OSU Extension has programs for Oregonians at every stage of life, from young children participating in 4-H Cloverbuds to seniors taking Walk with Ease or Better Bones and Balance classes. With this diversity of programming, it is no surprise that people of all ages visit and utilize the Extension website.

It is difficult to make generalizations about people’s web use based on their age, since it is often influenced by factors such as socioeconomic status, education, location, etc. that vary tremendously within one age group. Despite stereotypes, a teenager growing up in a rural area without regular internet access will probably be less “tech savvy” than a retired person who spent much of their career as a software engineer in a big city. However, because it’s our mission to serve all Oregonians, it is useful to look at analytics for visitors in different age groups to ensure that the website is serving them all effectively and determine if there are particular topics or methods of content delivery that are more effective for certain groups.

In this post, we will take a high-level look at this information. All analytics data provided is for the period January 1, 2020 to October 15, 2020. Note that Google Analytics is able to determine age data for about 36% of visitors to the site.

Under 18

For legal reasons, Google Analytics does not provide data about users that it determines to be under the age of 18.

Check out these articles on creating web content for children and teens:

Ages 18-24

A significant segment of this age group on the Extension website is made up of college/university students, as evidenced by the relatively high popularity of “academic” content used as citations or references in papers, such as items in the Botany Basics collection, as well as the fact that this group has the highest percentage of visitors from Corvallis.

Ages 18-24 user data

This is the age group that is reported to visit the Extension website the least, making up 11.6% of users for which we have age data. (Note, though, that this age group contains the shortest range and therefore the lowest number of individuals who could visit.) It also has the highest bounce rate (71.65%) and lowest average pages per session (1.44). This means that they are the most likely to visit a single page on the site and leave before visiting any others. They are also the group least likely to use the site search feature.

However, this group also spends more time on average on individual pages (2 minutes 51 seconds) than any other age group. This suggests that they are interested in the content on the site and are spending time to read it through. They are the group who least often leaves feedback on content (“Was this page helpful?”), but from the data we have their responses are almost always positive.

Contrary to what you may guess, visitors in this age group are more likely than visitors in any other to be using a desktop computer rather than a mobile device (this may be related to the number of students doing school work). However, for all age groups, a majority of users do use mobile devices. Even though this is the group most likely to be using a desktop, only 46.7% do.

Additionally, all groups of visitors are most likely to find the Extension website through an internet search through Google or another search engine. However, the 18-24 age group is the least likely to find the site through other methods (links on other sites, social media posts, etc.).

In terms of the content visited, this age group represents the widest diversity of interest. For the most part, a large majority of visitors to the Extension website are interested in gardening, food preservation, and (particularly over the last couple months) emergency preparedness topics. However, visitors in the 18-24 age group are the ones who most often visit content about other topics, including Sheep and Goats, Beef Cattle, Fish and Aquatic Life, Field Crops, and Business Management.

Takeaways:

  • To encourage visitors who get to the page from a search engine to visit more than one page on the site, be sure to include a “call to action” or other links on your articles and other content.
  • Be sure that your content includes information about author(s) and date published, etc. so that students (or other researchers) can create a citation for it.
  • Look for opportunities to create and promote content targeted at people in this age group who aren’t college or university students.
  • Consider targeting this age group when promoting content or programming that is new or uncommon in Extension.
  • Look for ways to promote relevant content to this age group beyond relying on them finding it through an internet search.

Ages 25-34

Visitors in this age group are the most common on the site, making up 23.19%, nearly a quarter, of all visitors for which we have age data. They are “middle of the road” for most statistics, including bounce rate, pages per session, and time on page, as well as for the devices they use and the ways they find the Extension website.

In terms of content interests, analytics suggests that visitors ages 25-44 are more interested in livestock-related content than other age groups, particularly beef cattle, sheep, and goats.

Takeaways:

  • Although this age group represents the largest group of website visitors, they are commonly thought to be underrepresented in “in-person” Extension programming. Think about ways you can utilize the web to increase participation from this group.

Ages 35-54

Google Analytics splits this into two groups, 35-44 and 45-54, but the statistics for these groups on the Extension website are so similar that it is easier to talk about them together.

This age group shows a significant drop in visitor numbers from the previous group. Numbers pick up again somewhat for visitors 55 and over.

Extension visitors by age

It may surprise you to learn that it is actually this age group that is the most likely out of all visitors to be using a mobile device. Over 70% of visitors in the 35-44 age group use a mobile phone or tablet to visit the Extension website.

