The Extension website launched in the summer of 2018. At that time, hundreds of faculty and staff needed to learn how to migrate and manage content in the new system. This meant learning the different content types and responsibilities of their designated groups.

Educational content would now be driven by and managed by program areas (via content teams). And, based on topics of expertise, not county locations.

Content teams, made up of subject matter experts, became the core of content coordination. These working groups needed to decide how best to function together. Not always an easy task. Web content priorities often fell through the cracks of busy schedules.

A shift occurred in 2020. Thanks for this goes to the program leaders. They recognized the need for allotted time in one person’s role to support faculty working on the website.

In most cases, these people also serve as a content team leader. The exception is Ag, where a bridge person helps all the 34 content team leaders, although some of their teams are self-sufficient.

These 10 designated people serve as a single point of contact — the liaison between the content team(s) and the program area leader and the Extension web and content strategy team. What does this look like and who are these amazing people?

 

  • Adriene Koett-Cronn works on content strategy for Sea Grant. She makes sure their publications, faculty and events get represented on Extension’s site. She brings good innovations to this role and is a joy to work alongside.

 

  • Amanda Bielenberg-Hayes works with Open Campus to help the counties, where they have a presence, share information about their program. She also is gearing up to coordinate how their program could fit within the Extension site. She brings attention to detail and effusive gratitude to her liaison role.

 

  • Candi Bothum, Jaime Guillén and Trisha Applebee work with the 4-H statewide program area and their local programs across the state to coordinate communication. They also help with consistency in structure, design and program resources. This trio stepped into a big role and navigate it with good intentions and a willingness to listen and learn.

 

  • Jessica Green works with the Ag Extension program teams to show how the Extension website can meet their needs on topic or project pages. She is always willing to fill the gaps from adding images to answering questions to researching new information on request. Her friendly nature helps others to understand and use the tools available.

 

  • Kristen Moore works with the cross-program youth education content team. She thinks through their topic categories and the process to get resources from across Extension on to the site. Her experience with the website structure and the ability to see the big picture is useful to facilitate a way forward for this new and ambitious team.

 

  • LeAnn Locher works with the Master Gardener program statewide, their local programs and the Horticulture content team. She helps to coordinate consistency in messaging, design, content updates and outreach strategies. Her strong communication skills, equity perspective and easy-going nature enhance the work of this dedicated team.

 

  • Teresa Crowley works with the Family and Community Health program area across all their programs. She has been essential in translating needs and setting up content on the site from the very beginning. She brings her wit and experience to know the best route forward, and she candidly persists when requests press in from all sides.

 

  • Shannon Murray works with Forestry and Natural Resources Extension to arrange web training and keep a pulse on content and program pages. She aptly stepped into the role recently to carry on their organized approach to content management in meeting the needs of all their team members.

 

As a season for giving thanks, let us recognize each of their ongoing efforts and contributions. They help to meet a need, come up with new solutions and further the process of Extension’s content strategy. Thank you for all you do!

What do you do when your newsletter audience almost triples from 30,000 subscribers to 80,000? This was the fortunate dilemma we faced at Professional and Continuing Education in May of this year with the popularity of our online Master Gardener Vegetable Gardening class. But let me back up and discuss where we were, what happened and where we are now.

PACE has long had a gardening newsletter, primarily as a promotional venue, and it has always had an engaged readership. We had a little over 30,000 subscribers and strong numbers in terms of engagement. Our open rates hovered around 13% (3,500 people) and our click-through rates (the number of people who click on something in the email after opening it) was usually around 25%, or close to 1,000 people.

We also knew, through analytics provided by our content management system HubSpot, that 75% of our audience actually read our newsletter, meaning they spent more than 2 minutes engaging with it. These are strong numbers, but we always thought the newsletter could do more. It was a great way to let people know about our upcoming gardening classes, but we weren’t providing much benefit beyond that.

