Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

June 2016 Archives

Online Programs Available: Just One Link to Top Task Completion

For students of any age or degree interest, finding out what degree programs a university offers is always a top task. More often than not, it is the first top task that potential students want to complete on a university website.

The home page for online programs at Old Dominion University stands out for the "can't miss" position it gives to that top task, unhindered by marketing-speak content that too often puts speed bumps on the journey to top task completion. 

As soon as the page opens in a large screen view, it is impossible to miss the list of 5 available program types:

  • Bachelor's Degree Programs
  • Master's Degree Programs
  • Doctorate and Ed Specialist Programs
  • Licensure/Endorsement Programs
  • Certificate Programs
One click brings you to an easy-to-scan alpha list of everything available in a category. One more click and you'll be at the description of the program that interests you.

On mobile, the page receives Google PageSpeed Insight scores similar to most other higher education pages: A weak 65/100 for Speed and a strong 96/100 for User Experience. (Rumors abound that Google will soon increase the weight given to Speed performance in mobile SEO rankings. Speed counts.)

To experience a quick and simple path to top task completion for potential online students, visit the Old Dominion University ODUOnline page.

The Original Link of the Week Page

Regular readers will notice that we are again posting a Link of the Week selection within the blog. My website editing software is not editing at the moment. Until that glitch is fixed, Link of the Week selections will appear here.

To review selections for 2016 and earlier, visit the usual Link of the Week page.
Hello from Atlanta. Today we are starting the Academic Impressions "Improving Your Student Recruitment Communication Plan" conference. The hashtag is #airecruitcomm if you want to follow the various sessions over the next three days on Twitter. The session schedule is at 

My presentations are online now. See Evaluating Your Institutional Website at and Affordability and Financial Aid Communication at 

If you work at a college or university, ask me for an invitation to join the Top Tasks: Higher Education Website Content group on LinkedIn. We have 152 members, most from the U.S. with others from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, Netherlands, Sweden, and Trinidad and Tobago. Discussions are an eclectic mix: raising money, academic program pages, strategic plans, library tasks and more.

Reply to this email and ask me to send you an invitation to join the Top Tasks group. 

Writing an RFP this month? Check my "6 Quick Steps to Better RFPs" at 
Conference Events in July and August

July 20-21 I will be at the Connect Higher Education Summit sponsored by Learning House for a presentation on "Best Website Elements for Recruiting Online Students." Review the program and register at 

The eduWeb Digital Summit is August 1-4 in Denver. I will do a new pre-conference workshop: "Top Task Content and Design: A Strategy for Website Marketing Success." Details at

Join 7,200+ followers on Twitter at for my daily marketing updates.

And now here are your June marketing news and notes.
Cartoon of the Month: Rebranding and New Logos

Is creating a new logo part of your plan to rebrand your college or university? This Tom Fishburne cartoon will help you keep your feet on the ground. Visit 
Generation Z: Revelations from Marketing Research

If you recruit high school students, research on how the younger part of the 10 to 18-year-old generation prefers to communicate deserves your attention. Preferred places to communication with one another are Vine, Instagram, and Twitter, in that order.

But do not get overly concerned with what social media is most important now. The larger message from the Center for Generational Kinetics is just how screen-focused and text-oriented these people are, including the possibility that they will be increasingly receptive to online learning. 

More at 
Tuition Discounting: Private Sector Freshman Rate Climbs to 48.6 Percent

NACUBO reported in May that the average tuition discount rate in the non-profit private sector for new freshman last year continued on an upward path to 48.6 percent. Yes, it is possible to have higher net revenue despite a rising discount rate. Not many of these schools are doing that. 

Sobering, if not unexpected, news as a price sensitivity plague continues to spread.

