Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

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 atbit.ly/1GJXS1o 
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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 atbit.ly/1g7WsrT 

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 atbit.ly/1ALgKx9 

Registration continues for eduWeb Digital Summit in Chicago in July. Check the program details, including my 3-hour pre-conference Digital Marketing Strategy workshop, atbit.ly/1AAtDbf 

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 atbit.ly/1mIBYqb 

Invite a friend or colleague to subscribe to this newsletter. Just 30 seconds at bit.ly/aRePLm 

And now here are your marketing news and notes for July.
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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 bit.ly/1CGVA20 
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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 bit.ly/1HOU3gm 
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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 bit.ly/1GVj0VB
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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 atlinkd.in/1G8lbl1 
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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 bit.ly/1IG1Nxj 
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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 cnb.cx/1LANwXY 
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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 bit.ly/1K8Wn1Z 
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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 atselnd.com/16ZXRL2 
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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 bit.ly/1APP3qq 
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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 bit.ly/1IJECES 
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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 onforb.es/1Az04ML 
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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 these services. Contact me for details at bob@bobjohnsonconsulting.com 

Communication Audits
Expert Marketing Communications Website Reviews
Top Task Website Design Research with Gerry McGovern
Writing Right for the Web: Webinars, Conferences, and Campus Workshops
Competitive Website Reviews and Secret Shopping Projects
June greetings from Houston. I am here at the Academic Impressions conference on Improving Your Student Recruitment Communication Plan that starts today.

In April I started a new secret shopping project to continue reviewing how colleges and universities are responding to an online inquiry. My potential 2016 freshman selected 5 schools. All were in the private sector.

The response to date is the strangest I have yet received in two years of similar projects. So far, no emails have arrived from anyone. One college sent 5 print pieces in April and May. Another has sent a view book. And a third has sent a postcard encouraging a summer visit. From the other two, nothing has arrived either online or in print.

Was it the time of the year? April is a hectic month in the final conversion effort for 2015. I just might try again with a new name in June. Can you afford to ignore inquiries made on your website because they did not arrive at the right time of the year? 

More on this project as the year unfolds.
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Upcoming Conference Events in July

The 5th Writing Write for the Web: Improving Your Online Content conference with Academic Impressions takes place in San Diego July 13-14. Check the agenda, including a post-conference workshop on creating and presenting "academic" and "affordability" content, at bit.ly/1ALgKx9 

Registration is open for eduWeb Digital Summit in Chicago in July. Check the program details, including my 3-hour pre-conference Digital Marketing Strategy workshop, at bit.ly/1AAtDbf

Invite a friend or colleague to subscribe to this newsletter. Just 30 seconds at bit.ly/aRePLm 

And now here are your marketing news and notes for June.
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Cartoon of the Month: 5-Point Creative Checklist for Your Ad

Rigid adherence to creative checklists can make you forget the point of it all and kill your advertising. Check the Cartoon of the Month at bit.ly/1FeGgd2 
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Branding: Is it a Waste of Money?

Is spending big bucks on branding the marketing equivalent of searching for the Holy Grail or Unicorns?

A Forbes magazine article suggests that for colleges and law firms the usual brand promotion efforts will not alter what people think of a brand based on the experiences they have with it. Read more on "Why Most Branding is a Waste of Money" by Robert Wynn atonforb.es/1Az04ML 
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Freshman Admissions: Why Yield Rates Fall 

No one presents data better than Jon Boeckenstedt, in a way that normal human beings can understand. A recent effort sheds light on the history of declining yield rates in college admissions from 2001 through 2013. 

One reason is an increase in "soft" applications. Some schools boost application levels to look more selective than they might otherwise appear. Drexel University recently opted out of this race to illusion. 

