21 06, 2018

CMS: Proprietary or Not?

By | 2018-06-21T14:30:12+00:00 June 21st, 2018|Categories: Cascade CMS, Higher Education, Web Development|Tags: , , , |

What’s Best for Higher Ed CMS?

If you’re considering upgrading your school’s website, selecting the wrong CMS can have lasting ramifications. And, with so many options out there, it’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed.

Google “proprietary vs open source CMS,” and you’ll receive over 50 hits to your search query. Some even come with catchy headlines, like: “Battle Royale: Open-Source vs. Closed-Source CMS” and “The Battle of Open Source vs. Proprietary Systems.” Clearly, the debate regarding the best type of content management system is still ongoing… and, apparently, fight-level intense.

There are a lot of content management systems out there, that’s for sure. So, how do you choose the one that best fits your higher learning institution? Understanding the difference between the two main CMS types is a good start.

Let’s start with the definitions. Open source systems, like WordPress and Drupal, are built with source code that’s freely shared with everyone. This means that anyone can apply that source code in any manner they want. The advantages of open source applications is that they can be improved by literally anyone. If there’s a problem, a solution can be crowdsourced from the user community — often quicker than an in-house team with limited man hours.

Proprietary software, on the other hand, is kept secret by the developers. The applications are maintained and updated in-house by dedicated personnel. The advantage with proprietary CMS is that it is often designed for a specific market. There are CMSs are there tailored for the transportation, travel, hospitality, and yes, higher education. Also, whereas open source CMS leaves customization to the end user, proprietary CMS can be set up on the front end for the unique needs of an individual client.

Let’s explore each type further.

Proprietary vs Open-Source: Let the debate rage

If you value portability, ongoing improvement/optimization, and adaptation, odds are good that you’ll be satisfied with a popular open-source platform like WordPress or Drupal.

If your website is built in WordPress or a similar CMS, it’s fairly easy to move into another CMS when and if you so choose. You may also feel secure in knowing that a large developer base is constantly working on improving the features and functionality of the platform. Such improvements are implemented through code updates, requiring very little effort from you and your staff.

However, there are also drawbacks. The code updates can create some technical issues with third-party plug-ins or websites running on older versions of the software. Because the code is available to everyone, it can be an easier target for exploitation and cyber attacks. And, chances are good that your site will require at least some customization, which carries added cost and the potential need for personnel skilled in HTML.

Closed-source programs offer some advantages over their open-source counterparts, chief among them is ease of use.

With proprietary software, there’s never a need for you or your staff to make changes in the code, because the CMS is already fully customized to your site’s unique needs. Any additional development is handled by the vendor. The software also allows for a robust user permission setup, allowing you to easily delegate tasks to appropriate team members.

Additionally, closed-source code has a reputation for being more secure. This makes sense, since potential bad actors don’t have the luxury of parsing the source code for vulnerabilities.

The only drawback with proprietary CMS is portability. While some programs make it fairly easy to transfer website content to another platform, there’s typically no such flexibility for the graphic and structural elements of the site.

The Ruling

So, what type of CMS makes the most sense for higher education? Because it’s better suited for specialized and customized content, we, at Beacon, view proprietary CMS as the better option. Cascade and OmniUpdate, in particular, are two platforms that we work with routinely.

OmniUpdate is specifically dedicated to the higher ed sector. It’s OU Campus platform was designed with features and modules intended for use by universities and colleges.

Cascade is another trusted and reliable CMS application. One of the cooler attributes of this platform is the ability to create flexible templates, which we focused on in an earlier post.

No HTML experience is necessary to work with either one of these content management systems.

Beacon Knows Websites

Want to see how your higher ed website stacks up? Request a free audit by our knowledgeable team and see how you’re doing.

7 06, 2018

Bringing Your Web Design to Life

By | 2018-06-07T14:08:43+00:00 June 7th, 2018|Categories: Higher Education, Web Development|Tags: , , , |

HTML: The Foundation of Your Website

It’s common knowledge that, in today’s hyper-digital marketplace, your chances for success are limited without a strong website presence. As an experienced marketer, you know reflexively that a well-designed and expertly developed website is an irreplaceable marketing tool that differentiates your brand from your competitors.

