- General Best Practices
Another day of sitting in front of your computer, fingers hovering over your keys, waiting, moreso hoping, that the ideas start flowing — but nothing. You know that your school’s website is due for new content, but what?
We’ve all been there, and actually, I’m there right now — stuck on how to start writing a blog that’s essentially about tackling writer’s block. If that isn’t irony, then I don’t know what is.
I’m here to help you generate high quality content, and dive into how to consistently create it without stress and frustration for the following three common areas:
- Blog Content
There’s a fourth option out there, too. If you’re looking for more of an ‘auto-pilot’ solution to add content to your site, Finalsite Feeds automatically curates your social media posts from a variety of platforms and adds them onto any page on your site through a visually appealing and engaging custom mash-up. An automatic option is great, but let’s explore how you can start chipping away that writer’s block and pack your site full of valuable content!
Learn how Finalsite Feeds can help your school improve its social presence.
1. Blog Content
Blogging is no longer just for companies and influencers. Every line of business can benefit from blogging — and not having an active blog is a missed opportunity your school.
Blogging is an inexpensive way to drive valuable traffic to your website. By sharing informed, entertaining, and relevant content you will establish your school as a market leader, which builds trust and confidence around your brand. Blogs are some of the most commonly ‘shared’ writing pieces as well, giving your school the chance to expand your reach and capture a greater audience.
How Often Should We Create New Content?
As a general rule of thumb you’ll want to create at least one new blog post a week, and have it be at least 1,100 words. Deep breathes. Don’t let that scare you — it’s completely attainable! Even one blog post a week will put you ahead of the pack. (Less than half of schools even have a school blog!)
What Should We Blog About?
As far as topics go, listen to your audience. People are open to tell you what they want to hear, for better or for worse. Crowdsourcing questions will give you an excellent starting point for topics. Your admissions office, teaching staff, and coaches are all in contact with your target audience and fielding questions daily -- pool these questions together and you’ll see what people are commonly asking for.
That being said, blogs are great for addressing FAQs in a general, unbranded tone. For example: Why Should I Attend Boarding School? Or How Can We Afford Boarding School? Are FAQs a parent might have, and it’s important to address it from a broad perspective, not just touting why your school is the ideal choice.
Let’s talk hypothetically for a moment. Let’s say that you ask the athletics and admissions departments for a few examples of questions they get often. Perhaps parents are concerned about their first year students. Maybe they are weary of their child joining a sports team because of a potential decline in their grades. Maybe they aren’t sure if your private school or public should would benefit their child best.
These topics will answer their questions and alleviate their fears:
- How to Make Your Child’s First Year of High School a Success
- 5 Ways to Help Balance Sports and Academics
- Private School vs. Public School: Which One is Right For Your Child?
Avon Old Farms blogs consistently and provides great resources for parents, students, and alumni alike.
Forbes reports that an increase in voice searches (using devices such as Alexa or Siri) is prioritizing the understanding of how your audience speaks. Web searches are likely to come in the form of a question — keep this in mind when choosing a title for your blog. To increase search engine optimization (SEO) and website traffic you may want to pick a title that mimics the question that your blog is answering. If you’re worried about the SEO of your website or blog, let us know! We would love to work with you to make sure your website is working towards your goals and reeling in quality traffic.
By the way, we have an entire blog on this topic as well. Read What Should My School Blog About here.
Free Resource: Become an expert in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) with this worksheet.
Both blog posts and news articles should inform, captivate, and in some cases even entertain; however, they do differ in a few ways:
- Blogs should generally be more general (with more nuanced ties back to your school), while the news is going to be specific to events happening at your school
- Blogs often aim to answer a specific problem or question, news posts typically are an update on a current event or significant announcement
- Blogs should be timeless, news should be now. If you’re writing a recap of the first week of school, thats news. If you’re writing about your longstanding first week of school traditions, then that’s a blog post.
News articles are a great way to add updated content to your site while engaging your school community. People love to know what's going on; having a place to update students, staff, parents, and your local community will open the doors to creating more involvement amongst everyone.
How Often Should We Create New Content?
Because news is “now”, create content as frequently as possible. You always want your school’s website to be the main source of information.
We believe it’s possible for schools to post at least two times per week when focusing on these four avenues for news as content:
- Upcoming Events: Speakers, sporting events, meetings, etc.
- Summarize Past Events and Successes: Recap on past events, highlighting key points and take always. You can also use the end of week, month, season, semester, or year to highlight your achievements in academia and beyond.
- Local and National News: What’s happening in the world around your school and how does it affect your audience.
