Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

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Detailed Transylvania "Affordability" Page Combats Sticker Price Shock

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Higher education analysts often decry the "sticker price shock" that many people have when they start their college selection journey and compare degree costs at public and private universities. Why don't people understand that at private colleges and universities the "sticker price" is not what most people pay?

One reason is that few colleges and universities directly attack the sticker price problem on their websites with detailed "affordability" content. Today's Link of the Week selection is a rare exception.

The "Affordability" page link receives prime placement on the home page, directly under the opening image with a large "Quality + Affordability" heading. Follow that path and you'll arrive at a page that gets right to the point: potential students likely are "worried about paying for college."

Easy-to-scan graphics

The content directly attacks the sticker price problem with a series of graphics that include:
  • The family incomes of people attending.
  • The sticker cost compared to other "top 100" liberal arts schools.
  • The progressive cutting of that sticker price with merit awards, grants, and loans.
  • A lower-than-average debt load of about $27,000 at graduation.
  • A low loan default rate of just 2.4 percent.
  • A much higher 4-year graduation rate than at public universities,
If the page is successful in reducing cost fears for people who make this their first stop from the home page, there are links to either complete an application or review available academic programs at the end of the page.

On Mobile

Alas, the page does not fare well on mobile, where a lower than usual 39/100 for Speed combines with a 91/100 "User Experience" rating from Google PageSpeed Insights after the page loads.

Follow the Link of the Week

Start your review of how one private-sector university is making a serious effort to fight sticker shock when you visit the Transylvania University "Affordability" page from the home page link.

Original Link of the Week Page
 
Regular readers will notice that we are again posting a Link of the Week selection within the blog. I've decided to continue posting new Link selections here. Each week's description is available to future visitors and the blog, unlike the website, is searchable.

To review earlier selections for 2016 and previous years, visit the this Link of the Week page.



Skipping the "Reset" Euphemism, A College Announces a "Tuition Reduction"

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Throughout the United States over the past few years a small number of private-sector colleges and universities have decided to withdraw from the tuition discount race to lower actual net cost to students in favor of a substantial reduction in the tuition list price.

Most schools doing this have been reluctant, perhaps even afraid, of describing this move in public as "cutting" or "reducing" tuition. Often the change is called a "reset" to a lower level.

Today's Link of the Week selection caught my attention because of the big and bold announcement of the change on the home page as "We're Reducing Tuition" with a link you cannot miss to a page that explains the details, including a video from the president of the college and an ad featuring students.

The college does make clear that enrollment is not a problem, with full-time enrollment as high as it has ever been. I have not had a chance to seek out the tuition discount rate before the change and that is not mentioned on the website.

Many higher education professionals complain that too many people do not understand that the official sticker price is not what they will have to pay at most private colleges and universities. Too many of those same schools fail to provide strong "affordability" content that lets potential students know just what the net price might be.

In that context, lowering tuition makes great good sense for many schools. The College of Saint Mary deserves special praise for describing the change as clear as possible right from the start... "We're Reducing Tuition".

On Mobile

Alas, the College of Saint Mary home page scores a low 43/100 for Speed on Google PageSpeed Insight and a lower than normal 90/100 for User Experience. 

Once the home page does download, the tuition reduction message is prominent but not as bold as when viewed from a large screen device.

Follow the Link of the Week

To see how one college announces a tuition reduction, start at the College of St. Mary home page.

Original Link of the Week Page

Regular readers will notice that we are again posting a Link of the Week selection within the blog. I've decided to continue posting new Link selections here. Each week's description is available to future visitors and the blog, unlike the website, is searchable.

To review earlier selections for 2016 and previous years, visit the this Link of the Week page

6 Task Links + Search Dominate the Home Page

One of the latest fads in higher education web design is the use of video views where a static hero image once went at the top of the page. Most of the ones I've seen show similar scenes that do little to differentiate one school from another. The result is a distraction from the primary reason people visit a home page: to leave it as quickly as possible to complete a task.

Bellarmine University indeed has a similar video display on the home page. But I barely noticed it because imposed over the campus scenes in large "you will see this in 5 seconds or less" text are 6 key links important to potential students:
  • Apply Now
  • Schedule a Visit
  • Net Price
  • Virtual Tour
  • Majors & Programs
  • Watch Video
If you don't think those links will take you on the right path to task completion, just below them is a large "Search for programs, events, and more" search box. This feature reminded me of another Link of the Week pick this year, the home page at Xavier University

On Mobile

The Bellarmine home page scores a respectable 66/100 on Google PageSpeed Insights for Speed and a strong 96/100 for User Experience.