Additionally, the 45-54 age group is the one most likely to find the Extension website through social media (12.7%). Facebook is the most common platform people arrive from.

In addition to the interest in livestock topics mentioned above, this age group shows a relatively high interest in crop production topics, particularly Field Crops, Hazelnuts and Nut Crops, and Tree Fruit.

Takeaways:

  • Think about reasons why visitors might drop off in this age group. Do we have programming appropriate for people who may be busy with family and/or career obligations? If so is it well represented online?
  • Don’t assume that only young people are visiting the site on a mobile device.
  • Make sure your social media strategy isn’t targeted solely at young people.

Ages 55-64

This is the second most common age group for visitors to the Extension website. Most statistics for this group are somewhere in the middle of the stats for the previous age group and the next.

One notable fact is that visitors in the 55 and over age group are much more likely than other age groups to leave feedback on content. The vast majority of all feedback is positive, but this group leaves negative feedback most often (55-64 ~7% negative and 65+ ~13% negative).

The 55+ age group also, perhaps unsurprisingly, represents visitors who have a relatively high interest in healthy aging and physical activity topics.

Takeaways:

  • When looking at feedback on content, keep in mind that certain groups of visitors may be more likely to leave feedback than others.
  • If you are making content targeted at older adults, look at examples like Better Bones and Balance or Walk with Ease as examples of effective web content for that audience.

Ages 65+

This age group is only the third largest group of visitors on the Extension website, but they spend the most time in a session visiting the site and tend to view the most pages. However, they spend the least amount of time on individual pages on average (2 minutes and 8 seconds). This behavior may indicate that this group has a harder time finding what they need on the site and so end up visiting many pages pretty quickly while they look. This idea is further supported by the fact that this group utilizes the site search feature much more than any other age group.

Contrary to what you might expect, this age group is not particularly likely to be using a desktop computer (in fact, slightly less than the 18-24 age group). The 65+ group is the one that most often uses tablets to access the website (~17% of visitors in this group use one). This age group is also the one most likely to find the Extension website from a link on another site.

Takeaways:

  • Make sure content is written to be easy to scan and read, so people can easily tell if what they need is on the page.
  • Tag your content with relevant keywords and topics so that visitors can find it through the site’s search feature.
  • Don’t assume that older adults are always using a desktop setup to access web content. In particular, don’t assume that they are using technology that can easily download/view PDFs or other documents.

Website updates

In issues ranging from climate change to public health, scientists have fallen under attack. Science communicators today face a challenge: How do we tell our stories when readers can’t agree on the facts?

Some of the answers may lie in the tools of good communication. Recent research shows us where we may be making missteps in science writing, and lays out some strategies to help us improve.

The jargon trap

Experts in all fields love their jargon. But jargon and unfamiliar words make readers stop reading, even when the word is defined in the text, according to a study at The Ohio State University. What’s more, researchers found that jargon led people to disbelieve in science.

“When you have a difficult time processing the jargon, you start to counter-argue,” says lead author Hillary Schulman. “You don’t like what you’re reading. But when it is easier to read, you are more persuaded and you’re more likely to support these technologies.”

Jargon may be useful in specific circumstances, however, when you are writing for an audience whose members share a common vocabulary. Use caution: If any section of your audience is unfamiliar with your terminology — such as those who are new to the field — you risk alienating them. For more information on science writing for experts, see this short video from user experience firm the Nielsen Norman Group.

More than just the facts

Many times, we’re trying to reach people who may not have much trust in science. That means we have to work hard to engage people with an open communication style, according to a new report in the Journal of Extension. This could include working to make the message relevant and relatable, and including photos and stories of real people.

“Effective science communication involves many more stylistic elements than just using simpler terminology,” the researchers write. “When communicating with the public, it is critical to also consider appropriate framing to bring familiarity to a subject that may seem foreign and intimidating to a general audience.”

For example, you could choose to frame an article in terms of the risks an issue may pose to a community, researchers suggest. Spell out what could happen if people don’t test their soil for nutrient deficiencies, for example. Conversational language is also key.

Use plain language

People are more likely to trust information they can understand. We talked about the importance of plain language in a blog post earlier this year. Here are a few of the main points:

  • Lead with a brief summary.
  • Break up long passages into understandable “chunks” with subheads, bullet points and pull quotes.
  • Avoid passive voice.
  • Check the reading level of your article. If your text falls above the 12th grade reading level, even experts will find it hard to read. Run your text through a readability app like the Hemingway Editor to help you find areas to improve.