Use Single School Statistics to compare your application, admit, and enroll levels since 2001 with your primary competitors at bit.ly/1Fl8SCk 
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Web IQ Quiz: Answer 12 Questions from Pew Internet

Compare how your knowledge of the web and Internet compares with that of others by age, gender, and education after you answer 12 questions posed by the Pew Research Center atpewrsr.ch/1HSTL9f
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Content Marketing: 6 Potential Pitfalls to Guard Against

Content marketing can be great. Or it can be not so great. John Unger discusses 6 potential mistakes to guard against. The first and sixth are my favorites: Failure to pay attention to first sentences and content that is too promotional.

More on those pitfalls and 4 others from Website Magazine at bit.ly/1HWCsRP 
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Brand Delusions: A 15 Minute Reality Check

Do people on your campus have delusions about your brand? 

See what you think after a 15-minute webinar on June 10 from Gerry McGovern on how to bring a better sense of reality into your brand discussions. Register at bit.ly/1LUcsHM
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Public Universities: Arms Race for Out-of-State Students

Just how fierce is the marketing competition among public universities for out-of-state students who will pay high out-of-state tuition rates? 

Fierce indeed, as a list of the top 50 public universities offering merit scholarships to students without financial need will show. Small individual scholarships can lead to a large increase in net tuition revenue. Not all awards are small. Schools with average awards of $10,000 or more include UT-Dallas and the University of Alabama. University of Vermont, Shepherd University, and UC-Boulder average more than $9,000 per student.

For more details download the New America Education Policy 26-page PDF at bit.ly/1Rw5Qmp
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Survey on Digital Governance: Take the Survey, Get the Results

My friends at J.Boye are conducting a short online survey to learn more about how digital governance works within organizations. To receive a copy of the results take the survey atsvy.mk/1G7hkuH 
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Insane Honesty in Marketing: Disney World Marketing Might Not Be Best

Do you practice Disney World Marketing, where everything is wonderful all the time? Or do you really want to differentiate yourself from everyone else?

Review the possible benefits of a more realistic approach that builds trust and believability when you read "The Power of Insane Honesty in Content Marketing" at bit.ly/1SHlFbD 
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Internet Trends: 2015 Report from Mary Meeker

As you speculate about what the online future might bring, especially the continuing move to a smaller and more mobile environment, add the latest annual report from Mary Meeker to your reading list. This is a must read for anyone interested in online advertising.

Start at bit.ly/1K0zJt3 
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Consuming Content: How Generations Do Not Differ

Generations differ quite a bit on the devices they use to access the web but they are remarkably similar in the type of content they prefer, regardless of device. 

Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials all favor blogs, images, and comments as their top 3 sources. Each generation counts quizzes, webinars, and white papers among their bottom 5 sources.

What is the best length for articles? Each generation favors 300 words.

Check more details at bit.ly/1KD4XYu 
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Mobile-Friendly Websites: Great Advice from Nielsen-Norman Group

A new Alertbox outlines significant differences between working on a website on a small smartphone screen rather than a laptop or desktop that responsive design by itself does not overcome.

Elements reviewed include the much shorter time of visits to small screen sites, the typing challenge, and connectivity limitations. See more to help you succeed on the small screen atbit.ly/1Bv553V 
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Most Popular Topic in May Newsletter: Telling a Good Story 

What makes a good story? And what can kill one? That's the focus of "Story Telling to Engage and Persuade." If you missed this infographic based on Emory University research visitbit.ly/1QAT0nA 
________________________________
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 these services. Contact me for details at bob@bobjohnsonconsulting.com 

Communication Audits
Expert Marketing Communication Website Reviews
Top Task Website Design Research with Gerry McGovern
Writing Right for the Web: Webinars, Conferences, and Campus Workshops
Competitive Website Reviews and Secret Shopping Projects
Have you been as amused as I have been about the alarms these last few weeks during the build-up to Google's April 21 change to mobile-search ranking results? Did you believe that a devastating "mobilegeddon" was descending upon us? 

