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Why we might be thinking about our website wrong

May 19, 2018

First off, a semantic argument.

The Facebook page is a website. The Twitter feed and YouTube channels are websites. In fact, everything that is on the first page of a SERP (Search Engine Results Page) for a brand – or University, is a website.

The .edu is often first on the list of searches for the University (second is often Wikipedia, it has that much power.).

The .edu is also the only place to register for a tour and apply. It is also the only place to register for alumni events, and to give. It is also the only place to register for classes, and get information about facilities, hours, and perhaps menus.

So it is critical to generate the behaviors needed at a school.

The .edu is rarely a first point of contact.

Unlike YouTube and Facebook (and perhaps Twitter), the .edu is rarely, if ever, a first point of contact for someone interested in the school.

No one is made aware of a University via the website.

(Note, this is for the undergraduate version only. Distance learning and part time schools are different. SEO can help for people doing searches for “nursing schools” or “masters degree in data analytics.”)

For a liberal arts undergraduate university, the .edu is almost never a first point of contact.

That’s a bold statement. Almost never.

The few exceptions are blog posts, magazine articles with good SEO, and faculty searches after a conference or a meeting. The people who make these kind of searches are probably not alumni, and are probably not prospective students. That doesn’t mean we don’t care about them, but it means people will come to your website via landing pages, so it is worth thinking about them as much as, if not more than, a hierarchal flow with a home page and sub pages.

The psychology professor who is in the news has a landing page for the website. Chances are good, the majors and minors page is a landing page. More and more, the smart people at Google are looking to get people directly to the page they want. A search for Colgate offers some helpful looks into landing pages that aren’t the .edu. These are clearly based on search volume at certain times of the year (see last entry.)

Why landing pages matter

Think about it this way. A student learns about you – either from a guidance counsellor, a teacher, a family friend who attended the school, sports success, an email to a purchased list, or reading a professor’s work in a newspaper or magazine, or these days, a podcast.

They hear about the school, then search for the school. If they don’t take any of Google’s calendar-based suggestions, they will get the standard SERP for the school.

For my school the SERP is .edu, Twitter, Admissions landing page, Wikipedia, USN&WR, Facebook, Niche, Princeton Review, Athletics.

These days, about 20% of the people click the first hit. Social media channels have taught us to scroll-scan, so most people do and look at the options.

Still, lets assume they hit the first one, the website. After they peruse the web, if they come back again, it will be via a more detailed Google search.

Academics at school. Research at school. Majors at school. Student life at school. Athletics at school. Dorms/food at school. Or they might listen to Google’s suggestions and follow the breadcrumbs of previous searchers.

Landing pages for the win. 

When thinking about the .edu, it is worth thinking about the many landing pages. Google Analytics offers a landing page report. It is the pages that most people land on.

The website can’t get the first hit, but it can encourage the second, third and subsequent hits. It can encourage a hit for research, academics, student life, living and learning. These are things any top university wants to attract, so the website should be designed, written, and created to encourage these kinds of searches.

What do you think? How do you the web should be crafted?


Hey #highered can we talk about tone?

May 12, 2018

Hi there,

I run the digital media channels for a 200 year old collection of buildings. The Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin channels are the voice of a highly selective liberal arts university on a hill.


If you happen to attend a higher ed conference, someone will say the following: “I want to bring more fun to our voice.”

It will never be me.

200 year old buildings are fun. College isn’t fun. College students are fun. College sports are fun. College events are fun. The buildings aren’t fun. The mission of a university isn’t fun.

The mission is important. It is also important to get people involved in executing the mission to agree on said mission. Or vision. Or strategic plan.

So, this post below. This is the kind of post that is killing digital media platforms.

I would have accepted this post with “Final exams are underway.” That’s it. The buildings of this particular school are reporting on a fact. Alums will probably be nostalgic. The Class of 2018 will definately feel nostalgic. This would have been a great post.

But marketing is simple, the hard part is keeping it simple.

You got this!

That is the voice of the glee club. Of DORAK. Of a student who wants to support. That isn’t the voice of a chapel. Or an academic building. Or most professors.

