Rogue's Gallery - South African university website visibility

Weideman, M.

Proceedings of the 13th Annual Conference on World Wide Web Applications

Weideman, M. 2011. Rogue's Gallery - South African university website visibility. Proceedings of the 13th Annual Conference on World Wide Web Applications. 14-16 September, Johannesburg, South Africa. Online: www.zaw3.co.za

ABSTRACT.
South Africa has 23 universities of a variety of descriptions. The current generation of potential students often use search engines to collect information about universities, which could influence their final choice of where to enrol. The increase in mobile web usage has also contributed to an increase in university web access for timetables, exam results and course details. As a result, university websites have joined commercial websites, fighting for top rankings for certain search queries. The purpose of this research project was to evaluate the 23 South African university homepages using a proven academic model. The most important contributing elements of website visibility were identified on each website, measured, and a scoring system designed. This system enabled the researcher to allocate points on a sliding scale for visibility to search engine crawlers. The results proved that South African university homepages spanned a wide range of scores, from webpages meeting most criteria to those scoring rather low overall. It was clear that in some cases, no effort was made to assist search engine crawlers to find websites with ease and index them well. In these cases, it could have a serious effect on the ease with which the student body's expectations of relevant search results can be met. Suggestions are made on how to improve the situation.
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