Yes, the change is important. No, it will not destroy your student recruitment results or your brand reputation. Put your danger in perspective. Check your analytics to see how many of your "new" visitors in the past year came to your website through a general search that did not include the name of your school. That is your danger point. Yes, you need a mobile-friendly website. But this search change is far from the most important reason. 

With any luck "mobilegeddon" will soon fade from use. Civilization continues.
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Upcoming Conference Events

Travel to Houston June 1-3 for "Improving Your Strategic Recruitment Communication Plan." I am looking forward to my new sessions on "values messaging" and "affordability and financial aid" as well as an updated presentation on evaluating your website. Details for all the sessions including a pre-conference workshop on "Integrating Recruitment Communications with Your Brand" are at bit.ly/1zfTZCb 

The fifth "Writing Write for the Web: Improving Your Online Content" conference with Academic Impressions takes place in San Diego July 13-14. Check the agenda, including a post-conference workshop on creating and presenting "affordability" content, atbit.ly/1ALgKx9 

Early registration is open for eduWeb Digital Summit, in Chicago in July. Check the program details starting with the 3-hour pre-conference workshops at bit.ly/1AAtDbf 

Invite a friend or colleague to subscribe to this newsletter. Takes just 30 seconds atbit.ly/aRePLm 

And now here are your marketing news and notes for May. 
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Cartoon of the Month: Challenges of ROI Data for Marketing 

How can marketers best meet the demand for data that proves results? It is not easy.

Our May cartoon selection will make marketers groan and chuckle at the same time. Visitbit.ly/1dIccAJ 
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Teens and Social Media: Facebook Still Dominates

Pew Research is out with a new "Teens, Social Media and Technology Overview" for 2015. 

Points that stand out: Twitter still dominates with 71 percent use, followed by Instagram at a distant 52 percent. Twitter use is up to 33 percent. Most teens use more than one site. When asked what site they used most often, 41 percent said Facebook and 20 percent said Instagram.

Differences exist by income level and gender. For full details, visit the report atpewrsr.ch/1CZMcZz 
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New "Value Added" Rankings: The Brookings Institution Measures Alumni Success

With the increased interest in "outcomes" information to measure the value of investing in a particular college or university, a new rankings system from the Brookings Institute might become especially popular. And not only by parents of college-bound students but also by some schools that rank unexpectedly high and can use this site as a recruitment tool.

Ivy League schools, for instance, do not dominate. Brown University is the first Ivy listed at 30th while Marietta College has the 18th position. Manhattan College ties with Stanford University to finish the top ten.

Review the methodology and search for your school when you visit brook.gs/1Pjjvum 
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Demand for Master's Degrees: About to Collapse?

Over the last few years many colleges and universities have drawn financial solace from increased revenues from master's degree programs as recent graduates sought a career-building competitive edge. Is that about to change?

Jeff Selingo thinks it is about to do just that, with serious financial consequences for many schools including his model, George Washington University. Why? Growth in lower-cost and faster online credentialing in specialty areas will expand rapidly. Jeff's article is atwapo.st/1JlV0e6

To see one example of the new competition, check the course offerings and video tutorials at Lynda.com (just purchased by LinkedIn) at bit.ly/1F2uM2G 
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Higher Education Public Sector Funding: A State by State Comparison

Need to know public funding changes for higher education in one or more of the 50 states today and changes since 2009, including net tuition as a percent of total revenue? Download the 50-page "FY 2014 Report" from the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association at bit.ly/1AAlMKN 

Since 2009, FTE enrollment has decreased the most in Illinois, California and Michigan and increased the most in Idaho, Ohio and Oregon.
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Storytelling: Increasing Engagement and Persuasion

Most marketers agree that storytelling by current students and recent alumni is a critical part of the marketing communications mix in the student recruitment cycle.

A short infographic from Website Magazine reports on Emory University research findings on how specific words and phrases can increase or decrease engagement. Be especially wary of overused "buzz adjectives" such as "responsible" and "creative." And maybe "academic excellence" fits here as well.

