Abroad101 Providers Update for May 2019

It was thirteen years ago when a motivated, idealistic study abroad student returning to Boston from a semester in Australia came up with the idea that his experience should not be just etched in his mind, it should be shared with the world. 

With some help from some entrepreneurial friends, they started a business with the goal to be the “Trip Advisor for Study Abroad.”  Soon there was a website, some technology, staff and the business known as Abroad101 got started.  You can still see “Review One

Recently we published Review 44554 and are on a pace to publish 6,000 reviews this year.  The business had its ups and downs, having succeeded by keeping its focus on providing students a forum to tell their story and helping universities and providers manage that process in a responsible way. 

Meet Phil, our new General Manager

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Philippos Kollitsis as the new General Manager for Abroad101. 

“Phil” is an experienced, professional businessperson who will be working from the Ledra Capital offices in Nicosia (Cyprus) and New York.  Ledra is the majority shareholder in Abroad101 and remains committed to the future of Abroad101.  Phil has served as CEO and as a Board Member of several companies over the last twenty years and has been an advisor to Ledra.  He too was an international student, earning two degrees from Lancaster University in the UK.   We are excited to welcome Phil on board to our team.

Phil will be at NAFSA and will be stopping by booths.  You can also arrange to meet him at the University of Nicosia’s booth #1131.  We invite you to stop by early in the week to pick up an invitation to UNIC’s 10th Annual Med Party (Wednesday, May 29 – 6:30pm – 9:00pm) and to attend the A101 Happy Hour immediately prior, at 5:30PM, both at City Tap House Penn Quarter on 901 9th Street NW. Register to attend by clicking here.

Do Reviews Matter?

Please take a moment to remember the last time you booked a hotel, chose a movie or show in a theater, picked a restaurant, or bought a product online.  Did a review guide your decision?  If these small decisions were influenced by reviews, then we’re sure you’ll understand how something as complex as an education abroad experience needs reviews. 

Also consider how reviews actually better serve the parents of students.  From our traffic analytics, we see that 20-25% of our web traffic comes from visitors who are 40-50 years old (parents).  We know parents are key in the decision-making process and the feedback we get from parents shows a hunger for candor and interest in using reviews to endorse or approve their student’s program choice.  While you may have testimonials on your website, independent, third-party reviews can be powerful additions to your marketing.

Candor is Key

People come to review sites looking for balance to the always-positive websites, brochures and in-person presentations.  They know things aren’t perfect and want to understand what may be imperfect about a given location, program or host.  Quite often the visitors to Abroad101 are coming to validate their earlier discoveries and because of this, we see a significant portion of our traffic from parents and other adults who support students.  Students may be drawn to the ratings and comments about food and social aspects of a program, while parents see value in ratings and comments about safety and cost.  The 38 questions in the Abroad101 review give everyone something to discuss with plenty of examples to engage in a meaningful dialog and hopefully break some stereotypes about other people and other parts of the world. 

The vast majority of students who study abroad have an overwhelmingly positive experience, which is reflected in the reviews.  Those that struggle and report negative things will actually help future students prepare and set their expectations.  We hope you’ll bring these reviews to the attention of future students so that they can put things in perspective.  Costs in London are high, academics at Oxford are hard, petty crime is rampant in Paris and the food in Ghana is, well, … different.  Knowing these things before a student goes away may make a big difference in how they prepare. 

For Parents, knowing what the risks are is actually reassuring as they can then help their child prepare. When parents inquire to you about programs and ask for referrals, direct them to Abroad101.

Advisors discuss issues over and over, but with reviews the students are learning from their peers and for the schools that require reviews of their students, the  indirect peer advising seems to really help.

Please encourage your students to read the reviews as part of their pre-departure preparation and push them to be candid in their reviews when they return.  Students can start their review at http://www.StudyAbroad101.com/reviews/new

Reminder About the Display Algorithm:

Most visitors to Abroad101 will end up in a directory of programs.  We list programs by city, country, academic program as well as by provider and host university.  For those university partners who select the “approved programs” option, we create a directory as well.  Anytime there is a list, it is ordered based on our proprietary display algorithm which is designed to recognize recent review volume and quality of reviews.  

The algorithm has an impact factor that lessens the impact of older reviews and formulas that reward reviews that contain photos, complete descriptions and a range of review scores.  We do this because Abroad101 is first and foremost a review website.  People come looking for reviews and we want to highlight recent and well written reviews.

Student Inquiries:

Recently we have seen a rise of bots sending Spam email through our inquiry form.  We apologize for this inconvenience and are working to solve this problem; we hope to have it fixed soon.

It’s Free for Schools

We offer Abroad101 to American colleges and universities as free study abroad program evaluation software.  It is fully functional SaaS that manages inviting students to submit reviews, an approval process, approved program lists, graphs and benchmarking reports and the ability to export reviews for further analysis.  Using our unique serial number, schools can also link reviews to their student information systems or TerraDotta.  University partners can also add unique questions to the 38-question base review and also choose not to publish some of them. 

Our business model gives program providers and foreign host universities the option to pay to promote their programs through advertising.  A large portion of that revenue goes to support software services allowing colleges and universities to use Abroad101 without subscription fees.   We ask that our partner schools look favorably upon the organizations who appear in the “Featured Program” positions as a thank you for the free software. 

