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The value of blogging for colleges and universities goes beyond campus activities and students. Blogging is also one of the most cost-effective SEO activities to increase your visibility online. Starting a blog may be quite daunting if you do not have a person assigned to writing or if you are not familiar with your CMS. That is why it is essential to decide on these two aspects before launching your blog.

Here are 10 quick steps to start writing engaging blog posts for your college or university.

1. Pick your topic:  Although your blog posts should include news about your programs and what is happening at your school, do not make the same mistake many schools are making by just pushing their content and making their blog a blatant marketing tool that only serves the Marketing department. Whether your career college specializes in dentistry or your community college is reputed for its business programs, make sure your posts are useful to students and prospects: news about the industry, about community partners, about alumni succeeding in the career path your current students have chosen, etc. Create a list of blog topics.  Your posts can be news-based or more research-based, but they have to be relevant. Listen to your current students to learn about what is on their minds, and what may attract other students to your school. Use an editorial calendar or this blog sheet (DOC) to help you define monthly themes and make content creation and coordination easier within your team.

2. Pick your keywords: Using a tool like Google Analytics will allow you to see how your college or university ranks in respect to specific keywords. It also shows you variants of your keywords that are being used online and for which you can choose to try and rank. Keep in mind that keyword ranking is dependent on several different factors, including SEO, PPC, and web development. In regards to the blog, be sure you use at least one of these keywords in each of your posts and that they appear in the anchor text of the link.

3. Do your research: The goal of a college or university blog should be to present unique perspectives on matters of interest. Your research will help you determine what has already been written on the topic and what you can add to it. It is also a way to gather useful references for your posts. These references are that you will use to create links in your blog.

4. Write, write, write: Blog posts do not have to be a specific length, but typically you should aim for your posts to run between 500 and 700 words. We’ll leave the brilliant ideas and perspectives up to you, but as far as form and structure go, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Craft a key-rich title that will pique your reader’s curiosity: a question, an intriguing statement about their industry, something most of your students are doing wrong (3 Deadly Sins of College Freshmen), or are doing well (5 Secrets of Successful Chiropractic Students).
  • Make your points scannable: Make it easy for your readers to know what the article is about by simply scanning through your bullet points. Bullet points will also ensure that you are staying to the point throughout the drafting process.
  •  Optimize your blogs for search engines crawlers ( ): Your blogs have a secondary, but just as important, audience to satisfy: search engine crawlers. Optimizing your blog posts will help search engines position your content: add  you are also
  • Call to action: Make sure you end each of your posts with a call to action. Invite your readers to comment and interact with you.  “Tell us what you think about…” is a good way to start conversation.

5. Add links: Your blog posts should include 2 or 3 links: 1 should be an entering link (going to one of the main pages of your website) and the others can be external links. Some posts will demand more links than others, but try to hover around a maximum of 1 link for every 200 words.

6. Add a visual: Make sure each post is visually appealing. You can find great visuals online or create your own. Pixlr is one of the tools we use regularly. It is great to add text or edit some visuals within 15 minutes. Here are other free tools to create your own visuals, or just have fun with. Add links to visuals.

7. Post your blog post: Always fill in the category, description, tags and meta-tag sections on the Dashboard. The more fields you are able to fill, the better it will be for SEO. 8. Measure and optimize: As with any marketing activity, measuring is key to knowing what works and where to make tweaks. Google Analytics metrics will help you see which posts are most popular and what your audience really cares about.

9. Share your content on social bookmarking sites:  Social bookmarking is a great way to give visibility to your blog posts while building links, another pillar of SEO for Higher Education. All you need is to create an account for your school on social bookmarking sites and share your content there. Stumble Upon, Reddit, and Delicious are some of the ones we use most often, but there are hundreds out there. Find those where your students are, Share with them, follow them, and respond to their comments.

10. Create a newsletter: After a few months of blogging, depending on your posting frequency, you will be able to set up a newsletter. A newsletter is a great way for your college or university to stay in the minds of prospects, future students, etc. The more interesting content you have to share, the more you can pluck outfor your newsletter. You can add a button to have all people who stay on your blog long enough to sign up for your newsletter.

Here’s a helpful overview of blogging best practices from firstsiteguide.

Have you been blogging for your school? Please share any tips to make posts more engaging and more visible!