More on how our brains react to what we read and hear at bit.ly/1QAT0nA 
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Website Design: Time to Get "Ruthlessly Simple"

The message from Scott McDonald writing in UX magazine is clear: "Simplicity" is the "next design battleground" in the web world. That headline tells us the battle will not be easily won. But for higher education marketers interested in success with potential students it is a battle worth waging.

Make sure everyone involved with the web on your campus reads and discusses "Four ways to a simpler you" at bit.ly/1AAjYl1 
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Website Navigation: Do People "Pogo stick" on your website?

I will confess to not having heard the pogo-stick term applied to web behavior before. In brief, it is what happens when people move from one page to another, do not find or cannot use the expected content, and hop back to the previous page. If your site has activity like this, it is not very web-friendly.

Our friends at the Nielsen-Norman Group will walk you through how to use your analytics program to find out if you have the problem in the first place. Read through the discovery process and recommended steps to fix the problem at bit.ly/1H0kSgl 
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Is Your Website Mobile-Friendly: 5 Ways to Check

Mobile friendliness is indeed important, even if not as many schools will collapse from the April 21 Google SEO changes as the purveyors of "mobilegeddon" hysteria would have us believe.

Check your site from 5 different perspectives offered by Website Magazine at bit.ly/1zI2EzG 
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Most Popular Topic in April Newsletter: 15 Great Landing Page Examples

Nothing will kill the ROI on your advertising efforts faster than a bad landing page. Compare your landing pages with these 15 examples from HubSpot at bit.ly/1AO9ptb 
________________________________
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 these services. Contact me for details at bob@bobjohnsonconsulting.com 

Communication Audits
Expert Marketing Communications Website Reviews
Top Task Website Design Research with Gerry McGovern
Writing Right for the Web: Webinars, Conferences, and Campus Workshops
Competitive Website Reviews and Secret Shopping Projects
Higher Education Marketing News and Notes for April

Were you as surprised as I was at how many higher education "experts" at first refused to comment on the record last month on the Sweet Briar College closing? And at how many later fumbled around looking for reasons why the decision was incorrect and Sweet Briar just should have tried harder? 


For me, the bottom line at Sweet Briar was a steadily rising discount rate that passed 63 percent. That sends a message about brand strength in the marketplace, no matter the endowment dollars left. Trustees made a difficult but correct decision.

Join us in Houston June 1-3 for Improving Your Strategic Recruitment Communication Plan. I am looking forward to my sessions on "values messaging" and "affordability and financial aid." Details at bit.ly/1zfTZCb 

The fifth Writing Write for the Web: Improving Your Online Content conference with Academic Impressions takes place in San Diego July 13-14. Check the agenda at bit.ly/1ALgKx9

Early registration is open for eduWeb Digital Summit in Chicago in July. In honor of this 10th anniversary meeting, eduWeb is having a contest to award free registrations to 10 people who work at a college or university. Contest details are at bit.ly/1y5xx0e 

The J.Boye Philadelphia 15 conference happens May 5-7. Register with the discount code HigherEdMarketing20 for a 20 percent discount. Speakers and topics are at bit.ly/1Fv8JOQ 

Invite a friend or colleague to subscribe to this newsletter. Just 30 seconds at bit.ly/aRePLm 

And now here are your marketing news and notes for April. 
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Cartoon of the Month: Tech Fantasies and Marketing Success 

Are you infatuated each year with the latest tech marvel from SXSW? 

Our Cartoon selection this month reminds us to step back and try to puzzle out whether or not the latest tech wonder really fits with our marketing plans. See bit.ly/1BU4BnR 
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What Makes People Leave Your Website? 10 Possibilities to Review

If you want more people to love your website, do a mini-audit based on these 10 reasons from Wordtracker on what might be driving visitors away. The list starts with an area I'm convinced does not receive the attention it deserves: Slow Loading Speed, especially on mobile. 

