Case Study: UniversityParent.com
We're going to look at a website, do a little critique, which is something I do a lot. But what's most important before we get started, if we're getting back to four hour workweek days, D-E-A-L defining. We need to know exactly definition, what is it that we're trying to accomplish and want to accomplish. So what would you like to get out of this? And this is a friendly environment. So this doesn't need to be super intense. But we're going to look at your site, and try to provide some useful feedback, we'll see. What would you like to get out of this? Maybe you can tell us just a little bit about the business.
Sure. So a little bit about the business. It's called UniversityParent. And what I'm trying to be, is the number one destination for parents of college students, to find everything they need to help their student be successful. So it's everything from identifying on-campus resources like the tutoring center, or what classes they should take, or how to help your student discover...
a major career path, to connecting with off-campus resources like student housing, moving and storage facilities when they go study abroad, and hotels, banks in the area, just really giving them an overall orientation to the campus and the community. And I actually got into this business when I was a student at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
Very nice, beautiful.
Where Techstars, Brad, all that stuff is. And as a student I just realized there was this huge gap in information the college was providing the parents. But parents are a big part of the student's educational experience, and many times funding that experience. So they're spending more money than they've spent maybe even on their house, on their student's college education. And yet right now, 50% of graduates can't find a job. So it's a major, major gap. But I feel like it's a really fixable problem, if parents are involved in the right way. And so I did the very first product my senior year. I walked around Boulder, knocking on doors, got advertisers. I got 12 advertisers to pay me before I even had a product.
Man, we should have her up here teaching sales. That's great. (laughs)
But you know, when Philip was talking earlier, I feel like we're kind of scratching the surface of some of the things he's talking about, with a commerce and advertising model. And also we have very authentic emotionally sensitive content. So it's not just content that's fascinating because it's the latest and greatest, but it's content that can really make an impact on your child's life. I mean how much more emotional can you get?
So it's an incredibly captive audience. And if a parent... Like most people say, well doesn't this exist already on the school site? And the answer is no. If we pull up a university site and we compare them side by side, the university site is just this vast black hole. And they're trying to appeal to all of these different audiences. They don't optimize their site for search. It's rarely updated, so many things are out of date. And also the terminology is really different. So if you're a parent, and let's say you want to go to graduation, and you Google Purdue University graduation, well probably nothing will come up because the school calls it commencement.
Oh, right, right, right.
You know? So we're trying to really demystify that whole thing.
Commencement. It's like, oh are you chewing your food well? No I'm masticating my food well, thank you. (laughs) Great. Well, let's take a look. So in terms of layout, what is the most valuable single click to you, as a business, on this page? Is it connect with your school?
Yes, connect with your school. 'Cause what I want them to do is go pick out a school.
Okay, alright. And this is on a pretty large monitor. Alright. Then what are the most frequently visited pages on this website? So in terms of the hottest pages currently on this site, what are they?
The hottest pages are dates and events, and information around financial aid.
Okay. So what is your most popular landing page? And this is probably all available through Google Analytics. What are your most popular landing pages, like from SEO, Google, etc.?
Yeah, so the most popular ones are things that have the academic calender for the school, where it lays out all the dates that a parent might need to know. Also, football schedules, basketball schedules are really popular.
Okay. How much of your traffic lands on this homepage, would you say?
20%, okay. Just from the outset, we're optimizing a page that is receiving 20% of the traffic. So we may or may not actually be putting in the time where we should put in the time, right? But looking at this site, if your two most frequently visited pages are financial aid, and scheduling, is that right?
So I would certainly consider having those in the navigation bar that we have here. Alright? The other point I would make, is that typically with sites, there are a few problems that I see with service businesses that are based online. One, is that they describe features as opposed to benefits, often times. So if we look at, the comprehensive resource for parents of college students, inside you will find dot, dot, dot, which is great. However, I think that the way that you should approach, in some cases, a website... And this is something you can split test right? So you could use a resource like Unbounce.com, or one of these to test A, and B, and C versions of a landing page without any technical experience, to see which converts the best. But before you provide a solution, sometimes it's important to emphasize the problem. And you can do that with a question, like, tired of searching through university websites and finding nothing? Boom, solution. I'm making that up off the cuff. But identifying that. I know we have very limited amount of time, so I'll just point out a few things. So Daily Burn was a company that I advised.