What makes a great website, however, is a topic that can be debated without end. Ask a content strategist, a graphic designer, and a site developer that question and you’re likely to receive different answers from each — maybe even wildly different.

Regardless of their favorite website features or components, digital marketing experts know that, without a strong foundation, no site will ever perform up to expectations. So, what serves as the foundation of a website? What brings to life your creative vision, technical capabilities and conversion opportunities?

That answer is easy — it’s the underlying HTML code. Laying that foundation properly, to withstand the shifting sands of time, is the tricky part.

Mapping Your Creative Into HTML

At Beacon, we’ve developed a time-tested process for website development – our Brains, Beauty and Brawn approach. Foundation laying is brawny work. But it’s made easier by the steps completed in the Brains and Beauty stages.

In these first two phases, we suss out our clients’ cosmetic, functional and design requirements and create detailed webpage outlines. This work is informed by our research into target audiences and interviews with various stakeholders. The insights gained in this process are translated into page mockups with notes explaining how each included webpage feature should operate.

Our mockups include mobile and desktop variants. In order to make your site as user friendly as possible, it’s important to think about how the site will function across various devices that your target audiences use.  To ensure a smooth build-out process, these decisions have to be considered in the design stage, before development begins.

Once the mockups receive client approval, our developers start the heavy lifting — writing the HTML code and building out the site per the approved specifications.

Developing Flexible Templates

Our goal is to deliver a website that’s not only easy for users to navigate, but also easy for our clients to manage. Brains and Beauty take care of your site visitors. The Brawn phase is geared to make your website administrators happy by giving them maximum control. We do this by building flexible page templates that can be arranged into a number of different configurations.

Traditional website development calls for the creation of static page templates — home page, landing page, interior content page, etc. The larger and more complex your site, the more templates you’ll likely need. Additional templates add expense to an already costly development process. They also add confusion for your website managers.

We get around these problems by creating templates that can easily be manipulated into different variations by your staff. This puts them in control, ultimately making your website more responsive to your users’ needs.

Instead of restricting all design decisions to the front end of the development process, flexible templates allow you to continue optimizing your site for the duration of its life. The result is a living website that changes and grows with your audience.

Beacon Knows Websites

Have questions or concerns about your website’s performance? Request a free website audit, and let our team evaluate what’s going right and what could use a helping hand.

22 05, 2018

Functional/Audience Design

By | 2018-05-22T15:38:17+00:00 May 22nd, 2018|Categories: Higher Education, Web Development|Tags: , , , |

Audience is Front & Center in Higher Ed Web Design

What makes a higher education website effective? The answer can certainly be complicated. Universities, colleges and community colleges are large organizations, with numerous goals, many decision-makers and a diverse set of users.

Prioritizing among a multitude of sometimes competing needs can be tough. How do you decide what gets top billing? For your school, the answers lie within your specific mix of prospective students, current students, faculty and staff, and the larger community to which your campus belongs. The other part of the equation is research.

There are a lot of factors that go into building a great site. But, at the end of the day, it comes down to this: Understand the needs and user habits of your primary and secondary audiences, and shape their experiences on your site accordingly.

How do we do that?

User Experience Research

At Beacon, way before any technical development work starts, we dig in to help you understand your audience mix. In a previous post, we covered the specifics of focus groups and surveys. These methods are key in gaining actionable insights into your target audiences.

We’ve also talked about heatmaps, and how helpful they can be in identifying the portions of a webpage that receive the most attention and engagement.

The other tool in our tool-belt is session recording software. This is used to analyze user behavior patterns and areas of interest on your site. The results are helpful in spotting common user difficulties and identifying opportunities for improvement.

The results of that research is parsed and presented during the strategy phase. It’s then used to inform the decisions in the design and development phases of the website build.

Insights Drive Navigation

Our goal is to deliver a website that caters to all of your intended audiences, is responsive to all devices it can be accessed on (laptop, desktop, smartphone or tablet), and satisfies all ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements. In short, we design websites that are easy to use and navigate.

Understanding your audiences allows you to create intuitive navigation paths that lead users to the information they are seeking in the shortest amount of clicks.

