Looking to drive more traffic to your higher ed website? Content marketing is an essential part of your overall digital strategy, and a solid content plan for your blog is a great place to start.
A blog isn’t the only way to put content out into the world. But a blog is a good, basic starting point for your content plan with many long-term benefits.
It’s a great place to publish content that:
- Answers the burning questions on the minds of those who will be your students one day (but just don’t know it yet!).
- Demonstrates your expertise, your concern for their wellbeing, and seals the deal by transitioning them into active prospects.
Why Build a Blog-Centric Content Plan?
If you’re just getting started with digital content development, it helps to have the end in mind and work backward.
The end of content development is publishing. Start by building a great place to publish!
Here’s why a blog is so often the ideal place.
It will be your central repository, or “library” of useful content.
All your website content is useful, of course. Just not to everyone. The blog is where you’ll put content that is specifically created for those who aren’t yet familiar with your school. More on that below.
You’ll be the publisher, which means you control the process.
You can accomplish the goal of content marketing (putting attractive content out into the world) by submitting it to publications others control. But submitting to a process others control, at their pace, might not be the best way to get your content strategy off the ground.
It’s your digital property, which means SEO benefits.The initial goal of digital marketing is always to drive visitors to your website(s). When you successfully attract outsiders to your blog, and that blog is on your website, they’re already where you want them to be!
Blogs are hungry beasts. And that’s good.
If you’ve been hesitant to launch a blog because you’re not sure you can keep up with content production, that’s a legitimate concern. But don’t let that stop you. Just having a blog will encourage you to build the habit of publishing regularly.
This is why a blog is so often the backbone of a strong content marketing strategy.
How to Kick Off Your Content Plan
That means you first have to do two things:
- Figure out what your goals are (what you want prospects to do).
- Think through who your prospects are and what their goals are (what they already want to do).
There’s a sweet spot where you’re reaching the right audience with the right message at the right time with your blog, where everybody wins. It takes some pre-work to set your sights on it.
What are the organizational goals that guide how you measure success? Some are quantitative:
- A target increase in traditional student enrollment.
- Similar increases in online, transfer, or nontraditional (adult) undergrad students.
- A certain amount of funds raised for the general fund (advancement focus).
Others are qualitative goals. Your content plan should be guided by what you want prospects, funders, other audiences, or the general public to know about you:
- Your unique mission and vision.
- Your brand promise, or unique selling proposition (USP).
- Specific aspects you want to highlight, like campus life, graduate outcomes, etc.
Identifying what you want and need to say about your school is important. So is reviewing how you’re already saying it. You’ll likely find you have a lot of existing content sources (webinars, lectures, articles, etc.) you can adapt into blog content.
Just don’t stop there. Your message will fall on deaf ears if you don’t craft it to meet your audience where they are.
Start by developing a persona or two (or several) of ideal, or target students.
Give your persona a gender, ethnicity, occupation, household income, physical location, even a name.
Consider what this person is thinking, seeing, doing and feeling at the moment they’re interacting with your content.
Why go to the trouble?
Because creating content with one person in mind is always going to be more effective than trying to reach everyone.
Next, brainstorm the questions this persona is asking at this stage before they’ve even heard of your school:
- What do I have to do to start my career in X?
- Where can I find a school that has Y?
- What’s dorm life like?
- How do I pay for college?
Notice the questions aren’t “What programs does your school have in X?” That’s a question your admissions team gets from active prospects (inquiries) already interested in you.
Remember, we’re out to reel in the ones who don’t even know yours is the perfect school for them yet!
What They’re Googling
After you’ve brainstormed your questions, it helps to spend a little time investigating how exactly prospects are framing these questions when they type them into Google.
Paid tools to assess search volumes and competition like Moz, SEMrush and Ahrefs are best. But don’t sweat it if you’re not ready to invest in those yet.
Other schools are using these tools to develop their Google advertising campaigns, and guess what? You can see what they’re doing for free with the Google Keyword Planner tool.
Try typing in a featured program or topic you want to highlight, to discover:
- Whether Google advertisers are targeting those keywords.
- If so, their approximate search volume compared to other similar keywords.
- Their competitive scores (how hard it will be to get a page 1 search result).
- Other versions of the keyword that might be better (like “pre-med program” instead of “pre-med school”).
Another good, free tool is Google Trends, which will give you an idea of the highest volume searches right now.
It’s not always relevant (do you have something really important to say about Kim Kardashian?), but sometimes you’ll find a useful trend to tap into.
Make a list of hot keywords. This will be a great guide as you begin to craft headlines for your content, those magnetic words that entice your target audience to click.
Create Your Calendar
Plan for as much content as you think you can handle producing and publishing in three to six months. Two per month? Weekly? Whatever it is, just prepare to be consistent.
Start basic. All each piece needs is:
- Well-written text (at whatever length it needs to be).
- At least one master image.
- A call to action that links the reader to additional resources about your school.
As a stretch goal, note in your calendar that one or two pieces of content in this initial period will be videos.
Nothing too fancy. Just some simple visuals with a voiceover or on-screen text. Or, maybe you’ll adapt a blog post into a Lumen5 video (a great tool I recommend looking into).
Establish an Editorial Process
Figure out who’s going to do what. It could be one person doing it all, but usually, it’s a team effort.
- Writing – Research topics, adapt existing content, conduct interviews, create drafts.
- Editing – Check for relevance, suggest improvements, proofread, give final approval.
- Publishing – Selecting an image, uploading it to the blog.
- Promoting – Putting descriptive content about the post out onto social media to drive interest.
- Tracking – Reporting keyword rankings, traffic to the website, from the blog to other pages, etc.
If it sounds like running an online newspaper or magazine, it basically is! The main difference is volume. You don’t need an “issue” full of stories every week or month.
But as you adjust goals to make your content plan more robust over time—and you’re seeing exciting results as you go—you may wind up publishing a lot more than you think.
At this point, you:
- Have your blog set up
- Know what you’re going to say
- Understand who you’re saying it to
- Have a feel for what they’re searching for
- Have topics lined up, and
- Know who’s doing what.
All that’s left to do is set it all in motion!
Get help creating your blog-based content plan.
It does take some work getting a content strategy off the ground.
If you’re not sure you have the resources to get started, my team and I can help. We love:
- Learning about your specific needs and goals.
- Developing custom content strategies.
- Assisting with the technical side of launching your blog.
- Creating great content for and with you.
And we always work collaboratively, making sure you’re highly involved in the process, able to take full control of your content plan whenever you’re ready.
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