Active blogging is a basic building block of any successful inbound marketing strategy - its hub, if you will. For schools and admissions offices struggling for resources, launching and maintaining a blog may seem like a daunting undertaking. But it's one well worth taking. HubSpot research found that marketers who prioritize blogging are 13x more likely to be able to show a return for their efforts.
Having a school blog (or two) can boost your student applications in a number of ways. First, good blogs are regularly updated with with entertaining, informative content. Google loves blogs with a steady flow of engaging content. If you're writing around the right keywords, your blog will increase the flow of organic traffic to your blog and website.
Also, the more you blog, the more inbound links you get back to your site, which Google also loves. It sees inbound links as a sign of trust and authority for your content, so it bumps up your place in search results because it wants to serve up the most relevant, reliable content. Helpful, engaging blog content also gets shared on social media, which in turns drives more new visitors to your site.
Once you have all these new visitors to your blog and website, you have the opportunity to get their information into your marketing database. You want to include a call-to-action form on every blog post, and throughout your website. The call-to-action may be to sign up for your newsletter or blog, or to download a report. The blog visitor shares her email and other information with you in order to get this content.
Now you can push more content out to them overtime as you nurture them along the path to making an application. And the more they visit your blog, the more effectively you can personalize the content you send them.
As you can see, having a school blog gives you more opportunities and control over how and when to interact with prospective students and parents who've already shown interest in your school. It also provides a bigger platform to tell the school's stories, instead of relying entirely on others to frame your stories for you.
Convinced you yet why your school needs a blog? Great. Here are the basics to put together when you plan it out.
Choosing the Right Content
Every successful blog shares content that its personas want to read about. The blog posts educate readers about the issues that concern or interest them. The posts don't directly promote your school. Leave that for other types of content.
When you built your personas, you outlined each one's goals, challenges, and concerns. Use that information to keep your blog content focused on topics they'll read, share, and react to. If your personas need some sprucing, go back and ask with some current and prospective students what information would be most valuable to them. Ask the parents as well.
Refine your topic list by looking at all the content your school already creates. Your school already has tons of content. There are curricula, admissions FAQs, program brochures, career office reports, and campus organization descriptions. What questions are these pieces answering? How can a blog post dig deeper or provide a new perspective on them?
Finding Content Sources to Feed Your Blog
As you're making your list of all your school's existing content you want to use to spark blog post ideas, it probably occurred to you that you can use some of this existing content itself.
Great idea. Your existing content can be converted, with just a little tweaking, directly into blog posts.
In addition to the content sources listed in the previous section, also look at any newsletter or publication put out by a student group, program, even your alumni and development newsletters. Are any faculty or staff writing thought leadership pieces – see if you can reprint them on your school's blog. If you can't reprint them, you can craft your own post sharing the piece and linking to it.
When you convert existing content into a blog post, make sure to edit it so it works in a blog setting. Give it some context as a blog post. You're not going to just reprint a program's curriculum. You'll rework that content into a post about the different areas of theoretical and practical knowledge the program provides, and why each is important – with a call-to-action linking to the full curriculum.
Creating a Stable of Writers
Repurposing existing content is a great tactic for finding meaningful, cost effective content for your blog. But you do want original work on the blog as well, in addition to people on your marketing team who can write.
Many of your student leaders would love having a platform on your blog, from formal student ambassadors to group leaders. Student voices are especially influential with prospective students, who want to know what life is really like at your school.
Have alumni who want to give back, but aren't yet in a place where they can write a check? Ask them to write about their transition from student to the next phase of their life, whether its finding a job or getting another degree. Faculty and department staff also have stories to tell about what's going on in their domains. Find a couple key people in each department who have an interesting voice to write posts occasionally.
Have a Distribution Plan
Blogs without a distribution plan are the falling trees nobody hears. Regular posting of high quality content based on relevant keywords will build some SEO juice for your site. But there's more to distribution than organic traffic.
Outline how you'll use your social media profiles to promote your blog, and get others to share links to your blog via their own social profiles. Include links to blog posts in your newsletters and emails in other campaigns, where they add value.
Managing your blog will be much easier when you don't have reinvent the distribution plan for each post. This doesn't mean each post goes into each newsletter or gets its own promotional email. It means outline the different avenues for distribution and promotion and clarify which routes work for different types of blog posts. Then it's easy to specify in your blog calendar how any given post will be promoted.
Attracting Students to Your Blog is the First Step to Getting Their Application
Every prospective student is on their own, personal enrollment journey. If you want your school to be part of that journey, a school blog is the best way to attract them early on in the process.