The university is overhauling its website in an attempt to highlight the positive activities that officials say are often buried by negativity.
Officials say the revamped website will encourage enrollment and trump negative results when prospective students and parents search “YSU” in online search engines, such as Google.
“Recently, I searched YSU, and I saw a headline that said, ‘Woman ODs in bathroom at Taco Bell by YSU.’ I don’t see why YSU was in the headline since the university had nothing to do with it,” said Mark Van Tilburg, executive director of marketing and communications. “If you’re just reading headlines, how is that going to look for someone searching the university?”
Van Tilburg said that by reworking keywords, YSU’s home webpage would appear above other search results.
“If Google starts indexing our homepage, it’ll start pushing down some of the negative stuff,” said Ross Morrone, university web developer. “Like when the Huffington Post wrote about the shooting tragedy a year ago, it became one of the search results. By re-indexing the website, we’ll be able to push stuff like that down on the search results.”
Van Tilburg said he and his department believe in transparency, and that these search results should come up, but don’t see why they should be first.
He said the new webpage would reflect positively on the university and the community.
“You can’t market the university without the city,” Van Tilburg said. “By co-branding with the city, we can share the plethora of positive aspects the Valley has to offer.”
“We’re always trying to figure out ways to incorporate downtown. Especially as we move towards this Youngstown-city-and-the-university-are-one-and-the-same,” Morrone said.
He said he hopes that by promoting downtown, business will want to offer initiatives and benefits to students.
Senior Matt Sprankle has been working the past six months with YSU’s web and marketing teams to build the new look for the YSU homepage, and agrees that showcasing all aspects of the community is beneficial.
“I kept coming up with different ideas. Originally, the website was cluttered, and we wanted to clean it up, but the more I talked, the more they listened,” Sprankle said.
Morrone said it was time to update the website. The last time it was updated was 2009.
Van Tilburg said he agrees that the upkeep of the website is important.
“The website is at the center of all of our marketing work,” Van Tilburg said.
Morrone said the changes would improve user friendliness, incorporate social media into the website, post calendar events and improve the reputation of the community.
Bob Tupaj, YSU website manager and portal administrator, said the website would incorporate academic opportunities downtown, such as internships and business opportunities.
Morrone also wants the new website to showcase more student accomplishments.
“We do have a lot of great students, and they do a lot of incredible things,” Morrone said.
He said that incorporating social media such as Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook would improve the new layout and showcase university events and positive feedback.
“If someone tags YSU on twitter, we’ll check it, and, if it’s positive, we’ll retweet it, and then it’ll appear on the website,” Morrone said.
He said positive feedback outweighs the negative and hopes this will appeal to parents and prospective college students.
Pinterest is another social media site they would use as a tool to showcase the university.
Morrone said through student and community surveys, they have been able to use feedback to improve user-friendliness.
To accomplish this, Sprankle looked to other universities’ homepages, such as the University of Texas and the University of Arizona. He also spoke with students to hear what they would want on the website.
Faculty profiles will also be a new element of the YSU website.
Tupaj worked to bring this element after hearing a need existed for it.
“We were hearing from different departments and deans that there was a need for their faculty to have a homepage,” Tupaj said.
He said the template is user-friendly for faculty to update their office hours, research ideas and general information for students and parents.
“Parents go to the websites when looking for colleges for their kids, so for faculty to show their research interests, it becomes a marketing tool at that point,” Tupaj said.
Morrone said the new website will go live during the summer semester.
Sprankle said he is excited to have what he has worked on go live for him to leave behind as he graduates.
“It’s awesome to be a part of the university and its representation,” Sprankle said.