Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

July 2011 Archives

Web content editors... new value from the Panda at Google

Earlier this year Google decided to give more weight to the quality of content on a website in deciding how to rank various sites. For some, consternation struck. More than a few websites reported a significant reduction in their previous search standing.

"Panda" was the evil that came upon the land. For some. For others it was a decided plus. If you haven't read much yet about about Panda the best place to start is with the May 6 entry at Google's own Webmaster Central Blog.

For web content editors, here's a special quote from the blog:
    • "Removing low quality pages, merging or improving the content of individual shallow pages into more useful pages, or moving low quality pages to a different domain could eventually help the rankings of your higher quality content."
In other words, fix "low quality content" or get it off the website you'd like to rank as high as possible in search results. You likely are not going to start an entire new domain location... but then why should poorly prepared content stay on a site anyway? Until now, who cared about it? Now, you may have a new weapon to either fix it or remove it.

Low Quality Website Content Defined

OK, but what are signs of "low quality" content that a web content editor should be able to fix, either individually or working with "content stewards" throughout the college or university? Here are some questions Google now is programmed to ask:
    • "Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?"
    • "Was the article edited well or does it appear hastily or sloppily produced?"
    • "Does this article a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?'
    • "Are the articles short, unsubstantial or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
And what just might be my favorite:
    • "Would users complain when they see pages from this site?"
Analytics to Help Google Spot "Low Quality" Content

How, you might ask, will Google measure some of these things? Expect new weight on these elements you can check in your web analytics results: length of time on a page, number of pages visited during a visit, and bounce rate (people who start at their "landing page," stay a few seconds, and "bounce" away from the site without going anywhere else). Yes, bounce rate is not a myth.

Take all this together and Google has just given every college and university in the land more reason to hire web content specialists and give them stronger positions in making website decisions. Web editors, of course, should not hesitate to leverage this change within their institutions.

Check "New" Visitor Behavior on Your Site

Set your Google Analytics to "new" visitors. Check the "Top Landing Pages" over the past 6 months. Compare the length of time on a landing page, where people went after that page, and the bounce rate from the landing page (assuming you expected or wanted them to go someplace else within the site). You just might find pages that are hurting your SEO results.

New "Writing Right for the Web" Event
That's all for now.

The first real days of summer are here in Michigan. Fingers crossed that everyone plagued by unusual weather these last few weeks has a better experience between now and Labor Day.

If you have summer conferences in mind, know that the early registration discount for eduWeb2011 is open until Friday, July 8. Register at bit.ly/2B3ozP

Two special days on Writing Right for the Web may be just what you need to create more effective web content. Check the program, including an expanded SEO section, at bit.ly/gbYAu4

Once Writing Right is over, I fly from San Diego to NYC for Carol Aslanian's latest conference designed to help you boost graduate enrollments. Program details are at bit.ly/mkBLfp

Looking forward to meeting many of you this summer. Travel well.

And now, here are your marketing news and notes for July.
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Highest, Lowest Increases in Tuition

Department of Education is out with new interactive website pages that let visitors see which schools in various sectors of higher education have had the highest and lowest tuition increase rates over the past two years.

Increase rates, of course, are relative to the starting place. But a visit is still worthwhile to put discussions of tuition rate increases on your campus in perspective with what is happening elsewhere. You can also check the schools with highest and lowers sticker prices and net costs after financial aid, state by state.

Take time to note the numbers at t.co/xW5v0FB
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Mobile Marketing: Tablets vs. Smartphones

Before you shift resources too quickly to web content for Android or iPad tablets, review the new report from the Pew Internet and American Life project.

About 8 percent of Americans owned a tablet device in May, up just a little from 7 percent in January. Defying early forecasts, e-reader ownership is growing much more rapidly than tablet devices. 

The lesson: continue to expect far more people to access your website from their smartphones than from tablets for the next couple of years if not longer. Check the mobile access trend monthly or quarterly in your analytics programs. Accelerate your plans for creating a mobile-friendly website ASAP. 

The latest report is at bit.ly/kNh1QQ
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Effective Writing for Search Engine Optimization

Content that keeps people on a website page longer is more important now with changes in the search factors used by Google to rank websites. Simply put, if people stay on your web pages longer and visit more pages, your SEO level may increase.

With that in mind, download "SEO Copywriting Made Simple" at t.co/wqFwyF2

Unlike most "free" offers this one does not ask for name, rank, and phone number.
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Increase Enrollment Conversion with Personal Academic Program Videos

Recruiters know that interest in academic programs is high on the list with potential students when they start exploring colleges.

And so it makes great good sense to continue to focus on the preferred academic program right through to final enrollment. That is what what the Newhouse School at Syracuse University is doing, using successful alumni to welcome new students by name. It is a great way to add the growing power of video to the marketing communications mix.

