How many of the higher education institutions you know about actually give tests (quizzes, exams) to gauge the ability of your students? Does it also help gauge the effectiveness of your lessons?
The web is a quiet thing. Well, with the exception of those super-annoying myspace pages who put gawd-awful music on them so that they load at dial-up speeds. Anyway, it's not about yelling, it's about capturing their attention, not with a gimmick, but with something that satisfies a need.
Despite the terminology commonly used, your user likely doesn't have time to surf. They came to your site for a reason. Finding something that satisfies them quickly is your only chance to keeping them, and maybe even converting them to your customer.
Do you really know what your user wants? You can. You just have to ask. But first, you need to know who they are. Personas have been used for many years to identify and well, personify, target audiences. Find out what their keywords (as Gerry says, "carewords") are. Find out what images are compelling to them. Do pictures of buildings really convey the image you want? If you are targeting architects, maybe. If you are targeting high school students, not so much.
Build the persona, then ask them directly in your usability tests and interviews. Get to know them. Hobbies, interests, web habits, technology knowledge etc. Then build out your content. with them in mind. Are they idle words on a page to fill space, or do they really address your target persona? Keep testing and watching them. And learn. And apply.