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.

Topic pages provide a way to share related resources in one easy-to-find place.

Topic pages provide a great opportunity for you to:

  • Put your content where people are browsing on the OSU Extension website. In our website’s main menu, the topic-related links receive the most clicks.
  • Organize the content for your topic(s). And direct people here — the place with the most up-to-date information. Whoo-hoo!
  • Learn about other fabulous resources. By working on this, you’ll learn about resources others have created across the state related to your topic. And discover other brilliant things happening across OSU Extension in other topics or programs.

Topic pages help Oregonians:

  • Find our resources and events on topics they are interested in
  • Discover who is doing this work — you, our experts! Experts are listed at the bottom of the topic pages.
  • See where things are happening across the state. See the ‘in your community’ tab. This information is added by adding a county focus area.
  • Discover the breadth and depth of what OSU Extension does
  • Stumble into answers to questions they hadn’t yet asked

Topic pages are the foundation to make our resources easy to find. They support our organizational goal to share the breadth and depth of content from across OSU Extension in one framework (not a network of separate sites), organized around topics. To learn more, read about the Navigator: OSU Extension digital strategy initiative.

Level up your topic page

Each topic page has different needs and audiences. Below are some ideas for ways to organize your topic page.

Case study: Bees and pollinators

Kudos to the bees and pollinators content team for a well organized and engaging topic page!

Read some tips on organizing your topic pages:

Case study: Youth education resources

Kudos to the ‘youth education resources’ content team on the engaging and well organized youth education resources topic page!

It was important to make the content sortable by grade level (i.e., Elementary School, Middle School, High School). These keywords were added to the related content (articles, publications, etc.).

Now we can sort our resources by grade level. And see the list of resources under ‘Browse resources.’ To explore how this works, visit the browse resources youth education resources page.

Help improve topic pages

We need your help to make topic pages awesome.

Please:

  • Review the topics related to your expertise.
  • See if the pages looks complete or if the content is out of date.

If no one has curated a topic page, then it will automatically show any latest content tagged with that topic.

To help you quickly organize content on topic pages, connect with the Extension web team.

Training

Learn more about how to edit topic pages:

Extension works in so many different fields from public health to forestry to food systems. People either know us or discover us based on our knowledge in these specific areas. So it is not surprising, the topic menu receives the most clicks on the Extension website’s navigation.

Many of these topic pages could use some organizing by subject matter experts. Topic pages can fill the need to show your coordinated efforts. The educational resources you share every day with key audiences can be accessed in one place without needing to create a separate website on the topic. These topic pages will also easily connect visitors with Extension programs, events and experts across the state.

How topic pages are organized

If no one has curated the topic page, then it is automated to show any latest content tagged with the topic. Check out a topic that relates to your work and see if it looks complete or out of date.

If it’s not useful, then it may be time to connect with the point people from the different Extension program areas to help you quickly organize it. The Extension web team can help you get connected.

The point people will give you an excel sheet of the existing content on that topic page, then ask you to identify and mark related categories. This process also helps you catch content that was mistagged or should be archived.

Then using those categories, the point people can add content tags and set the topic page up online for your review. You can also make further changes on your own. Learn more in the web guide on Instructions for Topic Pages, including a how-to video.

Here’s some great examples of curated topic pages:

Next week’s blog post will highlight the best practices that the Youth education resources and Bees and Pollinators topic pages put in place.

New features: Topic categories

Until now, we had to use custom keywords to organize a topic page. Now it is easier with topic categories. The categories help to identify the top tasks that people often come looking for, and show up as main headings down the topic page.

The topic categories also show up as a way to filter “Browse Resources”.

You can add a topic category from your group page if you are a topic page facilitator. Then whenever anyone adds a topic tag to content, the topic category field shows up to fill in. This helps to remember to add these category tags, so any new content shows up in the right place on the topic page.

New features: Opt-in Form for visitors

In the past quarter, visitors to the Extension website has grown 63% in comparison to the same time last year. That’s a lot of people who may be interested to engage with us. A new tool that we are piloting allows people to sign up to get more information.

On the gardening techniques topic page, web visitors can sign up to get a gardening e-newsletter each month. This message “Join our email list for free gardening tips!” pops up from the bottom of the page.

If they decide they want our help for a healthy, beautiful and productive garden and click “Sign me up for the newsletter”, then they can submit their name and email. We assure them we are committed to their privacy and not sharing their information.

If they enter their information, they will get future newsletters.

On the garden vegetable and herb topic page, web visitors see a pop up from the bottom of the screen “Get your free essential guide to gardening!”.

If they click “Download the free guide”, then it gives them an opt-in form to email them the free guide.

If you are interested to learn more, then reach out to us and we can tell you how to try it out on a topic page that you organize.

Use topic pages and tags so visitors find educational content

When visitors come to the Extension website, they want to see what information we have to answer the question on their mind or to discover what’s new. Topic menu pages (which include the landing page and the “Browse all Resources” pages for each topic) are a primary way for them to browse educational content.

  • Topic landing pages: 122,450 pageviews, 78% of visitors clicked on a link
  • Topic “browse all resources” pages: 15,038 pageviews (since rollout in October), 86% of visitors clicked on a link

The data shows that content is much more likely to be seen if it is tagged with a topic. On average, a piece of content on the site has received 57  views/downloads/clicks since November 2018. However, pieces of content tagged with at least one topic have received an average of 69 during the same time.

This effect is even greater if the content is featured on a topic landing page. Pageviews/downloads/clicks of content increases threefold (average of 319%) while the content is featured on a topic landing page compared to the period before it was featured.

What you can do to make sure visitors see your educational content:

  • Make sure to tag educational content with a topic. For most content types, the field where you can select the topic is in the second collapsed section on the edit screen.
  • If you tag content with a topic, be sure to also tag it with useful keywords so it is easier to find on the topic’s “Browse all resources” page. See the Tagging Guidelines in the Extension website guide.
  • Work with the topic’s committee to feature content that is especially important to audiences or seasonally relevant. Learn more about topic committees.