We can’t solve all these issues with our keyboards. But avoiding jargon and following the principles of plain language can bridge the gap between writers and readers, and bring us that much closer to understanding.

Author: Janet Donnelly

A network of information. A world wide web. The interconnectedness of resources on the Internet, and on our Extension website, requires some thought. Do it well and your content is more easily found and keeps people reading. Do it poorly and you may miss opportunities or end up with broken links.

There’s a whole web glossary related to websites and search engines, and jargon related to “links” come up many times. Let’s better understand the value and the practicality of links.

Value of links between Extension and other websites

Oregon State University and the Extension Service are seen as trusted sources on the Internet. When we link to another website or content outside our own (called external links), it signals we vetted this as a good resource to check out. Our “authority links” help those resources to be seen as more valuable by search engines, which helps where they rank in search results.

The same is true when others, especially media or .edu and .gov sites, link to our resources (called backlinks). The best backlink is when a web editor writes a “Top 10” blog post or “Best of” review and includes one of our resources, this is called an “editorial link” and is highly valued.

We have surprisingly low referral traffic to our site (4% of all traffic in the last year) despite how many strong partnerships we have. This is an opportunity to ask our partners to make their web editors aware of all we have to offer their audiences.

It matters what those backlinks say, so they are accurate in conveying what a person would find if they clicked on it. A general link to “check out the Extension Service” isn’t as valuable as a hyperlinked sentence within your partner’s content. For example, their popular article or page on soil health could direct people on “how to test your soil” or “find out when to plant cover crops” linking to a specific resource on our site.

We can also send a feed of our web content to display on their websites, such as events or gardening stories. This can help add visibility for our content with less work on their part since they don’t have to write it and the links update automatically. If partners are interested, our web developers can work to set it up from our content management system.

Practicalities of links between sites

On the Extension website, we have different ways that you can add links to external resources. The main way is for content teams to add an “online resource” content type, or for the volunteer and youth programs to add “program resources”. This has taken some getting used to for people.

It requires you to add more context about that link beyond just a URL and title. It includes a short description, image and tagging that helps it display in all the related places across the site. It also helps to avoid a bunch of broken links, since you update it in one place, and it updates everywhere.

This is what an online resource would look like when featured on pages across our site. After people read the short description, they click on the title “Reducing Health Effects of Wildfire Smoke” and it immediately sends them off to the external resource on the Oregon Health Authority’s site.

Content teams generally want to keep online resources to less than 20% of all educational content we create.

Within a web article, you can also add the usual hyperlinked text, such as to a few related resources at the end. Do this when those related resources don’t need to be shared or found in search like an online resource is.

Stuffing an article with a bunch of external links in bulleted lists is not recommended. When other sites change their links or remove a resource, your hyperlinks get broken if those sites don’t bother to set up redirects.

Broken links make for unhappy visitors and can hurt our credibility. We can run reports to show broken links, but it takes work to find the right link again and change it everywhere.

A better approach is to create a “collection” of online resources to manage it. See the recent Processing Meat Animals at Home collection for an example. You can see the many formats that can be used to display online resources that link off to external resources.

Value of links between content within our site

We can also create strong links between content on our site (called internal links), which is helpful for search engines and visitors alike.

Hyperlinked sentences in a web article are useful to bring people to another related article. For example, we did this before a monthly newsletter promoted our August gardening calendar.

When heatmaps showed that people were interested in particular sections, then we found relevant resources to link to for them to read more.

Before

After (900+ clicks)

Before

After (700+ clicks)

As a result, the most popular information on the heat map ended up also being the most popular links to click on once added. Also, people kept exploring many more resources on our site after visiting the initially-linked resources.

Internal links from popular articles help to direct people to more in-depth or less visited but still valuable resources. This process of seeing what else on the site to link to can help you to discover and assess if there’s duplicate or overlapping content too.

Practicalities of internal links

There are different ways on a page to add links beyond hyperlinking a sentence. For example, on the poison hemlock and western waterhemlock article, links were added to the pull quote, the image caption, and as a custom “call to action” field at the end.

You can easily avoid broken internal links by typing the title for the internal page in the URL link field. It should pop up a list of content for you to select the correct one. This way if the URL changes, the internal link won’t get broken.

Here’s more details in the web guide, including a video, on how to do links on the Extension website.

In the future, we will be able to automatically select our content to link in emails and newsletters sent from Salesforce CRM (client relationship management) system too. Stay tuned!

