Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

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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


Making Website Life Easier for Faculty & Staff and Students

Faculty and staff are more dissatisfied with college and university websites than any other group using them. Current students are not far behind.

That's been the result of every CCI (Customer Centric Index) satisfaction survey that we've done with faculty over the past 10 years. The primary reason has always been the same: confusing menus and links make it difficult for people to find and complete their top tasks on a website. 

William & Mary may have the solution in the highly visible link paths that start on the "myWM" page. Just below entry points to Banner and Blackboard are 12 links that likely are of use to both faculty and students. 

Just to the right of those 12 links are large "you can't miss this" boxes leading to "Faculty & Staff Links" and "Student Links."

High Visibility for Key Link Collections

Faculty and staff can follow their path to a page with links grouped under 7 headings:
  • Academics & Research
  • Working at W&M
  • Technology
  • Campus Services
  • Professional Organizations
  • Wellness & Safety
  • News & Events
Current students have 9 headings. Some duplicate those for faculty & staff, some are unique. All promise an easier pathway to task completion. 

If you were doing a top task research project, most of the links you'll find here would be included in the survey to sort out the top 3 to 5 that always exist from the rest. Those could appear at the top of the faculty & staff and student pages, above the rest for even faster access. Meantime, this is a fine alternative.

On Mobile

On Google PageSpeed Insights, the page receives a relatively high 71/100 for Speed and a strong 98/100 for User Experience. The mobile site skips the rotating photos that open the large screen version. Those images contribute to an unusually low 63/100 "Desktop" score. Removing them would position the key links even higher on the page.

Follow the Link of the Week

To review a strong presentation of the links that make website life easier for faculty & staff and current students, visit the William & Mary "myWM" page at http://my.wm.edu/

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.


November greetings. Hoping to see many of you at the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education in December in Orlando just a few weeks from now.

Our Top Tasks: Higher Education Website Content group on LinkedIn continues to grow, with over 40 new members since the October newsletter bringing the total to 267. If you are on LinkedIn and work at a college or university, join us by requesting membership at bit.ly/2cyyLs5 

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 

How well do future students, current students, faculty and staff, and alumni like your website? Now you can do our basic Customer Centric Index survey at no cost. Details at bit.ly/2f2g5VF 
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Conference Event 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 6.

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

And now here are your November marketing news and notes.
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Cartoon of the Month: How Much Content Marketing is Just "Crap"?

Not long ago Mark Pritchard, chief brand officer at Procter & Gamble, referred to a "content crap trap" created by a huge increase in "content marketing" production that overwhelmed the people receiving the deluge of resulting messages. 

Tom Fishburne took inspiration from Pritchard's comment (and research reporting that a 35 percent increase in brand content happened in the same year as a 17 percent decrease in brand engagement) in a new cartoon at bit.ly/2f9JucT 
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Gen Z and the Future of Marketing: 5-Minute Video with Wunderman CMO

Gen Z, including college-bound folk under 18 years of age, is a key focus of an interview with Jamie Gutfreund, CMO at the Wunderman agency, about new challenges that marketers can expect. Anyone recruiting traditional students should invest 5 minutes to watch the video.

Key points: Gen Z is very marketing-savvy, very practical, and very much in search of transparency from brands that interest them. Find more to help improve your recruitment communications and website content at bit.ly/2f4L80Z 
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Promoting Early FAFSA Benefits: Moravian College

Here is a rare example of gaining marketing advantage from creating new content around the benefits that potential students might expect to receive from the early FAFSA opportunity that started this fall.

On a page that makes strong use of headings and an easy-to-read text size, the college explains why early FAFSA "makes things easier for students and their parents."

Moravian noted that students who file early will receive financial aid award letters in November or "three months earlier than in past years."

For more on an unusually strong effort to take marketing advantage from early FAFSA visit bit.ly/2dUQGd2 
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Branding with Substance: Furman University

New branding efforts often fall primarily into the "promotion" part of the 4 marketing Ps and less often on major change in product.

Furman University offers a different example. A new "Furman Advantage" program, fueled by a $20+ million-dollar donation, will create an elaborate array of mentors, internships, and research opportunities to strengthen the connection between a liberal arts degree and career success.