Yeah, I'm familiar with those guys.
And they were acquired IAC. One of the most important things that they did that improved their conversion. They used Google Website Optimizer to test this, which you can use. But you'll notice you have a couple of colors here right? So you have blue, red, those are the dominant colors, white, black of course. What they did, is they took that button that you currently have on the bottom right, and they moved it right here to the middle of the page. So they moved it up, so it was certainly above the fold so to speak, even on a smaller monitor. And they changed the color so it was not one of the dominant color schemes so they didn't blend in. And I believe that improved their conversion, conversion meaning the percentage of people who actually took that most valuable one click, which we have identified as connect with your school, improved it like 24%. And it took them an afternoon to do. So you didn't need to change any content on any pages, you just need to change the location and the color of the button. And what's funny, is it looked almost identical to that button, like the shading and everything. But I believe it was an orange and green. They tested a few different options. You know what we're gonna take a look at here, let's just actually watch this. I'm not sure if we're gonna have audio. How much time do we have? Time check. A minute?
Yeah, a minute.
Alright great. So let's take a look at this. We may not have audio. Is there audio on this?
No, I don't need it.
Oh, great. Perfect. Well, that makes it easier. Alright, so we'll take a look at this, because videos can be very, very effective. Okay.
It's running a little slower than normal.
That's okay, that's okay. So I'll ask questions as we go. So understanding that you kind of have to obviously play the chicken and the egg thing. Number one site for parents, is that based on numbers? Or is that just more of a positioning thing?
No, it's true. It's true.
Like if you Google anything around college parents, we're typically number one.
And in terms of direct competition, our only competition really is the college. There's not another site that we're competing directly against.
Okay. Got it. So looking at this, I would say that predominately you have screenshots for this. What I would highly consider doing, is actually scrapping this video. If you wanted to do a more personalized video where you actually have a user, like a number of parents for instance, with testimonials affectively. Like, I tried to do this, I couldn't. Then I came here and X. I think it could be very effective. And the motto just from branding standpoint, not bad. But if you're going to do this, you might consider customizing it, using something so that you don't have someone else's website that is linkable from that trailer video. So number one, if you have the number one highest ranked let's say, which is true on Google if that's the case, website for parents, boom that should be top right. Top right or somewhere here so that you establish credibility first and foremost. And then in terms of the benefits, if you had the problem, the solution, or if you had the specific line items that you have proven to drive the most traffic, I would put those on the top right, and not bury them down on the bottom left.
So very short and sweet, I know. I know we're a little bit out of time. And we'll have plenty of time. I'm not gonna like kiss and run with all this stuff. So to be continued. But right of the bat, I would say changing the color of the button and the location of the button. As well as replacing that video with actual indexable text, i.e. Google searchable text, that is right here where that current location is, would be what I would recommend off the bat.
Okay, cool. I'll give it a try.
How's the business doing now
It's going great. We grow every year. We're always acquiring new schools. And it's going really well.
Cool, well fantastic. Alright, we'll leave it at that. We can certainly talk about it more later.
Alright thank you.
Wonderful. (audience applauds) Thank you very much Sarah. Thank you for sharing, and letting us have Tim talk to you about it. I'm sure that's not easy in front of everyone.
I'm very difficult.
He's in charge.
One last thing I would say, is that for people who want this type of experience, you don't need an expert. And in fact, one of the most valuable things you can do, is have people who don't know a damn thing about your website, try to fulfill a given task. So let's just say your task is connect with your school, find a location, book a hotel for commencement. Right? If you wanted them... Let's say that's a valuable action. Use a service, you could use, I think UserVoice might be one of them. I might be mixing that up. TaskRabbit, certainly you could use, Craigslist, to get let's say even like five to 10 users to perform that task, and to capture what they do using something like ScreenFlow. So you would actually have them, with no instruction, go through the process of fulfilling your most valuable action, and see where they screw up, have them voice their frustration. And man, that's worth months of guess work, and wishful thinking.