A wiki describing, and how to apply to a master’s programme in Sweden has been launched by Andrei Neculau. This is the evolution of his blog, which he created in response to the difficulties he had with studera when he applied. The usual disclaimers apply, this is not an official wiki from studera, but it’s packed with information and should help with the application, and post application, processes (which Andrei calls ‘war’ and ‘purgatory’).

Apart from the fact that this is incredibly useful for people making applications to study in Sweden it’s also a great example of the future of the web (dare I say it, ‘web 2.0’). As it’s a wiki, it’s totally interactive and, crucially, not ‘owned’ by studera. Maybe in the future we’ll start seeing students creating their own university websites which become as useful, if not more so, than the university’s own website?

Web is the number one source of information for international students.

Which should not be a surprise, but it seems worth repeating now and again. I recently sent out a questionnaire to our master students, asking them about the relative importance of the various ways we communicate we them. 239 students answered and an overwhelming 61% said that the university’s website was very important when they made their choice of studying at Lund. 52% said that the opinion of someone who had been at Lund was very important. Least important were exhibitions (8%) and brochures (10%).  How can you action this? Well, the warm feeling is that the most important source of information, our website, is something we can improve and monitor with a relatively low investment of time and money (compared to brochures and exhibitions, for example).  The importance of alumni is also shown here, investment in them – as ambassadors for our university – is clearly going to be of value.  

Could we, for example, totally shut down brochure production and invest that money into the website? Well, that would be a brave step on the basis of these data  and it has to be, at some level, valuable to have something printed to give away. What I can see, however, is that our Master’s Brochure on the web has had an extremely high number of views in the last two months and that some of these views are associated with users who went on to visit our programme pages and clicked ‘apply now’.  A combination of the two mediums, web and print, gives us more insight into the success of a brochure and takes advantage of our primary marketing tool, the web.

Google Analytics Tracking Code – Making our pdfs work better

I’ve been experimenting with adding tracking code to links in pdfs, with the aim of learning more about how they are being used. Simply put – we get a better return on the money we invest in them.

Before I began working at the university I was anti Pdf for the usual reasons (it’s dull, hard to read and is usually print content, rather than scannable text. Here’s Nielsen’s thoughts on the subject) but, after interviewing students and checking out our web metrics I’ve changed my mind. When it comes to brochures and course descriptions, for example, the students are okay with pdf.

Our Master’s Brochure was viewed over 25 000 times in the last 7 months. This makes it one of the most popular documents on our website. I was stunned when I saw this, particularly as our online marketing of this has been relatively passive.

So I got to thinking (which can be dangerous). We print something like 10 000 brochures, at significant expense, but it’s an act of faith as to whether they work or not. We’ve shown them to student reference groups – who liked them – but once they are out there they drop off our radar. We don’t know how many students try to learn more about the programmes the brochure describes, how many visit the website as a result or how many begin the application process. We don’t know if the money we spend is worth the result!

With some clever tagging on the links in the pdf we can find out more about how the pdf is used. We can see how many people come back to our website and which programmes receive the most interest. We get segmentation data as we can drill down through the data to a country level. This kind of data means we not only can test how well the pdf works in encouraging people to come to our website but it also generates valuable data, about potential students, in an easy and cheap way.

Correction: 7th July 2008. Okay, I admit it. I got a bit ahead of myself. Tracking the pdf itself is one thing – and can be done – but tracking the links within the downloaded pdf is another thing entirely. One way to do it would be to give a vanity URL in the document, one which does not exist anywhere else, and track the visitors that come from that link. Here’s some stuff about tracking offline campaigns at Conversion University.

I’ll post more on this when I’ve researched it more – if you’ve any good ideas please feel free to leave a comment.

Here’s some more from GA help on tagging

Here’s the URL builder