Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

June 2013 Archives

Digital Marketing Strategy...  7 Steps to Surviving the Mobile Revolution

Next Tuesday I'll be heading off to the annual marketing congress of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in Bonn where I'll be doing two presentations on "Digital Marketing Strategy in Higher Education: Surviving the Mobile Revolution. Just finished the presentation yesterday and today I'll share some of the main points covered.

Some of the DAAD online presence can serve as a model for other international student recruitment efforts, particularly the use of different Facebook sites for different regions and countries. 

Fast Top Task Completion from Smart Phones

Here are the 7 major strategy points in my summary:
  • Learn the top tasks most important to your visitors. Plan your content presentation and navigation to let people complete top tasks as quickly as possible. That's more important for smart phone use than laptops or desktops because you can only show a few top links.
  • Smart phone mobile access to web content continues to grow at a rapid pace just about everywhere. Smart phones started the true mobile revolution in 2007. Although feature phones will remain important for some time, smart phone penetration is increasing everywhere. The highest adoption growth rate now is in Africa. Strategy must focus on smart phones first.
  • Speed of access is critical. But home page download time is increasing. A successful move to mobile requires more than responsive design technology. It requires serious content reduction so there is less to redesign. Check your mobile speed on Mobitest, from home page to main pages after that. Aim for pages that open in less than 5 seconds.
  • Primary websites are more important than social media for students starting a search for exchange opportunities. Social media, especially Facebook, is important for ongoing contact and conversion. And email, as always, isn't dead. Visit the DAAD Facebook site for India and the site for North America,
  • Video will continue to grow in importance. Short videos, "Real" video content that doesn't seem to come from your PR machine. Focus first on YouTube, the second most important social media site after Facebook. Check the DAAD YouTube site for North America.
  • Monitor what people are doing and be prepared to make continuous changes in content presentation and navigation. If you find pages with high than desired bounce rates, try to figure out why that happens and fix it.
Conferences in November

  • November 5-7, Aarhus, Denmark: J.Bloye Web & Intranet Conference, "Writing Right for the Web" tutorial and "A Need for Speed: Responsive Design in a Mobile World." Check the entire program here.
  • November 10-13, Boston: AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education. Pre-conference tutorial on "Digital Marketing Strategy: Building Brand Strength and Enrollment." Visit the Symposium website.

That's all for now.

Subscribe to "Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter" for monthly marketing news and notes and weekly Link of the Week selections3.

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Web Writing... if people can't scan your content they won't read it

Hard to believe that the third annual conference on Writing Right for the Web sponsored by Academic Impressions started two weeks ago today in Boston. We had a great time... everyone who attended said they would recommend the conference to a friend. 

We covered quite a bit in two days during presentation time and small group tasks. I'll share more from that in the future. Today I'd like to summarize 8 key points we discussed that are important for everyone preparing web content.

8 Points to Evaluate your Web Content Presentation:
  • Focus your content on top tasks for the individual audiences that use your site. What are those "top tasks"? Hire Customer Carewords to do the research or do it yourself following these U.S. Government "how to" guidelines.
  • Make sure key content elements on every page are scannable in 5 seconds or less. If you don't do that, you will lose visitors.
  • Use heads and subheads that tell people something. If they can be lifted to anyone else's website they will not do anything special for you. Not "Academic Programs" but "Academic Programs: 63 Bachelors & 14 Master's"
  • Clear and simple language... if the first scan draws people into the page, make it easy for them to read on for more details. "Organization speak" is deadly for people who are not part of the organization.
  • Keep sentences and paragraphs short... about 5 lines per paragraph. If you feel the urge to use a semi-colon in a sentence, that sentence just might be too long.
  • Use top page photos only when they have an impact related to page content. Don't let them be a speed bump between the primary heading and the content that comes after it. And nowhere is it written in granite that every page must have a photo at the top.
  • If you have a few top points in the center-page content that you think or know will interest people, link direct from each one to more information about that point. Don't make people look for a navigation point somewhere else on the page.
  • When you link, make sure that language in the link connects to what people will see first on the next page so they know immediately they have arrived at the right place.
Task Oriented University Home Page

For a rare example of a university home page that puts priority on people immediately seeing links to important tasks visit the University of Sydney.

That's all for now.

Subscribe to "Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter" for monthly marketing news and notes and weekly Link of the Week selections.

Join 6,200+ people and follow me on Twitter
Best wishes for a weather-friendly June and continued marketing success to everyone. I'm just back from Boston and the third year of our 2-day conference on Writing Right for the Web. Expect blog notes over the next few weeks. To read highlights from the view of the participants

Summer is conference time and I hope we will have soon a chance to meet at one or more events.

The early bird registration discount for eduWeb2013 in Boston ends June 19. Sign up and add my Online Advertising pre-conference workshop.

The ACT Enrollment Planners Conference starts July 11 in Chicago. Come to my session on email marketing for student recruitment where I will share results from secret shopping projects. Registration is open now at 

If you have a special interest in recruiting adult students, attend my June 25 webinar as we review top examples of effective websites that help achieve enrollment success. Register at 

And now here are your marketing news and notes for June.
Internet Trends for 2013 and Beyond

Although 5 months have passed in 2013, this presentation by Mary Meeker and Liang Wu will take you far into the future. If you joined Saturday Night Live to laugh at Google glasses, remember that a computer company CEO said in 1977 "There is no reason a person would want a computer in their home." And in 1997, the cover of Forbes magazine featured "Amazon.bomb."

