Happy New Year! As we all shift our thinking from holidays to work, please take a moment to reflect on how you used the Internet this holiday season. Did you use reviews to guide some gift purchasing, select a hotel, restaurant or movie, or assist you in selecting someone to fix your home heater? Reviews influence decisions and for 10 years, Abroad101 has been helping future students and their parents become better education abroad consumers.
How to Get Students to Write Reviews?
Your presence on Abroad101 is greatly enhanced by reviews. So often we hear that it is hard to get students to do anything, let alone spend 20-30 minutes on a review. This is especially true when students feel that the activity has no benefit for them. We find that students ARE inclined to share their experience if the exercise gives them a chance to tell their story – it is exactly what they do on social media for hours a day!
If the student believes the review is good for them, they will generally participate. That takes some groundwork before they go abroad and as they prepare to return. One idea to get more engagement is to incorporate a review in your end-of-term programming and use the review process as a step toward preparing the students to share their experience with others. Just like career counselors who tell students to prepare a good resume for a job search, we hope that study abroad staff will help their students prepare for their return home by guiding them to submitting a thorough and candid review.
Alumni Ambassadors and Perfect Reviews
This “always sunny” concept is something that savvy marketers are concerned over. Study Abroad providers are increasingly using Alumni Ambassadors in their marketing efforts. These are typically very satisfied students who have demonstrated great affinity for a program and are fantastic spokespeople. When they are tasked with writing a review, human nature kicks in and we have noticed these reviews are overly promotional and “too good to be true.” In looking at the traffic these reviews generate, they get less page views than reviews with candid titles and lower overall ratings.
We welcome Alumni Ambassador submissions and in your training of them we hope you’ll reinforce the need to be candid in their stories so the review will be viewed as legitimate and credible. Please read: Why Imperfection is Ideal.
What to do with Bad Reviews?
The most common objection we get to fully transparent publishing of student reviews is a concern about how a negative experience will impact a program or the institutional stakeholders. In the complex world of social media and online transparency, the opposite is often true.
People often come to review sites to validate their choices and to search for the negative. Reviews of student struggles and reports of negative things will actually help future students prepare and set their expectations. In an odd twist of logic, they go to review sites to relieve the anxiety about what happens when things go wrong. Reviews also provide a practical balance to the always-positive websites, brochures and on campus presentations. For those, like parents, who may not be present in Q&A sessions, reviews provide a welcome reality check.
Taking some best practices from the tech sector, it is ironic to discover that negative reviews actually have a positive impact. We suggest you read “You Don’t Want A 5-Star Review” When you get a bad review, we encourage you to respond using the feedback tool at the bottom of each review. We suggest you restate what the student said went well, then thank them for their participation and feedback and reinforce your goal to make the program better. It is never a good idea to tell the student they were wrong, especially in a review. Some consumers look at the feedback to get a better sense of the personality of a program and the attitude of the staff. The comment section is a place to showcase that.
Please note that Abroad101 is still in business today due to our professional approach to review management. The vast majority of reviews on Abroad101 come from our university partners who either require, or encourage their students to participate in the review process. Our desire is to collect quality reviews and every once in a while, we have to intervene maintain the quality and integrity of our site, our university partners and our industry. Count on Abroad101 to do to the right thing.
Putting Reviews on Your Website:
Each review on Abroad101 has a fixed URL, as does each program. Each provider has an index of programs with an accompanying review tally and average score ratings. These link addresses don’t change, so we encourage you to benefit from SEO and place web links from your website to your presence on Abroad101 with link text that says something like “Read the Reviews”
Abroad101 also offers a chance to summarize the review scores of programs or you as a provider with our widgets. The widget produces a badge-like graphic on your website that is constantly updated with the latest results from Abroad101. See how yours would look:
Ratings and Study Abroad Rankings:
Over the years we have used the data collected by the reviews to raise awareness of study abroad and publicize the best of study abroad. Our system compiles and displays the reviews’ star ratings in nine categories. We stress that these are indicators of quality, not a measure of quality. Review scores can indicate strengths of a program as well as weaknesses and our scoring algorithms have adjusted over the years to best reflect people’s behavior. The summary review score seen on a program listing is an average that factors out old reviews. The program’s position in the directories is determined by a formula that favors recent review volume and has an adjustment that rewards candid reviews, photos and comments. As a review website, people want to see reviews, want current, insightful and candid reviews and our ratings and display algorithms help deliver this.
We have produced The Study Abroad Rankings for years. Our rankings included various factors, including a standard deviation designed to discourage flow of perfect reviews. The publicity generated by rankings has been significant and has gotten us great media coverage, but we have come to realize that the publicity is not worth the cost. In the end, candid reviews are what people want, and designating a best program is not in our overall best interest, or in the long-term best interest of our supporters. We did not publish rankings in 2017 and we will not do so this year.
For those of you not advertising with Abroad101, we hope you’ll join us. We’ve kept our prices the same with Featured Listings in our directories at $500/year/program with generous discounts for multiple programs. Overall traffic to our site continues to rise, clicks are up, inquiries and review volume are holding steady. Advertisers report seeing quality leads coming from the site as the majority of visitors remain American college-level students, parents and advisors.
We want your business, contact me today for a price quote!
CEO / Abroad101