Added Benefits of Advertising:

If goodwill is not compelling enough for you to support Abroad101, we have designed the site so that advertising on Abroad101 will bring you more inquiries, improve your conversions and raise the brand and visibility of your programs.  Featured Listings start at $500/year and we offer generous volume discounts for multiple programs and display advertising. 

We also give extra emphasis to reviews from advertised programs in Abroad101 ‘s Social Media channels.  We post excerpts of reviews in our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram channels and are open to extra boosts for program news and highlights as part of an advertising package.

Meet Phil at NAFSA or Schedule a Call

If you’d like to arrange a meeting with our new general manager, please email him at philippos@abroad101.com to arrange a good time/place to meet.  

We look forward to re-connecting soon!

Abroad101 Providers Newsletter – Spring 2018

Ten Years Later, It’s Still All About the Reviews:

Abroad101 got its start as the “Trip Advisor for Study Abroad” being the first website to focus on study abroad reviews.  Ten years later we host the largest collection of program reviews, in part because a number of colleges and universities use Abroad101 as their official program evaluation software.  Abroad101’s system gives university administrators a nice set of web-based tools to:

  • manage the publishing of reviews (approve/disapprove)
  • add custom evaluation questions (optional)
  • measure their students’ results against other universities (charts)
  • generate performance reports on programs and providers (ratings scores)
  • export reviews for further analysis and trends

More than 70% of the reviews on Abroad101 come at the invitation of university advisors, many who will read and discuss the reviews as part of school’s re-entry process.  In recent years, we have opened up these features to program hosts (foreign universities) and providers who use the reviews for both marketing and quality control.  Whether you invite the student or not, you can see your program reviews and can use the comparison tools by accessing your account dashboard.  If you have not done so, we encourage you to login and explore what Abroad101 has for you.  If you need your password reset or would like a web demo of the software, email: mark@abroad101.com.

Abroad101’s Directories

Any list of programs on Abroad101 is displayed based on an algorithm we have fine-tuned over the years.  Recent review volume is currently the most important factor, adjusted by the age of the review along with several additional factors including standard deviation (range of scores).  Inclusion of photos and review completeness impact positioning.  We do this because as a review website, people come to us looking for current and thorough reviews so it seems only right that the programs with the most reviews are at the top of the list.

Student Inquiries:

As a reminder, the primary mechanism for prospective students to interact with providers is through Abroad101’s inquiry form.  When you get an inquiry from Abroad101, you will notice a “lead type” in the message.  These are:

  • fav = Favorite, where a student tags your listing as one to consider later, not a formal inquiry 
  • rmi – the standard Request More Information inquiry
  • app – student states they want to apply for the program listed.
  • mp – Matching Program (a featured offered to advertisers)

Often people will visit review sites to do further research, so when you get an inquiry marked Apply there is a reasonable chance that that student is already known to you and has come to a decision to apply to the program while on Abroad101.  Please don’t view these as duplicate leads, instead think of them as conversions and prioritize your response to the student.

For those of you who advertise, our LeadMatch (mp leads) feature gives students three additional programs to consider after they have sent an inquiry to a non-advertised program.  These matching programs are drawn from our pool of advertised programs, matching on city, country and/or subject.  It’s modeled after the popular recommendation feature on sites like Amazon.com and accounts for 13% of all leads sent from Abroad101.

Search by Subject:

As a reminder, Abroad101 is using the CIP Codes from the US Department of Education for our study subject search.  We presently list a total of 423 including all of the top level subjects and the most popular of the specific disciplines.  From time to time, providers will request we add a category, such as Kinesiology and Exercise Science which we added last month.  We encourage you to take advantage of the study subject field when updating your program listings with Abroad101.  Let us know if you’d like any additional categories/directories.

Include Abroad101 in your Advertising Budgets:

Abroad101 is supported by advertising from foreign universities as well as program providers.  Advertising on Abroad101 is designed to bring you more inquiries, improve your conversions and raise the brand and visibility of your programs, all at a price that won’t blow your budget.  Featured Listings start at $500/year and we offer generous volume discounts for multiple programs and display advertising.  Advertising is mixed gently in the pages adding additional choice to students.  With 20-25% of Abroad101’s visitors being parents or university advisors, advertising has the extra impact of reaching those that influence students.  We hope you will include Abroad101 in your next year’s budget.  Prices remain unchanged since 2015, please download our Ad Guide for more information.

See you at NAFSA?

Abroad101 won’t have a booth this year or a reception, but we will be at the conference.  If you’d like to meet at your booth, or after exhibit hours, please email: mark@abroad101.com.

Thank you,

Abroad101 Providers Newsletter – Winter 2018


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.

Advertising Options:

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!

Mark Shay

CEO / Abroad101

+1-212-321-0928

mark@abroad101.com

http://www.StudyAbroad101.com

Abroad101 Providers Newsletter – Winter 2017

 

Abroad101 begins its 10th year of serving the American study abroad market and we’re pleased to give you this latest guide to getting more out of THE Study Abroad Review website.

It’s All About the Reviews

Reviews, it’s what we do.  We just surpassed 30,000 published reviews on Abroad101.