Watch a video when you visit bit.ly/lYCWP5 
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Retiring Dean of Admissions Details the "Sea Change"

Realities in student recruitment have changed dramatically over the past 10 years.

This article by John Christensen at St. John's College does a marvelous job of noting just what those changes have been without making it sound as if he is escaping the barbarian hordes just before they breach the walls of civilization.

The most significant, from my view: Admissions offices no longer oversee the flow of information to prospective students and the increasingly difficult challenge of increasing financial aid while controlling tuition discount rates.

Find your favorite change at chroni.cl/mg3bM8
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Higher Education Impact: Increased Reluctance to Spend

Families with incomes under $100K continue to show reluctance to spend, fueled by wage stagnation and restricted credit access.

A recent AdAge article reviews companies doing well and those not doing so well in today's economy. It does not take a major effort to substitute various colleges and universities for the firms listed in the article.

At risk: private sector colleges with a high percentage of students from families in the $50K to $100K income range. Enrollment stability is possible, but how high can tuition discounting go to maintain it?

The AdAge story is at bit.ly/kLuUfY

For more data, see also the Yahoo Chart of the Day comparing family income levels and public sector tuition over the last decade at yhoo.it/jvpVl4
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QR Codes: City University of New York Gets It Right

QR codes slowly are increasing their advertising presence in the U.S. overall and in higher education. If you plan to use them, do not make the mistake of taking people from your QR code to a traditional website landing page where they have to flick fingers to make the text large enough to read. That is guaranteed to reduce conversion.

The School of Professional Studies at City University of New York knows how to do it right. Their QR code landing page lets you immediately see the key academic programs advertised in a recent airline magazine. More content about your program of interest is a quick click away. 

See the CUNY example when you visit my article on "5 Tips for Making Your Website Mobile-Friendly" at bit.ly/kJa4Yg
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Anatomy of a Disaster: Jakob Nielsen on WSJ iPhone App

To see how a person's experience on a website can cause serious harm to a brand, read the latest Jakob Nielsen Alertbox report at bit.ly/m38Bmy 

A key lesson: ratings at the app store represent social media in action. In this case, ratings from people who were already WSJ subscribers limit prospects for new subscribers, the intended purpose of the app. 
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Killing Brand Identity on a Campus Visit

Have you invested $$$ lately in creating and promoting a distinctive brand identity?

If so, compare the core content of your campus visit talk with the brand-killing "Campus Tours Distressingly Alike" example given by Carole Philips on her blog at bit.ly/mbu7jv
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Content Strategy and Top Tasks

Content strategy is the hot topic of 2011 to increase website effectiveness. 

Creating a content strategy plan? Be sure to include top task identification for your most important audiences as the first step. If you want a website with high marketing impact, identify first the top tasks people want to do on your site. Then create content and navigation that makes is easy to complete the top tasks.

How to start? Gerry McGovern offers 7 top task management tips at bit.ly/ms2zaT 
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More Competition is Goal of U.K. Higher Education Plan

The British government is out with a plan to increase competition for students at the top of the academic ladder, with the prospect that if some schools are especially successful others will shrink in size.

If you think folks in Washington get overly involved in the future of higher education in the U.S. you will be happy for our War of Independence after you read the details at bit.ly/ml3SWf
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International Student Recruitment Websites

If you recruit international students, download a copy of my Customer Carewords webinar (slides and voice) reviewing 10+ examples of effective websites and introducing new social media elements. Examples are from sites in AustraliaCanadaNorwaySweden, U.K. and U.S.

The show is at bit.ly/bqsV
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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.

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 www.act.org/epc/ 

July 26-27, Academic Impressions Conference, San Diego, CA: "Writing Right for the Web: Improving Your Institution's Web Content." Program at bit.ly/gbYAu4 

July 28-29, Education Dynamics - Carol Aslanian Conference Marketing Graduate Programs to Working Professionals, New York, NY: Sessions on mobile marketing and best website practices for graduate recruiting. Details at bit.ly/mkBLfp 

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

September 28, Magna Publications, Webinar. Details available soon at www.magnapubs.com/ 

November 6, AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education, Chicago, IL: "Mobile Marketing" pre-conference tutorial.

November 8-10, J.Boye Conference Aarhus11, Aarhus, Denmark: Pre-conference tutorial on top task analysis for mobile communication and regular session, "Websites and Brand Strength: Achieving a 90% Customer Rating." Review and register at aarhus11.jboye.com/ 

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 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
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: Webinars, Conferences, Campus Workshops
• Marketing Communications Website Reviews 
• Competitive Website Reviews 
• Content Copywriting Services





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