Then COVID-19 happened. When we were all leaving our offices and beginning to quarantine at home, Gail Langellotto decided to make PACE’s Master Gardener Vegetable Gardening class free temporarily so people stuck at home could enjoy the spring weather and get out in the garden. It struck a chord. Between March and June over 40,000 people enrolled in the course and we added 50,000 people to our gardening newsletter list.

At this same time, the PACE marketing team was beginning to work more closely with others in Extension Communications and the Extension Computing Technology Unit, now in a virtual setting. Capitalizing on these new relationships and the rising popularity of our gardening classes, we forged a small team to work together on a revitalized version of the gardening newsletter. We soon realized that we could do more than promote upcoming classes, especially with the added expertise of Extension Communications folks.

We decided to revise the newsletter to focus more on providing benefit and resources to our audience to help them garden. We would utilize existing resources such as monthly gardening calendars, Extension publications and upcoming news articles. We would also continue advertising upcoming PACE gardening and agriculture focused courses to let people know about professional development opportunities they could pursue.

We also made use of a new email template in HubSpot that PACE had as part of our website redesign. This template was much more clean and engaging. Plus, using some of HubSpot’s new tools, it is easily customizable month-to-month when we have different pieces of content coming in and out.

Even though we added 50,000 people to our newsletter list who may be relatively new to gardening, our engagement metrics have gone up. Our open rates have been consistently between 20-30% (16,000 – 24,000 people) and our click-through rates have mostly been in the 17% range (4,000 people). We have also increased the frequency in order to stay more engaged with this new audience, moving from once a month to every other week. We have plans to move to weekly, if possible.

Having a larger team working remotely on the newsletter has also been a great opportunity to improve processes and make use of more planning and reporting. To that end, we’ve been using AirTable for our content calendar. This allows everyone on the team to view the different components of the newsletter ahead of time and contribute their own edits, thoughts and ideas. It also allows us to see all the upcoming newsletter drafts at a glance at our monthly check-ins.

We have a fantastic team working on this newsletter, and it’s been great to see it evolve so much this year. The pandemic has been and continues to be a devastating part of 2020, but it’s nice to see more people getting interested in gardening. And it’s great to be able to provide that audience with the excellent content Extension has to offer.

Sign up if you would like to receive the gardening newsletter and get seasonal and relevant information in your inbox each month!

Author: Rich Collins

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

Impact statements convey messages used for far more than supervisor evaluations – though that’s one of the important roles of impact statements. The better they are written, the better your supervisor can assess your accomplishments. But they also provide fodder for speeches by President Alexander, and Anita Azarenko, interim vice provost for the Division of Extension and Engagement, uses them for reports and briefing documents and to communicate with elected officials and stakeholders about Extension’s impact in Oregon and beyond. Regional directors and local liaisons turn to impact statements to present Extension’s successes, and Extension Communications uses impact statements to put Extension in a positive light through impact stories, news stories, press releases and more.

The impact statements you enter into Digital Measures can have an effect on promotion and tenure. They are a way for supervisors to get an idea about how your efforts have contributed to Extension’s mission.

In other words, impact statements have a wide reach and are necessary for letting our stakeholders, legislators, partners, current and future customers know the important things Extension accomplishes. They are posted online on the Our Impact webpage, available for anyone to peruse.

Although many of you know about the site, you may wonder how to find stories so that you can better let your fellow Oregonians know about them. There are more than 165 impact stories on the site now. You can find stories that relate to your region by using the “view our impacts in Oregon counties.”

Once you’re familiar with how to find impact stories, you can share them with the public in a variety of ways, most notably: on your social media accounts, in presentations and newsletters, on posters and grant applications and in written and verbal communications with elected officials.

Writing useful impact statements

Impact statements are straightforward, concise reports of your program efforts and impact. Good ones like the one below conveys three things:

  • Problem or issue
  • Efforts or activities to solve it
  • Impact or change it brought

Screenshot of this impact story: https://ourimpact.oregonstate.edu/story/osu-helps-cattle-ranchers-environmentalists-save-sage-grouse

Here, the problem encompasses the management conflict between sage-grouse and cattle grazing.

