Content marketing has become all the rage in the past several years. Done right, it can positively influence everything from brand awareness and reputation to increasing website traffic and conversion rates. One of the most common ways organizations reap the rewards of content marketing is by cultivating a blog on their website.
You might be thinking, “We have an existing blog on our school’s website. This means we’re already doing content marketing, right?” That’s not always true.
Simply having a blog doesn’t necessarily qualify as content marketing — it’s all about the strategy behind it. The good news is there are some simple steps you can take to transform your school’s blog into platform to generate inquiries. You just need to heed some actionable advice.
7 Tangible tips for optimizing your school’s blog
If you already have an established blog on your school’s website, you’re a step ahead. But there are some things you can do to get even more out of that platform. We recommend that you start with the following:
1. Adjusting your audience focus
Many schools treat their blog as nothing more than a news publication. They use it to share campus updates, announce upcoming events, highlight recognitions and feature other happenings related to the faculty and student body. There is certainly value to this type of content, but it’s not doing much to help draw in new prospects.
To start attracting more potential leads to your blog, you need to produce content that is relevant to your prospective student audience. Think about the information they might be searching for in their pursuit of a college degree program. What sorts of things are they asking? What obstacles might be in their way? The answers to these questions can directly inform the article topics you publish on your blog.
2. Concentrating on keywords
The best way to get your articles in front of interested prospects is to optimize your content for the specific keywords or phrases they’re using in their research process. Conducting keyword research around the broad topics that align with your programs will help you generate article concepts.
When composing the article, be sure to incorporate your keyword and similar variations of the keyword whenever it’s relevant. For example, if “nursing careers” is your targeted keyword, it would be wise to also mix in phrases like “careers in nursing” or “nursing career path.” The more related phrases you include, the easier it is for search engines to determine the subject matter.
3. Connecting at every phase of the college decision process
There’s a lot of research that goes into making an investment as significant as a college education. This decision process can span months — even years. And there are numerous phases a student goes through before making a commitment. A sophisticated blog strategy will include content relevant to each of these phases.
It helps to create content for three main phases: awareness phase, consideration phase and close phase.
- Awareness phase: These articles will be high-level, general interest pieces that align with the programs offered by your school. The goal of this content is more about increasing brand recognition and appealing to a large audience than it is generating inquiries.
- Consideration phase: These pieces should provide specific information prospects are seeking to validate or confirm the career path they’re considering. Concepts in this phase will help readers gain a better understanding of a particular profession or the steps they’ll need to take to enter the field.
- Close phase: This content is intended to provide the final details that will help a reader determine whether your school or program is the best fit for them. These articles will feel much more promotional in nature, as you are making the final case for your institution.
The questions or concerns a prospect has will vary depending on which phase they’ve reached in their college decision process. The more you understand your audience and what they’re looking for in each stage of this journey, the better you can cater your content to help guide them into the next phase.
4. Collaborating with your admissions team
If you’re looking for ways to get to know your prospects better, who better to turn to than your admissions team? These are the folks on the frontlines — the ones who are having conversations with your target audience. Admissions representatives are fielding students’ questions, easing their concerns and helping guide their education decisions.
Establishing an open line of communication with these individuals is a win-win scenario for both parties. The admissions team is helping to provide article concepts to the marketing team. And the marketing team, in turn, is creating resources to aid the admissions team in their interactions with prospective students.
5. Aiming for objectivity
Once you’ve done your keyword research and know what your prospective student audience is looking for, your goal is to write the best possible answer to their question. To do this, it’s important to remain as objective as possible.
Focus more on what they want to know and less about what you want to say. This means answering questions fully and honestly. It’s also smart to include both internal and external sources in your articles, which helps provide a more balanced perspective. If all expert opinions come from within your institution, it can start to read like too much of a sales pitch.
When it’s all said and done, your main objective is to provide the reader with the information they need to move forward rather than push your own agenda. Even if they aren’t ready to make a decision yet, you’ve helped them take a step closer to commitment. Your school is now on their radar for future consideration.
6. Categorizing your content logically
Even when schools are publishing a good mix of content, there’s a risk that the blog can turn into a hodgepodge of different topics and interest areas. Higher education institutions often offer a wide variety of programs spanning several industries. While it’s good to have content to support each of those areas, it’s important to keep the user experience in mind.
Establishing categories to help organize your content is a great way to add some method to the madness. Doing so allows users to quickly filter for the precise content they’re most interested in reading. When a reader lands on your blog looking for business-related content, they can immediately choose that category instead of fishing through a sea of other subject matter to find what’s relevant to them.
7. Including a clear call to action
It’s true that the primary goal of a college blog is not to drive conversions — though there are numerous metrics you can use to gauge success — but that doesn’t mean it can’t help support the cause. If you’re wondering why your blog isn’t generating any inquiries, ask yourself this: Are you giving readers a reasonable opportunity to convert on the page?
One of the most logical ways for increasing conversion rate on your blog is to add an explicit call to action (CTA) on the page. It’s important to preserve the integrity of the blog and ensure it doesn’t come off as too “sales-y,” but there are plenty of noninvasive ways to incorporate a form or CTA button.
The ideal format and placement will depend on the layout of your website. But it’s common to feature a CTA at the bottom of the article or in a sidebar. If a reader is not interested, they can very easily ignore it and move on. But if a reader interested in learning more isn’t provided an effortless way to take the next step, you could be missing out on a new student.
Elevate your college blog
As you can see, optimizing your school’s blog doesn’t have to be a difficult process. With a few simple and strategic shifts, you can start seeing a lift in inquiries coming through this channel. Just don’t expect it to all happen overnight — content marketing is a long-term commitment that takes some patience.
So how long will it actually take? And how does it work for colleges? Find the answers to those questions and more in our article “Six Common Questions We Hear About Content Marketing in Higher Ed.”
Curious about what content marketing could look like for your institution? We’d love to chat about the opportunities! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.