Ungeeked: How it will influence my campus website

As a Director of Marketing & Communication on a small campus, lots of things fall under my purview that would be parceled out at a large university.  Case in point: the campus website.  It’s no secret on our campus that I think our site needs some major improvements, but a complete overhaul is likely 2-3 years away.  However, there is one part of a campus website that can generally be improved with the simple investment of time: content.

At Ungeeked Elite Chicago, David Murr lead a discussion called The Content Bubble.  For those of you that haven’t attended a social media or web development conference lately, the popular mantra has been “content is king.”  However, it seems that many businesses (and marketers) have interpreted that to mean “promotional content is king.”  The end result is redundant content that has no real value to site visitors.

Dave used the example of an Italian restaurant.  What type of content would you normally find on that website? Probably a menu, directions, hours, contact information, and maybe some photos.  Less commonly explored content would include recipes, Italian history, travel information, etc.  Why would this content add value to the website? It would answer questions and help people solve problems.  Visitors would find the site via search engines, and perhaps be converted into customers.  They’d start to see the restaurant as an authority on all things Italian, and likely tell others about it.  Assuming the restaurant owner/staff is passionate about Italy, adding the extra content would likely not be a burden – guest bloggers could even be asked to provide it.

I think this translates easily to campus websites.  Our sites tend to provide an expanded version of the campus viewbook, showcasing the best aspects of our campus.  We’ll also provide some details about course offerings, faculty & staff bios, and news and events.  College is something that students (and parents) have a seemingly unending list of questions about.  What could a campus website include that would help answer some of these questions? A quick brainstorm brings the following content additions to mind:

  • How to make sure you’re college ready
  • Should you choose a major right away?
  • What questions to ask when you’re considering colleges
  • What is it like to live on campus?
  • How do students pay for college?
  • What degrees are most valuable in today’s job market?

This list could go on and on.  What differentiates this content from the content on many campus websites is that it’s not campus-specific; students have these questions no matter where they’re going to school.  If a campus were to develop some good information about these topics without including a hard sell, I’m guessing they’d see increased traffic from search engines, possibly resulting in more prospective students.

The other thing that should drive content is helping visitors solve their problems.  This oldie but goodie cartoon explains how we can improve our websites in that regard.

As we put a significant investment of time into our website content this summer/fall, I’ll be keeping this discussion from Ungeeked in mind.  I’ll start viewing our website not merely as a description of our programs and services, but also a valuable customer service and problem solving tool.

What campus websites do a great job of answering visitor questions and solving their problems? Please share examples in the comments.

Up next: Keith Privette‘s discussion about the role of a business analyst, although my takeaway has nothing to do with that.