 We congratulate other web sites for their community spirit, journalistic flair and general promotion of going abroad, that’s not us.  We’re a niche within our niche, we just do reviews.  Since 2007, nobody does it better.  Google agrees; put the word “reviews” and any relevant keywords in the search engine and you’ll see where we get most of our traffic.

Reviews are About the Students

Our survey isn’t 5 questions, like Yelp, or a place to “like” and “thumbs-up” a program. Each review on Abroad101 is a sincere effort to tell one individual story.  Each review answers 38 core questions, designed to walk a student through their whole experience.  Questions include star ratings and narrative sections to describe who they were before they went, how they grew and where their world view is now.  On average, a good review takes a student 15-20 minutes to complete.  Each review becomes its own webpage that students can share and link to as a point-of pride.  Students add photos, and some even include them in cover letters and CV’s as a career-focused writing sample and showcase.

This student-center approach is why a number of colleges use Abroad101 as their official program evaluation tool and why the reviews keep coming.  Home colleges even get to add extra questions to help in their data collection and reporting about study abroad.  Providers and host institutions can also add extra questions.

Reviews Engage Parents

Among those searching for insight on study abroad are parents.  Based on Google Analytics data, we estimate that 20-25% of the visitors to Abroad101 are parents.   Most parents aren’t looking to discover a program, they are looking to validate their child’s choice, or an advisor’s recommendation.  Parents look at reviews in a different way and may be exploring cost, safety or program administration while the student looks at academics, housing, social integration or food.

We recommend you use reviews in discussions with students and parents as a well-informed student makes for a more successful student.  Reading reviews will help parents become more comfortable with study abroad and help them set expectations for what lies ahead.  A number of program providers will actually link their website to matching program pages on Abroad101.  You can also link using the Program Widget or Provider Widget that add a badge-like graphic to the link.

Reviews Draw Quality Inquiries

Our traffic and user profile has stayed consistent over the years: vast majority American, nearly half of all coming from colleges and universities.  For students, coming to Abroad101 is a part of their research and we serve as a resource in their decision making.  The site is set-up as a place to compare programs and become well-informed.  We are not a lead generation site and only a small percentage of our visitors actually use our site to inquire about a program; however, those that inquire are very likely to study abroad.  The providers and foreign universities that actively engage with Abroad101 find that the inquiries they get from Abroad101 are significantly higher in quality and are more likely to turn into participants than leads that come from lead generation sites.

Reviews Bring Conversions

If you follow the logic so far, you will understand that visitors to Abroad101 may well be known to you and may already be in your CRM system.  Students start searching elsewhere for general information, form initial impressions and then come to Abroad101 to do further research.  Parents weight in, advisors endorse and this can all come while they are on our review website.  To capture this sentiment, the inquiry form on your Abroad101 program listing has a check box that says “I want to apply to this program.”  These inquiries come to you with the label = “app.”  When you get these, believe it!  They are ready to apply.  If the student is known to you, even better, as in the ad business we call this a “lead conversion”

The Secret to Success on Abroad101

THE number one thing you can do to raise the volume and the quality of inquiries from Abroad101 is to have plenty of reviews on Abroad101.  As we have said, people come to Abroad101 looking for reviews and to honor that, we display programs in our directory based on a formula that favors recent reviews.  Every time you see a listing of programs on Abroad101, the order of display is driven by this algorithm.  This includes the directories (city, country and study subject), your provider summary and even home school’s preferred provider lists.

To get to the top of these lists takes review volume.  There are other adjustments to recognize

review quality, but recent review volume is the biggest factor by far.  Being on top means visibility and visibility means results.  We display the number of recent reviews on the program summary, and the total number of reviews on the program listing.  As an example, the most popular program on Abroad101 is DIS’s Copenhagen Semester with 392 recent reviews and 799 total reviews.  You can see this reflected in one of our most popular subject directories and in this university’s approved program list.

The secret to being on top with Abroad101 is volume, not high score. 

The Not-So-Secret Path to Success

Abroad101 is supported by advertising and sponsorship from the people who run study abroad programs.   Ads are placed in key locations and will increase exposure, inquiry volume and overall awareness of your program.  It is no magic wand, but advertising works and you will see results for your investment.  You can improve the results of your advertising with more reviews as the two work well in tandem.  Contact us to learn more about this option.

Here’s to the Next 10!

A special thanks goes to those who have helped Abroad101 reach the 10 year milestone.  Our commitment to the field remains strong, our software and systems are reliable and there is good value for those that invest in Abroad101 as their review platform and part of their advertising mix.  As your partner, we look forward to the next 10 years of study abroad reviews.

 

Abroad101 Ad Guide 2017

Ad guide header

Abroad101 adds a dynamic new form of content to the classic directory format to give students and advisors a powerful tool to guide their search for the ideal experience abroad. Advertising on Abroad101 is a cost-effective way to raise the visibility of programs, generate more inquiries, improve conversions and energize your Social Media.

Ad Guide 2015 cover image

Download the Abroad101 Ad Guide 2015

Abroad101 is the first and largest study abroad website designed to help students, parents and advisors get the most out of international education. Inspired as the Trip Advisor® for Study Abroad, Abroad101 has grown to become a guide to research recommended programs, learn about destinations and find additional options. Students and their parents turn to the testimonials on Abroad101 to gain insight from past study abroad participants and validate their decision-making.

