Continuing our survey of top-ranked European universities, what can we learn from Google about universities in Norway? I know very little about Norwegian universities, so this will be an instructive exercise.
If we search google.no for the word university, this is the ranked top-five list we receive in return:
- University of Bergen
- University of Oslo
- Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
- University Centre in Svalbard
- University of Agder
If we search for the Norwegian word universitetet, however, we get a somewhat different ranking:
- Universitetet i Oslo
- Universitetet i Bergen
- Universitetet i Stavanger
- Universitetet i Tromsø
- Universitetet i Agder
When researching a subject about which we know little (such as Norwegian universities), the importance of well-written microcontent can clearly be seen. Google often (though not always) pulls the so-called
meta description element from the
<head> of a webpage and displays the contents of that element as the “snippet” shown below the entry for that webpage in the search results. A well-written
meta description makes a good impression.
Knowing nothing about the University of Oslo, I can learn from Google’s snippet that “The University of Oslo is Norway’s largest and oldest institution of higher education.” That’s clear and informative: it gives me a sense of the place already. The University of Bergen’s snippet is not so well crafted: “The University of Bergen homepage - information in English concerning: research, courses/programmes.” I know it’s the home page, and the fact that it’s in English is obvious too. The NTNU snippet is just too long: “The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim represents academic eminence in technology and the natural sciences as well as in …” Oops—cut off. It isn’t called microcontent for nothing. But that’s OK, because this snippet sounds less like information and more like marketing puffery anyway.
Details such as these all contribute to the impression an institution makes on visitors (including prospective students). It isn’t always possible to control how your web presence is seen or used by others, but attention to things you can control—like the content of your own descriptive elements—certainly helps. Bergen may be #1 and Oslo #2 in the raw rankings, but the impression I get from their own page designs is that Oslo’s the place that really knows what it’s doing.