Your school's blogs are the catalyst of your inbound marketing strategy. Marketers who prioritize blogging are 13x more likely to see positive results from their marketing efforts.
The reason why blogging correlates with marketing success isn't a mystery. SEO loves a constant stream of fresh, engaging content, so search engines love them. Blogs let you present a rich, detailed picture of your school programs and life. So human readers love them.
But all this requires your team publish that constant stream of fresh, engaging content. (Notice we said "publish," not "produce." We'll get to that in a moment.)
Stocking your blog with relevant, must-read content doesn't have to be intimidating. A little planning and a lot of focus on your personas go a long way.
Informative Blogs Attract Attention
Blogging has its greatest impact on enrollment during the awareness stage. No one decides to apply because of a blog post they read. When you address their questions in a captivating way, prospective parents and students return to your blog. They see it as a resource throughout their journey.
Which means you've established your school as a trusted authority they can consult. You build good will with them and strengthen your place in their minds as a potential place of interest.
Which school is more likely to make their short list for applications? A school who made valuable information hard to find? Or the school that's been by their side, guiding them the entire way?
Focus on Your Readers, Not Your School
As always, start with your personas. Your research revealed their concerns and priorities. What are the specific questions they ask to investigate these issues? What would a prospective student want to know about after-school clubs? What would parents want to know about how parent-teacher partnerships work?
Use your blog to highlight the expertise your teachers have in their areas. Educate people in the same areas of study you offer students. Show them the quality of education they'll receive once they enroll. When they feel they're learning from you already, they'll have confidence you can educate them for the next four years as well.
Your School is Content Rich Already
We often mention the truth that your school already has a growing library of content in our other posts. This is why we said you want "publish" frequently, not necessarily "produce." Reduce the time and cost your team expends on new blog content by drawing on these content sources.
Look to every source of content produced. Every department has syllabi, faculty bios, program descriptions, and internal newsletters. Review all the marketing collateral you've created for admissions. What does the alumni relations office have; is there an alumni magazine?
Don't forget the students themselves. What do they produce? The student newspaper, publications, blogs are content-rich sources.
When you repurpose existing content for a school blog, don't simply copy and paste. First, make sure it's content answers a question or need a prospect will have. Then, modify the content to provide context for a prospect. Instead of talking to someone who's already a member of your community.
Use your deep dive into your current content sources to spark ideas for new content. You want original content for your blog, and these materials are useful starting points.
What questions does a piece of content leave unanswered? Ask this question both for popular and unpopular content. If the piece already gets high traction, you know it's an important issue. What more important information can you add about it? Perhaps a piece wasn't well received because the topic isn't relevant? Or because it wasn't informative or interesting to read? How can you re-address a relevant issue in a more educational or exciting way?
Explore The Discussions Around your Content
Many times, people will ask the questions inspired by your content. Prospects send emails to admissions officers. People post comments on blogs and discuss pertinent topics on social media. Some may even send "letters to the editor" of your school's various publications. Pay regular attention to these sources. You'll discover more topics to address and the language to use when discussing them.
A few other outside sources: Do some stealth competition research. Visit the blogs of other schools to get topic ideas and read their comments. Update your keyword research. Are new search terms gaining, while others are retreating?
Involve All Your School's Communities in Topic Development
Every school has five major groups in its community. Students, faculty, alumni, program departments, and administrative departments. Each group has a wealth of content it can provide. Students can share "day in the life" videos to be posted on the blog. Interview a faculty member who's the school's advisor for a national student science competition. Is fundraising running a campaign to build a new field house – how will the field house improve student life?
Organizing and Planning Your Blog Topics
Okay, so you've gathered a lot sources you can use to generate blog topics. (If you really want one more, here's HubSpot's blog topic generator tool.) Now you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed about the vast scope of potential topic sources. This is where planning your blog content keeps you focused and sane.
First, avoid starting each week worrying whether you have great blog content to publish. Brainstorm with your team about the best places to start looking for topic ideas. Review your personas and talk to admissions. What are the priority questions and issues the blog should address? Who will be responsible for reviewing existing content? Who will do the social media and competitive blog research? Get people researching some of the areas listed here.
Once the groundwork is done, have a brainstorm meeting to generate specific topic ideas. Invite representatives from key stakeholder groups so their perspectives are included in the process.
Don't end this brainstorming meeting without a list of topics to stock your blog for next 3-4 months. Based on how often you want to publish new content, set the goal topic count plus 10%. You want some flexibility based on which topics you see doing well.
The final step is to create your blog content calendar. Schedule each topic for a publication date and backfill the milestone dates from there. You can include extra, significant information about each post in your calendar. Additional information like targeted keywords, tags and categories, social media promotions.
Making Awesome Blogging a Habit
Keeping your blog fresh will be easier once you set up the framework. Your framework consists of brainstorming topics, mining existing content, and updating your calendar. Involving your wider community makes it more likely they'll tell you straight out what they want to see on the blog.
Your blog is the hub of your inbound content marketing engine. When it motors at full speed, you'll find it carries your entire inbound strategy.