With higher education websites, we recommend structuring your main navigation menu around the needs of your primary audience: your prospective students. The menu items should focus on the needs of this group, which are gleaned during the research phase. The header should also include an expandable menu with links to audience-specific resources and other frequently visited pages, as well as an easy to spot site search feature.

To make your website mobile-friendly, all menus should reduce down to an expandable hamburger menu (appears as an icon with three short lines). It’s also helpful to have a site search feature that expands to cover the length of the device screen.

Beacon Knows Higher Ed Web Design

If you’re not sure if your website’s current design is meeting the needs of your students, we’ll be happy to take a look. Request a complimentary website audit, and our team will provide you with an honest assessment of your site’s strengths and weaknesses. No strings attached. Feel free to give us a call, too, at (866) 708-1467.

3 05, 2018

Visual/Marketing Design

By | 2018-05-03T14:37:15+00:00 May 3rd, 2018|Categories: Higher Education, Web Development|Tags: , |

Essential Elements of Website Redesign

More than four billion people use the internet regularly, according to the latest statistical estimates. That translates to more than half of the world’s population. A lot of eyes on screens, for sure. Which is why it’s smart to invest in your digital storefront – your website.

But, it is 2018… everyone has a website. Maybe even several.

Not only is the competition fierce, but internet users have a notoriously short attention span. If you can’t communicate to a visitor what you’re all about in five to seven seconds, you can pretty much forget about winning their business.

That’s a pretty tough and complicated proposition. After all, odds are that you don’t have a homogeneous prospect base that seeks just one specific product/service and lives in a well-defined geographical area. Your students probably come from many walks of life, are interested in different educational services for different reasons, and exhibit diverse user behaviors.

Yes, you can target these audiences with well-sculpted digital campaigns. But, you still have to attract them to your site, and be able to keep them there long enough to communicate your value proposition. If your website isn’t prepared to handle that job, it’s time to consider a redesign.

Over-Arching Component of Your Marketing Strategy

Your website is the flagship in your marketing armada. This means that your site defines your brand, and all other marketing efforts support that foundation.

You’re likely to engage in many marketing activities to attract prospects. You may be fond of email campaigns. Perhaps you’ve found a PPC wizard and online ad campaigns are a key performer for you. Maybe traditional direct mail is your bread and butter.

Unless you’re trying to increase foot traffic on campus, all of those marketing efforts should be steering prospective students, and their parents, to your website. As such, your website has to be instantly recognizable as yours and ensure a seamless transition from the other marketing channels.

Brand, Personality & Messaging

When visitors land on your home page, there should be no question or ambiguity about whose site it is. Having a unique and engaging brand helps in this regard. When revamping your website, make sure that your brand personality is worked into the design and jumps off the page from the get go.

Users should also be able to use your site with ease. No visitor is going to stick around for long if they can’t quickly and intuitively navigate your menus or find the information they’re looking for.

Lastly, remember to keep your messaging short and punchy. Internet users skim – they don’t typically like to read a lot of text. Keep paragraphs short, use bullet points or lists whenever appropriate, and include visual content – videos, pics, infographics, etc. – as much as possible.

Does My Website Need a Redesign?

Beacon can help you answer that question. Give us a call at (866) 708-1467, and we’ll be happy to perform a detailed audit of your website.

24 04, 2018

Heat Maps & Site Search

By | 2018-05-01T07:56:42+00:00 April 24th, 2018|Categories: Higher Education|Tags: , , , |

Are You Listening to Your Data?

Your website users can tell you a lot about how your site is performing. Of course, they don’t necessarily make it easy.

In our previous blog post, we discussed how to directly tap into your audience by asking questions via focus groups and surveys. The benefit of engaging with your audience in these ways is the opportunity to hear firsthand what your customer base thinks.

The drawback?

Your focus group and survey participants may not always be so great at assessing their own online behavior. Or, the nice people that they are, they may be tempted to tell you what they think you want to hear.

While direct responses from your website users are an excellent source of insights, you do want to make sure that what your audience tells you is reflected in their actual online behavior. There’s an old Russian proverb, often attributed to a former US President, that offers great advice: “Trust, but verify.”

