Since the redesigned Virginia Cooperative Extension website launched in October 2014, we’ve seen an increase of almost 35 percent in visits, 30 percent in visitors, and 50 percent in pageviews to the site. Of the visitors to the site, 55 percent are new visitors. That means many more people are looking at all the great information Extension has to offer than ever!
What does this mean for you? If your research, outreach, and program information is not on the site, you’re missing out on a big audience!
The best way to get your own topic page started on the website is to take out a job in our Job System and be as descriptive as you can. We highly recommend looking at how others in Extension have organized their topic pages to give you ideas on what would work best for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do you mean by “topic page”?
The Extension website was reorganized to break research, programs, and outreach activities out of organizational silos. Most states’ Extension services have gone to this model to help visitors to the websites find the information they’re looking for without assuming that those folks also understand the organizations’ structures. This is why we’ve gone to the topic format — people can search for what topic they’re interested in to find the information quickly.
In short, if a person wants to find information about beef cattle in Virginia, he or she could visit http://ext.vt.edu/topics/agriculture/beef-cattle/index.html without needing to know that it is under ANR in VCE’s organization.
I’m overwhelmed trying to organize my content. How do I start?
When you open a job in the Job System, you will be given a survey link to complete. That will help you organize your content and give us a great starting point to put together your page. Also look at other existing topic pages to get an idea of what things you can add — the topic page tab structure is flexible to meet your needs!
I already have a website dedicated to my Extension activities on my department’s website. Why do I need a separate topic page?
If you already have a strong web presence elsewhere, fantastic! A topic page under the www.ext.vt.edu umbrella will help drive website traffic to your information through descriptive links. You will be able to capture visitors who may not know that your area of expertise is housed under an academic department. It will also help the overall search engine optimization (SEO) by having another place where Google and other search engines can index key words. See Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition for a great example of how a topic page can drive visitors to a departmental sub-site.
I don’t have any other website links except for publications and have limited content otherwise. How can I have a topic page?
Here’s a secret: Search engine traffic directly to pubs.ext.vt.edu has been steadily falling since 2013. This is in part to loss of SEO opportunities as the publications’ home pages have been streamlined to include abstracts instead of full HTML-styled web pages. The PDF publications are not as easily indexed by search engines, so they show up farther down on results lists.
What’s the solution to making sure your publications are found by the web-browsing public? Have a topic page! Even if you have minimal information, the opportunity to hyperlink to your publications, along with a robust introductory paragraph, will be a tremendous help to your SEO. A great example of a topic page that pushes traffic to its publications is Home Food Preservation.
What are “Related Topics” on each of the topic pages?
We wanted to do an Amazon-style-recommended-topics-thing, but we don’t have the algorithm we can apply to automate such a task. So, we’re doing a manual linking up of topic pages across the site to help people find what they’re looking for.
Example: A mom is looking at 4-H programs on natural resources and the environment. We put in the Related Topics a link to the Natural Resources main topic page. She may click on that and learn more about Forest Farming or how to properly compost.
This method helps to keep visitors on the Extension site to show them all the resources available through the service. If there are researchers or agents in other units who are doing complimentary work to yours, it behooves you to collaborate with those people and make sure your information is linked both ways.
I don’t have time to learn the content management system to keep my topic page up-to-date. Can I get help?
Our office provides website updates as a regular service. We just ask that you provide the content (we are not subject-matter experts), and take out a job in the Job System for larger updates or site builds. Minor updates (adding publication links, changing verbiage, etc.) can be emailed to Susan Gill or Josh Chambers directly.
— Susan Gill, web project manager, firstname.lastname@example.org