Almost everyone knows the famous line: “If you build it, they will come.” It’s a great thought for a baseball movie, but too many people think it applies to websites. And with all due respect, they’re living in a field of dreams.The reality is that a website can’t attract people by itself. To draw in the crowds, you need to tailor your site to your target audience, and make sure people will see it when they’re searching for products or services like yours.
The following story shows how the writing services firm of Words & Ideas teamed up with Create & Associates, a design agency in Westchester, New York, to deliver powerful results for College Money Matters – a non-profit organization dedicated to helping high school seniors and their families learn how to pay for college without taking on more debt than they can handle.With over 43 million borrowers currently owing nearly 1.6 trillion dollars in Federal Student Loan debt, College Money Matters is providing very valuable information. The challenge: finance and debt avoidance are not subjects that tend to attract high school kids on their way to college. So what do you do?
If you visit enough company websites, you’ll see most of them function like online brochures. The problem is that brochures are made to support a sales pitch, and the internet is a self-service environment. With College Money Matters, we knew we had to appeal to college-bound students. So before site development began, in-depth interviews were conducted with students and counselors on what they wanted from the site.
The responses gathered from the research helped guide the content, design and tone of what would become collegemoneymatters.org. And when the initial website was launched, its colorful graphics, conversational style, and use of videos, presentations and even interactive games earned rave reviews from students and parents alike.
In most cases, people going to a website already know what they’re looking for. But our research told us most high school students (and their parents) know very little about paying for college. So how do you help people find what they don’t even know they need?That’s the question Stacey Sarris, Doctor of Science, Information and Interaction Design, was brought in to address. Through User Interface and User Experience (UI/UX) research conducted with students, parents and school counselors, the architecture of the site and the titling of each page were configured to meet what Dr. Sarris calls the “mental model” of the audience.
With the site confirmed to be attractive to our target market, it was time to address the next key question: How do we get them to find out about it? To answer that, the Words & Ideas/Create & Associates team worked with the client to launch a robust online campaign using Google Adwords. The strategy: to reach our market right when they start looking into college.The previous research conducted with our audience in the UX/UI interviews provided a good start, as we had learned many of the terms students and parents use to do their searches. But the algorithms that Google uses to determine the most common search terms proved even more valuable, as they enabled us to refine our keywords to best match those of the audience. The campaign was also supported with a targeted email effort aimed at school counselors, who are among the top influencers in the college search process.
The outreach campaign was launched at the start of the current school year. Just four months since, this was the impact:• 16,000 new viewers to the site • Site visits increased from 180 per month to 4800 per month • A miniscule bounce rate of 0.78% • An average of 6 pages viewed per visit We’re now building on the original campaign and using Google Adwords and targeted emails to direct students, parents and counselors to specific pages on the site that match the timing of the different stages of the college application process. As the site continues to gain notice, we look forward to working with College Money Matters to help more students and their families achieve a college education that is both worthwhile and affordable. If you’re a business or non-profit looking to attract and retain your target audience, contact Art Levy of Words & Ideas at www.wordsandideasnow.com. We can help you build a website, and a promotion strategy, that will get your customers to come to you.