The best way to do that is by taking a close look at what visitors are actually doing on your site.

Heat Maps: Pretty Data

Beacon homepage heat map

Heat map of Beacon’s homepage

Heat maps provide an extremely user-friendly method for identifying the portions of your website that receive the most attention. Instead of numbers, pie charts, columns or bars, a heat map presents user behavior data as colors on a warm-to-cool spectrum. This provides an intuitive way to interpret the information – lots of clicks equals warmer colors.

Heat maps can be used to represent any kind of data – not just website usage. But, they are particularly useful in showing where on a given webpage users click the most. And that information can be easily turned into an analysis of on-page performance.

Are people using your navigation bar as intended? Is your CTA drawing the engagement you thought it would? Are page features being overlooked or overshadowed by other content?

Combined with a scroll map, you can also see if users are reaching the content at the bottom of the page. These insights make it easy to understand why a page may not be performing up to expectations, and help you come up with a well-targeted re-design plan.

Site Search: Know What They’re Looking For

Another tool that lets you peek inside the mind of your audience is site search analysis. If you haven’t installed a site search feature on your site, you should really consider doing so soon.

Site search makes your site more convenient for many different types of users, while maintaining emphasis on your primary target audience. It allows visitors to drive their own experiences on your site by letting them find exactly the information they want to access.

Through their searches, visitors also leave behind valuable information about their intentions, desires and future behavior. Between five and 10% of all internet users rely on site search – a healthy sample size from which pertinent and actionable insights can be pulled.

Site search analysis can help you identify new, relevant keywords; content that should be added; new product ideas; or unexpected reasons people are visiting your site. It can also highlight usability or navigational issues by specifying the locations from which users initiated their search and how many pages they viewed after completing their query.

We Can Help with That:

Want to know how heat maps and site search can help your website perform better? Give us a call at (866) 708-1467, we’d be glad to talk to you about your challenges. Insights and analysis are what our Digital Marketing Services team excels at.

10 04, 2018

Higher Ed Focus Groups & Surveys: Are You Listening to Your Students?

By | 2018-05-23T07:59:14+00:00 April 10th, 2018|Categories: Higher Education|Tags: , , , , |

Colleges and universities are in a constant state of change. Every year, graduates leaving for the “real world” are replaced on campus by an incoming freshman class.

While the demographic mix of incoming classes at a given school typically changes little year to year, the students themselves — their interests, use of technology, social media interactions — are prone to more frequent change.

So, how do higher education institutions keep up with the changing student profile? How do they ensure that their communication efforts achieve the wanted response? As with any marketing endeavor, understanding your target audience is essential to meeting your goals.

Focus Groups Are an Excellent Source of Qualitative Data

One way to get to know your audience is with an in-depth focus group interview. There are many focus group designs — dueling moderators, respondents-as-moderator, dual group, and more. But, the classic format involves one or two moderators leading the session, and a group of eight to 12 participants answering questions.

Focus groups provide the opportunity to gain deep insight into the attitudes, beliefs, behaviors and opinions of your target audience. In a higher education setting, the audience can be students already on campus, incoming students, or even parents of students (since they have a tendency to know their student pretty well).

Of course, you want to be selective in choosing your focus group participants.

You’ll also want to make sure that the group you end up interviewing is demographically representative of your target audience.

Surveys Provide Measurable, Quantitative Data

Another way to gain insight into your target audience is through surveys. In a survey, a small percentage of your target audience provides answers to a predetermined set of questions. The questions can be multiple choice, true/false, fill in the blank, or open-ended. If the goal of your survey is measurable data, you’ll want to focus on the first three types and avoid open-ended questions.

Surveys can be conducted as an interview (in-person, telephone, or video conference) or as a questionnaire (via email, snail mail, or online session). To get the most out of your survey, the questions should take five minutes or less to complete and be available to participants for at least two weeks. Providing an incentive (cash, school supplies, or coupons) and getting the word out to student influencers (club presidents, student government representatives, etc) can help boost your response rate.

Applying Your Data

So, you’ve collected your answers. Now what?