The action statement is Extension’s efforts to avoid listing the sage-grouse under the Endangered Species List with an information campaign to landowners, which would result in improvements to rangelands to make them more friendly to sage-grouse.

The impact or change was a historic agreement to protect sage-grouse habitat. Along with that are statistics to back it up.

The idea is to get your impact across without dumping all of your information into your statement. Be short. Think of it as an elevator speech. You want the reader to get the idea of your impact in a few paragraphs. If you feel it must be longer, continue to write in a straight-forward manner and keep it as concise as possible. If you need some coaching, contact Kym Pokorny or Chris Branam on the Extension Communications news team. Always keep in mind (from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Communications and Marketing, Virginia Tech):

An impact statement

  • Briefly summarizes, in lay terms, the difference your teaching/learning, research/discovery, and extension and outreach/engagement efforts have made.
  • States accomplishment and creates strong support for programs.
  • Answers the questions… “So what?” and “Who cares?”
  • Conveys accomplishments in simple language free of technical jargon.
  • Is submitted by faculty for three to five efforts each year.

Who cares?

  • Helps us reflect on and improve our work.
  • Demonstrates the difference we make in people’s lives, communities and the environment.
  • Improves visibility of programs (local, state, national).
  • Generates support.
  • Is a repository of results for speeches and other communication.
  • Helps us focus on issues, initiatives, and program themes.
  • Builds greater understanding of our programs by the public.
  • Illustrates our accountability.

Don’t use jargon. Write as if you are talking to a family member or friend who knows nothing about your topic. You want them to come away thinking, “So that’s what Extension does.” Don’t be vague. Use active verbs. Rather than “She was plowing the wheat field” write “She plowed the wheat field.”

Headlines, subheads, photos and captions grab attention so should be clear and engaging. An example of some good headlines includes:

  • OSU research hooks students on marine science
  • Urban cosmetologists raise money for Hopkins Demonstration Forest
  • 4-H youth sew Stockings for Soldiers
  • Wildfire danger in northeast Oregon ignites action to improve forest health

Be memorable. Be punchy. Be concise. Note all verbs are active. You want it to be informative; it is the gateway to the reader and we want them to open the door.

Impact statements are all about communicating to the public, much of which aren’t familiar with Extension or Extension’s reach throughout the state and beyond, so don’t be humble.

It’s recommended that you start thinking of impact at the beginning of your project. Will you determine impact through interviews? Surveys? Measurable impact? Don’t worry if you don’t have numbers to use for measuring impact. Describing what you have accomplished or think you will accomplish works, too. If your project is ongoing, you should update your impact statement yearly as you gather more information.

Remember, impact statements are just a three-pronged report: problem, what you did to change it, what the change or impact was. It can be written in three paragraphs, but it’s okay if you go over. Just don’t put all the details in. Keep it as short as you can. Along with headlines and photos, conciseness in conveying your message is one of the most important aspects of writing an impact statement. You want to answer “So what?” Your statement should draw people in so that Extension is known throughout the state for the important work we do.

Website updates

We are excited to announce a new feature for the Extension website’s county landing pages later this month. Impact stories related to your county will be featured in the news and impact section. The stories originate from The Statewides: Our Impact website.

As natural disasters affect many communities across Oregon, people contact Extension and search online to get quick answers, to learn more on the subject and to get more expertise in it.

During the peak time during recent wildfires, visitors to the Extension website more than doubled to 18,000 daily compared to the usual 7,000 daily in the weeks before and after. It was also a slight increase in those viewing from mobile devices (65% vs. 57%).

The information people needed did not just come from Extension’s Forestry and Natural Resources Fire Program (627 pageviews) and their events, but also content from Extension’s other program areas. Extension Communications worked with Extension leaders, content team leaders and faculty and staff to coordinate coverage online.

Where can we direct people to find current information?

Topic pages

Already having topic pages that curate content in one place on the Extension website helped with timely turnaround needed.