While I was not able to show the mobile home page here, be sure to visit on your smartphone. You can't miss the 6 task links as the page first opens, an excellent use of the power of words to help potential student visitors move along to relevant sections of the site. 

Follow the Link of the Week

To see how one university dares to be different, visit the Bellarmine University home page.

Original Link of the Week Page

Regular readers will notice that we are again posting a Link of the Week selection within the blog. I've decided to continue posting new Link selections here. Each week's description is available to future visitors and the blog, unlike the website, is searchable.

To review earlier selections for 2016 and previous years, visit the this Link of the Week page


3 Personal Motivational Topics at Entry Page for Online Students

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Most higher education websites don't do an especially good job of connecting on a personal level with potential students searching the site. Today's Link of the Week differs from most others in two important ways:

  • Generous use of the "you" word in an informal writing style that starts in a heading as the page opens and speaks directly to a concern of many "adult" students: "Continuing your education without putting your life on hold."
  • Motivational options that let potential students move along to content focused on their primary reason for returning to school:.
The 3 motivational options you'll seen in large blocks appear under the heading "Everyone has a reason for going back to school. What's driving you?"

  • To Fulfill My Passions
  • To Advance My Career Path
  • To Earn a Bigger Paycheck
This truly is one of the rare times that a college or university admits that simply earning more money is a motivation worth recognizing.

On Mobile

Google PageSpeed Insights reports that smartphone visitors will experience a slow download Speed (41/100) followed by a high User Experience (99/100).

Follow the Link of the Week

See the content that appears after each motivational topic when you visit the Regis University entry page for Degrees and Programs for Working Adults

Original Link of the Week Page

Regular readers will notice that we are again posting a Link of the Week selection within the blog. I've decided to continue posting new Link selections here. Each week's description is available to future visitors and the blog, unlike the website, is searchable.

To review earlier selections for 2016 and previous years, visit the this Link of the Week page.
An October hello to everyone. Happy to see that here in Michigan summer is gone and fall is arriving. We can deal with winter a few months from now. 

Reply to this email and ask me for an invitation to the group on LinkedIn if you work at a college or university. Better yet, if you are already on LinkedIn, just request a membership invitation at bit.ly/2cyyLs5 

To date, 221 people have joined from the U.S. and at least 9 other countries.

New to "top tasks" strategy that will increase the marketing strength of your website? My workshop presentation from the eduWeb Digital Summit in August, Top Task Content & Design: A Strategy for Website Marketing Success, is at bit.ly/2aDS5BV 
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Conference Workshop in December

December 4-7, Orlando: Digital Marketing Strategy: Surviving and Prospering in a Changing World, pre-conference Tutorial E at the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education. The tutorial description is at bit.ly/2buWkQM Early registration discount is open until November.

Join 7,300+ followers on Twitter at twitter.com/HighEdMarketing for daily marketing updates.

And now here are your October marketing news and notes.
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Cartoon of the Month: Do you really know where people are on the customer journey? 

Mapping the customer journey is popular. But how accurately can we do that? Or are we just playing a "Where's Waldo?" game that will irritate people when we contact them with marketing messages?

Tom Fishburne's take on the challenges we face in journey mapping is at bit.ly/2depaHI 
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More College Rankings: The Wall Street Journal Joins the Crowd

With a heavy weight to college financial resources (30 percent) and outcomes after graduation (40 percent), the WSJ has issued a new ranking system that puts 10 private-sector schools on top starting with Stanford University. Six others are Ivy-league schools.

The first public university, University of Michigan, is ranked 24th.

You have to subscribe to the WSJ to get complete results, including why the WSJ thinks the survey stands out from others. Start at on.wsj.com/2cOUgHf 
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Hugging the New WSJ Rankings: Strong Graphic Opens a Press Release

Some foolish survey recently reported that college presidents do not put much value in college rankings. Maybe it just depends on where your college lands in the results.