As we acknowledge all that’s happening in our country and world right now, and react as best we can to our new circumstances across all of Oregon, it is easy to grasp how being able to provide helpful, insightful news to our constituents means more now than ever. Communication is key!

In my role at Extension, I am constantly striving to incorporate the guiding criteria of our Navigator digital engagement effort. In the case of newsletters, it’s easy to focus on these:

As progress is made on the Navigator initiative, it’s nice to get a little refresher on collections of resources that are available for us to access any time. Many times right here in the Navigator blog.

Email newsletters — aka enewsletters

The resources I bring to you today are those that help us with those wide-distribution digital communications we rely on from time to time. These “bulk” email sends can drive traffic to website pages, spur enrollments in workshops and courses, and transform our understanding of our target audiences.

I am talking about enewsletters.

We recognize the importance newsletters have played in our Extension work for decades. In our journey toward a digital future—which our response to the COVID-19 pandemic may have greatly accelerated—we begin to assess the benefits of newsletters delivered to our constituents in email form.

As the future emerges (swiftly, as it now seems), a new normal will begin to establish itself for enewsletters based around these principles:

  • Always consider your audience
  • What information does our audience truly need? Are we talking about one, large audience… or a collection of distinct audience segments?
  • Keep all writing inside the enewsletters short and to the point
  • Focus on providing a link—we refer to it as the “call to action” (CTA)—which leads to a web page or similar online destination
  • The CTAs are important—because people clicking on each one reveals what is of greatest value to them
  • Measure measure measure—rate at which people open the emails, click-through rate, conversions, etc.
  • After measuring, react and improve
  • Discontinued use of PDF format newsletters—in this format, we simply lose out on all the opportunities to measure the results!

Head off to learn even more

The goal of this post is to provide links to information you can use to transform your team’s use of enewsletters.

We start it off with Ann Marie Murphy’s contribution on email newsletter practices that can help educate, convey information to, and build trust and community with industry-specific, program-specific and general audiences.

Back in March, Michele Scheib shared with us about the “plain language” approach to anything you write. Plain language conveys meaning in short, spare sentences and simple words.

Then over to a recorded webinar presented by our own Rich Collins, from PACE, who led us on a journey through the steps of creating high quality enewsletters. I was able to join in as a co-presenter to share a vision of the possible future state of enewsletters as we look ahead to 2021 and beyond.

 


CTAs, CTRs, CMS, oh my! Let’s talk newsletters!
Thursday, May 21
Presenters: Rich Collins (PACE), Mark Kindred (ECTU)Do you write or send a newsletter? Would you like to take it to the next level or even just tweak what you’re already doing? Tune in for some compelling newsletter examples and best practices to help elevate your content and increase your audience engagement!

View the video recording of the presentation

 

There was the post about how having email delivery occur inside a sophisticated tool like the Salesforce CRM can provide substantial benefits for those needing to keep tabs on progress.

And I will wrap up with a couple posts that are related to each other, exploring ideas how to add new subscribers to enewsletter email lists over time.

 


About the Navigator digital engagement team. In the coming months, many of you will hear from me as I produce a long-term CRM strategy for OSU Extension. I look forward to talking with you and ensuring the CRM plans are in alignment with the business needs of your unit and the long-term vision of the university. The Navigator team is looking forward to talking with you about how digital engagement is aligned with your work and can provide new benefits.

Extension is all about the practical applications of science, and scientists love acronyms. But in practice, acronyms and abbreviations can cloud meaning and turn off the people we’re trying to reach.

An acronym is formed from the first letter of each word in a series. Writers often use acronyms to save space and avoid repeating a technical term or a long agency name. But consider that readers have to stop and decode each acronym, each time it is used. Acronyms impede comprehension and alienate readers.

Many of us were taught to follow a term such as Extension and Experiment Station Communications with its acronym, set off by parentheses: Extension and Experiment State Communications (EESC).

Oregon State University follows Associated Press Style, which frowns on this convention. The AP Stylebook explicitly states:

AVOID AWKWARD CONSTRUCTIONS: Do not follow an organization’s full name with an abbreviation or acronym in parentheses or set off by dashes. If an abbreviation or acronym would not be clear on second reference without this arrangement, do not use it.”

Questions to ask yourself

This guidance poses a dilemma for those of us who write scientific and technical communications. Here are some questions to ask yourself when considering whether to use an acronym.

Can you say it out loud?

