It’s essential for institutions of higher education to create great content. Not only do prospective students look at higher ed websites, but prospective employees, donors, parents, peers, and others also make use of higher education content. Creating outstanding content that appeals to your audience doesn’t have to be hard, but there are some things to keep in mind. Here’s how to put content on your website that readers will remember.
Assess Your Content Needs
It’s time to sit down and make a list of what types of content you’ll be creating and who will be reading it. Is it enough to post university news on your social media sites, or is there enough going on that a general blog for your university would be beneficial? Are you trying to entice more diversity in your university’s employee applicant pool? Make a list of your goals that you want to achieve with your content, then decide what type of content will help you achieve those goals. Don’t forget to note who the intended audience is for that content!
Create Content That Addresses Targeted Audiences
With higher ed sites, particularly college and university websites, it’s vital to create content based on who the readers will be. That likely will mean separate blogs for alumni, prospective students, current students, general university news, etc. While you can share these posts on one platform, it’s best to divide up the types of content by the types of readers. Higher education is an industry where content is definitely not one-size-fits-all. Thus, it might be best to have one channel for university news, one for student information, one for sports team news, etc.
Plan Seasonal Content in Advance
There’s a definite ebb and flow to higher ed: applications season, admissions and financial aid information, sports seasons, finals, graduation, class registration, back to school, etc. There’s a lot of content you can plan so that when the time arises, all you need to do is upload and share it. List out content ideas based on your academic calendar, sports team schedules, and admissions and financial aid deadlines. A well-timed “application essay tips” post can generate a lot of buzz.
Make Sure Your Content Adds Something to the Conversation
There are enough posts out there with the generic “taking out student loans is less than ideal” message. If someone knows what you’re saying and how you’re going to say it before they read past the headline, then your content isn’t doing you – or anyone else – any favors. How successful have students at your institution been at repaying their loans? What’s the average loan balance graduates from your school carry? How can students at your school reduce their debt burdens? Answer specific questions that people coming to your site might have. Similar to the issue of student loan debt is gainful employment after college. How many of your students have jobs lined up before graduation day? This kind of content is powerful because these are big issues for current and incoming students.
Don’t Just Talk About Your School
Your school isn’t an island in your community, it’s embedded in a community. What events happen in your community every year? Be sure to include these in your content plan. Are there must-see places for families during visit days? Are there places that new students should go so they can set up their new lives or move out for summer? By involving the community in your content, you not only create a better impression of your school, but you also develop a good relationship with the surrounding community.
What Will Your Content Plan Look Like During Breaks?
It may be best to keep content coming during winter, spring, summer, and fall breaks. After all, there will still be people looking at your university during those times, and people who visit your site in the summer usually have different intentions than those who visit during the winter. Your content, if handled smartly, should send different messages during different times of the year. You don’t have to create that content during the break, however. You can have it on hand and schedule it for times that your university or college will not be in session. This way, you don’t miss opportunities to get your institution’s name in front of others.
Include All Content in Your SEO Strategy
Blogs and social media posts are an important part of your institution’s overall SEO strategy. In fact, all content should work together to reach your audience. If you’re uncertain what content your visitors want or need, start with basic research. Find out, using Google and third-party tools, what questions people have around different topics. You can find out more about how to do smart keyword research and optimize for long-tail search queries on our site! (And contact us if you’re still stuck. We’d love to help you out!)
Consider Using Guest Authors
Student or faculty guest authors can be outstanding content creators. This is a great way to highlight individual successes and bring diversity in voices to your university’s content channels. You can also call upon the popularity of a particular instructor or class to drive traffic. Determine which types of content and which channels you’ll accept guest posts for. Think outside the box – perhaps community members who hire graduates would like to post something about their experiences, or maybe a financial expert will have tips on how students can save money while still in college.
Operate with a Formal Content and Social Media Plan
Now that you’ve done all this thinking and list-making, it’s time to put all that work together in a formal plan. Document your intended audience(s), which channel(s) you’ll be using for which type of content, how you’ll distribute university news vs. department news vs. admissions information, what social media platforms you’ll use, how often posts will go up, and a tentative calendar for posts. Be sure to also include specific goals for each channel and platform.
Edit All Content to Ensure a Positive Impression
Finally, you’ll want to make sure to edit content so that readers have a positive impression of your institution. This final step is especially important for educational institutions. Make sure that all content is vetted in some way before it goes live – it may be best to have a content marketing manager in charge of editing and approving everything that goes up on your college or university’s website and social media platforms. Whatever you do, do not post content without thorough editing.
Create or Choose a Clear Style Guide for Each Content Channel and Social Media Platform
Should posters use apostrophes? Should they capitalize subject or course titles? What sort of language or images are acceptable for including with posts? What type of content should or shouldn’t be shared from third party sites? Make sure that you include this style guide as part of your content and social media plan. That makes it easy for guest posters to understand what they can and cannot do in terms of content creation and it will help you outsource content if you need to.
Consider Outsourcing Content Creation
While your university may be able to handle most content creation in-house, it’s also possible that you may need to hire someone outside to keep up with the volume of content. Content and social media marketing are most successful when they are consistent. (This is one of the reasons you won’t want to fall off during breaks). If those responsible for content creation within your institution are unable to keep up with it, it may be best to outsource content creation to experts with experience in the field. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you with your higher ed content!
Ronda Bowen – Content Creator