The Benefits of a Shared Institutional Web Site:

The primary goal of the Internet Strategy & Web Services team is to build a single enterprise web site that represents the research, patient care and educational aspects of Johns Hopkins Medicine and the School of Medicine.

It's an ambitious goal for an institution with as many varied interests, specialties, and goals as ours. But the benefits are tremendous -- for all of us and for anyone seeking to learn about and interact with our institution.

As members of the web team contribute to this blog, I'm hopeful that we can illustrate the information below in much greater depth. For now, I'd like to give a brief overview of several major benefits to us and our visitors.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Top rankings on search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing for health and research terms can be difficult to attain. There's no shortcut to success, and maintaining high rankings requires an ongoing commitment. The central platform creates a good foundation for these efforts, and ultimately creates the best opportunity for people to find us online.

1. The web site has existed for more than a decade and is already recognized by search engines as the primary Hopkins Medicine health platform. Bringing additional research and service lines onto the site results in a greater concentration of content. This concentration of content enables us to better compete with other relevant web sites for top rankings.

2. Pages on the site are constructed from templates that are search engine friendly. Rather than reinventing the wheel to focus on basic technical and design issues with every build, this approach allows us to focus resources on creating quality content. We can consider varying approaches - written copy, videos, interactives, for example - to best tell our stories and to share important information.

3. A single web site allows us to present basic information about the institution in centralized areas, creating the opportunity to build taxonomies and connections. The web team often refers to this approach as the Content 360. This allows us to present broader links and connections to different aspects of the institution, which is easier for users and for search engine spiders to navigate. Additionally, centralizing these content areas will allow us to eliminate pages that had previously been duplicated on multiple web sites. It's important to eliminate duplicate pages for many reasons. They are confusing for visitors. They are difficult to maintain. And in regards to SEO: these duplicate pages often compete with each other for search engine rankings and dilute queries specifically related to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Site Navigation
1. The central content areas planned as part of the Content 360 strategy will make it much easier for visitors to navigate the site and find information. Health libraries, physician and researcher directories, articles, videos, blogs and more will be better connected.

2. Consistent page layouts - which may seem boring to those of us who want to stand out through unique designs and colors - are an asset to new and returning visitors who form a mental model of our site that enables them to work efficiently as they move from page to page. When we position certain types of content and navigation consistently, visitors spend less time trying to understand the page and the organization and are more likely to engage the content that matters to them.

3. On-site search is an important element of site navigation. With more content on a single platform, we can better index the organization's web presence. This allows us to create a sort of alternate navigation pathway for visitors by filtering content types, presenting best bets, and taking other unique approaches to presenting useful search results.

Common Tools
As the web team has built and migrated web sites we've worked with people all over the institution. Whenever possible we've built tools that can be used by others so that we can all grow our areas of the site more efficiently.

1. Some of these tools are built into every page: social media sharing tools, print icons, and font size adjusters that are handicap compliant.

2. Other tools are optional: video and media player presentations, blogging platforms, and "widgets" for presenting physicians, publications, and other important information.

As the web site continues to grow, we hope to build more tools so that our team and individual web site contributors across the institution will have a larger and larger toolbox along with guides on how to best use them.