Acronyms ease communication when they are a shorter, easier way of referring to your subject. But acronyms no one can pronounce have the opposite effect. If you have to resort to a difficult letter combination, consider subbing in some shorthand language instead.

Acceptable:  WHB pest status is derived from the transmission of WHBTA.

Better: White horned beetles are deemed pests because they carry White Horned Beetle Transmitted Virescence Agent, which causes whopping disease in raspberries. The damage is caused by the agent, not the action of the pest on the plant.

In this example, the term “agent” serves as a substitution for the hard-to-read acronym.

Who is your audience?

If you are writing for a technical audience already familiar with your field’s terminology, acronyms may be acceptable. In these cases, stop and consider how you would explain such terms to new members of your audience who are just entering the field. You may want to add context to help clarify your meaning.

Acceptable: FSMA

Better: Food Safety Modernization Act or food safety act (on the second reference)

While many publications in the Extension Catalog qualify as technical documents, most are intended to appeal to a general audience. When writing for the Extension website or a newsletter, avoid excessive use of acronyms and overly technical language. Use plain language.

Is the acronym a familiar one?

Acronyms in common use such as AAA, CT scan, UFO, PTA and OSU are all OK. Avoid using unfamiliar acronyms.

How many times will the acronym be repeated?

If your entire story is based on subject XCT, it’s OK to use the acronym (after you have made clear its meaning). But be selective, and avoid sprinkling in additional acronyms. That can make the piece harder to read and understand.

If you use the term only once or twice, there is no need for an acronym.

What are the alternatives?

Changing old habits can be hard. Here are some techniques that can help readers grasp the meaning behind an acronym.

  • Repeat the term in full on each reference. (Admittedly, awkward.) United Aircraft Mechanics approved the deal early Thursday. Later in the day, a representative of United Aircraft Mechanics said the agreement had already been broken.
  • Use an element of the full term as shorthand on future references. “The mechanics” instead of “United Aircraft Mechanics.”
  • Use a synonym. “The group” or “the union” can sub in for UAM on subsequent references.

When is an acronym OK?

Yes, it’s still OK to use many common acronyms and abbreviations. Here are some frequent uses of acronyms in Extension publications:

  • Fertilizer: N, P, K.
  • Measurements: F, mpg, mph, GPA, etc.
  • Integrated Pest Management: IPM.
  • Names of pests, such as spotted-wing drosophila, or SWD.
  • COAREC and other experiment stations. (Spell out the full name on first reference.)
  • EPA, IRS, ODA.

What’s the right way to use an acronym?

Spell out the full term on first reference, and introduce the acronym within the same paragraph.

  • These producers employ a practice known as Integrated Pest Management. IPM uses a combination of strategies to control pests.
  • These producers employ a practice known as Integrated Pest Management, or IPM. Producers who use IPM report better outcomes.

Punctuation: Avoid periods between individual letters unless the acronym would spell an unrelated word. Academic degrees (M.S., Ph.D., etc.) and some two-letter acronyms are an exception.

Plurals: Add s, no apostrophe. REIs, PHIs. Exception: Letters, such as A’s and B’s.

Can I use an acronym in my title?

Avoid the use of acronyms in headlines, titles and subheads, especially if the acronym is not in familiar use.

The upshot: Be conscious of any reading impediments embedded in all caps in your text. Make reading easier by keeping acronyms to a minimum.

What other questions do you have about acronyms? Leave them in the comments and we’ll get back to you!

We write so that others will read.

No matter what we write — an email, a newsletter article, a research paper — we want people to read it and understand.

The key to understanding isn’t some complex formula. It’s actually quite simple: a form of writing called “plain language.” Plain language conveys meaning in short, spare sentences and simple words. Plain language is:

  • Accessible. Plain language helps us reach everyone, including people with learning or other disabilities, people whose first language is not English, and people who may be reading online while feeding a toddler and waiting on hold with the cable company.
  • Active. In active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action: “The mouse ate the cookie,” not “it is believed the cookie was consumed by the mouse.”
  • The law. Government agencies like the IRS and the state of Oregon have adopted plain language guidelines. OSU websites should follow web accessibility guidelines, including those on readability.

There’s an app for that

Oddly, it’s hard to write simply.

Thankfully, some great new tools can help us measure and improve the readability of our text. One we like is called Hemingway Editor.