The next step is to analyze the data and pull out relevant insights. With focus group results, you’ll need to carefully examine each person’s responses, organize the answers into categories, and evaluate how the data applies to your research goals. The following questions can help:

  • What big themes emerge from the responses?
  • Do the responses confirm a known, or lead to a new discovery?
  • Do the responses change your perspective?
  • What insights can be gleaned?

Because survey results are typically numerical, the analysis process is more straightforward. Simply tabulate your results and draw conclusions from the final data.

Need Some Help Getting Started?

Beacon has managed countless focus groups and surveys on behalf of our clients. These tools are important aspects of the research and strategic analysis we perform for any successful website development or redesign projects. For expert advice, reach out to our Digital Marketing Services team today, or call us at (866) 708-1467.

15 03, 2018

OUTC18: Beacon on Accessibility

By | 2018-03-14T12:40:16+00:00 March 15th, 2018|Categories: Higher Education|Tags: , |

There is no doubt that ADA compliance and accessibility is the hot button issue for today’s college and university websites. Compelled by section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, federal agencies and institutions that receive federal funding must make their websites accessible to all users. Questions remain. For example, what does web accessibility look like? And how do we get there?

At this year’s OmniUpdate User Training Conference, Keana Lynch, Beacon’s Director of UX Design & Development will draw on a wealth of experience with accessibility issues, offering valuable advice on recognizing issues and developing strategies to reach and maintain accessibility goals.  From site evaluation to action plan, get the perspective and tools you need to get ahead of any future user issues or litigation.

OUTC18 will take place from March 25 – 29 at the Hyatt Regency Orange County in Anaheim, CA. The OmniUpdate User Training Conference brings together higher ed content managers from all over the country to discuss the latest news, strategies and best practices for college and university websites. Broaden your knowledge base with workshops and training sessions and network with like-minded professionals from all across the higher ed space. Registration closes Friday, March 16. Register HERE.

13 03, 2018

Remarketing & Enrollment: Why it Works for Colleges & Universities

By | 2018-03-15T15:01:43+00:00 March 13th, 2018|Categories: Higher Education, PPC|Tags: , , , |

If you’re reading this article, you probably have at least a basic understanding of how remarketing works. For those who do not, remarketing ads identify those with a predisposition towards your product and nudge them to buy (or take some action).

Here’s the scenario: A user visits the admissions page for AGU (Amazingly Great University). Since AGU runs a remarketing campaign through Google, a cookie is placed that identifies the user after he or she leaves said website. The ad may be an enticement to request a course catalog, arrange for a campus visit or any number of desirable actions. As they visit other websites, your remarketing ads remind them of their initial interest and what they found compelling about your school.

Conversion rates tend to be greater with remarketing ads as the subject or target has already shown a familiarity with your school or interest in your product (an education). And the numbers say that the reminder, the subtle nudge often does the trick. Ultimately, they come back for more.

What makes Remarketing more effective for Higher Ed?

In the world of Higher Ed, the sales funnel is a protracted one. Leads must be nurtured over time as the selection of a college or university is a decision of great magnitude and has so many moving parts. It’s not something we typically do impetuously.

Remarketing campaigns appeal to a more deliberate decision making process. They can tactfully remind the potential student of the things they may have found attractive about your school or even entice a prospect to look elsewhere if your ad strategy is faulty.

Segmentation & Remarketing Strategy for Higher Ed

Segmenting your audience is the first step on the way to developing a sound remarketing strategy. Since Google enables you to target viewers based on a number of behaviors (users who visited your site or just a specific page, took a particular action, etc.), you can develop a tiered strategy based on these audiences. For example, your remarketing pitch may have a different message for those who visit your tuition and costs page as opposed to those who spend time perusing the course catalog for your school of business. Intent based segmentation can yield great results.

You’ll likely want to target your prospects by geography, too. Campus visits are easier to get if the prospect is within a reasonable travel radius, for example. Facebook offers remarketing that enables geographical targeting, too. So Facebook remarketing becomes an option for this group.

For all groups, set frequency limits for your remarketing ads. Hit them too hard and you may alienate them.

Test Your Ad Copy

Use A/B testing to determine your most effective ad copy. Try using different copy, CTA’s, and ad placements. Even after settling on a successful campaign method and copy, change the design from time to time as ads can become stale or fade into the background after a while.