- Reoccuring Content: Use this area to showcase a person in your school community on a weekly or monthly basis (Student of the Week, Athlete of the Week, etc.).
What Should We Write About?
Create content around your upcoming calendar. By informing your audience about your events you are inviting them to become more involved in their community.
Lakeside School uses this method well to share their notable October events in September.
Districts in particular can benefit from sharing this content in the news section of each individual school website to keep segments of parents informed about what’s next. For many schools, these simple announcements are important to your community (and sure do beat the backpack postal service).
Summarize Past Events and Successes
You may have talked about your speaker a few weeks ago as an “Upcoming Event” but feel free to highlight the event after the fact. Share a few key takeaways of the event with the folks that couldn't make it there.
Within this category, you’d also want to include accomplishments of teachers, students, or your school or district, as Stevenson High School, a top public high school in Illinois, does here:
Local and National News
It’s important to not only focus on your school’s news, but also how the local or national news will impact your students. Here are some examples of tying in current events to the scope of your audience:
- Warning of an upcoming snow storm — “Campus Closures and Safety Tips for the Upcoming Winter Weather”
- A string of mosquito borne illnesses are affecting New England — “EEE: How to Protect Yourself on Campus”
Having a reoccuring story will help fill up your content calendar with some “defaults” and alleviate some of the stress of creating content for your site. Here are a few examples:
- Student of the Month - Interview the student and one of their teachers to add to your news article
- Athlete of the Week - Interview the athlete and/or the coach
- Staff Spotlight - Showcase your hardworking staff! Interviewing their colleagues allows you to show their value through the eyes of others
- This Week in Sports - Give a quick recap of final scores and notable plays from this past week
Norfolk Academy uses their space to highlight their new staff.
Adding in news stories to your content calendar will help keep your website up to date, informative, and fun! Plus, much of this content can be used in your admissions, marketing and development campaigns. Because your teams can use it, make it a team effort in developing it!
Did you know there’s a “Yelp” app for the Apple Watch? Humans love reviews SO MUCH that we will read a restaurant review on a one inch screen if need be. We are just inherently interested in what other people have to say about everything. Capture that! Give your audience authentic testimonials that show off how amazing your school is - whether that comes from internal or external sources.
How Often Should We Add New Testimonials?
Too often we see schools with the same testimonials on their website for years. There has to be someone who had something nice to say about your school or district since 2018 — right? Right. We suggest updating testimonials annually, as well as integrating new testimonials in your marketing content throughout the year. For example, after you send out accepted student letters, send them to a landing page that has brand new testimonials for them to see. The same holds true for various giving campaigns. Focus on adding new ones during those important peak seasons to give them something fresh to see.
How Can We Obtain New Testimonials?
Gathering testimonials is as easy as recognizing and using your resources. You have athletes, staff, alumni, and parents who all have a voice. Collect a short testimonial from any of those sources and place it on the page that you see best fit. On the topic of best fit, a major bonus for testimonials is their ability to live anywhere on your site.
The Governor's Academy includes this testimonial from their Dean of Students on their “Student Life” page.
Not sure where to start? If you have individuals leaving you reviews on Facebook, you can start there! Have parents who live in your school swag and are constantly promoting your school to their friends? Ask them. Is there a student in every club who always has a smile on their face? They are a great fit, too.
We recommend getting video and text testimonials when you can. If you get a video testimonial, you can also transcribe that into text elsewhere. Repurpose your content!
Pro Tip: Keep your testimonials organized in a tool like Finalsite Posts, which allows you to dynamically add the same testimonial to numerous pages of your site without any additional effort. The tool also makes a pretty great organizational system, too!
If you interview a student athlete, use that on your athletics page and your homepage. Have an excerpt from an alumni about the excellent help they had getting into their top college? Put that on your college counseling page and in your accepted students portal.
Testimonials allow you to create a visually appealing space that only speaks highly of you. I think the kid’s these days refer to this as a “humble brag”, and you know what? Brag away! If you have something amazing to offer then let your audience know.
Creating quality content for your school’s site can come in an assortment of different topics and styles. Between blogs, news, and testimonials you will always have fresh topics to write about that will keep your audience engaged and entertained. The content that you publish can give your school a chance to be seen as an industry leader amongst your peers, and will prove why you are the best option for your target audience.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia plans and executes a variety of inbound marketing and digital content strategies. As a former TV and news reporter, freelance cinematographer and certified inbound marketer, Mia specializes in helping schools find new ways to share their stories online through web design, social media, copywriting, photography and videography. She is the author of numerous blogs, and Finalsite's popular eBook, The Website Redesign Playbook.
- Content Marketing