Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

July 2015 Archives

July greetings to everyone. Here in the U.S. we are looking forward to our holiday weekend. In Michigan, we even expect good weather! For Canadian readers, happy Canada Day today.

The most unusual news for July is that the University of Phoenix, in an effort to run faster than the avalanche that has been sweeping away its enrollment from a peak of more than 450,000 in 2010 to just over 200,000 now, is planning to downsize to a new enrollment level of 150,000 and new admission standards in search of a higher degree completion rate. 

Associate degrees are out and more physical locations will close. Various clich├ęs come to mind, but we'll pass on those and just suggest reading about a major strategy change 
Conference and Webinar Events in July and November

Gerry McGovern offers a free webinar on Top Task Identification on July 8. Learn more about how you can identify top tasks to set content priorities and navigation paths. Register 

The 5th "Writing Write for the Web: Improving Your Online Content" conference with Academic Impressions takes place in San Diego July 13-14. Still time to register 

Registration continues for eduWeb Digital Summit in Chicago in July. Check the program details, including my 3-hour pre-conference Digital Marketing Strategy workshop, 

Registration is also open for the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education in November where I will do a Digital Marketing Strategy tutorial. The website is 

Invite a friend or colleague to subscribe to this newsletter. Just 30 seconds at 

And now here are your marketing news and notes for July.
Cartoon of the Month: Will Tech-Savvy Growth Hackers Replace Marketers?

Silicon Valley is buzzing over the power and potential of growth hacking. Will growth hackers replace traditional marketers? Start with the marketing cartoon at 
Increase Conversion with Better Online Forms: 14 Steps to Success

From the Nielsen-Normal Group comes a 14-step checklist to improve the form completion experience on your website. As a special fan of online enrollment inquiry forms, the first step was my favorite: Is this field absolutely necessary? Remember, the shorter the form, the higher the completion rate.

The other 13 steps are divided into Description, Visibility, Filling it in for the user, and Typing sections. Compare each step with your online inquiry, campus visit, application, and donation forms when you visit 
Anatomy of a Landing Page: Medill School at Northwestern University

No matter how good your online advertising, the landing page that appears after an ad generates a click is critical to converting visitors to inquiries. The Medill School got some things right and some things wrong in a landing page for the Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications that followed a banner ad on a site I was visiting. 

The major mistake: on either my laptop or my smartphone the type size for primary text is almost impossible to read, violating the "do not make them squint" maxim. 

Three good points: eyes are attracted immediately to the 4 bullet points used to present reasons to enroll in the program; the inquiry form is only 5 lines long; there is a phone number for people energized to call immediately. A second weak point: the pages opens with 8 long lines of marketing-speak text that just is not needed here. Most eyeballs will run to the bullet points and the inquiry form.

For me, a nearly 3-minute video is too cute, too slow, and too long. And although placed at the bottom of the page, it might distract people from moving directly from bullet points to inquiry form.

Test your own experience when you visit the landing page at
Kill Your Website Sliders: 5 Reasons Slides Hurt Your Website

A website design fad that started about 2011 may finally be disappearing from marketing-smart websites.

If you want to make the case on your campus that carousels hurt your website marketing strength, circulate the 5 reasons offered by Joel Klettke. Pay special attention to the 2nd reason: people ignore them. Or perhaps you will get a better reaction to the 5th reason: they do not work well at all on mobile.

More on the 5 reasons you should drive a stake through the heart of this fad 
Alverno College: Weekend College Is Out, Hybrid Programs Are In

Alverno College has long been a pioneer in higher education delivery innovation, starting over 40 years ago with one of the first Weekend College programs at a time when this was considered a radical approach to accommodating adults in search of college degrees.

Now the college, faced with declining weekend enrollments, has decided to move on, creating new degree programs with a hybrid course mix of online learning and a Wednesday evening on-campus class. While not as audacious a move as that early Weekend College, the change shows the flexibility that is critical for colleges like this to survive and thrive in higher education today. 

Next step: clean up the still-present website pages that are recruiting new weekend students.

More on the change in priorities at 
Rising College Costs: Detailed Review from CNBC

Detailed reviews like this one with short text and easy-to-follow graphics illustrate why higher education is not going to win a public relations battle over rising tuition costs. The title shows right where things start: "Debt by Degree." 

While the reasons included are not new(lower public funding, the gap between rising family incomes and rising tuition costs, an excess of administrators and amenities, an aversion to debt and more) the clear presentation of everything in one place is unusual and reminds us of everything involved in discussing the issue. Visit 
Student Recruitment: Influence of Parents

It still amazes me that although most people recruiting traditional-age students recognize the role parents play in selecting a college, almost no school has a communication plan for the parents of potential students.

An infographic from Boston Interactive outlines the similarities and differences in communication channels used by parents and their college-bound children. Points of note: the value of phone calls to parents, the status of Facebook and YouTube as the most important social media sites for both groups, and the high value both groups place on academic program and cost content on a website.

More on what moves parents and what does not at 
SEO Success: Get the Periodic Table

Have you ever used The Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors? Did you ever want the myriad of elements needed for successful SEO results available on a single easy-to-scan page?

If you answered "No" and "Yes" get yourself a copy of the Search Engine Marketing guide 
Mobile vs. Desktop Viewing: One is Growing, One is Stable

We all know that Internet access from smartphones continues to grow. What we might not be as aware of is that Internet access from desktop computers is stable. In other words, it is a mistake to assume that growth in one device means the death or even decline of the other. You still need eggs in both baskets.

More on this from Jonathon Low at 
Evaluating Your Institutional Website: Conference Presentation on SlideShare

My 3 presentations at the Academic Impressions conference on strategic recruitment communications are online now. You will find one on "value messaging" and another on "affordability and financial aid" after you start your visit with Evaluating Your Institutional Website at 
Most Popular Topic in June Newsletter: Why Branding is a Waste of Money

This is a great almost tongue-in-check description of the process branding firms use with a client who believes that "rebranding" will solve marketing problems.

The author of this Forbes article suggests a better approach is to save your money and invest in better stories about the experiences people have with you. See more on "Why Most Branding is a Waste of Money" at 
Be a marketing champion on your campus.

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

Increase your marketing success with these services. Contact me for details at 

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