Engaging content is the cornerstone of any school marketing strategy. Here’s how to know what to write for your school website, whether you’re a public, or private school.
As an education marketing firm, we advise schools to keep their websites, blogs, and social media channels full of fresh content because there are so many benefits to content marketing. Among other things, publishing new content helps:
- Build your brand
- Endear your site to Google’s algorithm
- Generate new prospective-student leads
But updates to your school website do not automatically mean content marketing success!
There are hundreds of regularly updated school websites out there that produce abysmal results.
Here are typical ways poorly performing websites like to post “fresh” content:
- Dynamic calendar pages with events being updated often
- Blogs stuffed with school announcements like the latest policies, events, and school sports information
- Twitter feed widget in the sidebars
All of these tactics do keep the website full of new information — but new information is not the same as fresh, engaging content.
To a prospective student, parent, or donor, all of these updates can become noise, causing them to bounce off the site and look somewhere else for answers.
Filtering content for your audience
By nature, schools are communities bustling with relationships, initiatives, events, policies, and ideas.
As a result, there’s a plethora of topics a school could publish on their website.
This makes it difficult to discern what a school should post on their website and what should be communicated internally through intranets, student portals, or internal-facing social media groups.
As an education marketer, you have to filter through all the topics you could write about and uncover themes that best serve your audience and marketing goals.
There are a thousand of possible things you could share with your audience through your school’s blog — but not everything is going to entice them to begin their student journey (or donor journey) with your education brand.
So how do you know which pieces of content are going to make your school website fresh and engaging for your audience?
Let’s talk about that.
Fresh Content Trait 1: “Fresh” does not necessarily mean “current.”
When it comes to fruits, vegetables, and meats, freshness is a time-bound quality. If the fruit is old, it’s not fresh.
But with content, freshness is not bound to time.
Think about the evergreen content you should have on your school website. Although it stays forever on your website, it should always feel fresh to site visitors who are discovering your education brand for the first time.
Like good music or classic works of art, content can be fresh and engaging no matter how old it is.
The opposite is also true. Current content doesn’t always feel fresh to prospective students or parents.
Here’s an extreme example of how current doesn’t always translate into engaging content: let’s say you put a weather widget on your homepage.
Up to the minute, live weather reporting on your school website — you can’t get more current than that!
But more than likely it will not engage prospective students or parents. It’s not fresh content for them. It’s meaningless data, more noise they’re going to drown out with all the other meaningless marketing content bombarding them every day.
Lesson #1: Current announcements and similar information are not necessarily fresh content for your target audience.
Fresh Content Trait 2: It has little to do with you.
When a prospective student or parent goes on a web search, school search, or just browses your site from a brochure they received from their guidance counsellor, they’re not there because they care about you.
They are on your school website because they care about their own student journey, and they want to know if your school is the right next step along the way.
If you’re the school principal, or another staff member, you’ll love hearing about the latest awards, accomplishments, and recognition your school is receiving.
This kind of content is “fresh” to you because it’s all about your organisation’s journey, and you’re a part of that journey.
But all the awards that validate the work of your school’s staff and faculty mean little to your target audience. That’s why accolades are not fresh, engaging content …
… unless you can show your audience convincingly how this award directly helps them along their student journey.
Does this award mean more scholarship funds will be available? Does your spot on some top ten list mean the research projects students can participate in will be more prestigious, which will look great for a student’s future career?
Lesson #2: Awards, accomplishments, and accolades may or may not be fresh content for your target audience. Keep the 80/20 rule: 80 percent of content should be all about serving your audience’s needs and use the remaining 20 percent to call them to action or talk about your school.
Fresh Content Trait 3: It answers questions your audience is asking right now.
When a prospective student or parent goes to the internet, they’re going there to ask specific questions.
Search engines are designed to help users find answers to the questions (a.k.a. “search terms”) they type in.
If you publish content frequently that answers the questions your audience has, search engines like Google will help them find you.
And when they find you, your content will be fresh and engaging because it is answering a question they currently have.
Content is fresh or stale based on how current the question is.
A timely answer is not an answer that’s new — it’s an answer the questioner has just found to their latest question.
Like a kid who’s just discovered how cool Back to the Future movies are, the answer may be in reality old news.
But for them, it’s going to be brand new information.
Lesson #3: Answering current questions your audience has will make your school website content fresh and engaging.
Fresh Content Trait 4: Fresh school website content resonates emotionally.
People do not choose schools logically. If they did, they’d all choose your school, right?
Or, they’d all choose the most economical option they could find. But fortunately for them and for you, prospective students do not approach their decision this way.
Prospective students choose to enrol primarily because the education brand sparks an emotional response in them.
Then, they back up their gut choice with facts that support what they already decided they wanted. This is when information on financial aid, career development, and administrative details become critical.
But until the prospective student has made the emotional decision to enrol, those facts have little value for your audience.
To keep your school website content fresh, publish content that resonates with their emotions.
Feature student stories with which your audience will identify.
Write more about the challenges, fears, and dreams your audience has before introducing a program or initiative that would address those concerns.
Publish photos and videos with imagery that inspires your audience.
Use website design techniques that engage your audience aesthetically and compel them to action.
Lesson #4: Fresh content resonates emotionally with your audience, so don’t be afraid to dive into the emotional reasons that are bringing your audience to your school website.
School websites built to perform
It’s tempting to throw every new piece of information onto your website. Google favours updated websites, and creating fresh, engaging content can drain resources, so why not?
Because you need your website to perform.
School websites do not exist to win awards, post the latest news, or sport the latest in Internet technology. (Although they can certainly do all of those things!)
School websites exist to fill your enrolment pipeline with qualified prospective student and parent leads and to communicate the overall brand of the school.
Therefore, all content you create and publish to your school’s website should focus on both attracting and converting the target audience into believers in the brand, and in turn, full-time students at your school.
Resist the temptation to publish an announcement just because it’s a new piece of information.