Start with a rough draft. Call up Hemingway in your browser, and copy and paste your text into the home screen. You’ll see a screen like this:

Zero in on the figure that denotes the reading level of your text. If it’s ninth grade or higher, start working your way up the Hemingway rainbow:

  • Clean up everything in light red. Cut unnecessary words. Divide complex sentences in two. Sub in some active verbs.
  • After pink, tackle yellow.
  • Re-check the reading level. Is it lower? Good job.
  • If the reading level is nine or above, keep working. Most audiences — including academics — prefer to read at an eighth grade level or below. Great writers like Jane Austen, Ernest Hemingway and J.R.R. Tolkien all wrote at the seventh grade level or below.

Make reading easy

Many readers today don’t read but instead scan written material. They’re looking for solutions in a hurry. Here are some ways to help these readers out:

  • Avoid long paragraphs. Long blocks of gray text turn readers off. Limit your paragraphs to one topic — about three sentences.
  • Use bulleted lists instead of long sentences filled with commas.
  • Use bold-faced lead-ins and subheads to help readers scan your text to find what they are looking for.
  • Read it out aloud. Before turning in anything to an editor or colleague, read it out aloud. You’ll be surprised how many awkward phrases you’ll find to revise.

Writing is hard, but reading doesn’t have to be. Use the tools of plain language to tell your story, and your readers will thank you.

Editor’s note: This article is written at a fifth-grade level.

More blog posts to come:

  • Science writing simplified: improving the readability of complex topics
  • The ABCs of acronyms
  • Tempting titles that click with readers

Authors: Janet Donnelly and Jim Sloan

Occasionally, we still hear from Extension faculty or staff worried about people not being able to find things on the website. Extension does have a lot of content on the site, and we do care what audiences think. This year EESC will continue our work on website usability and use analytics to help improve the visitor experience. Yet, the design solutions may not be what you thought, and focusing on content may be a better approach.

Where you can worry less: the changing design trends

Forget the “three-click rule.” The idea that web visitors will get frustrated if they have to click more than three times to find a piece of content has been around for the last couple of decades. Logically, it makes sense, but how many times they click doesn’t matter(1) and can make for unruly menus. What matters is each time they click, the page should deliver something to get them closer to an intended goal.

Also, our home page isn’t as important as you think. Visitors to our website are less likely to land on our home page than in the past – approximately 3% of visitors. This is a common trend happening across all websites. Search engines and social media are a big factor, as they will link to whatever page is relevant on our site. People go to a page of interest and don’t see the homepage.

A greater focus on organized, well-titled content and landing pages (vs. home page and navigation) can give you more visitor retention opportunities.

What to focus on: the content most asked for or that meets your goals

Give people the good stuff upfront when it comes to landing pages. What do they often ask about? Feature it prominently anywhere on the page, and then direct them to related content that may be less intriguing but still critical information. EESC can work with you on how to surface these top tasks.

One Nielsen Norman Group study(2) found that, like general web readers, the professionals we serve want content easy to scan and digest. They differ in that most are looking for detailed facts, verifying the credibility, and comparing data or related findings. Overstating outcomes or having out-of-date content diminishes credibility.

Two types of information particularly attract their attention:

  1. New information that they haven’t considered or heard of
  2. Contradictory information that is contrary to their existing knowledge or beliefs

This may be one reason a web article, Branding: OSU working to settle the debate of the ages, surpassed others in the high number of pageviews recently.

Do you have emerging research to share on a long-standing issue or trending topic? Share with your content team to get their input and then add as an article online. Web visitors can leave you feedback on the article, and then you could potentially develop the article further into a catalog publication or journal submission.

After reading these popular articles on the Extension website, the majority of people then leave the site. What action would you want visitors to take or what could they read next to further their engagement? How can we work together to improve that?

If you find when looking at the new analytics dashboards that a piece of your content does not reach people as hoped, then let’s look into it. What can we try with the content or on the landing pages, or in the promotion of it, to help? Also, assess your goals (e.g. attracting new participants) and ask how your online content can help to better meet them.

These actions keep content, and the related strategy, at the center of what we should be worrying about on the website, and helps us to better support people in our online communities.

 


Extension website updates

Are people still having trouble finding information online? Tell us on our beav.es/extension-support form (click the last option).

Newsletters now have a button link that goes to a “past issues” page, so the list on the main page only shows the 6 most recent issues. This will happen automatically once you reach more than six back issues.

Want to see who all the members are of a specific content team? What about contacting all web group leaders, or reaching out to a specific member of your web group? You will be able to do this now through the content management system when logged into the website. Just look for the link to this on your My Groups page.