Please contact us to get started!

Mark Shay

+1 (212) 321-0928

mark@abroad101.com


 

For those with a current invoice, you can now pay online.

Click the “BUY NOW” button below which will take you to PayPal to process your credit card payment or you can use your PayPal account.




You can also download the Abroad101 Credit Card Order form and return by fax (215) 893-1785 or scan and email to accounting@abroad101.com

Abroad101 Providers Newsletter – Fall 2016

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We appreciate you opening this newsletter and taking a few minutes to check-in with the latest news from Abroad101.

The Secret to Abroad101’s Listings Display

Abroad prides itself as a review website, as the largest in the field, people come to us looking for reviews.  We have designed the site to display programs based on their review relevance using a proprietary algorithm that looks at multiple factors.  This approach is applied anywhere you see programs displayed: on your provider’s page, on university pre-approved program pages and in each of the city, country and subject directories that serve prospective students.  The algorithm scores each review and lists the programs based on a point system.  Points come from the freshness of reviews, the completeness of reviews and an adjustment for candor (standard deviation).  Programs benefit from review volume as well as review quality.

People Don’t Trust Perfect Reviews

People use reviews in a number of different ways and human nature as it is, most come looking for something wrong.  The reviews with a critical tone get more views than the reviews with “the best 4 months of my life” and similar titles.  As it turns out, people find that some criticism is reassuring and it’s ironic that slightly negative reviews have more positive impact that overdone, glowing reviews.  Abroad101’s Social Media Editor uncovered some research that indicated that in a free market, when it comes to reviews, “the only factor that had a greater influence on sales was price” and “the indication that electronic word of mouth has actually overtaken more traditional sources of information.”  Read more of Caleb’s analysis.

The research used in Caleb’s article looked at retail purchases.  As we know, study abroad is more complex than this so this data should be taken with appropriate disclaimers.  That being said, it is a new generation of students on study abroad and a new generation of parents.  What does it say when you have NO reviews?

Moms & Dads Use Abroad101

The target audience for Abroad101 is American college students looking for a semester, summer or short-term away from campus.  In addition, parents and advisors that support students end up being a sizable portion of our traffic.  Based on Google Analytics data, we estimate that 20-25% of the visitors to Abroad101 are parents, searching on the keyword “reviews” and trying to learn more about the options their children are considering. 

Parents are not looking to discover new programs, but are looking to become more familiar, and in a number of cases validate what they hear from their children.  You should be aware of this and use the in-depth reviews on Abroad101 to your advantage.  Consider referring parents to reviews when they call in, and certainly have your customer service folks be well aware of the reviews that are online and any associated concerns they may identify.

Directing parents to reviews will help them become more comfortable with study abroad and help them set expectations on what lies ahead.  Review may also be quite helpful in moving a student inquiry toward an enrollment as reviews do have an impact on conversions. 

Why Advertise?

Advertising on Abroad101 is designed to bring you more inquiries, improve your conversions and raise the brand and visibility of your programs, all at a price that won’t blow your budget.  Advertising is also the only way we fund Abroad101.  Featured Listings match by program in our directories (city, country, study subjects) and cost $500/year.  Display advertising can highlight your organization or specific programs.  We offer cost-effective “bundles” designed to bring you both value and performance.  Over the course of the year, as an average, Abroad101 is generating inquiries in the range of $40-$75 each, and from what we hear from our clients, Abroad101 inquires convert to enrollments at a rate ranging from 5-10%.  Remember that our core audience is currently enrolled, American college students looking for a semester, summer or short-term abroad, then returning to campus to finish their degree.  By reaching parents and advisors as well as students, Abroad101 is uniquely positioned as a place for your advertising dollars.

How to Get Students to Write Reviews?

As we stress, 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 – 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.

We’ve published some articles with messages that should resonate with students, including:

Why Should I Write a Study Abroad Review

Top 5 Reasons to Write an Education Abroad Review

Getting More from Abroad101

Like you, our goal is to see more students going abroad and getting the most from their experience.  We also want those that go to be better informed beforehand and we want to help them turn that experience into a career building stepping stone when they return.  The Abroad101 team is happy to answer any of your questions by email or phone.  We also welcome the opportunity to walk you though the system with an online demo of the back-end features of Abroad101 to see if our free program evaluation tool is right for you.  The demo will show how you can see reports, compare your results with other organizations, and more. 

As we approach our 10th anniversary, we’d like to say THANKS for all your support.

 

Mark Shay | Abroad101

Abroad101 Providers Newsletter – July 2016

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Thank you for taking a few minutes to read how to get more from Abroad101.  It’s been 9 years since our first university partner, 2 ½ years under new management and we’re getting better every day!  Summer a great time to catch up on projects and plan for the year ahead.  Below are some ways you can benefit from working with Abroad101:

Login to Your Dashboard, Add Scholarships!

Abroad101 publishes a popular Study Abroad Scholarship Directory (Page 1 on Google).  These entries are also displayed on the matching Program (free) Listings under a Financial Aid tab.  You’ll find links to add/update your scholarships on the left side of your account dashboard.  Under the “Providers” heading, click “Scholarships Available” to a menu with 2 tabs: “Current Scholarships” and “New Scholarships”.  You will have the option to make each scholarship apply to all your programs, or specific ones.  Add as many as you’d like. 