A quick review of existing topic pages helped to add new calls to actions and feature relevant content. New content produced also automatically appeared under latest resources and news. The relevant topic pages included:

  • Fire (1858 pageviews in September)

Fire topic page with Announcement about Post-Fire Webinar Series and below that a call to action box "Learn what is happening in your community" with link to the Fire Program

Family Emergency Preparedness topic page with announcement about community emergency Wi-Fi access and a call to action box for Oregonians to stay safe and informed with link to State of Oregon resource hub

Community Disaster Preparedness topic page with Announcement for Livestock hay and feed donation request at top and a call to action with link to "real-time map of fires in Oregon"

New content related to smoke and ash information also could easily be tagged to show on related livestock, gardening, health outreach, food safety and wine grapes topic pages.

Announcements

Similarly, ways to easily tag announcements to show across the Extension website helped with quick notifications to communities no matter where they enter the site.

Extension Communications coordinated with Extension leaders and county web coordinators on announcements to appear on county pages and any related topic pages. These included:

  • Livestock hay donations (289 pageviews in September)
  • Safety alert closures of offices (198 pageviews)
  • Emergency community wi-fi access (55 pageviews)
  • Disaster relief support and mask distributions (44 pageviews)

Employee intranet

The employee resources website also provided a place to share internal information on administrative and communication questions that arose on the wildfire issue.

Updates to the wildfire information resources for Extension employees webpage had 160 pageviews in September. It offers expense tracking, activity reporting and volunteering information that will be useful to know for any emerging issue.

Top page of the Employee Intranet Wildfire Information - shows smoke image with box with link under heading "Stay safe and informed"

How do we get new content that our audiences need online quickly?

Most visitors to the website arrive directly on our educational content. Extension faculty crafted multiple new articles and answered Ask an Expert questions to publish on the Extension site during the peak of the wildfires.

It’s great when we have original, trusted content to promote and that our educators are taking time to do that. Here’s some of the results for month of September:

  1. What should I do about the wildfire ash covering my yard and garden? | new Featured Ask an Expert question – 45,334 pageviews
  2. Take precautions when wildfire ash falls on fruits and vegetables | new News story – 30,439 pageviews
  3. Is it safe to eat my garden produce affected by wildfires? | new Featured Ask an Expert question – 16,972 pageviews
  4. What effect will the 2020 fires have on bees? | new Web article – 4734 pageviews
  5. After a wildfire | existing Web article – 1671 pageviews
  6. Fire-Resistant Plants for Home Landscapes and Fire-Resistant Landscape Plants for the Willamette Valley | existing Catalog publications — 1531 combined pageviews
  7. During a wildfire | existing Web article – 1214 pageviews
  8. The Home Ignition Zone: Protecting Your Property from Wildfire | existing Catalog publication – 1180 pageviews
  9. Fire FAQs—Who owns Oregon’s forests, and how does that matter when it comes to fire? | existing Catalog publication — 977 pageviews
  10. Impact of Smoke Exposure on Wine | existing Catalog publication – 752 pageviews
  11. Animal exposure to wildfire smoke | new Web article – 627 pageviews
  12. Fire FAQs—What is forest fuel, and what are fuel treatments? | existing Catalog publication — 533 pageviews
  13. Improve indoor air quality from wildfire smoke during COVID-19 | new Web article – 512 pageviews
  14. OSU Extension assists with livestock rescue efforts as Oregonians flee fires | new News story – 473 pageviews
  15. Once the smoke clears: A guide to safety start working and riding your horse | new Web article – 403 pageviews

Also added were key “online resources” from government sources or other Extension colleagues, especially bilingual content on evacuation safety, wildfire smoke, and fire prevention.

Where time is of the essence, some of the most timely ways to publish content are:

  • Ask an Expert question/answer (Extension Communications monitors and can add timely, relevant content as “featured questions” to the Extension website.)
  • Publish a new article, or revise an existing one (Post through your content team.)
  • Add an online resource through your content team (Link to a credible outside source.)

You may also be interviewed for news stories published by Extension Communications writers.

