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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.
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:
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