Moving forward (and making mistakes) with abandon on your campus Web site
March 1, 2011
I’ve been preparing to participate in the keynote address for our CMS partner, OmniUpdate. Their OU Campus User’s Conference is a great event to connect with some of the most talented and productive Web and e-communications folks in higher education.
One of the themes that emerges from these conferences is our gratitude that the arena of “Web” gives us a platform to try new things that may succeed and may not. In other words…
The Web Offers Forgiveness and Redemption!
Here’s what I mean. The scary thing about Web development is the combination of possibilities and details. There’s so much our sites have to do to support our recruitment, advancement, and overall communications goals. Add that to the never-ending cavalcade of shiny new Webby widgets and there are a lot of ways you can go wrong.
But that’s my message today—try stuff and be ready to get it wrong! The trick is making sure that you’re choosing the right shiny bits to chase after and that you have the right metrics in place to tell you whether or not you made a good bet.
Take SEO (search engine optimization) for instance. While this concept and practice is gaining traction in higher education Web development, it absolutely requires a strong measurement plan. You should know how your current pages are performing and why before you change course with new metatags and content. Then you should be making periodic reviews (we like a quarterly review cycle) of these pages to see how things are working.
Have you gained status on the first page of search results for your top keywords or has a competitor bumped you into oblivion (any search position that isn’t on the first page of results)? This review strategy also gives you opportunity to check your implementation on the back end of your site and refresh the text on these pages.
You may also be experimenting with PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns and strategies to build your inquiry and applicant pools or just enhance brand awareness. This is a great way to try out a new resource to engage prospects and new venues (think Facebook, if you haven’t already). Just be sure that you’re clear on the pathways you offer up to these clickers and that your Google Analytics console has specific goals and campaigns set up to receive them.
Mobile site/application development is yet another area that provides important opportunities for you and your Web team to consider. If you haven’t started thinking about mobile users on your current Web site, just take a peek into your Google Analytics console. We’ll bet that mobile users represent one of the leading areas of growth in users on your site.
Have you checked how your site renders on the iPhone, Blackberry and Android devices? If not, you better get started now. If you have started, what do you know about how these users are engaging with the online resources you offer? Have you considered creating unique resources for current students and prospective students. Keep an eye out for our latest E-expectations study to learn more about how current high school seniors are engaging your site with their mobile device. Then take your ideas (and data) to your next Web team meeting and begin developing your plan.
Other shiny things to consider? Read my previous post on QR codes or jump in on all of the great discussions at University Web Developers.