Later, your team may also want to revise or create a new peer-reviewed Extension Catalog publication.

People are taking the time to fully read this information too – often spending over five minutes and more on each article. Together all this online content captured ways Extension educates, collaborates and supports efforts in the state when natural disasters happen.

How can we best let people know about our useful resources?

If you create content based on questions you’re hearing from our audiences or other trends, then there will likely be more interest when you share it. The pieces of content that attracted most pageviews also had about 45% who arrived via Facebook social media referrals.

Sometimes how you present it on social media helps too. One piece of wildfire content had over half its views come from Facebook. This could be because of the post’s creative photo slideshow about 4-H assistance with rescued livestock.

During this time, the most popular Facebook post shared urgent tips right in the message if they clicked to see more.

Post with infographic "When the fire nears you... Anticipating an evacuation? Steps to take now" with steps listed. Shared 747 times and 29 comments.

Direct referrals to the online content, such as from your email distribution lists, also increased. During this wildfire peak time, 34% arrived from a direct URL compared to around 13% other weeks in September.

While we featured this new and timely content each day on the Extension homepage, the OSU Alumni website also featured our information on their site too. What other partners do you know of that highlighted our content on their sites?

When the next natural disaster comes to Oregon, such as a water-related emergency, keep in mind these ways that your content can be nimble and ready to go when needed.

In the face of the worst pandemic in the last 100 years, maintaining strong ties within the communities we serve can feel like an uphill battle. Even with social distancing, it’s important that we continue to meet the needs of Oregonians and to maintain strong ties with each other as we face this public health crisis together.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us in Extension are faced with a dilemma: how do we continue to offer vulnerable community members the opportunity to continue engaging with the event-based programming they want to attend, but can’t?

Recently, 4-H and the FFA were planning the Grant County Modified Youth Livestock Exhibit. The necessary Covid-19 related precautions were planned, including social distancing and limiting attendance. But, the reduced attendance posed several drawbacks to the viability and effectiveness of this event and future ones like it.

Bonni Booth, the 4-H Program Coordinator for Grant County, learned about a local church that was successfully live streaming their service to those who couldn’t attend in-person. The church offered Bonni and her team a laptop, camera, and WiFi access to stream live video from their event onto YouTube. To leverage OSU Extension’s YouTube subscriber following, she reached out to Extension Communications to see if we had an official YouTube channel for streaming live events.

We didn’t have such a channel, but now we do. We present to you: OSU Extension Live, a YouTube channel dedicated to broadcasting your event quickly and to a large audience.

screenshot of the live video image with analytics graph below

How OSU Extension Live works

It’s accessible from practically any device with an internet connection, even a mobile phone or a smart TV. People who prefer to quarantine can connect with their Extension communities. Those with scheduling conflicts can rewind the stream to watch the parts they had missed. Bonni told me after the event that grandparents of the 4-H youth who lived across state lines thanked her for letting them watch their grandchildren show their animals. Expanding our services to reach underserved audiences is a great perk, pandemic or not.

Bar graph showing desktop was most used to watch and most on Thursday. TV and mobile were next popular and tablet and game console not as much.

The Modified Youth Livestock Exhibit was six days long and included an array of activities that took place at different times. YouTube’s in-depth analytics shows which activities gathered the largest virtual crowds, and can even give a general sense of who is tuning in. These data points can help you determine which parts of the event were the most popular and which didn’t hold the audience’s attention.

line graph of live concurrent viewers by time of day

This isn’t just a piece of the solution for social distancing, this is a paradigm shift for offering accessible content to people with all sorts of reasons for not attending an event in-person. All the while, accessing powerful feedback to help you shape your future programming.

How you can get started

We are working to make live video streaming to OSU Extension Live as easy as possible, but there are some extra considerations.

  1. You will need a data connection. Streaming won’t work without a stable connection to YouTube.
  2. University policy for youth programming states that a model release must be completed by all youth present on-camera. Most youth programs have a model release as part of their enrollment process, but make sure to bring extra forms to the event in the case that a youth without one wants to participate on-camera.
  3. If you elect to open up the live stream to comments, make sure someone is available to moderate those comments.