After you revise this part of your listings, we encourage you to edit each of your programs, add some new photos, videos and don’t forget the study subjects.  Each study subject puts your Program Listing in an additional directory.  If you are an advertiser, your Featured Programs will also appear in matching Study Subject Directories.

Use Abroad101 to Connect with Universities:

When a student completes a review, a notification is sent to both the provider and the student’s home university advisor(s).  The reviews are displayed on the Program Listing, provider’s portal and the home university’s portal on Abroad101.  We hope you’ll use this as a calling card with each university as each review is:

  • a point of pride of the returning student
  • a testimonial for future students
  • reassurance for parents about what to expect from study abroad

Advisors have the option to create a preferred programs list on their Abroad101 portal and we encourage you to ask your partners to be sure your programs are included.  The “University Approvals” report on your Abroad101 dashboard will show how you’re doing.  We also hope you will encourage your partner schools to use Abroad101 for all program evaluations.  We’d be happy to give any an online demo of our free software to any advisor/administrator you nominate.  In return, you get a steady flow of reviews with the extra candor that comes when universities require the review.

Survey Fatigue? Use Abroad101 as YOUR Official Program Evaluation Software:

Universities who use Abroad101 as their official program evaluation software have the option to add to the standard set of 38 questions.  If you use Abroad101 as your official program evaluation software, you can have that same feature.  With Abroad101 you can also export the completed evaluations, tie them to your CRM/enrollment system with an API or use our “Graphs” for simplified reporting.

The core system and extra questions are free.  Managed Services and our custom Abroad201 tools are available at reasonable fees, so consider outsourcing your evaluation process to us!

Why Abroad101?  It is “Re-Entry in a Box”

The Abroad101 review is 38 questions in length and is designed to walk students through a reflection of who they were before they left, who they are now and what they hope for their future.  As part of this process, they will rate 9 different aspects of their program and provide some insight and tips for future students.  Taking 20-30 minutes to complete, the review can help students put their feelings into words and start the process of communicating their experiences in concise and coherent ways. With Abroad101:

  • Each review becomes a web page managed by the student
  • Notification of each review goes to the student’s home university advising team
  • You also get notice of each review
  • You get important feedback and insight
  • You get good data that can measure against other providers
  • You take a leadership position in Transparency
  • You get recognized as a market leader who puts students first

Candor is Key:

Reviews are very influential in today’s consumer market and study abroad is no exception.  People come to review sites looking for balance to the always-positive websites, brochures and in-person presentations.  They know things aren’t perfect and want to understand what may be imperfect about a given location, program or host.  Quite often the visitors to Abroad101 are coming to validate their earlier discoveries and because of this, we see a significant portion of our traffic from parents and other adults who support students.  The 38 questions in the Abroad101 review give everyone something to discuss with plenty of examples to engage in a meaningful dialog and hopefully break some stereotypes about other people and other parts the world.

If you are worried that negative reviews will negatively impact recruiting, think again.  For review websites, criticism draws traffic and attention.  Complaints are usually about things beyond the programs control: weather, crime, cost of living and attitudes of local students/residents.  For marketers, this goes against your natural instincts, but for Review Websites, the negative sells.  We suggest you read “You Don’t Want a 5 Star Review” and Reviews Sell Products (and lack of reviews can hurt).

Cost-Effective Ad Packages:

It’s that time of year when many of our client renew their advertising and new budgets bring new clients.  Our constant attention to detail and continual improvements to the site’s performance seem to be working.  Abroad101 is a review website, it’s all we do.  That means we are different than sites that focus on lead generation.  Our inquiry volume will be lower, but our quality is higher and a number of advertisers are telling us that they are seeing enrollments from those that visit Abroad101.  Respectable ROI has led some advertisers to increase the size of their campaigns with Abroad101 this year.  Don’t worry, we’re not sold out yet! There’s still room for more ads through our unique ad rotations. 

In case you need a refresher:  

  • Abroad101 is the first and largest study abroad review website, recognized by many as the “Trip Advisor” of Study Abroad, a responsible member of the study abroad community and an advocate for students
  • Abroad101 is the official evaluation platform at a number of universities which assures exposure on those campuses, more schools join use each month
  • Students visit Abroad101 to discover programs and also to research and validate their options, a good presence on Abroad101 can impact their choices and boost conversions
  • Reviews are used for multiple purposes, visitors are often parents and advisors who impact a student’s decision
  • Advertising is designed to increase exposure and generate extra clicks to program pages and generate additional student inquiries or requests for application instructions
  • Extra inquiries/leads are generated through Abroad101’s LeadMatch which gives students extra choices after inquiring to a non-advertised program
  • Advertisers see their programs highlighted and select reviews promoted through Abroad101’s popular social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest)

Ads appear in 190 country directories, 1041 city directories and 422 study subject directories.  Over the Past Year, Abroad101 has introduced the following new directories:

For more information about advertising, please contact sales@abroad101.com

For support and general questions, please contact support@abroad101.com

Feel free to call us at 212-321-0928 whenever we can be of service.

 

Happy Summer!