For more on how one liberal arts university seeks to strengthen brand position and increase first-year enrollment despite a less than ideal geographic location visit bit.ly/2fxF9Em 
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Ranking Canadian Universities: The 2017 Maclean's Magazine Report

The top "comprehensive" university this year is Simon Fraser, followed in the Top 5 by Waterloo, Victoria, Guelph, and Carleton. Sort schools by student satisfaction and reputation ratings as well when you visit bit.ly/2farKhq 
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Virtual Reality: Explore a New Shiny Object

If you are talking on campus about how to add virtual reality to your tactical marketing mix, add this Adweek Brand Share infographic article to your reading list. Spoiler: VR developers think this is a very good idea. If you are not a VR developer, move with caution as you explore.

My favorite point: "A lot of companies that are eager to dive into VR still have islands on Second Life they no longer use." You do remember Second Life, yes?

Explore more in "For Brands, Virtual Reality is All About Genuine Connection" at bit.ly/2esjyJC 
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Web Design: Top 10 Enduring Mistakes from the Nielsen-Norman Group

Some design mistakes persist through each new generation of creativity and so the visitor experience does not improve. And so, it is always good to check your web site performance against the warnings you will find here. 

My favorites are #5, "Hidden Fees and Prices," and #7, "Poor Search Results." See the other 8 mistakes that endure at bit.ly/2fwJh7A
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Digital Marketing Glossary: Quiz Yourself on 18 Terms

How expert do you want to be on marketing in the digital era? Test yourself on 18 terms from AdAge starting with Attribution and ending with Trading Desk at bit.ly/2fxBab2 
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Writing Right for the Web: A to Z Guide to Effective Language 

Making the words on your website as quick to read as possible should be an important content marketing goal. Alas, too often we cannot escape phrases that our bureaucracies seem to love but real people do not often use. 

To explore how well your website content, emails, and blogs use "real people" language, scan the A to Z list of "Simple Words and Phrases" at bit.ly/2efBCsB 
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Football Coach Salaries: 72 at $1 Million or Higher

How does the compensation of your head football coach compare with the top 119 reported by USA Today? 

University of Michigan leads the pack at nearly $10 million. See the rest at usat.ly/2erCGXW 
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Most Popular Topic in October Newsletter: Strong Graphic on College Ranking Press Release

Higher education folks often dismiss and disdain college rankings. Unless, of course, a college or university does especially well. 

Centre College created a strong graphic image to introduce a press release reporting how well the college did on a new ranking system from the Wall Street Journal. Check the image at bit.ly/2dopyWg 
________________________________
Be a marketing champion on your campus.

Bob Johnson, Ph.D. 
President
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC
__________________________________________
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
Writing Right for the Web: Webinars, Conferences, and Campus Workshops
Competitive Website Reviews and Secret Shopping
Home Page Navigation Highlights 25 Task Links

IMG_1123.PNG
Most higher education home pages still use audience-based navigation on the home page and throughout the site: Prospective Students, Current Students, Alumni, Faculty & Starr. 

Most website visitors, however, are not looking for a particular audience. Instead, they have a task in mind and want to complete it as quickly as possible. And the best way to do that is to give prominent position to words that match as closely as possible the tasks that people coming to a site want to complete.

Colorado College does just that on desk top and lap top views with 5 prominent headings that you can scan in less than 5 seconds:
  • The Basics
  • Academics
  • Live at CC
  • Admission & Aid
  • News & Events
Underneath each heading are 5 easy-to-scan links that take people quickly to the task topic. And so we have a total of 25 links presented without clutter, drop down menus, or distracting animation. Clear. Quick. Simple.

On Mobile: Priority to Search

If you start your visit on a smartphone, you'll first see a search box so you can type in your priority task. I found it worked quite well for "majors" and not quite as well for "scholarships." The "Show Navigation" link will bring up the 5 headings used for larger screens. Here the font size might be a bit larger for a quick scan.

Speed on Google PageSpeed Insights is a respectable (by comparison with other sites) 69/100. User Experience is an excellent 99/100. It would likely be lower if the 5 primary headings were immediately visible.

Follow the Link of the Week

To see a higher education home page that breaks from the usual audience-based navigation paths, visit the Colorado College home page.https

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 
____________________________
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 
________________________________
Be a marketing champion on your campus.

Bob Johnson, Ph.D. 
President
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC
__________________________________________
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
Writing Right for the Web: Webinars, Conferences, and Campus Workshops
Competitive Website Reviews and Secret Shopping




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