A new calendar year is the perfect time to review goals for your institution’s website. Spring semester is a crucial window for securing fall enrollments, promoting summer sessions, and highlighting online courses. As your most prominent, powerful marketing tool, your site can advance these and other goals. These seven resolutions can help:
1. Experiment with new kinds of content
Prospective students and other key audiences live in a world saturated with digital content, and your message needs to grab attention in creative, compelling ways to break through.
Experiment with new or expanded forms to discover what works. Emphasize visual content—photos, videos, infographics, and the like—that catches the eye of casual browsers and can be promoted across channels.
Assess potential in-house resources (including skilled student support) and establish budgets for professional photo shoots or video projects. Video, especially, can be intimidating, but not every piece needs to be polished—quick hits and live shoots provide an authentic window into life on your campus.
2. Develop channels for promoting your content
It’s one thing to create a great piece of content. It’s another altogether to get it in front of your target audiences. Any content investment will fall flat without a plan for promoting it.
First, make sure quality, on-message content gets wide play across your website. Promote it on your home page, for sure. But also post it in other relevant, high-traffic locations, such as program pages. Using tags and feeds can help automate this process.
Next, make sure you’re pointing to your content from email newsletters, blogs, social media posts, and every other available channel. Get as much mileage from each piece as you possibly can, creating a mini communications or promotion plan for every content project.
3. Fix accessibility problems
Nearly 20% of people in the United States have a disability that can affect their ability to navigate and interpret a website. Make 2018 the year you address any lingering accessibility issues and develop practices that keep your site accessible to all users.
If you haven’t established accessibility standards (e.g., WCAG 2.0 AA guidelines) and policies, start now. Also, identify accessibility check tools that can help you find and remediate problems.
Once you’ve laid this groundwork, focus on fixes. Make accessibility checks part of your workflow, consistently address straightforward issues such as alt text and heading levels, and develop solutions for more challenging needs like video captions.
4. Network campus contributors
Building a strong network of content contributors will advance these and any other website goals. Marketing, public relations, admissions, athletics, alumni association, foundation, colleges, and departments—these diverse voices elevate your content and keep you site dynamic.
But ensuring all contributors operate from the same playbook requires intentional effort. Share strategy and best practices, develop key messages and style guides, hold regular campus-wide web summits, and set up online platforms for communication and collaboration.
5. Use analytics to guide decisions
Digital media and marketing tools offer unprecedented capacity to measure. A few mouse clicks can tell you which web pages, social posts, and advertisements most resonate and can point you to tactics that yield valuable conversions.
Surprisingly few colleges and universities, however, use analytics to make decisions. Start this year by establishing baselines and tracking specific campaigns—online ads to drive info requests and event registrations, for example, or plans put in place to promote content. Build on proven tactics and abandon those that aren’t effective.
6. Report results
As your content, development, and assessment strategies show results, make sure you share them. Reporting out helps distributed contributors hone their efforts and demonstrates that your website is in good hands.
Develop a reporting routine that works for your team. For example, you might offer brief monthly or quarterly updates on traffic and content/campaign performance, plus annual assessments that set the tone for the coming year.
7. Evaluate your CMS
Your content management system (CMS) provides pivotal support for all these goals—or at least it should. If it doesn't, it’s time to look at alternatives.
A CMS should make it easy to get all kinds of content online and promote content across multiple channels. It should offer assessment dashboards that pull from sources like Google Analytics and social media insights. And it should help you gauge accessibility and enforce good practices.
A new year brings openness to fresh possibilities. Take advantage of the moment to make progress on these and other fronts, sharpening your site’s role in recruitment, brand building, and more.
Would you like to discuss your 2018 web goals and content management needs? Get in touch.