Abroad101 Newsletter for Providers – April 2016

Abroad101-reviews-logo-webFirst, a reminder to invite returning students to submit a review through Abroad101.  We recommend you use the Invite Tool in your Abroad101 account, you can also tell your students to start here: http://www.StudyAbroad101.com/reviews/new

While the impact of online reviews is still a topic of debate in higher education, there is little debate that reviews influence consumers who shop online.  How important are customer reviews to shoppers?  One recent survey reports 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business, and 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

What do the Scholars Say about Reviews?

While we’re pretty confident reviews do matter, Abroad101’s Social Media editor Caleb House went to work to uncover some evidence.  In “How Online Product Reviews Affect Retail Sales: A Meta-analysis” published in the academic “Journal of Retailing”, Caleb discovers that: “the only factor that had a greater influence on sales was price” and “the indication that electronic word of mouth has actually overtaken more traditional sources of information.”  Read more of Caleb’s analysis.

The article looked at retail purchases and what would be considered transactional sales.  Study abroad is more complex than this so this data should be taken with appropriate disclaimers.  This being said, it is a new generation of students on study abroad, what it says when you have NO reviews?

What about 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

Alumni Ambassadors and Beautiful 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 being too promotional and “too good to be true.”  In looking at the traffic these reviews generate, they get less page views than reviews with lower overall ratings.

It is worth noting that Abroad101 modified our page display algorithm to adjust for any one-sided approach to reviewers.  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.

The Latest Study Abroad Rankings:

For the fifth year, Abroad101 has tallied student reviews and produced “The 2015 Study Abroad Rankings.”  The rankings recognize the study abroad programs and locations rated highest by American students who have studied abroad in the last year. The rankings also reflect the dynamic nature of study abroad and identify up-and-coming destinations and program types in addition to top programs and providers.  From this years data we found that:

  • Big cities are in
  • Programs are touring
  • More students are on programs through their home universities.

 You can read the press release or view the full rankings.

For Top Programs, the threshold for inclusion was 15 reviews, or 10 reviews if they came from 3 different universities.  For Top Providers, we needed 20 reviews from at least 3 different programs or from 3 different universities.  Read details on the rankings methodology.

Each review counts toward the rankings and contributes insight about the whole of study abroad: from academics to food and from cost to the friendliness of the destination.  Please remember, rankings are an indicator of quality, not a measure of quality, and it is in the spirit of transparency and strong demand from parents that we publish the rankings. 

Reviews as a Re-entry Exercise:

Several universities have described a process where they engage the students in a final day exercise that describes the review as part of the re-entry process.  Using the review as the student’s official personal statement makes it their point of pride.  It’s a productive exercise if they can put into words their feelings about their discoveries, growth, maturity and overall gains during the time abroad.  Abroad101’s 38-question review can serve as the means to do this.  Asking the students to bring their laptop, tablet or smart-phone to class is one way to assure high or full participation in the process.

Paper Evaluations into Online Reviews:

We recognize that even with today’s tech savvy youth and Wi-Fi enabled campuses, capturing evaluations/reviews online has its challenges. 

  • It’s OK to collect your data via paper
  • It’s NOT OK to store your data on paper
  • It’s JUST WRONG to share your data on paper

If you have paper evaluations, we suggest you allow us to turn them into Abroad101 reviews.  For a modest account management fee and a very reasonable per evaluation fee, we will oversee this process and take a big step to modernize your evaluation process.

Introducing Abroad201, A New Addition to the Product Family

At Forum, we introduced Abroad201, a combination of software and services that provides a wide range of customization and options for your program evaluations.  With Abroad201 you can:

  • Convert paper-based forms into meaningful data
  • Manage the publication of some, or all evaluations as reviews
  • Publish wherever you want and share with whomever you want 
  • Turn the results into reports, benchmark them as you choose
  • Greatly enhance your reporting capabilities. 

Modernize your program evaluation process, reduce survey fatigue among your students, better serve your partner schools and get better data with the expanded line of program evaluation software and services we call Abroad201.

Abroad201 is cloud-based software and services with fees that vary depending on the level of service.  Abroad101 is free software that will remain standard in function and purpose.  Pick whichever tool meets your budget and your goals.  Visit the Abroad201 product website for details

We’re Working FOR You:

Whether it’s cost effective direct to student/parent advertising and promotion or better ways to capture your student evaluations and work with partner universities, Abroad101 is here to help.  Call, write or come visit us at NAFSA, booth #1133.

Thanks you for taking the time to read this and for considering Abroad101.

Abroad101 Update – Reviews are More than Marketing Content

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Here’s the latest update from Abroad101 for program providers and host universities.

Software Upgrades:

We’re please to announce these recent enhancements to Abroad101, the first and largest study abroad review website and program evaluation software platform:

Custom Questions Now Available For Providers:

Universities who pledge to use Abroad101 with all their students have always had the option to supplement the standard set of questions with ones unique and specific to their needs.  We have added that same functionality for providers and host universities willing to make that same pledge.  Use Abroad101 as your official program evaluation software and you can customize a significant portion of the questions you ask.  With Abroad101 you can also export the completed evaluation and use the individual reviews in other systems or tally those for required reporting.

