Day three of CEAC 2008 in Brighton…
Alison guilted me into getting up at silly O’clock for her roundtable session. So I once again dragged myself across the city for breakfast and interesting conversation. Also at the session were Pamela Michael (Imperial College), David Poteet (New City Media), “Mister” Roy Bayfield (Edge Hill University) and someone whose name I didn’t catch from the University of Amsterdam. Trying to eat and think before 8am left no capacity to take notes but it was interesting to get alternative input into the kinds of discussions we have on a regular basis with a more tech-focused community. One thing to look up is Hyves, the most popular social networking site in the Netherlands.
Internet Search – the journey has only just started – Richard Jones (Yucca)
If search engines were at a school disco… Google would be the cool kid, Yahoo would be having a breakdown in the bathroom and MSN would still be trying to pick an outfit.
How users are using search:
- Wireless has released the computer from the study
- Many search instead of navigate (even for obvious things
- Users are using human phrasing more often (so write an FAQ section to get direct matches)
- Search length is increasing – from 2.4 words inn 2006 to 4.1 words in 2007
- Google search (with personalisation and history) is replacing bookmarks
Number four is pleasing to see and important for better targeting the “long tail” of organic search results.
Brain dump time:
- Google are expanding – do you have a Google Earth stretegy?
- Google Trends – add regional keywords
- XML Sitemap – “shows Google there’s a strategy behind your site”
- Paid search
- Very technical but great for improving your English skills!
- New to brand
- No delay
- Ad copy can be tailored
- Google Quality Score: Keywords | Landing Page | Ad copy
- Costs can fall over time with improving Quality Score
- Run a test campaign to establish keywords
- What keywords are competitors using (view HTML source)
- Look for untapped slang/media terminology
- Page titles
- Include your own name
- Tailor to individual titles
- Not too long
- Learn from PPC ad copy
- Love the spider – consider a mega footer
- Site architecture – ensure everything is 3-4 clicks away
- Avoid multiple web addresses – 301 redirect
- Google Alerts
- Google Trends
- Google Insights for Search
- SEO for Firefox and rank checker
- Yucca Blog – blatant self promotion 😉
- The Future
- Historical Search
- Mobile / location
- Question based
- Long tail gets longer
- Google product deep linking
I picked this session out because I was interested to know more about the process that goes on for awards like the CASE Circle of Excellence award that Hi recently won.
Roy started our with talking about some of the reasons for and against applying for awards:
- Why not?
- Giving away your best ideas
- Awards process is flawed?
- Why do?
- Good for business
- Good for morale
- Build team spirit, confidence, internal credibility
- Sharpen practices
- Create good habits – metrics, ROI, planning, process
- What makes award winning project
- Statistics and supporting evidence
- Detailed planning
- Brilliant creative
- A great idea or a new slant
- Good write up
- Solid budgets with ROI evidence
- An integrated approach
Amanda was clear about her input into the process:
Brown paper bags with cash in them are welcome
And on Heist submissions:
- Based on SMART objectives
- “If you follow the instructions you will be short-listed” – apparently this is a very important point
- Give details of budget – not simply ” the project was within budget”
- Strangest things affect judges – one prospectus smelt funny
The second half of the session was more practical – looking at some of the things MMU had done. Emma also went through some of her experiences and the benefits applying for awards had brought her and her team.
My thoughts? Seeing the results from winning the CASE Circle of Excellence award has highlighted some of the benefits and it was really interesting to see the process involved. I wonder, however, whether the way web projects develop doesn’t necessarily fit in with what the judges are looking for. How does “release early, release often” relate to budgets, ROI and an integrated approach? I think it can, but maybe I won’t understand how until I’ve been through the process myself!
After attending Rebecca Avery’s breakfast round table session I was in two minds about going to another session about the web by someone from Hobsons! After deciding last minute to come to this one I joined just as Maggie was reeling off a load of statistics. I asked for a copy of the slides so I may blog them in full, but for now, here’s some of them. They’re about what applicants would do:
- Would download a customised online prospectus
- ~60% would customise a page
- 63% would ccommunicate with a current student
- 63% would read a student blog
- 83% would read a faculty member blogs
- 45% would subscribe to RSS feed (I’m really surprised this is so high)
- 71% send instant message to college site
- 82% respond to instant message inside a website (i.e. popup message inviting to chat)
- 59% take a mobile call
- 49% would like to receive an SMS mesage
The next page of my notes is frankly not particularly interesting… similar to much that I’d heard before during the week.
Skipping through them, we get onto how CRM can be used to help:
- Enabling platform
- Tailoring communications
- Web portal
- Interactive, customised experience
- Underpin Web 2.0 activities
- Address ROI concerns
This was backed up with a couple of examples from Liverpool and Aberdeen Universities. Interesting to see how they’ve used Hobsons products.
Maggie’s final thoughts…
- Start with communications objectives and assess which tools appropriate
- Experiment with Web 2.0 tools
- Empower student ambassadors
- Fullscale CRM or at least a communications plan
- Address ROI question for Web 2.0
Is the brand-driven culture of the commercial sector appropriate to HE?
Sue Cunningham (University of Oxford), Paul Drake (University of Gloucestershire), Tracey Lancaster (University of Birmingham), Peter Slee (Northumbria University), Chaired by Martin Bojam (JWT Education)
Final session before the closing plenary was a panel debate on the level to which brand should be applied in HE. I was impressed with Peter Slee’s arguments and two points about brand:
- Have a clear brand proposition
- How do you follow this up and deliver?
This to me seems to encompass the important aspects of what we can learn from the best of the commercial sector – being clear about what we offer that is different to others, and ensuring the best possible student experience, matching the expectations that we set.
To be honest, much of the discussion was too heavy for me after a few very long days and it was far too hot in the room. The “brand is good” argument won the popular vote but I’m sure it’s not the last we’ll hear about the matter.
Closing Plenary: Leadership and team-building in a transcultural marketplace – J. Frank Brown (INSEAD)
Drawing the conference to a close was frankly one of the most obscure talks I’ve ever heard (and I watch TED!) There were some interesting anecdotes, but even after listening to it and reading the abstract I’m not entirely sure what the final point was!
And that was that! Well, not quite – there was the gala dinner to come and Mister Roy dutily collected the Gold award for Hi to much whooping and hollering…. but you don’t want to hear about that!
I’m hoping to write one more post summarising some of my thoughts and linking to other people’s comments about the conference, so if you’ve blogged, or tweeted (and not used #ceac08) or otherwised published, leave a comment and I’ll include you in the roundup.