(1) The Three-Click Rule for Navigation is False, Nielsen Norman Group 2019

(2) Writing Digital Copy for Domain Audiences Nielsen Norman Group 2017

UPDATED 7/30/2020

We want people to understand what OSU Extension does and how it is relevant for their lives. This isn’t easy, we provide resources for many topics and our impact is challenging to summarize.

The county page design has places to share different parts of our story. Below are recommendations for text to use.

County landing page

Page title

Use OSU Extension in Malheur County for the page title. This is a road sign to show website visitors where they are on the site.

Intro text

Show the ways your county helps Oregonians. Share the breadth and relevance of OSU Extension. And make it easy for them to find the many ways they can learn with us. Keep it brief. Keep the words simple and easy to understand. And the text easy to scan.

We recommend using this text:

OSU Extension’s network of teachers, experts, mentors and volunteers is at your service, across Oregon and here at home. Learning with you. Sharing knowledge. Putting lessons into practice.

 

When we work together, we can create positive change in our communities. Helping farmers and gardeners grow healthy foods. Strengthening our economic and ecological future. Helping people of all ages, families and communities thrive. And much more. We’re here to help.

 

How we serve you
We provide reliable, research-based education and advice to help you make informed decisions. Access is affordable—often free. Learn through one-on-one conversations with experts, workshops, conferences, publications, hotlines, online classes, and youth development clubs and activities.

For the intro, avoid sharing how we work — or who we are (this comes later).
Don’t include:

  • Our program names
  • About trained-volunteers
  • Community partners
  • Academic terms (use ‘gardening’ instead of ‘horticulture’)
  • Complex things we do, using terms the general public isn’t very familiar with: ‘collaborative community coalitions’ or ‘family and community health’
  • The word: problem(s)

First we help them understand what we do, then we tell them how or why we do it.

The intro text was developed by Ann Marie Murphy, our OSU Extension Marketing Manager. The text matches the language we’ll use for the new OSU Extension brochure.

 


‘What we do’ page

Intro

This is a great place to share more details on how we help Oregonians. And how we provide our services.

We recommend using this text:

OSU Extension faculty, staff, and trained volunteers work alongside partners across Deschutes County to provide educational workshops, activities, and services tailored to the unique industries, natural resources, and people in our communities. [Optional history info, for example: We’ve been working in Jefferson County since 1935.]

 

Oregon State University’s land grant mission drives us to conduct research and share research-based education to minimize community risk, improve economic vitality, and promote personal and environmental health.

 

[Optional partnership info, for example: OSU Extension is a partnership of USDA at the federal level, OSU at the state level, and Harney County.]

We don’t recommend including:

  • Our program names (i.e. Family and Community Health). Include this information on focus areas.

Note: The “what we do” section provides some concrete examples of information that can be learned about in this county. About section can be a great place to include impact information, this displays further down on the page.


Focus areas

Titles

Create concise, easy to understand titles.

  • Is the title is getting too complicated? Perhaps there are too many topics contained within one focus area. Try breaking it into multiple focus areas.
  • Is the title too long? Try removing some of the information or adding it to the description.

Title example:

  • Livestock
  • Home food preservation and safety
  • Small Farms
  • Field crops
  • Nutrition and healthy living
  • Youth activities

Description

Briefly outline the benefits. The description text shows on the “What we do page”.

Example title and description:

Activities for youth
4-H empowers young people with hands-on learning experiences to help them grow and thrive. By creating a safe and welcoming environment, young people develop the skills needed to make a positive impact on the world around them.

Home garden and landscape
We provide research-based information for backyard gardeners and green industry professionals, including regional specific information.


Make it easy to read

  • Read the text out loud. Are there sentences where you need to slow down? Is the sentence long? Try breaking the information up into smaller sentences. Consider removing some information.
  • Write for a general audience. The target audience for county landing pages is the general public. Aim for an eighth-grade reading level. Use terms that are general and understandable for people unfamiliar with OSU Extension. Avoid using program names and internal jargon when possible.
  • Write directly to the reader: Whenever possible use ‘you’. We serve you. Avoid ‘clientele’, ‘customers’, and ‘audience’.
  • More tips: See writing for the web.
  • Helpful tools:
    • Hemingway Editor: Estimates the reading level. Highlights text that is hard to read. Is free. See how to use Hemingway Editor.
    • Jargon tool: A very easy way to see what words are jargon. Rates how well the words are known.

Working together on county pages

We will be collaborating with each county on developing their county pages. This will include optimizing the use of the website’s design, refining landing pages and creating focus areas.