To see how one college has embraced the WSJ ranking results in addition to online advertising, check the powerful graphic that opens the Centre College press release at bit.ly/2dopyWg 
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Net Price Calculator Alternative: MyIntuition at 3 Schools

Most people do not enjoy completing the FAFSA. And that's why most people, if they can find them, do not enjoy completing Net Price Calculators that replicate the FAFSA.

At least 3 colleges and universities give potential students and their parents a much easier route to completing the top task of estimating likely college costs by using the quick and simple (less than 10 questions) MyIntuition format created by a Wellesley College professor.

In addition to Wellesley, MyIntuition is used at the University of Virginia and at Williams College. Check the Williams version at bit.ly/2doitoF 
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Web Design: Are You Planning for Voice Search?

If you like to stay ahead of the crowd, start thinking about how your website will take people to their top tasks when they use words to search for the content they want. 

That's the message coming from Microsoft and supported by new tech projects at Google, Amazon, and Apple. Today, people search by voice about 5 to 10 percent of the time. Expect that to increase significantly over the next 5 years. 

One marketing key: You will need to know the words that potential students visiting your website will use to find what they want. Abandon jargon unknown to the public. 

More on the advent of voice search in the AdAge article at bit.ly/2cGCIte 
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Admissions Directors Survey: 66 Percent Expect Earlier Financial Aid Awards

Inside Higher Education is out with a report on what college admissions directors think about any number of things, from the Coalition Admissions application, to debt levels, and race, and the new SAT and more.

One item of note where you will not want to fall behind your competition: 66 percent of the directors expect to see earlier financial aid award letters as a result of earlier FAFSA filing. 

Download complete survey results at bit.ly/2cNV7cz 
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Content Marketing: Advice from 15 Experts

From the Content Marketing Institute comes advice from 15 people who reveal the "Number 1 Thing You Should Do in Content Marketing." As you might guess, the experts offer many different "Number 1" things to do.

Forced to select just one I would go with Andy Crestodina and his advice on correct presentation format. Fail at that and people will bounce from your web page no matter how well you follow the other 14 admonitions.

See what might help your content marketing results at bit.ly/2cqoSwg 
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Admission Officer Salaries: News from NACAC

Considerable consternation was reported at NACAC over a new Federal mandate that will require overtime pay for many admission counselors, thus increasing recruitment costs.

Average salary of an admissions officer is about $38,000 or well below the overtime pay threshold. Average salary of an annual fund officer is $63,000. For an alumni relations officer, the number is $49,000. 

The real problem? High turnover and weak training for people who have a major impact on the financial well-being of most colleges and universities. Pay level and working conditions contribute to that. 

See Eric Hoover on "Who's Got the Time to Train Admissions Offices" at bit.ly/2dnQapg 
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New Book from Gerry McGovern: Transform: A Rebel's Guide to Digital Transformation

If you are exploring the challenges of the digital era at your college or university, this new book by Gerry McGovern might help light the way. Decide for yourself after you read the first chapter for free at bit.ly/2dDqW53 
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Advertising Online: Review of Social Media Options and More

Adweek asked a bevy of online advertising agency people for their comments on the strengths and weaknesses of online advertising options, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Google, and more.

Anyone interested in online advertising for student recruitment or brand awareness will want to review the article. Start reading here.   
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Blog Posts: The Best Length is 1,500 to 2,000 Words

The Wordtracker article itself does not specific a precise length but overall makes the point that blog posts of less than 1,500 words are not likely to contain enough value, content, and SEO keywords to attract the attention that well done longer articles will capture. And on the proverbial other hand, articles of more than 3,000 words will have to be superb indeed to hold reader interest.

More on why 1,500 to 2,000 words is a likely sweet spot in blog writing at bit.ly/2dmv6T4 
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Colgate University: Vice President for Communications

Colgate University is searching for a Vice President for Communications.

The usual details of position responsibilities and candidate qualifications are at bit.ly/2dqRMxX 
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Most Popular Topic in September Newsletter: Questioning the Value of Campus Visits

Yes, we all know that campus visits are the single most important conversion event in a student recruitment plan for traditional students. Right?

Take a moment to read about unreal and ineffective campus tours in the Washington Post article at wapo.st/2cyDo5K 
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Be a marketing champion on your campus.

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

Increase your marketing success with one or more of these 5 services. Contact me for details at bob@bobjohnsonconsulting.com 

Top Task Website Design Research with Gerry McGovern
Communication Audits
Expert Marketing Communications Website Reviews
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