What You Need to Know About Higher Ed Remarketing

Still got questions? Beacon is one of the premier digital marketing firms for Higher Ed and we’d love the opportunity to show you why. Feel free to contact me directly or give the DMS team at Beacon a call to discuss your institution and enrollment. I’d love to talk strategy with you and suggest a course of action tailored to your specific student audience(s).

 

19 02, 2018

5 Reasons to Perform Regular Website Audits

By | 2018-02-20T10:31:47+00:00 February 19th, 2018|Categories: Higher Education, Web Development|Tags: , |

Whether you’re preparing for a website redesign or simply looking to optimize your existing website, regular website audits are a must. Here are the 5 top reasons you need to perform regular website audits:

Usability is the Key to Engagement

What do the users of your website look for? What do they interact with and how do we ensure that they leave having had a satisfactory visit?  Optimizing the experience for your user is a matter of getting inside his or her head. Understanding their behavior is key to identifying opportunities for improvement. Concise navigation is key.

Done right, a usability audit will help you identify the shortest point between your user’s arrival and whatever it is that came looking for. In other words, it’s about goal optimization. If usability is poor, your visitor leaves without having made a purchase or having provided a lead. It’s a poor experience for everyone involved.

Accessibility Avoids Lawsuits

Accessibility is a hot button issue, especially for colleges and universities. ADA (or Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance guidelines are meant to compel institutions of higher education (and anyone in the public space) to make provisions for those with disabilities.

The DOE has become more diligent in the enforcement of ADA and specifically Title II (applying to any institution that receives federal monies from the DOE). Should the DOE’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) find reason to file a suit against you or your school, they may very well do so.

Even more litigation results from the claims of students with disabilities. The National Federation of the Blind or the National Association of the Deaf often file complaints with the DOJ Civil Rights Division on behalf of these students.

Video accessibility (or lack thereof) is a common source of these complaints. However, ADA is complex and there are many other forms of online educational material that must also be made accessible. Develop an institutional policy that governs accessibility. Made necessary changes based on this policy. It may be advisable to consult an expert in ADA accessibility or a web development professional before developing such a policy.

ADA compliance can be difficult to interpret and even harder to implement. However, after a thorough audit, a qualified web developer will have a good idea where you stand and what you should do to get up to speed with ADA compliance guidelines.

Speaking of speed…

Load Speed: You get one chance at a 1st impression

Load speed (or the time it takes for a page to fully load) is important for the most basic of reasons. Research suggests that if a page takes in excess of 3 seconds to load, you’ve already lost 25% of your users. A similar thing happens with conversions. For each second of increased speed, you can expect a 2% improvement in conversions.

Page speed is a significant factor in SEO, too. Google has incorporated page speed into its ranking algorithm since 2010 and it has since placed even greater importance on this factor.

Dense image files and overuse of javascript are common culprits when page speed is below par. There are many online tools to measure and/or grade your page speed. While one can easily diagnose an issue, it may be wise to have a professional provide an insightful guide to remedy whatever may be ailing your page load time.

Optimized Forms Convert Better

Despite what some may say, there are no rules as to what works and what doesn’t. Only testing and optimization will provide you with those answers.

For example, it is generally understood that a lead generation form should not be too lengthy or ask too many intrusive questions. Also, a protracted pathway to conversion is desirable. Yet, there have been some notable successes with two or even three step conversion forms. The psychology for this makes complete sense.

People can become overwhelmed when they see too many questions on a lead generation form. When you divide the lead path into two parts, you may see greater completion rates. Since users generally prefer a shorter path to conversion, this may seem counter-intuitive at first.

However, users don’t like long forms and when they see too many questions at once, they bolt. So, by asking only a few surface questions on step one of your form and a few slightly more penetrating questions in step two, it appears to the user that they’ve been asked to do less. The only way to know if this works for you is to A/B test.

To further minimize effort, set question defaults. Optimize question types and provide drop-downs for ease of use.

Since mobile technologies are changing almost constantly, optimize your forms for mobile devices regularly. Use the proper mobile markup. If you use a captcha, that may be costing you leads as well. A/B test without one. There are spam filters that will do nearly as good a job anyway.