Scholarship Directory:

Host universities can now add scholarships to the Abroad101 scholarship directory.  You’ll see a link called “Scholarships Available” on the left side of your account dashboard under University.  Please remember these are for US students that you might designate as “Free Mover” “Visiting Students” or “Direct-Enroll”, attending semester and short-term programs, not pursuing a full-degree.

Changes to “Would Return” Question:

We recently made a modest change to the “would return” question.  Students were asked: “If you could do it all over again, would you choose the same program?” The answer had been displayed as a green check for yes or a red x for no at the top of each review.  To better clarify a student’s thoughts, we added a text field “Please Explain” and moved this answer as a summary to the set of star rating questions displayed in the “Review your program” block.

Updates to Cities List:

We have updated the list of cities to optimize our directories for search.  With more than 1,000 cities, we have plenty to choose from.  If a single city or region doesn’t work, we also have some general categories for you to pick:

  • Multiple = operating in multiple locations in a given country (2 or 3 locations)
  • Traveling = program travels around a country or series of countries (4 or more locations)
  • Field = program operates in a remote or rural setting

As a reminder, for Quality Control reasons, the Abroad101 team adds new programs, changes titles and adjusts cities.  If you would like additions or changes to your listings, please send details by email to support@abroad101.com

Why Reviews?

Think about the last time you booked a hotel, chose a movie or show in a theater, picked a restaurant, or bought a product online.  Did a review help in your decision?  For most Americans, reviews help reinforce an initial interest and help set expectations.  If you use reviews to guide your decisions, then you can imagine how reviews can impact program selection in education abroad.  Since 2007, Abroad101 has been guiding students, parents and advisors while at the same time helping promote study abroad.  We’ve processed over 3,000 new study abroad reviews from just the last semester with more coming every day.

Universities are Lagging Behind:

Every day in our outreach to universities there is at least one story of a university that triumphantly states, “we have a successful paper-based evaluation process that we’ve had in place for well over a decade, and we don’t need to change.”  It’s true, they don’t need to change, but they should. 

Collecting and keeping the evaluation results in secret is against the principles of transparency and does little good.  Putting paper copies of evaluations in binders on reference library shelves is not sharing in the Internet era and certainly not student-friendly.

Providers Can Take the Lead:

As program providers and host universities you can take the lead and help universities break out of this archaic practice by encouraging, even requiring your students to complete evaluations and publish them.  As you have taken the “Duty of Care” you can demonstrate transparency and move study abroad program evaluations (reviews) into the modern era.  We hope you’ll choose Abroad101 as your platform to do this and we give you a rich set of tools to manage this leap of faith.  Reviews are not just for marketing.  Recently we shared these sentiments in our Advisors newsletter and asked a number of risk managers “Who’s Looking at Your Reviews?

Why Abroad101?  Re-Entry in a Box

The Abroad101 review is 38 questions in length and is designed to walk students through a reflection of who they were before they left, who they are now and what they hope for their future.  As part of this process, they will rate 9 different aspects of their program and provide some insight and tips for future students.  Taking 20-30 minutes to complete, the review can help students put their feelings into words and start the process of communicating their experiences in concise and coherent ways. 

Each Abroad101 Review becomes a web page.  A notification of the review goes to the student’s home university advising team. 

  • You get noticed when this happens.
  • You get important feedback. 
  • You get performance data. 
  • You take charge of transparency.
  • You get recognized as a market leader. 

Candor is Key

Reviews are very influential in today’s consumer market and study abroad is no exception.  People come to review sites looking for balance to the always-positive websites, brochures and in-person presentations.  They know things aren’t perfect and want to understand what may be imperfect about a given location, program or host.  Quite often the visitors to Abroad101 are coming to validate their earlier discoveries and because of this, we see a significant portion of our traffic from parents and other adults who support students.  Students may be drawn to the ratings and comments about food and social aspects of a program, while parents see value in ratings and comments about safety and cost.  The 38 questions in the Abroad101 review give everyone something to discuss with plenty of examples to engage in a meaningful dialog and hopefully break some stereotypes about other people and other parts the world.

If you are worried that negative reviews will negatively impact recruiting, think again.  For review websites, criticism draws traffic and attention and for the most part, complaints are about things beyond the programs control – weather, crime, cost of living and attitudes of local students.  For marketers, this goes against your natural instincts, but the negative does get people to buy.  We suggest you read “you don’t want 5 star reviews

Transparency vs. Exposure and Risk

The concept of transparency is the prime reason to publish your evaluations. This does worry many in the university community who fear that unpleasant experiences will chase away future students.  We strongly believe that the risk of non-disclosure and suppression of a student’s story is a greater risk than any possible adverse affects of a negative review.  Failure to publish these accounts in today’s review-focused world is more telling than publishing stories of a few unhappy participants.

There are organizations lobbying government to mandate transparency and accountability and we strongly believe that using Abroad101 as your platform puts you at the ahead of this issue.  Publishing shows integrity and may well mitigate your legal risk if complications arise in the future. As the old slogan goes, “an educated consumer is the best kind” and when it comes to education abroad, it is riskier not to prepare students for the unknowns they face.  Using the Abroad101 system is an effective way to better prepare students and their families for the experience and lessen your liability for not disclosing past details.

