6 Tips to Start and Master Your College’s Blog in 2018

At Circa Interactive we’re fortunate to work with a few outstanding partners. Below, our friends over at Finalsite put together six useful tips for your college’s blog to become successful. Enjoy!

While you already know that your school needs a blog, the usual roadblocks–time and staffing–are probably standing in your way. Whatever you do, don’t allow these to become constraints. Blogging has the potential to grow your school’s brand, engage your community, and recruit right-fit students to your schools, so it’s definitely worth the effort. If you’re ready to dive in to starting your college’s blog in the new year, here are a few steps to guide your success.

1. Determine a Focus for Your College’s Blog

Many colleges and universities don’t blog at all, and those that do often limit themselves to ones written by the college president, department heads and admissions directors–a pretty narrow focus.  Since your blog will be a traffic-driver and will help to fill your recruitment funnel among other things, put the focus on where you shine: your culture. Showcasing what makes you unique, like the programs you specialize in, your awesome students, and incredible careers of graduates allows you to broaden your focus and bring in students, faculty, coaches, current parents, alumni and others to contribute content.

2. Gather a Group of Dedicated Writers

In order to make an impact with your blog, you need to be consistent about posting. And while it seems simple to assign the task to one person to keep the blog’s tone and voice the same, gathering more content contributors makes it easier to produce content on a consistent basis.

To choose this group, start by polling your community. Ask faculty, students, staff, alumni and parents to share their ideas on posts they’d like to write, or topics they think would be beneficial to prospective and current students and their families, or alumni. Current student bloggers are a great source of content (especially English majors!) as it’s a great resume booster for them to see their work published online, so they’ll love to blog frequently. And, prospective students love to hear firsthand from current students.

Vanguard University does a great job of sharing content from students in a variety of stages and programs to give real-life insight into the student experience (and it looks pretty cool, too!).

An example of how to use student contributors for your college's blog.

A Student’s Guest Post on Vanguard University’s Blog

And while you may want to have different blogs for special programs, like study abroad or athletics, these should be maintained in addition to your college’s main blog. Use a tool that lets you categorize your posts so that they can be dynamically published to all related categories, letting you maximize the impact of your content with less effort.

Remember-it only takes two blog posts per week to improve your website traffic!

3. Create a Content Calendar

Once your group of writers is formed, work with them to create a content calendar that works.

Determine which days you want blog posts to be published, which topics are timely, and which topics are evergreen (can be posted any time.) If you’re only going to blog twice a week, take into consideration that Monday mornings rank highest for visits and Thursdays rank highest for social shares, so focus on those days to get the most traction.

4. Determine an Editing Process

At Finalsite, we use the “press call” concept. Each day at the same time, the marketing team receives an email with all the content that’s scheduled for the next day, including blog posts, and shares their edits with our content marketing manager, who inputs them, and prepares content for publishing.  This system works for us, and now our team expects and prepares for press call each day. Your editing team might be made up of content contributors, marketing or admissions staffers, or others with a critical eye.  

5. Write Simply and with Intent

If your intent is to inform, blogs are meant to be easy-to-read, conversational pieces, but your content contributors might be self-conscious about writing. If your blog is simple and written with intent, it will always be well-received.

Here are few tips for making this happen:

  • Write in lists. It makes content easy to digest and gives readers key takeaways.
  • Write your blog post title first (you can always go back and fine-tune it later!) A title gives your post focus.
  • Write in chunks or sections. Blogs shouldn’t be written like an essay, but should be segmented by different thoughts or ideas.
  • Use a textual hierarchy to break up your post and make it easy to read.
  • Numbered posts are really effective: “The Top Five Reasons to Major in Business,” “Three Reasons Greek Life isn’t What Think it is?”
  • Always incorporate photos in your posts. We recommend one image near the top, and several images throughout the post.
  • End all blogs with a call-to-action.
  • Encourage content contributors to be themselves and use an authentic voice.

6. Share Your Post via Social Media and Subscriptions

“Is anyone out there?” It’s a common fear that you and your content contributors could spend hours on posts that no one sees. But when you follow a few simple steps, your blogs will be seen, appreciated, and shared.

First: Create a way for readers to subscribe to your posts via email. This way, they’ll get the blog posts delivered right to their inbox.

Second: Each time you post a blog on your website, share it on your social feeds. This is a pivotal piece for your inbound marketing strategy! You can also share older blog posts that are still relevant on social media, too! Be sure to always include a photo in your tweets and Facebook posts, as posts with images are more likely to get clicked.

Third: Add links to your blog in the online newsletters that you’re already sending. If you have a monthly newsletter that goes out, include this month’s best posts as a way to drive readership and subscriptions.