Content Writing Has Changed

This is true as it applies to user engagement as well as SEO. We’ll discuss them both separately.

Engagement

Users’ habits have changed considerably, too. Video drives traffic much more than ever before. Users not only engage with video content, they expect it. If you want eyeballs, you want video. Adding new, relevant video content is a key to improving engagement.

Go “all in” on visual elements. Don’t scrimp on photos. And interactive content shared through Instagram and other social media outlets is a must.

SEO

In the early days of SEO writing (the 1990’s and before), the objective was to appeal to a search engine algorithm rather than the end user. Back then, keyword stuffing was the norm. A myriad of keyword iterations were used on numerous pages, creating a redundancy that could actually be off-putting to the same users you were trying to appeal to.

In the late 00’s, Google’s algorithm changed considerably. The algorithm became more sophisticated. However, keyword signals still required some specificity and incoming links were very influential. Writing for SEO (to show up well in search rankings) didn’t mean the same thing as it did back in the 90’s.

Today, Google’s algorithm has been refined to focus on the fulfillment of the user’s search. In short, the algorithm is much better at measuring intent and providing a satisfactory result. What that means is that the content that best solves the searcher’s intent is much more likely to rank best. Whereas keyword matching was an imperative a few years back, intent matching is far more effective now.

Get out in front of possible issues with regular audits.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Regular website audits will not only boost your conversion rates, they may very well keep you out of court. The IT & SEO experts at Beacon can assist you in such an audit as well as providing remedies to any issues that we may identify. Send me an email or call Beacon today at (877) 994-6955 for more information.

 

15 11, 2017

These Digital Marketing Tips Can Jump-Start your School’s Enrollment

By | 2017-11-08T13:43:37+00:00 November 15th, 2017|Categories: Digital Marketing, Higher Education|Tags: , , , |

In a recent survey, 51% of those between the ages of 18 and 29 said they could not imagine living without a smartphone. In a separate survey, 78% or high school students said that websites influence their perception of a school. This accentuates the changing landscape and hints toward the future of marketing in the Higher Ed space.

With an increasingly competitive environment, schools are becoming more and more creative when attempting to lure prospective students. We not only need to use our digital marketing budgets carefully, we need to use them creatively, too.

I’d like to share with you just a few ways in which colleges are leveraging digital marketing and social media to successfully jump-start their school’s enrollment.

3 Proven Ways to Boost Enrollment

Social Media can be a great tool for brand awareness and enhancement. That’s just the half of it. Social media can improve retention throughout the admissions funnel as well as to curb “summer melt” (accepted students who never enroll).

Through Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, prospective students can stay on top of the application process. You can inform them of important deadlines and answer application questions. Since the vast majority of students use these platforms on a daily basis, social media can make a real difference in improving student yield.

Blogs are a great way to get the word out on deadlines, too. More than that, it’s a place to share information with all your target audiences including faculty, alumni, athletic boosters and the surrounding community. The reason a blog is desirable in addition to social media is that your content lives here. It is indexed by Google and matures, improving your position in organic search rankings.

It’s important to be constantly adding new content. Make use of this content on your social media channels as well so as to get the most from any new content you create.

The National Student Clearinghouse. This one is more of an overall tip but has digital marketing implications. Purdue University’s Office of Enrollment Management took a closer look at students who chose to attend elsewhere. Through information made available at the National Student Clearinghouse, the enrollment management team was able to identify where these students eventually enrolled. This enabled them to better understand who their competitors are.

Some students are predisposed to attend college in state. There are various reasons for this. However, by examining the behavior of students who have the means to attend anywhere, a school can hone in on its primary competition.

Break down your data, perhaps by state or region. What patterns emerge? The good folks at Purdue were able to determine that students on the East coast were more likely to attend out of state institutions. This was just one of many insights gained through PU’s research.

It’s Our Niche

Beacon has been recognized as one of the top Higher Ed web design and digital marketing firms in the country. If you’d like the kind of insight into student behavior that 20 years of Higher Ed website design provides, we’re here to help. Feel free to contact me with questions regarding your institution’s admissions goals or call a member of the Beacon digital marketing team at 1.855.851.0109.

 

 

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