Also, never use a screamer. Ever. Not ever. My rule is one screamer a year, maximum. So if I used a screamer to talk about finals, I wouldn’t be able to use it for commencement. Or Reunion. Or when we turn 200. Or something that is actually exciting.

My storify on Donald Trump and Climate Change

May 5, 2018

One time I did a storify on Trump’s climate change tweets. Since Storify is going away, I moved it here. In my Storify, I added comments about his posts, probably pithy things that were too clever by half.

The tweets are a record.  And they are still love on the Internet.

It actually isn’t actually that amazing

April 28, 2018

This is going around LinkedIn, the amazing proclamation that we can read words that are spelled horribly wrong.

Only, it isn’t that amazing. We don’t read letters, we read word patterns. We don’t read t-h-e with the word the, we read a pattern. We see the pattern of the, not the letters.

So what does that mean?

Two things, really.

First, when you TYPE IN ALL CAPS, you make it harder for people to read. The more words in all caps, the less people will read it. THE isn’t recognizable in ALL CAPS, so we actually have to read the letters. Often, we don’t. Thus, if you intend to communicate something, doesn’t use all caps.

Reverse type is hard to read because of this phenomenon. Reverse type, white text on black isn’t actually the thing, instead, it is the absence of color. So we don’t pick up the patterns in reverse type because what we’re mostly seeing is the lack of color.

So, when someone says let’s do all caps reverse headlines on the poster, point out this post, and the simple fact that you made your communication less of a communication.

The possible problem with a giving day

April 26, 2018

Here’s a question: do you ever see coupons for a Jaguar? No, of course not. Jaguar’s don’t compete or worry about price.

So what if giving days and challenges are gimmicks, and generate gimmicky reasons to give, and not actual reasons to give?

The reason to give to a school is because the gift funds the journey of the students walking in your footsteps. A person gives to a school because they are proud of the school. The school is part of their personal brand. The excitement of the school is a part of their lives.

Giving to a school or not-for-profit has a bunch of different levels. The considered gift, wherein a building is named. The impulse gift, wherein $13 is given to a school because people call and email.

There isn’t one kind of giving. But gifts given without a gimmick are more-likely to generate a regular behavior. And while gimmick giving can get new people to give, it doesn’t always generate repeat givers.

New donors in a gimmick probably demand a different kind of stewardship because they game for a different reason.

What do you think?



13 reasons why a University should have one Facebook page

April 21, 2018

In 2013 (2013!)  I did a session at a conference called “Can I talk you out of a Facebook page“. My point then and now isn’t to suggest Facebook is a bad marketing tool. My point is that for a University, many Facebook pages make Facebook a bad marketing tool for the school.

On Tuesday, I am doing a CASE chat about Facebook strategy.

Seems a good time to revisit this list.

#1: A prospective student = a student = an alum. 

Why on earth would a school need an admissions page, a school page and an alumni page if, and this is important, they are the same people? When you attract people to your page, they become students and then alums. Schools with separate pages need to waste marketing energy attracting people – again – to a page.

#2: Confusion.

If the school has a Facebook page, an athletics page, a department page, a Chapel page, a page for the mascot…it confuses people. If people don’t know what to follow, you’re doing it wrong. At many schools, a first-year student has 18 million things they could follow.

#3: Algorithms.

The page I manage has 28K likes. So 28K people like this page, are friends with about 250 people, and like, on average, another 8 brand pages. Our content needs to compete with all those things. WHY on earth make it compete with content from your own school?

#4: Bad copy.

With so many pages to manage, a school ends up with the desire to feed the beast. “I need to post on Facebook.” The need to post on Facebook is not a strategic reason to post on Facebook and ends up with a bad post. Don’t end up with bad posts, consolidate.

#5: The best pictures.

I used to think that anyone could take a good picture. I used to think that the iPhone allowed us all to snap the moment, and post it. Then I moved to one of the most stunningly beautiful campuses in the world, and I realized I was wrong. Fewer posts means less desire to snap a photo with an iPhone. You have opportunities to capture moments that rock the socks off your current students and alums. These are the pictures they’ll share – not the crappy iPhone shots. The good pictures make the brand stronger.

#6: Reach.

