College students are an attractive demographic to a lot of people with products to move. As a result, it seems like every week or so a new college “Ranking” site pops up trying to capture a segment of this important group.
The latest one I’ve run across is RateCollege.org. The site should be of interest to public relations people working in higher education because of some of the potentially-controversial categories it ranks schools on, like “Best Parties,” “Best Booze,” and “Best Drugs.”
In examining the site, there’s really no evidence that any actual input went into the ratings the site displays. There aren’t any individual profiles or reviews, just a series of random numbers. The link for “Rate a College” doesn’t even work. The front page purports to show the top schools for the various categories “near” you and unfortunately Hobart And William Smith Colleges, Fairfield University, New York University, Wesleyan University, and Skidmore College rounded out the top five for “Best Drugs.” If I worked for any of them, I’d
Given the lack of interactivity in the site and the cheap stock photography used, it’s likely the site was built just to game search engines and boost the pagerank for clients. Even more telling, the RateCollege Facebook Fan Page only has one person that “likes” it:
Coincidentally, the lone Facebook “Fan” (Jim Blalock) happens to be a web developer for Marchex – a company based on the skeezy practice of buying up domain names (ala real estate speculation) and sitting on them in the hope that they eventually become relevant.
Being aware of sites like this is one of the millions of reasons to make Online Reputation Management a part of every PR person’s day.