Download a copy and dig into the 117 slides to explore the future at 
600 Higher Ed Inquiry Forms: Do We Care About Online Marketing ROI?

Jens Larson at Eastern Washington University has visited more than 600 inquiry forms on higher education websites. His work confirms a sad reality: most forms that colleges and universities use appear designed to decrease the number of inquiries received. 

Larson shows examples from Harvard and Michigan State to illustrate his conclusions. If you are not Harvard or MSU and would like to create simpler forms to generate more online inquiries, check his article at and get marketing and admissions people on your campus to read it.

Direct marketers have always known a simple truth: the longer you make a form, the fewer people will complete it. Do not let a tyrannical data base determine the length of your inquiry form.
2013 Webby Awards for Schools and Universities: University of Chicago on Top

University of Chicago took first place in the 2013 Webby Awards in the Schools and University category. 

Visit the UChicago website and the sites for other finalists from the Webby website at
Mobile Marketing and the Need for Speed

If your web pages take longer than 5 seconds to download, 19 percent of your visitors will leave before waiting for that to happen. That scary news comes in a report by KISSmetrics 

Does your home page take longer than 5 seconds on a smartphone? Get the answer from the Mobitest free performance tool at 
Less Communication Creates More Attention

Give great credit to Monroe Community College in Rochester for doing a communications audit to understand why enrolled students were not paying attention to messages received from various student service offices. The answer: far too many messages being sent, often at times that did not make a great deal of sense. Nothing seemed especially important and students stopped responding.

Changes in message format and timing, including an increase in postcards, have produced successes that include a 30 percent lift in early class registration. Read when less truly is more 
Gerry McGovern: When Content Kills Marketing Success

Marketers, writes Gerry McGovern, are trained to produce content. Huge amounts of content. And that will kill marketing success in the online world. 

Read more about the penalty you can expect by letting too much "ill-advised" marketing content get in the way of what people want to do online at 
Website Magazine: 8 New Google Changes to Web Ranking Results

Google, of course, is always making changes to how it ranks websites. Website Magazine reviews the latest Penguin changes in "Working in a Post-Penguin Web 2.0 World."

Start with increased weight for the "authority" of your site and end with "crawlability" when you read the article at 
Teens and Social Media: New Pew Research

A new report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project charts how much more willing teens were in 2012 than in 2006 to share things about themselves on Facebook and other sites. At the same time, 60 percent of teens keep their profiles private and are confident that access controls work.

The report confirms other findings that teens are less enthusiastic about Facebook today but the lack of enthusiasm is not yet causing a serious drop in participation. More teens are using Twitter now, but that rise is from 16 percent in 2011 to 24 percent in 2012.

More on teens and social media from Pew at 
US News Rankings: 2 More Schools Admit to False Data Reports

York College of Pennsylvania and University of Mary Hardin-Baylor are the latest schools to report bad data sent to US News. That the miscreant total to 8: Dominican University of California, Tulane School of Business, Bucknell, George Washington and Emory universities, and Claremont McKenna College.

York was excluding about 20 percent of the freshmen class for 10 years or so, inflating average SAT scores. Mary Hardin-Baylor reported a 27 percent acceptance rate for 2011 rather than the actual 89 percent rate.

The Chronicle of Higher Education story is at
Responsive Design for Email: 24 Tips to Check

Email is still an important part of most online marketing programs, but the increasing use of smart phones raises the priority to make email respond to the device being used to view it.

Linda Bustos lays out 24 points to check as you modify email for the mobile world. You can scan them quickly to find a few for priority attention. Two of my favorites are old standards that we cannot forget now: number 5, use high contrast text and number 23, link to mobile-friendly landing pages.

Create better email for a mobile world after you visit 
Most Popular Topic Last Month: 8 Data Myths That Get Marketing People Fired

Job preservation might have been the reason for the most popular item in the May newsletter: "Eight Silly Data Myths Marketing People Believe That Get Them Fired."

Protect yourself against firing. Read Avinash Kaushik at 
Conferences and Webinars in 2013

June 25, Webinar: "Improving Your Website to Increase Adult Student Enrollment," Academic Impressions. Description and registration are online now at 

July 4-5, Bonn, Germany: "Digital Marketing Strategy in Higher Education: How to Survive the Mobile Revolution," German Academic Exchange Service Marketing Congress at 

July 10-12, Chicago: "Advertising Online for Student Recruitment" pre-conference workshop and "Increasing Conversion: The Best (and Not So Best) Email Marketing Plans," ACT Enrollment Planners Conference. Workshop details are at 

July 29-31, Boston: "Advertising Online" workshop and, with David Marshall, "An Admissions First Mobile Site," eduWeb 2013. See all the sessions at 

November 10-13, Boston: "Digital Marketing Strategy: Building Brand Strength and Enrollment" tutorial at AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education at 

Plan a custom presentation on your campus. Host a workshop on any of my conference presentation topics. Contact me at or call me at 248.766.6425.
Be a marketing champion on your campus.

Bob Johnson, Ph.D. ( 
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

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