Your English department Facebook page has 607 likes. The main Page is on the first page of a Google Search for the school and has 27K likes. I’m not awesome at math, but I think 27K > 607. .

#7: Location. 

People are checking in like mad. At this point, there isn’t anything we can effectively do with checkins. But the day will come. One page means less confusion on where to check in, especially tours. Be ready.

#8: Marketing. 

It takes marketing effort to get  like. If people click like, you’re done. You can go back to telling stories and quite marketing. for every page your school has, that is more marketing resources that get expended.

#9: The good times are over. 

I remember a day when I managed a fast-food Facebook page. I recall the day I sat there hitting refresh and watching the number of fans (they were called fans then) go up by 10’s every refresh. 30 seconds was a few hundred. It was incredible, and it will never happen again. It takes work now. If you have two pages, it takes twice the work, and you get half the returns.

#10: There are already too many pages.

The Facebook Pages app helpfully says: “Pages Manager lets you manage up to 50 Pages from your smartphone or tablet.”

Oh. My. God.


It is amazing. It offers detailed analytics of your .edu, of your one Page, it connects your one Instagram. It closes the loop in a way that will only get better. Trust. Me.

#12: Ads. 

Facebook ads from one page. I’m utterly convinced that your last organic post impacts your next ad. I’m convinced that your ad impacts your next post. But all that said, here’s why one page is critical. Facebook is an auction. If I buy 18-12 year old college students, and the English department page buys it too, we artificially increase the cost to reach and the cost to click.


Sorry for yelling. But we are. One page, one focus, ad potential.

#13: Facebook is becoming a better content management system.

This month, I shared videos that had already beed posted on Facebook, back on Facebook. The posts launched with the already banked views. So a new video post launched with 2K views. In April. For yield. And alumni liked the videos because they created a nostalgic memory.

The reasons to attend your school are the same things that generate nostalgia from your alumni.

The issue is this: it is easy to turn on a Facebook page. That doesn’t mean it should happen. Because guess what, it is just as easy to delete them. It is just as easy to consolidate.

So if you talk someone out of a Facebook Page, or delete one, let me know. I keep track.

How LinkedIn could be even better for Higher education

April 14, 2018

LinkedIn Company pages are awesome. so far this fiscal year, we’ve earned about 3.5 million impressions on content. Since LinkedIn automatically subscribes alumni to the school page for which they attended, the vast majority of those impressions are alumni impressions.

On a Company Page, we are able to tag people in a post. This post was for a panel event for Colgate’s Professional Networks.

As you can see, I was able to tag all of the alumni in the post. LinkedIn notifies them that Colgate tagged them (I want to be tagged by UofT.)

Now, before you get all excited, I have bad news. The tagging ability is limited to 1st and 2nd connections of the admin doing the posting.

Yes, you read that right.

I’ve had to connect to an alum, just so I could tag that person. (Note: I continue to ask LinkedIn about this. Why can’t the Company Page of a college or university tag people who went to the school? The short answer is that LinkedIn cares about helping Microsoft get more employees. They don’t care about my content.


I also told them I thought it was mean to make me be first or second connections to alumni in order to tag them on the page. If an admin can’t tag people, it looks like Colgate can’t tag people. It just weird for our brand and Linkedin’s brand.

Which is insane!

Why do I troll LinkedIn?

I troll LinkedIn because as a University, I feel like this platform can tell a story that other parts of the web can’t tell.

The LinkedIn profile is the roadmap to being a CEO for a first-year student. LinkedIn is the largest data set of outcomes ever assembled, and since it is crowd-sourced, it is basically correct. It is a better database of outcomes than your database.

As a data company, LinkedIn offers students the ability to swipe through alumni outcomes that best fit the major and clubs a student is doing.

LinkedIn can literally match a student’s dreams to the career of an alum. It is both an idea generating tool, and an awareness generating tool. Really, one can become that with a Religion degree?

I just wish they would get out of their own way and let us tell the stories of alumni. The non-intuitive way they do things drives me bat-shot crazy. Like, here you go, you can tag alumni, I’m sorry, only alumni you’re connected to.

Agree, disagree? Feel free to yell at me in comments, share this with someone at LinkedIn, or heckle me on Twitter.