Website updates

  • Checkout the updates to the statewide 4-H including user-friendly menu and the great way they are using the website’s designs! Nice work!
  • There is a new youth development topic page. It is ready for programs and focus areas to add this topic tag to your content. Educational content for the public can show on this topic page.

The active summer season means lots of newsletters are packed full of advice and opportunities for volunteers, participants or general audiences. The Extension website hosts 70 monthly or quarterly newsletters from across the state, and a quick look at some can give you new ideas to try out.

If you don’t already post your newsletters on the Extension website, find out how to set up your newsletter. It will highlight your most recent issue and automatically show archived issues as well.

1) Make the connection

If you have a long list of upcoming events in your newsletters, follow the example of Lane county’s newsletter and add a link to the event posted on the Extension website, so people can learn more and register. Lane County filled up its classes thanks in part to its promotion in newsletters, on the website and across social media. If your newsletter also is sent in a print version, just provide the URL to your local program or county/combined station’s event menu page (this can be standard in every issue).

2) Make it consistent

Check if you are aligning your information across the Extension website, your newsletter and your social media. This includes cross-promoting content, since people like to access information different ways. Also, consider consistent branding with font, colors, and tone, such as in Woodland Notes.

3) Make it meaningful

Metro Master Gardeners newsletter does a good job of writing to “you” rather than just about “us” when trying to encourage participation in opportunities. They include information about why it may be of interest to them and what they can expect. They also include helpful reminders with links to where to find forms and FAQs volunteers need on the Extension website.

4) Make it simple

Keep your articles short (less than 500 words) and consider linking to the full article on the website or in Box to read more. They may be more likely to click if you write not as an organization, but as a person working on issues your readers care about. See a comparison example of a reworked original newsletter made simpler. Also, consider if readers only skim your newsletter’s headlines, will they still understand the gist of it?

5) Make it relevant

Look at your analytics to see what people are clicking on if you use an e-news service (e.g. Mailchimp), so you know what readers like and can do more of it. If you have a newsletter on the Extension website, contact the web and content strategy team to see how many people are viewing or downloading it. You can also gather interests of your audiences, and segment your list to send different information out based on those interests.

6) Make it actionable

Make the majority of content focused on today or tomorrow. Always provide a next step, even if it’s something simple like “Learn more” with a link to an OSU catalog publication. If you do highlight past events in order to thank those who were involved, share how it connects to the future and give specifics to show the positive impact their contributions have made.

7) Make it last

Small Farms News is a great example of having your educational content live on beyond the month it was published. As part of the archive process, they convert their PDF they uploaded to the web-based version, which means the main articles get added separately and featured across the site, not just in the newsletter.

8) Make your life easier

Many newsletters, such as the Linn County E-news,  find the design, delivery, and managing of email lists easier with an e-news service (e.g. Mailchimp, Constant Contact). People can subscribe, share or remove themselves from your newsletter lists on their own. It also notifies you and cleans up defunct email addresses, and helps to improve chances the e-news will reach their inbox and get read.

Do you have other suggestions? What do you like in a newsletter?

Recent Web Updates

This past month we updated the website groups contact lists. To see if you are listed correctly, or to find out who is in a specific content team or county office or program group, check Content Teams / Web Groups. The web and content strategy team sends updates to the leaders and coordinators of these groups, and they then forward it on to their members and gather any feedback to share back to the team.

How can you keep content fresh on the Extension website? By repurposing what you are already doing. Also, by taking another glance through what you have and edit it with a readability or diversity lens.

Tapping into current efforts

Taking a newsletter or blog piece you have written recently and turning that into an article can be a straightforward way to add new content to the website.

Other content teams have latched on to an idea of locating and revamping older catalog publications as a way to avoid starting from scratch.

When you find yourself answering the same questions, providing familiar advice, or doing another standard presentation — turn these into quick articles or videos that you can refer people to online in the future. Short answers to featured questions are popular with web visitors.

Similarly, when you publish new research in different places, such as a journal article or  association report, take a new slant or go more in-depth on one aspect to write a web article that speaks to Extension audiences too.

Adding content with purpose

It’s not just enough to add content when you have it. To make this effective, you need to add content for the right reasons.

These include meeting programmatic goals and audience needs, which we will be working more with teams to better define this year, and then map out content with this in mind.

It also means taking time to think about how people skim content on the website, and about all audiences we are trying to include. A couple tips in our guide on our training page can help you take a fresh perspective on your existing content:

If you have questions or other suggestions, please reach out to our web team to let us know.