Another favorite: "Simplify Purchase Forms" that for higher education translates to "Simplify Inquiry Forms." See those and 8 more at bit.ly/1xF37Bs 
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15 Great Landing Page Examples

Gina Soskey at HubSpot has gathered a great list of 15 landing pages, some long and some short, at bit.ly/1AO9ptb 

Pay special attention to the sign-up forms and note how their creators have resisted the temptation to conduct demographic surveys and ask a "how did you hear about us" question. The longer the form the fewer people will complete it.
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College Presidents: 600+ Respond to a Survey on Current Issues

Inside Higher Education commissioned this survey of college presidents on topics that included their financial models, proposed government ratings, race relations, and sexual assault on their campuses and others. 

Notable result: a major difference in confidence in their current financial models over the next 5 years and the next 10 years. The crystal ball is showing storm clouds although most think the financial impact of the 2008 recession is over. 

Start with a summary article and link to download the complete 24-page PDF at bit.ly/1F8u5lX 
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The End of College: An Atlantic Magazine Essay 

If you follow the higher education disruption literature you probably know that Kevin Carey has a new "technology will destroy college as we know it" book out. 

The president of Wesleyan University has an excellent essay in Atlantic Magazine on why Carey may be a little too deep into the disruption Kool-Aid. I say that as no special fan of traditional higher education. But if you are interested in the debate be sure to read this critique by Michael Roth at theatln.tc/1CfTrZw 
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NY Times and Apple Watch: A New Brevity Alert

Predictions for sales of the new Apple Watch are high (maybe too high?) and marketers are scrambling to figure out how to take advantage of this tiny new mobile screen. One thing is certain: the need for skill at brief communications that use carewords to get attention will be higher than ever before.

The NY Times knows that. Special teams are at work to present news stories in one powerful sentence. Readers will be able to go from there to read more on iPhone and iPad. Can higher education press releases also play in this arena? That will take some new skill.

Start planning for the mini-screen world. Review the NY Times effort at bit.ly/1BTpTlx 
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University of Phoenix: More than 50 percent Enrollment Decrease

Yes, the for-profit sector is in trouble. At the University of Phoenix enrollment has decreased from 460,000 students 5 years ago to a present 213,000. Revenue has decreased from nearly $5 billion in 2010 to perhaps $2.7 billion this year. And of course stock prices have dipped more than a bit.

Is there good news? Tightened admission has contributed to lower loan default rates. But there is no doubt that Phoenix and the for-profit is no longer an investment darling. More from CNN Money at cnnmon.ie/1Dsbd2T 
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Content Strategy: Is Content Blindness in the Future?

Ad Age recently reported on a panel session of ad agency folk concerned about the rush to produce content as part of an in-bound marketing strategy. What is the problem? Resistance by those expected to consume the content to anything they think is overtly pushing a product or service. 

Can marketers resist the urge to embed old-style marketing in on-line content? More on the possibility of content blindness and how to avoid it at bit.ly/1EXzATk 
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Email Marketing: Alive and Well

Here is a great infographic to send to any colleagues who do not believe attention to email marketing is important. Among other research reports: 77 percent of people, including Millennials, prefer to receive permission-based email and consider it a trustworthy source of information.

A critical factor: email must be relevant to the person receiving it. That is an important message for colleges and universities that send the same emails to everyone making an enrollment inquiry. When you ask people to name the academic programs that interest them and then ignore that information in response emails you make is less likely that people will continue to pay attention.

More on how to create and sustain a successful email communications stream atbit.ly/1LU0bHD 
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Presenting a Value Proposition: 4 Mistakes to Avoid

If you are talking about adding "value" content to your marketing communication plan, be sure to check the advice from Website Magazine on "4 Value Propositions Worth Re-Thinking."

My favorite here: words are more important than video. Video plays a key support role, but present your case first in short, easy to read text. See more at bit.ly/1NEJLyp 
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A Higher Education Value Proposition at the Home Page: Augustana College

I have found only one higher education home page that opens with value content.

