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Ten best university websites revealed

New study of all 126 British university websites sees them ranked by digital acumen for the first time

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | July 05, 2016 | Higher education

The research, carried out by digital marketing specialist Bray Leino Yucca, used five sets of criteria to score UK universities listed in 2016 and 2017 Complete University Guide (CUG) rankings, using their knowledge of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

Only 3 CUG top 10 ranked universities make the digital top 10. Oxford and Cambridge came in first and second place, reversing their CUG rankings. University College London (UCL) came in at third place. Of the seven remaining universities making up the digital top 10, five have also seen a rise in their CUG ranking.

In addition to creating an SEO ranking, Bray Leino Yucca asked three 18-year-old students to score every website based upon their ‘first impression’ of the visual design of the home page.

 

University

URL

Digital (SEO) Ranking

2017 CUG ranking

+ / - Digital vs. CUG ranking

Oxford

https://www.ox.ac.uk/

1

2

1

Cambridge

https://www.cam.ac.uk/

2

1

-1

University College London

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/

3

10

7

Manchester

https://www.manchester.ac.uk/

4

25

21

Birmingham

https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/index.aspx

5

15

10

Glasgow

https://www.gla.ac.uk/

6

29

23

Leeds

https://www.leeds.ac.uk/

7

16

9

Kent

https://www.kent.ac.uk/

8

23

15

Edinburgh

https://www.ed.ac.uk/home

9

19

10

Sheffield

https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/

10

27

17

Alan Thorpe, Bray Leino Yucca’s digital and data director, said: “Due to changes in the way universities are funded, and increased fees, student recruitment has become the higher education battleground. This means it’s more important than ever for universities to have a website that differentiates them from the competition. 

“Universities today need to be more conscious of their online presence, as many aspiring students use websites as a major factor in their decision-making. Parents and teachers, too, are likely to carry out extensive research to support people in their choices.”

Of the top 10 university websites, eight are listed first on Google when you search the city name alone, above any tourist information or council sites.

“In an age where online brand is everything,” said Alan, “the internet generation want to be proud of their choices, and feel it reflects their own personalities. If a university’s website doesn’t fit an aspiring student’s sense of identity, it is unlikely to be the first choice on their UCAS form. Key to meeting these aspirations is good quality content.”

Content was a key differentiator in the report, with the best performing sites demonstrating original, insightful and relevant writing, film and photography. High quality content not only helps with SEO, it helps students form a better understanding of the experience they are likely to get at a particular university.

If a university’s website doesn’t fit an aspiring student’s sense of identity, it is unlikely to be the first choice on their UCAS form. Key to meeting these aspirations is good quality content

Bray Leino Yucca’s sister agency Speed Communications specialises in content strategies for universities. Kelly Pepworth, managing partner, commented: “To appeal to future students, and the people who influence their choice of where to study, a university’s online content has to be immediately engaging, relevant, timely and, perhaps most importantly, brave.

“Great content – written copy, film or photography – provides the opportunity to differentiate you from other universities that may be being considered, so what you say has to be inspiring and unique. Don’t be shy; the aim is to demonstrate your personality and why you are the right choice.”

W: www.brayleinoyucca.co.uk 

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