Data, Data, Data

When you use Abroad101, you also harvest a wealth of data from your students and you can use Abroad101 to compare it to other programs.  With our reporting you can see graphs on how your students rate their experience in those 9 categories and you can compare, even benchmark this other programs in the host country plus other providers as a whole.  One Dean recently told us about his use of Abroad101 stats in his university’s regional accreditation review.  He is using Abroad101 to benchmark his students’ education abroad experiences against others with the Graphs report from his Abroad101 dashboard.  We intend to help this practice spread.

Customize the Abroad101 Platform for you.

As mentioned at the beginning of this report, Providers can now add custom questions, so we ask you, why not make Abroad101 your official program evaluation software?  We understand that you might collect your reviews on paper, but that doesn’t mean you can’t publish them.  For less than $5/evaluation we can take a paper evaluation and turn it into a published review.  You get the ability of collecting the evaluations on site and get the power of data managed in the Abroad101 platform.  Call us and ask us how.

The basic software is free, the training is free, the support is fast and the process is easy.  Cost effective custom solutions are available if you need more functionality.

We hope you’ll call us for a no-obligation demo of the Abroad101 software and use it to advance education abroad at your institution.

 

Providers Update Fall 2015 – News from Abroad101

Abroad101-reviews-logo-web

Where does the time go? As spring program deadlines pass and focus starts to shift on returning Fall students, we hope you’ll take a few minutes to take a deeper look at getting more from Abroad101, the first and largest study abroad review website.

New Scholarship Directory

Abroad101 recently announced a makeover to our scholarship directory. As an expansion of the “Financial Aid” tab in each program listing, the new and improved Abroad101 Scholarship Directory now lists opportunities for students with direct links to the application forms and websites. These listings come from entries made through the “Scholarships Available” link, under the providers tab on the left side of your account dashboard. You can enter them for individual programs or for your organization as a whole. In addition to appearing in your listings, you’ll see them listed here: http://www.studyabroad101.com/scholarships  Please login and update your scholarship listings.

Reporting Graphs

While you’re in your account, don’t forget to take a look at the Reporting tab to see how students are rating you. The provider and program graphs will compare your star ratings against others for each of the nine rated categories: Overall, Academics, Program Administration, Housing, Food, Social Integration, Healthcare, Safety and Cost of Living.

If you like what you see, please consider adding links from your website to your program listings on Abroad101 or sharing the good news with our Abroad101 Program Widget

Boosting your SEO with Abroad101

Help us help you. Content is very important when search engines determine a website’s relevance. A strong position on web search engines comes when your site is designated as an authoritative site. Search engines prefer sites with outbound links to content matching topics. By linking to other quality, on-topic resources like Abroad101, you can improve your search engine results as well as ours. Utilizing the Abroad101 program widget with its links to your program page is one way to boost your outbound links, adding links to your program listings on Abroad101 is another.  Better yet, please consider adding the new Abroad101 Providers Widget to your testimonials page, which allows you to always keep the top rated programs visible to your users.  The providers widget will also screen reviews and only display the most favorable ones!

Use Abroad101 as Your Program Evaluation Software

A number of universities use Abroad101 as their official program evaluation software and we welcome the opportunity to do the same for providers. Abroad101’s system is driven by a core set of 37 questions that you can see/download here.

We can add additional questions for you at no charge, or offer you some modest enhancements and systems integration with your CRM or enrollment system for a modest charge. Contact Mark@Abroad101.com for more details.

Using Abroad101 will align your program evaluation with your partner schools and help us increase our reach and impact on students, parents and advisors alike.  If you operate programs for universities in a private label format, we can list those programs as well.

Reviews Drive Rankings

Speaking of search engines, what drives a lot of traffic to Abroad101 are keywords tied to our annual rankings. This year the rankings will recognize review volume much more than ever before. Abroad101 has already changed its listings display formula to give greater recognition to review volume and we will do the same for this year’s rankings.

To improve your odds in the rankings, we hope that you will drive all your students to submit program reviews through Abroad101, not just your alumni ambassadors. The 2015 study abroad rankings cover students who have studied abroad in 2015 and will be determined by compiling reviews collected by February 1, 2016. If you’ve not yet asked your spring and summer 2015 students to submit reviews, we encourage you to do so now.

Updates to the Inquiry Form

The inquiry form on your Program Listing is the primary call to action through Abroad101. Those inquiries come to you by email and are stored in your account dashboard. We hope you respond promptly to those inquiries and to help better qualify leads, students are now asked to identify when they would like to study abroad, which you will see reflected in the field called “Study Period.”

For our advertisers, you will also see a new lead type “mp” that comes from our new LeadMatch utility that points students to programs similar to ones they have just inquired about. LeadMatch has resulted in a 15% increase in overall inquiries and is yet another reason to consider advertising on Abroad101.

New Staff, Need Training?

Abroad101 has added a staff member whose primary duties are helping advisors get more out of the software. If you have new staff that would benefit from an online training session, or if you’d like a refresher course on your account dashboard, please don’t hesitate to contact support@abroad101.com to schedule a 30 or 60-minute session of your own.

We appreciate you taking the time to catch-up on the latest developments at Abroad101 and your comments, questions and feedback so please don’t hesitate to contact us whenever we can be of service – mark@abroad101.com