3 reasons your college needs blogs – even though 68% of students will never read them

March 15, 2012 by

First, the bad news about college blogs

Just so we're clear - that 68% figure is just the beginning of the bad news.  According to a recent Noel-Levitz report, only 3% of students and 5% of parents say they read blogs 'often' or 'always.'

But is anybody reading it? It may not matter as much as you think

With those kinds of numbers, it's easy to conclude blogging isn't worth the trouble.

And it is a lot of trouble - blogging is a notorious time-sucker.  It's a lot of work for writers, and for the people who organize content calendars and keep student and faculty writers on track.

Why blogs deserve another look

But if you're thinking of giving up (or never starting), think again.

Odd as it sounds, blog posts are not written simply to be read.  They've got other benefits that your school can't afford to ignore.

  1. Search engine optimization (SEO)
  2. Content generation for student portfolios
  3. Demonstrating your university's relevance

Let's look at each item in more depth. . .

college blogging and SEO

SEO is a major factor in why so many companies blog, and the logic is exactly the same for universities.

Google loves fresh content, so the more often you feed the Googlebot with new posts or pages, the higher your rankings will be.

Or at least they will be if you make good use of keyword phrases and deploy them appropriately on your posts.

This means that while you might have a wide range of faculty and students writing blog posts, you'll need at least a few people around who know at least the basics of SEO to make sure you take full advantage of the new content you're creating.

There are a couple of ways that could happen.  It could mean teaching the basics of SEO for higher education to bloggers.  Alternatively, a web-savvy person from marketing could feed useful keyword phrases to bloggers and ensure you get the details right on where they belong in posts and 'under the hood.'

That may sound like a lot of work when it's already hard enough to get ongoing quality content, but consider this. . .

blogging = job training for students

Obviously not in a direct way for everyone (think engineers, for instance), but you'd be hard-pressed to find college graduates who wouldn't benefit from:

  • Learning how to write with clarity and relevance.  There's nothing like the baptism of fire generated by 'you've been read/commented on/tweeted/shared/liked' vs. 'you've been IGNORED.'  Blogging provides a powerful social incentive for students to sharpen their writing skills.
  • A graduate portfolio that demonstrates tangible experience with social media.  Some writers are heralding social media skills as an antidote for youth unemployment.  That's probably overstating their role in economic recovery.  But as commerce continues to migrate online, there is a growing need for people who can 1) create useful content related to products and services, and 2) capitalize on that content through social media networks.

show your school's relevance with blogging

Tell your readers why we should keep professors around

Blogging and other social media initiatives demonstrate a willingness to change with the times and keep up with market trends.

And for faculty bloggers, it's also a way to tackle the destructive stereotypes that have plagued higher education for decades.

We all know them well: the tenured (i.e., 'job for life') professors, locked away in libraries or laboratories.  Obsessing over obscure manuscripts, 'torturing' rats,  or gazing up at the stars, with barely enough time left over to speak to mere undergraduates.

Which leaves parents (and students and governments) wondering, 'why are we paying so much for this??!!'

And that's where you come in.  Tell them in your blog posts.  Tell them (with specifics) about your commitment to students.  And explain how your research connects to their lives, will spur economic growth, will preserve your shared heritage.

And while you're doing that,

  1. Make posts user-friendly.  Just like the student bloggers, marketing and academic bloggers will need to aim for clarity and relevance to readers.  Use academic-speak at your peril.  You're likely to get hammered or ignored if you do . . . just like your students.
  2. Avoid marketing-style hype.  I remember being an academic and thinking, 'You mean I need to do the work, and market it too?!'  Well, no.  Just talk about why you find it interesting, why it's worth spending time on (contrary to what they've just read in the latest media beat-up), share your genuine enthusiasm.
  3. Make liberal use of photos & videos to spice up your posts.

but you said nobody reads university blogs!

Students and parents aren't reading them now, but here are a couple of ideas for getting more readers and engagement.

  • Link to strong posts in online press releases
  • Effective SEO practices (as above) will help you draw in a broader audience
  • Include links in campus newsletters and magazines

These are just a few ideas for starters.  What is your college doing that works well?  Or what do you wish they were doing?

Photo credit for blogger: Foxtongue

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