February 3, 2023


Categories: University, Website, SEO, Wordpress

How Your University Department Can Create a Strong Online Presence

Having a strong online presence is increasingly important for university departments in today’s digital age. With the majority of individuals relying on the internet for information and resources, a well-designed website can be a valuable tool for enhancing a department’s visibility, reputation, and communication with stakeholders. In this guide, we will discuss some of the major considerations you’ll need to create a strong online presence for your university department.

Develop a User-Friendly Website

To reach and engage your audience, it is important to have a user-friendly website that is easily accessible and provides relevant information. Here are the steps to creating a user-friendly website for your university department:

  1. Choose a Website Builder: Choose a website builder that is powerful enough for your needs, but is easy to work with. There are free site-building tools, such as Wix or Squarespace, but at Pendari, we’ve had several clients who we’ve helped leave those platforms after they had experienced too many limitations and frustrations. The next level up is a content management system (CMS). These are more technical to implement, but more flexible and powerful to manage and deliver your content to serve your audience. More than 95% of the time, we opt to use WordPress, but occasionally, a project will call for Drupal.
  2. Select a Domain Name: If you’re establishing a new university department, try to choose a domain name that is memorable, easy to spell, and relevant. Of course, if it’s dictated to you or if you’re just looking to refresh an existing website, you can disregard this step.
  3. Choose a Design that Matches Your Brand: Ensure that the design of your website aligns with your department’s brand, with consistent use of colors, fonts, and imagery. Being part of a university, there are likely rules dictating at least some of your design decisions, but don’t be afraid to innovate and be creative where you can. As much as possible, you want your design to stand out and get noticed, not just be part of the crowd.
  4. Make Sure the Website is Mobile-Friendly: Make sure that your website is optimized for viewing on mobile devices, as more and more individuals access the internet through their smartphones. Mobile optimization impacts not only a visitor’s experience (and thus impression of your department), but also impacts Google search rankings (more on that topic in a bit).
  5. Make Sure the Website is ADA-Compliant: Being ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant means that your website is accessible to individuals with disabilities, such as visual or auditory impairments. This not only makes your website more inclusive, but it can also improve your search engine optimization and user experience. And failing to do this can make you susceptible to lawsuits.
  6. Include Relevant Information: Everything else is truly in service to this one thing… Your website exists to communicate who your department is and what your work is accomplishing. Include information such as the department’s mission, research areas, faculty, and contact information. Post regular updates. But beyond that make sure you’re casting a vision that people can buy into. Communicate in such a way that faculty and students visiting your website will think to themselves, “I wish I could be part of what they’re doing.  I hope they’ll accept me!”

Optimize for Search Engines

To reach a wider audience, it is important to optimize your department’s website for search engines. Here are the steps to optimizing your department’s website for search engines:

  1. Choose Relevant Keywords: Choose keywords that are relevant to your department and research areas, and that individuals may use when searching for information online. Think “what will people actually search where we want them to find us?”
  2. Include Keywords in Page Titles, Headings, and Content: Use keywords in the page titles, headings, and throughout the content of your website to improve its search engine rankings. Again, content takes thought.
  3. Ensure Pages Load Quickly: Make sure that your website loads quickly, as slow-loading pages can negatively impact your search engine rankings. Make sure images are sized appropriately for the web and avoid loading large files or unnecessarily-complicated code.
  4. Utilize Header Tags: Use header tags (H1, H2, H3) to structure your content and make it easier for search engines to understand the hierarchy of your pages. This also is a requirement for ADA compliance.
  5. Create a Sitemap and Submit it to Search Engines: Create a sitemap for your website and submit it to search engines such as Google, to help them understand the structure of your website and improve its search engine rankings.

Engage Your Audience

Having a user-friendly and search engine optimized website is important, but it is equally important to engage your audience through your website. Here are the steps to engaging your audience through your website:

  1. Offer Regular Updates: Regularly update your website with news, research findings, and other relevant information to keep your audience engaged.
  2. Provide Opportunities for Involvement: Consider offering opportunities for your audience to get involved with your department, such as volunteer opportunities or events.
  3. Encourage Feedback and Interaction: Encourage feedback and interaction from your audience by providing a contact form, email address, or social media links.
  4. Share Your Work on Social Media: Share your work and updates on social media platforms, such as Twitter and LinkedIn, to reach a wider audience. This obviously is going beyond just this one department website, but gives people another place that they might discover you.

Having a strong online presence is crucial for university departments in today’s digital age. By developing a user-friendly website, optimizing for search engines, and engaging your audience, departments can reach a wider audience, improve their reputation, and enhance communication with stakeholders. It is important to continually update and maintain your website, as well as to incorporate best practices for search engine optimization and audience engagement. With these steps, your university department can have a strong online presence that sets it apart from the crowd.