Fourth: Use blog posts as inbound marketing content. When sending communications to students in the admission funnel, consider which blog posts you have, and use them as your inbound content. For example, if a student wrote a post on their experience as a student athlete, it would be great to share that with all applicants interested in your athletic programs.

 

Pulling it All Together

Your blog won’t appear overnight, and neither will differences in website traffic — so don’t get discouraged. A blog takes weeks to really get up and running and months to really make a difference. However, with the right people and plans in place, it will quickly become a central piece of your inbound strategy and school culture.

For more tips and strategies for a high-converting website, download Finalsite’s eBook “The Ultimate Website Guide for Colleges and Universities.”

 Hadley RosenAfter more than a decade working in schools in roles in the classroom, communications and advancement, Hadley joined Finalsite in 2013 as Marketing and Communications Manager. She loves meeting Finalsite’s amazing family members around the world and learning about trends impacting schools. She’s a big fan of travel to places near and far with her growing family, cooking cuisines of all kinds, and working on her French fluency.

3 Tips for Finding Blog Topics For Your Degree Program: Advanced Strategies To Get Your University Organic Visibility

One of the core challenges that many higher education marketers run into is how to increase the online visibility of the programs that they manage. With higher education, and specifically online higher education becoming increasingly competitive, how can a marketer effectively position an online program in front of potential students?

Blog content is a strategy that is part of most savvy marketers arsenal. For years we have been told by industry thought leaders that content is king, and that it is an essential piece of any effective marketing and branding strategy. But the reality is that the online landscape is becoming very crowded. An infographic shared by Digital Buzz stated that there are up to 2 million blog posts written every day! With that much content being produced, it’s not surprising that a lot of it fails to achieve results.

For many higher education marketers, just acquiring the green light to create and post content to university blogs is considered a win. For those lucky enough to have an actual budget for content, measuring ROI from this content is going to be essential to keeping that budget. So how can marketers find blog topics that receives visibility, drives traffic, and helps produce students? Well, there are two elements to a superior content marketing strategy: high quality content creation and effective content distribution.

Today we are going to provide three tips on a very important and sometimes overlooked element of content creation: topic creation. Creating blog content that is in demand, not overly saturated by competition, and relevant to your target audience all starts here. The following tips and tricks can help you research blog topics that can provide the visibility you crave for your online programs.

Keyword Research

This is the foundational step for any content creation strategy. My esteemed colleague provided an in-depth analysis of keyword research back in 2013, and apart from Google’s keyword tool now being called the Keyword Planner, everything else in this article still fully applies today. But with the Keyword Planner name change came some more advanced options when completing keyword research, such as Ad Group Ideas, which is a much more advanced way to figure out how Google makes connections between keywords. For example, if I wanted to produce some blog content relating to health informatics jobs, then I would input “health informatics jobs” into the Keyword Planner. Google will provide me with ad group categories and keywords that it fines relevant and could be less competitive, such as clinical informatics or business informatics.

Webmaster Tools

Back in 2013, Google stopped providing search query data (the keywords that individuals use to find your website). This was a huge blow to the SEO community, as marketers thought that they could no longer research the types of keywords that were driving traffic. Fortunately, Google has allowed marketers to connect Webmaster Tools to Google Analytics in order to share not only basic traffic data but also ranking and impression data. Without getting too in-depth, the main takeaway here is that marketers can now understand the keywords their program websites rank for. This is a massive opportunity for marketers to dive into the data to find long-tail keywords that a program might rank outside the top 50 for, and create new and more relevant content to capitalize on these keywords. Here is a quick guide on how to link Google Analytics to Webmaster Tools, which is the first step in uncovering this data.

SERP Competitiveness

By finding out how competitive the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) is for a specific query, a marketer can quickly eliminate any potential topics that might be too competitive. When perusing the search results, tools such as the Moz Bar can provide some great insight into metrics, such as Page Authority (PA) and Domain Authority (DA), for topics that are searched. Depending on the current SEO position of a website, it might be a good idea to set a baseline domain authority that’s viewed as being too competitive when completing this research. For example, the following snapshot provides insight into the competition around the query “big data skill sets in demand.” As you can see, there are some domain authorities in the teens and no .edu domains, and if the search volume warrants it this could be a good area of opportunity for a program.

Finding Blog Topics

Through completing the upfront research of identifying opportunities, search demand, and competitiveness, a marketer can quickly understand where the possibilities are when it comes to blog content creation. This foundation, coupled with the production of high quality content and an effective distribution strategy, will drive the type of program visibility needed for success.

Robert LeeRobert offers a decade of demonstrated digital marketing expertise, and he has provided results to clients both within and outside of higher education while working as an analyst, team lead, and director. He has planned and implemented digital marketing campaigns for a number of large universities throughout the United States, and he leads Circa on all aspects of client strategy. Before founding Circa Interactive, Robert led digital marketing teams at the higher education organization Embanet.