Content marketing has officially become the leading strategy to engage web viewers and increase search engine recognition. Delivering relevant and valuable information establishes a level of trust and loyalty, making prospective students feel closer to a college or university. I wrote earlier this week about integrating student-generated writing, photos, video and audio into your content strategy and development to share an “authentic voice” with your audiences. Blogging continues to be the primary content marketing tool, particularly when enhanced with keyword-rich links, images and video.
When it comes to content, the general rule is the more, the better. Empowering your students to contribute stories about their university experience can create sufficient content volume for SEO while providing that increasingly valued personal touch. Uploading fresh, unique and relevant content frequently to your website is a great incentive to keep viewers coming back, while deepening their connection to your school. As one admissions marketer noted, “this generation always wants to see something new.” The infectious enthusiasm of your students’ experiences carries an independent sense of authority to prospective students. Prospects in the decision making process want to get the goods from current students, and in the absence of face-to-face interaction, stories from the front lines of campus life are the next best thing.
Example: John Cabot University features an engaging admissions blog page, with spotlights on specific student experiences among other blogs, numerous pictures of its beautiful Italian campus, and access to its various social media channels.
Authentic Story Telling
It is the stories unique to your school that set you apart. These can be shared on your website or a “for students, by students” microsite, but authenticity is everything in creating a credible connection. Prospects can see through phony marketing tactics and institutions, which is why many admissions departments choose not to delete any blog comments, even if they are negative. Make the most of blog content by making it shareable, curating stories in a way that entices your audiences to interact, share, and explore further content.
Example: Indiana University created a story sharing platform for their community called WeAreIU.com, open to any IU student interested in contributing content. In their first six months they captured over 600 stories from volunteers, who were expected to attend a training session and answer why they were qualified. Students are expected to post a story every few weeks, which are moderated before going live, and encouraged to share on other social networks. Without a calendar or deadlines, “the site is organically growing and the stories are authentic. Prospective students recognize and appreciate that.” They provide sample questions to get the ball rolling and an easy-to-use web form.
Provide Clear Goals
There are many ways to integrate blogging into your communications strategy but it begins with understanding the purpose behind these blogs and who the audience will be. Developing a tone appealing to specific segments – such as prospective students, alumni, international students or psychology grad students – increases relevance and readability. Creating a hosting platform on the school or department’s website makes the relationship between blogger and school clear, while you benefit from the increased traffic. Promoting a blogging community like the University of British Columbia’s “Blog Squad”, encourages collaboration and makes for a more engaging experience. Provide clear guidelines about the purpose behind the blogs with sample topics, such as:
- What makes your school a special place?
- What faculty member, class, organization or event inspires you at the school?
- How do you get used to dorm life?
- Balancing work and study
Students can appreciate the general brand image of the institution while having fun with the content, inserting humour, personal drawings, images and video into their blogs.
Example: Brock University has a team of bloggers that seem to post daily in a fun and engaging manner. Visitors can get to know the bloggers, follow on social networks, recent posts or comments sections.
Blogs are excellent for cross-promotional activities. Promote your blogs on social media and collect the best ones to include in e-newsletters. Consider inserting calls-to-action at the bottom of blogs or visible on the page, to invite readers to engage on social media, request further information or even book a campus tour. Blogging is a proven resource as part of SEO for colleges, particularly when keyword-rich, image-laden, and shared with other media and social bookmarking. Keep them over 450 words to best be recognized by Google. Measuring their influence with Google Analytics will inform you how many viewers are reading this content and which sites they are coming from, among many other valuable insights.
How does your school integrate student blogging?