To Blog or Not to Blog: An Introduction to Content Marketing For Schools
Blogs can be an incredible marketing tool for schools. Unfortunately, many school staff members just don’t have much time to keep one up to date. Between choosing topics, doing research, writing posts, editing, and publishing, blogging can be a fairly time-consuming marketing and communications effort.
Ultimately, though, blogging pays off for schools looking to grow enrollment and engage their communities. Strategic blogging can fuel your web presence and support all your other marketing efforts.
Blog Like You Mean It
If you aren’t sure if this blogging thing is really necessary, here are a few statistics that may prompt reconsideration:
- Companies who blog get 97% more links to their websites. (OptinMonster)
- 72% of online marketers describe content creation as their most effective SEO tactic. (OptinMonster)
- Businesses that blog get 55% more website visitors than businesses that don’t. (HubSpot)
- Businesses that blog experience twice as much email traffic as businesses that don’t. (OptinMonster)
- 57% of marketers say they’ve gained customers specifically through blogging. (OptinMonster)
- Companies with blogs produce an average of 67% more leads monthly than companies that don’t blog. (DemandMetric)
- 53% of marketers say blogging is their top content marketing priority. (OptinMonster)
- Marketers who prioritized blogging received 13X more ROI than companies that did not in 2019. (HubSpot)
Content marketing, including blogging, is the fuel for your web presence engine. As a school, you need to develop a content plan to produce blog and website content that covers each stage of the prospective family journey.
How Much Content Do I Need To Produce For a School Blog?
We recommend schools publish 1-2 pieces of original blog content per week (4-8 per month). Blog articles can vary in length between 600 and 2000 words or more depending on the difficulty level of the targeted keywords. Enlist many internal stakeholders to be occasional content contributors rather than placing a large burden on one or two people.
Best Practices For School Blogs
There is a myriad of instructional content available on blogging best practices. You will have to assess if your team has the competencies to get the results you need or whether you need outside support. Generally speaking, the core skills needed for high performing content are (1) subject matter expertise, (2) creative writing, (3) editing, and (4) SEO expertise. Employing an abundance of educators, most schools have the first three covered, albeit time availability may be a different story.
Here’s the recommended process:
- Determine your internal contributors, and determine the number of blog posts you can produce consistently.
- Create your school blog calendar, making sure you are producing content for all stages of your persona flywheel or funnel.
- Research each topic and create a brief that specifies article objectives (see Beauty and the Brief section below).
- Draft each article according to the brief and have at least one additional editor review for grammar and style.
- If the article is intended to attract new families to your school, do at least one review specifically to check that your article includes strategic keywords your audience is searching for.
- Publish and distribute content according to your Editorial Calendar (see the next section)
Beauty And The Brief
There’s plenty of content on the web outlining best practices for blogging and content marketing. In our humble opinion, the most important best practice is one that is all too often overlooked: The brief.
Briefs are used by strategic marketers and agencies to translate the business objectives for a design, advertisement, or other marketing communication into a creative direction that designers and writers can understand.
Experienced marketers know that the quality of the brief directly impacts the quality of the creative output. In other words, garbage in, garbage out. Your brief for a blog post should provide guidance to the writer by answering the following questions:
What is the general topic area?
Topics should be provided to your authors according to your strategy. The long term goal is to have content that addresses your persona’s interests, concerns, needs, etc., at each stage of the buying journey. Another goal is to build your search authority around strategic keywords in order to improve search engine rankings.
What are the focus and secondary keywords which need to be incorporated into the blog text?
Once you have selected the topic, do some keyword research to find the best primary keyword focus for the article, along with related keywords. Having a comprehensive set of related keywords throughout the page, both in headings and body text, increases your page authority for those keywords and improves your search engine ranking. A couple good tools to find related keywords are LSI Graph and Ubersuggest.
You can add and optimize keywords in the review stage also, but it’s much easier when the author can consider focus keywords as they are drafting.
How long should the blog be?
To answer this question, do a search on your focus keyword and see what other articles are ranking on page one of the SERPs (search engine results pages). In order for your page to outrank competitive pages, it will need to have higher page authority, which includes word count. Aim to make your article at least as in-depth as the currently ranking articles.
What is the angle and tone of the blog?
As with article length, review the SERPs and analyze the type of content ranking on page one. Are they all addressing the same niche? Are they well written? Formal or informal? Your goal is to find a niche that will differentiate your article from the others.
What Key Questions need to be addressed in the blog?
A great way to gain high visibility for your content is through what’s referred to as the “featured snippet.” Featured snippets are selected search results that are featured on top of Google’s organic results below the ads in a box. Featured snippets aim at answering the user’s question right away (hence their other well-known name, “answer boxes”). Being featured means getting additional brand exposure in search results. (Moz)
Identifying in advance which relevant question strings users search for, and including them as subsections in your article, is a great way to expand the organic reach. A great tool for discovering popular question searches is Answer the Public.
Get Your School Started With Content Marketing
By regularly publishing strategic blog content, you can generate interest from new families and keep your existing community engaged. Keyword research and planning can help you create more valuable content for everyone you want to reach.
If you are short on time for writing and managing your school blog, you may want to consider partnering with a marketing agency for some of your content. An agency can help you do keyword research and write search engine optimized content for your target audience. Depending on your time availability, it may make sense to have staff members write content for current school families and get outside assistance with content marketing for prospective students.