See it for yourself at the home page for Augustana College in South Dakota at bit.ly/1MH1c6f
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Most Popular Topic in March Newsletter: 4 Expert Tips for Landing Page Copy

Very pleased to see the high interest in this topic as there is no better way to kill advertising ROI than by sending people to a poor landing page. Check "4 Expert Tips..." at bit.ly/1G38UDy 
________________________________
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 these services. Contact me for details at bob@bobjohnsonconsulting.com 

Communication Audits
Expert Marketing Communications Website Reviews
Top Task Website Design Research with Gerry McGovern
Writing Right for the Web: Webinars, Conferences, and Campus Workshops
Competitive Website Reviews and Secret Shopping Projects
Affordability and Higher Education Marketing

If you work in higher education marketing today you can't miss the increased public concern over rising costs in both private and public sector colleges and universities. And yet despite that increased concern, marketing strategies seldom extend to developing content that focuses specifically on "affordability." 

To help people compare schools, the U.S. Department of Education has an interactive College Affordability and Transparency Center.

Price is still an issue that many if not most schools like to avoid discussing in detail until as late in the student recruitment cycle as possible. Given the high level of interest in cost, that's a marketing mistake.

But there are exceptions to the avoidance syndrome. Today we note 5 examples of how a few schools have elected to deal directly with affordability on their websites. I'd expect to see more like these in the future and possible some combining the best of the different features you'll find here.

5 Affordability Marketing Content Examples

American University

In a series of strong graphic presentations, American highlights reduced tuition increases over the past 10 years (from 6.5 percent in 2005 to 2.9 percent in 20013 and 2014) as well as a strong shift from merit aid to need-based awards, low default rates and more. 

The message in the graphics is strong enough that you don't really have to read the text below them. And that's a boon for impatient web visitors. See College Affordability: AU and Your Educational Goals.

Wellesley College

While every school is required to have a net cost calculator on the website, legions of potential students and their parents fail to complete them because most are to close to the equivalent of completing the FAFSA form itself. 

Wellesley takes a different approach with a "Quick College Cost Estimator" that requires just 7 steps to receive an estimate of how much a family might have to pay to send a child to Wellesley. See the basic info required at My inTuition: Wellesley's Quick College Cost Estimator.

Calvin College

You don't have to search far to find complaints among higher ed professionals that too many people only pay attention to a schools "sticker" price without realizing that very few people pay that price. 

Calvin attacks that problem directly as their page opens with a large "Cutting the Price Tag" heading. Everything that follows (down to outcomes results and low loan default rates) is on a single page that combines easy-to-read graphics with clear language that is remarkably free of higher ed jargon. See a strong example of "Writing Right for the Web" at Calvin's Cutting the Price Tag page.

University of Findlay

At Findlay the goal is to directly attack 5 "affordability myths" that start with the average cost difference between a student attending Findlay ($21,500) and one attending "state schools" ($19,600) or "other private schools in the region" ($23,200). 

The myths also include indebtedness at graduation and high loan default rates with graphs that show a default rate for Findlay grads, for instance, of less than 5 percent with comparisons to much higher Ohio and national rates. Review the other myths attacked at Findlay's Affordability Myths page.

When you visit, be sure to follow the link to the "Total Degree Cost Calculator" for an estimate of four-year degree costs that's included with the first myth.

Ball State University

Despite lower costs compared to private sector schools public universities are not immune to affordability concerns. Reductions in state funding often have meant increases in tuition and other charges. More than a few people feel that public universities have not done enough to reduce operating costs before resorting to tuition increases.

Ball State tackles the PR challenge with content to demonstrate "fiscal stewardship" that has let it lower tuition while maintaining quality education. That's rather a "man bites dog" assertion compared to more prevalent positions that fewer resources create quality declines. For more see "Ensuring Affordability, Now."

That's all for now.

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Bob Johnson
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