Let’s say that an event you are hosting is coming up and you want to determine whether to host a live video stream. What makes an event ideal for live streaming?

  • Is your event intended for a public audience? If not, perhaps a video conferencing platform like Zoom is more appropriate.
  • Do you have a way to advertise the event to your audience? Sharing the streaming link in an email or on social media with your audience and drumming up excitement days or weeks in advance will ensure the best turn-out.
  • Is this a recurring event? Perhaps there is an unserved audience of prospective members who would like to see what your event is like from the comfort of their own home.
  • Is there someone available who can periodically check on the webcam?

Traffic ration by source shows 40.1% external link, 32.1% direct url entry, and less than 10% for each of the other 5 sources

 

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about live video streaming, contact Alan Dennis or Victor Villegas.

You are also more than welcome to learn more by attending our Extension Annual Conference session titled, “Virtual Program Delivery with Live Streamed Video” which is slated for Monday, December 7, 2020 from 10:15 – 10:45 AM.

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

The Extension website’s analytics are powered by the Google Analytics platform. One powerful feature of Google Analytics is the ability for administrators to configure tracking of visitor actions (called “events”) that are more complex than simple page views. These include actions performed by visitors such as clicking a link or submitting a form. In this post we will cover the actions that are tracked on the Extension website and how to access data about them.

Actions tracked on the Extension website

The following are the categories of actions that are tracked on the Extension website:

  • Content CTA: A visitor clicks on the “call to action” (CTA) link at the end of a piece of content. This CTA can be customized for articles, otherwise it defaults to links to the landing pages for the topics the content is tagged with.
    • During August, 8,116 of these events occurred
  • Downloads: A visitor clicks on a link to download a file (e.g. a PDF or Excel document).
    • During August, 25,402 of these events occurred
  • Feedback: A user selects “Yes” or “No” in a “Was this page helpful?” form.
    • During August, 3,056 of these events occurred
  • Mails: A user clicks on a linked email address to send an email.
    • During August, 1,229 of these events occurred
  • Outbound links: A user clicks on a link that directs them to an external website (i.e. a website that doesn’t start with extension.oregonstate.edu). This includes clicks on the “Share” button on pages that visitors can use to share the link to social media.
    • During August, 135,661 of these events occurred
  • Search: A user performs a search using the site search function that doesn’t return any results.
    • During August, 479 of these events occurred

Note that a single action by a visitor might be counted for more than one category. For example, if a call to action at the end of an article links to the Extension Catalog website, that will be included in both the “Content CTA” and “Outbound links” categories.

Note about tracking document downloads

Note that Google Analytics can only track clicks to the document that happen on the Extension website. This means that if you email someone the link to a document, post it on social media, etc. Google Analytics will not track those clicks. If tracking these numbers is important, we recommend:

  • Converting the document to a web page
  • Storing the file in OSU Box, which tracks downloads from everywhere. To see this information, log in to Box and view the file. On the right-hand side of the screen, there is an icon to open the “Details” panel for the file. Here, you can see the number of times the file has been previewed and downloaded.
  • Creating a shortened beav.es link for the document that you share. Then you can log back in and see how many people have followed that link.

Accessing data about visitor actions

Content authors can access some data about visitor actions through the on-site analytics dashboard.

  • Downloads: in the lower-right corner of the “Top Content” section, follow the “Search Document Data” link. This will take you to a report of all events in the Downloads category. You can use the filter at the top to find data for a specific document.
  • Searches: follow the “See analytics for all of Extension” link in the top-right corner of the dashboard. In the “What visitors look for” section (last on the page), you will see data for terms that visitors have entered in the search box on the site.

To get data for the other action categories at this time, you will need access to the full Google Analytics back end. Submit a website support ticket to request access. We have created basic instructions for using the full Google Analytics back end. You can also see our recent professional development webinar to learn how your colleagues use analytics.

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!

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