An article in the January issue of Ragan’s Grapevine, reprinted from Ragan’s Web Content Report, lists what content managers consider to be content coups of 2005, predicted to become trends for improving online efforts for 2006.
1. Improving your site and generating feedback
The Siemens USA web team recently implemented an exit survey on its site to learn about its 90,000 monthly web visitors’ online needs, wants and habits at a cost of roughly $5,000.00 a year.
The survey is offered to every 100th web visitor through a pop-up window. Visitors who agree to accomplish it find 10-15 questions on their overall satisfaction with the site, how it met their needs, why they visited, why they decided to leave, and how the site and its content could be improved, among others.
More than 700 responses have been received since September, mostly positive, with more than 60 percent saying they were looking for products, services or jobs, and majority saying they found what they needed. This information has been used in prioritizing web content efforts, focusing on product and job sections.
Colgate University, for its part, has created an informal focus group - composed of first year students - which it meets with regularly for ongoing feedback on its site. Since the students expressed their desire for more photographs, the web staff improved the photos and multimedia section and is developing video content to revamp the site’s virtual tour.
The web team of the University of Maryland in Baltimore Country (UMBC), on the other hand, posted a sneak preview of ideas for its home page and portal redesign through a blog on its home page, and asked visitors to comment. The team then bowed to calls for major changes in design and layout, and decided to launch a new site in the summer of 2006. A new web team blog was created to update visitors on the redesign process and encouraging further comments.
2. Integrating print and online media efforts
The article emphasizes that “the most effective Web teams are those that work closely with other departments.”
Colgate University’s web team repackaged content of its communications team’s print article interviewing alumni from around the world, current students and administrators to provide high school students with tips on what it takes to be successful at Colgate and beyond. It now features video clips of interview highlights on its home page and has distributed the article content throughout the site.
Conversely, the University’s associate director of media relations, Caroline Jenkins, used a web article written by director of Web content Timothy O’Keeffe - about a collection of drawings by Aboriginal children that was rediscovered in Colgate’s art gallery - in a successful PR pitch to The New York Times.
3. Adding podcasts to your site to more effectively meet visitors’ information needs
Online destination travel site Vegas.com, with 1.8 million daily visitors, recently added the weekly podcast “Vegas in 5″ to its site, covering what’s happening in Las Vegas. It has since generated more than 2,000 subscribers, with the marketing staff promoting it through search engine optimization and directory submissions, including iTunes.
Bryan Allison, senior director of marketing, says, “We knew that podcast users would want authentic content and not a lot of commercial calls-to-action.” He advises that podcasts should:
- add value;
- be entertaining; and
- not be too commercial.
4. Generating internal support and cooperation for your Communication Management System (CMS)
The web team at Colgate University has brought in 26 department and program web sites to its CMS and main site last year and plans to bring in the remaining 10 sites this year.
They did it by meeting with administrative assistants or department chairs to explain why being in the CMS will work better, and how they will help now and in the future. They pointed out that the CMS makes it easier to keep pages updated and integration with the main site results in fewer redundancies. They also stress the importance of consistent navigation across sites for visitors.
O’Keefe says, “Not everyone likes the more standardized look. But often they come to realize their pages were too time-consuming to maintain and were being neglected.”
5. Increasing traffic and improving online presence via RSS
The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association’s (BCBSA) Health Issues web site saw a 41.3 percent growth rate this year from last year’s 5.7 percent even without any advertising budget. Publicity was done through RSS feeds delivering relevant headlines on the site’s issues, including medical liability reform, rising drug prices, the uninsured, and press releases for countrywide health-care plans.
Each issue has a section where users can view recent news and sign up for newsletters and/or an RSS feed. The web team provided a step-by-step instruction page for users interested in subscribing to RSS.
The RSS feeds have increased traffic to the site as well as online visibility through mentions in several blogs and like-minded sites, leading to a 150 percent increase in links and an improvement in search engine rankings.
6. Building a better site with a better relationship with IT
The UMBC scored in 2005 by hiring a campus Web architect, Jackie Ward, who has both a solid journalism background and technical know-how.
The Colgate University web team, on the other hand, held a one-day conference for both content managers and IT developers to share new ideas, successes and challenges. A wiki was used to interact with participants and to share additional research and follow-up on ideas discussed at the event.
These best practices are available for replication in your organization.