you will receive multiple emails even if you leave no personal information. You can refuse to accept email of any sort, but the number arriving after I (and at least one other reader) registered was strange given the lack of any personal information left at the site.
Presidential Pay and Higher Education Funding

Problems from presidential pay rates in fighting decreases in public-sector funding are reviewed in the Chronicle. If perception is everything, then current "CEO-like" pay for university presidents might give some legislators an extra reason to question the level of budget reductions taking place.

Ohio State leads the "total cost of employment" race at $1.8 million for President E. Gordon Gee.

The Chronicle review is at
Top Website Features for Adult Student Recruitment

Are you interested in bringing former students back to campus to complete degrees?

That is the focus of several examples used in my presentation last week at the Carol Aslanian - Education Dynamics conference on adult student recruitment. Download the presentation slides at

Look for especially good pages from University of New Mexico and University of Iowa. Do not miss the University of Wisconsin calculator for money saved taking online courses. Links are included for all examples so you can copy and visit to get the "real" experience.
Interview on Marketing for Online Students

Nancy Prater is director of marketing and communications for the School of Extended Education at Ball State University. She brings a fine combination of energy and expertise to her work.

Her response to several questions about the challenges of marketing online programs includes why Ball State does not use the formal name of the school in marketing efforts, the value of social media in recruitment and much more.

Read the two-part interview on my blog at
Comparing Quality of Online Programs: 70 Metrics

The folks at Sloan Consortium are out with a "quality scorecard" of 70 metrics in 9 categories to compare the quality of online programs.

The category weighted most heavily is "support for students" with 24 percent of the possible 210 points. Lowest weight is given to "social and student engagement" at 1.4 percent of the total.

Read a report and link to the Sloan site at
Have a Little Puppet Fun and Explore Possibilities

AdAge is especially taken with how Ford used a puppet in a recent car commercial.

The result is an article with links to 10 marketing videos that use puppets.

For some fun marketing research, visit
Progress in Higher Education Marketing since 1956

Every once in a while we need an example that higher education marketing today is much advanced over, let us say, the 1950s.

Thanks to MIT for posting online a 30-minute promotional video for friends and future students from 1956. From the music to the narration to the video itself, amaze yourself with the extent of progress when you visit
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.

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

May 19, May 26: Academic Impressions Webinars: "Writing Right for the Web: Social Media, Mobile, and Traditional Sites." Register for one or both in 2-part series at

June 8-10, SUNY CUAD Annual Conference, Saratoga Springs, NY: "Mobile Marketing in Higher Education: Challenges & Opportunities" and "Future Students and Their Parents: Exploring a 90% Positive Website Rating." Visit

July 20-22, ACT Enrollment Planners Conference, Chicago, IL: Pre-conference workshop: "Mobile Marketing and Student Recruitment: What's Hot and What's Not in 2011" and regular conference session, "Explore a 90% Positive Website Rating by Future Students & Parents." Register at

August 1-3, eduWeb2011, San Antonio, TX: Pre-conference workshop: "Mobile Marketing in Higher Education: Challenges and Strategies for 2011." Visit

Improve 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. (
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Increase your online marketing success with these 6 services.
• Customer Carewords Research with Gerry McGovern
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• Marketing Communications Website Review
• Competitive Website Reviews
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