Want to up your higher education content marketing game? University-delivered student blogging is a good place to start. Just take a look at some of the benefits:
Promote the student experience: Sure, you could tell students what life is like on campus. But prospective students are far more likely to believe someone they can actually relate too. For example, reading a post on budgeting for your food shop is going to be much more authentic coming from a fellow 18-year-old also just learning to cook.
A different tone of voice: Most copy on university websites is quite neutral and formal for obvious reasons. But a student blogging platform is the perfect place to showcase a bit of personality. This helps humanise the university which, again, will help attract prospective students.
Drive traffic: While best practice SEO might frequently divide opinion, it’s widely agreed that high quality, regularly updated content is good news where Google is concerned. But search engines aside, the content provided in these blog posts is going to be of real interest to prospective students meaning they’ll actually take the time to read them and possibly share on social media too.
Develop new skills: Contributing to the university’s blogging platform will also teach your current students plenty of new skills. While this age range is generally considered technologically advanced, they may not have direct experience with a CMS before. In addition, they’ll also learn how to find and develop suitable ideas, hone their writing and editing skills and they’ll boost their critical thinking ability along the way too.
Convinced? Let’s take a look at some examples of brilliant student blogs and analyse what makes them great.
#3 University of Warwick
Warwick takes their student blogging platform so seriously they pay contributors for their time. And it certainly shows. They day we checked, the front page featured five blog posts; the oldest one was posted the day before. That is an impressive frequency of posts.
The content covers a range of subjects and is a goldmine for prospective students. It features posts on the differences between School Vs. University, how to handle your workload and advice I wish I was given as a fresher. The upshot? A clear content strategy which targets the desired audience perfectly.
The design of the site is very simple and straightforward. It lists the most recent five blogs and features a call-to-action in the form of ordering a prospectus, again, perfectly pitched at the target audience.
The only potential issue is the lack of navigation tools. For example, you can only filter posts by the subject studied by the blogger, not by the category of the post and there is no way to view the most popular posts. The addition of these features would make it much easier for prospective students to make the most of all this relevant, interesting content.
#2 Plymouth University
The blog homepage states: “Our #MyLifeWithPlym student blogs give you an insight in to what it is really like to be a student with Plymouth University. Meet our bloggers below.” Like it says on the tin, Plymouth’s approach allows readers to follow specific bloggers’ journey throughout their university life. Each blogger is promoted with a high quality image, their name and their subject. It’s an interesting way of arranging the blog and one which is sure to appeal to readers who identify with one specific blogger. The downside to this format is the lack of alternative navigational tools. It doesn’t have the subject filter as seen at Warwick or a general category filter.
The blog posts utilise imagery to make them more readable and engage the user. The content ranges from location specific posts like why I chose Plymouth and the best places to get coffee, to more general posts, like why societies are a big deal. Additionally, the use of the hashtag #MyLifeWithPlym is particularly useful for finding relevant stories on social media and helps the campaign feel cohesive. There isn’t a specific call-to-action, however the blogs are hosted on the main Plymouth University website, so it’s easy to navigate elsewhere.
#1 Durham University
Student blogging at Durham is slick. It’s also very to the point – as soon as you click on to the Durham University student blog it tells you: “Here you will discover more about what student life at Durham University is really like from those best placed to tell you – our current students!”
The blog posts are well written and formatted, many featuring photography too e.g. Taking a break in Durham. The blog also successfully uses humour (e.g. Budgeting *boooo*), which is a great way to get prospective students on board.
One of the great features of the Durham blog is the ‘Most popular’ sidebar, where readers can select an article that has already proved popular with other readers. There is also a great call-to-action box where readers add their email address to receive further blog updates.
Browsing is very simple with the categories sidebar; instead of subjects you can choose from more general categories such as Durham City, Study Abroad and Volunteering. In most cases this would be more useful than the subject filter, as authors from different subjects write on various categories, not just their subject matter. The blog homepage also cleverly features an Instagram feed of attractive looking photos from around the university.
The University of Warwick, Plymouth University and Durham University each offer excellent examples of student blogging done well. By developing your content marketing strategy to include student blogging, you’ll appeal to prospective students in a much more authentic manner. Student blogging is also a fantastic option for current students to develop their skills and leave university with a portfolio of writing examples.
For a frequently updated blog homepage, consider Warwick’s approach and pay your contributors. You may also like to consider either hiring an editor or putting someone from the marketing department in that role. Either way, someone should oversee the entire project and make sure it feels cohesive and professional.