Website Best Practices: Why We Care So Much about News and Events

Posted on 3/5/2010 3:59:50 PM

By Way of Introduction

Welcome to the first in a continuing series of Web Team news posts reviewing our Best Practices for Department Websites.

Because not everyone has time to come to a face-to-face training, and because the full set of best practices (forty-five topics in all) can be a bit overwhelming, we’ll be providing gentle introductions to our most important best practices in a series of news posts. We’ll provide some of the thinking behind the best practices, and provide links to our documentation.

Our first post is an overview of our news and events strategy. Stay tuned later this week for an introduction to the event details box.

We’ll also be taking questions—check the end of this post for details.

The Web Team has been emphasizing making effective use of your news feed and events calendar for at least a year and a half. And we’ve made keeping up with your news and events the first and second items on our best practices Checklist (a.k.a. “What to Do If You Don’t Have Time to Do Much”).

So probably it’s worth reviewing why we care so much about them.

News and events—while important in themselves—are also a means to an end. Taken as a whole, we want the IUP website:

  • To be found
  • To communicate who who we are
  • To encourage potential students to apply, and others to become supporters of IUP (financially or otherwise)

Keeping the news and events on your website up to date helps on all three counts:

  1. Getting Found

    • News and events keep your site updated on a regular basis. That helps us get found, because search engines like Google and Bing favor sites that are frequently updated. We also send out news and events items via RSS, social media, e-mail newsletters, and other means. News gets you noticed.
  2. Communicating Who We Are

    • News and events show that you don’t just talk the talk, you walk the walk. Saying you provide opportunities for students is great. But what university doesn’t say that they provide opportunities for students? Showing those opportunities—by posting information about internships, research projects, special topics classes, and so forth—is always going to be much more effective. (Or, as we’ve put it before, “show, don’t tell.”)

    • News and events help us broadcast important keywords. People find websites by typing keywords into search engines. If you want to be found, you’ll need to have those keywords on your website. But which keywords? Using news and events very naturally seeds our website with keywords—archeology, paleoclimate, republican china—that match the interests of our faculty, and the interests of the students we most want to attract.

    • News and events help us illustrate our message pillars. The message pillars constitute our core description of IUP. But just listing them isn’t enough: we need to show how we live those message pillars on a daily basis at IUP. News and events do that, without much planning at all.

  3. Encouraging Applicants and Supporters

    • News and events helps applicants envision their future at IUP, and give supporters reasons to support us. Interested in Chinese? Imagine yourself in China. Did someone just call your alma mater a “party school”? Tell them about IUP’s Alternative Spring Break and Service Learning programs.

And that’s why, if you ask the Web Team what you can do to improve your department website, our first questions are going to be

  1. Are you using your news feed and events calendar?
  2. Have you shown your faculty how to use the ‘Suggest a News Item’ Form?

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t develop quality content about each major or program, or that you don’t need quality photography or video and audio. You do, and those things are on the checklist, too.

But news and events are a central part of our web strategy, and are one of the quickest ways to turn your website around.

Comments? Questions?

If our news feeds were more like blogs, there would be a comment section right here, and we could take comments and answer your questions right here. In lieu of a comments section, send your comments and questions to and we’ll address them in a future post.

See you next time!