“We should have a blog. Why don’t we have a blog? How hard can it be?”
If you’ve ever been a part of a conversation like this, this is for you. Blogging is a key element of effective inbound marketing, and we’ve found that program & department blogs can be very effective in driving quality traffic to application sites, so for this post, let’s assume we’re talking about program or department blogs. First, the “do’s.”
Research to understand your audience before you start writing.
A good place to start is keyword & search data. What are your intended audiences looking for? Test your theories! Are they searching for what you think they’re searching for? Do test searches, and see if your competitors are blogging & what they’re blogging about. Learn from your competition!
Build a backlog of content before hitting “publish”
Write a good month or two worth of posts before publishing & promoting your blog. Nothing’s worse than the “what should I post next?” feeling, so help yourself out and build a library before launch.
Get your friends involved
You’re not alone! You have coworkers, faculty, and others who have good things to say and may be willing to write. Help prompt them with potential topics, and let them share their voice. Keeping your blog hopping should be a team effort!
Post at least once a week
Baby steps. If you don’t have the bandwidth to post at least once a week, you probably shouldn’t launch a blog in the first place.
Think “be helpful” at all times
Your blog’s goal is to provide engaging, helpful content for all readers, whether they’re prospective students, current students, or otherwise. You’re not trying to sell them anything. Your mission should be to inform, educate, or entertain (ideally, all three at once). Provide actionable, interesting content, and they’ll keep coming back.
Sing your own praises (in a creative way)
That said, don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. But do your best to be creative with your approach—your blog isn’t a news feed, they can find that on your university’s main site.
Focus on being engaging & authentic
Real people will read your posts, so write like a real person. Read your posts aloud to check your tone and make sure you sound like a human. Academic content has a place in well, academia, but your program blog is probably not the place for it.
Have fun with GIFs, memes, infographics, etc.
Embrace the fun and keep it light! A few well-placed GIFs & memes are welcome, and feel free to create your own (meme generators are your friend). Just always be sure to Google & Urban Dictionary any trends you might be using first 🙂 Here are a couple of examples of using GIFs and infographics to make your blog fun & engaging.
Use a content calendar
It can be time-consuming to keep track of your ideas, who is writing the posts, how they’re progressing, and when they’re being posted. A content calendar is a huge help to keep yourself organized. Whether you use Google Sheets, Excel, or a software tool, find what works best for you and stick with it. Here’s a list of common templates to get you started.
Know your purpose for each post
To keep yourself on brand and on mission, ask yourself questions as you develop each post. What is my audience? What stage of the “buyer’s journey” are they in? What keywords should I be aware of? What will my CTA (call to action) be? These questions will help you hone your topics, and sometimes they help you punt ideas that don’t fit in your brand or mission.
Analyze, analyze, and analyze some more
Keep an eye on Google Analytics & social media analytics for your posts. What posts are getting the most views? How long are visitors spending on each post? How are they finding your posts? Your local neighborhood SEO professional is your best friend. Get them on board and offer up a mission of analysis, and you can spend more time creating posts that will succeed.
Keep the brainstorm alive
Find a place where you can deposit all your ideas, and keep it hopping. Maybe it’s a whiteboard in your office, maybe it’s a Google Doc, a Slack channel, a notebook, or a set of voice memos. Wherever you can safely record your ideas and let them grow, expand, and interact with other ideas, find that space!
Start a blog just to have one
If all your friends started a blog, would you start one too? (Did you just hear your Mom’s voice?) If you start a blog without enough research & preparation, before you know it, it’ll be sitting there dormant. But the good news is, with the right planning & tools, your blog can succeed!
Just blog about yourself
If the common theme of your blog is “all the reasons we’re awesome,” you’re missing the point. As I mentioned earlier, it’s okay to sing your own praises, but mix it up with other content and you’ll stay on the right track.
Post news stories verbatim
Duplicate content is not your friend. Let your website’s news feed do its job, and let your program or department blog have its own engaging, helpful voice.
Be afraid of “keywords”
With all the changes in Google’s algorithm, it’s easy to be skittish about keyword stuffing and other bad SEO practices. No need to fear! Identify the keywords you want to use and let them occur naturally. A good rule of thumb—if your keyword is used twice in a paragraph, it’s probably too much. Give them a little breathing room, and you’ll be good to go.
Keep these tips and in mind and you’ll be well on your way to seeing the benefits of effective blogging for higher education!
Tell Us What You Think
Do you blog for your program or department? What have you learned? What tips would you give beginning higher education bloggers?