More from NACUBO at 

Can cutting tuition by 42 percent help with sticker shock and boost enrollment? First year results at Utica College are promising. See 
Website Design: Gerry McGovern on Zombies and Hamburger Menus

Gerry continues to cast stones at some of the more popular features of website design. For a different take on an element created first for mobile read "The Hamburger Menu and the Zombie Apocalypse" at 

One question Gerry asks: why is the search box so hard to see on so many websites? Why not put it front and center on the page? Well, one university has done just that. See the Xavier University home page at 
A Higher Ed Success Story: Increasing 4-year Graduation Rate

Today we are inundated by stories about higher education disruptions, budget challenges, enrollment failings, and brand identity changes.

To escape all that to something positive, spend a few minutes to read about how University at Buffalo increased the 4-year graduation rate of undergrad students from 35 percent to 55 percent in 10 years of steady progress. No, that is not the level of super-selective colleges and universities. But it does show what is possible outside that exalted realm. The result is a brand point of special distinction. 

More at 
Honest Talk About Financial Aid Awards: The Real Deal from Muhlenberg College

Do colleges and universities give some students preferential financial aid awards based on how much they want a particular person to enroll? For sure. Can you read that on higher education websites? Almost never.

And so it is worth noting again that Muhlenberg College has been up-front and honest about how financial aid decision are make for about 10 years now. If there was a Hall of Fame for Honesty in Marketing, this college for sure would have a place.

See "The Real Deal on Financial Aid" at
Student Recruitment Website Myths: Take a Brief Survey

Michael Stoner and Gil Rogers are collaborating again on a new edition of their research comparing how high school students use the web in exploring college choices and how people who work in admissions, marketing, and enrollment management think high school students use the web.

The first edition was, shall we say, filled with disparities. Help Michael and Gil with the 2016 effort to see how much the gaps have closed by completing the short survey at
Public University Enrollments: Growth in Out-of-State Students

We continue to get interesting information from Jon Boeckenstedt at DePaul University. In this case, Jon is letting us easily track state-by-state changes in the percent of undergrad students that universities in the public sector have been enrolling between 2002 and 2012. 

You will not find many where the percent has decreased. The reasons may be many. Some of would say a primary element is a desire for the increased tuition revenue these students pay. Or, as in the case of the University of Maine, just a way to counter a falling in-state population.

Compare the change in your state with others around the country at 
Public Support for Higher Education: 46 States are Below 2008 Levels

One reason for the increased interest in out-of-state students noted above is the fact that in 46 states higher education funding for the public sector remains below pre-2008 recession levels. Only Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Wisconsin are higher. 

The largest decrease is in Arizona at 55.6 percent. The lowest decrease is in Alaska at just .6 percent. Find your state among the others at 
Marketing Communications Note: Do Not Use Prior-Prior Year with the Public

Admissions and financial aid professionals are reacting in different ways to the FAFSA change that will allow earlier filing for financial aid and possibly earlier awards. Some people predict massive disruption. Maybe chaos. Others think everything will be just fine. I vote for the latter sentiment.

Whatever your thoughts, "prior-prior year" is an example of higher education jargon that we should not be using to communication with potential students and their families. How about "New, Earlier Financial Aid Opportunity" for the next year? Or something similar. And positive. Maybe even a benefit.

Do not take the University of Cincinnati approach. Do not headline your website page so that the first thing people see when the page opens is "Prior Prior Year" at 

For one alternative, here is a clean and simple chart that uses the "early" word twice at 
Tuition Prices and Student Debt: The Australian Example

For a look at how these two related issues are being debated in Australia, see the Times Higher Education review at 
Highest Room and Board Charges: The Top 10 Schools

This is a U.S. News list that most people are happy not to make. Four schools are in New York City (but not Columbia or NYU or Fordham) and two are in Boston (but not BU nor Northeastern.)

The highest 2015-2016 room and board rates are at 
Most Popular Topic in May Newsletter: Customer Journey Mapping

Tom Fishburne's cartoon and comments on the challenges of customer journey mapping was by far the favorite. If you missed it, visit 
Be a marketing champion on your campus.

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

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