Note: this is the final article in our School Blogging Series. Catch up here with part one, Setting Your Strategy, here, and part two, "Creating Your Content Calendar."
Now that you have your blog strategy and your editorial calendar developed, what’s next? How do you actually set up a blog for your school?
To understand your next steps, you first need to answer the question: what blogging functionality does your current website platform provide?
For Blackbaud schools, there are a couple of blogging options. Blackbaud School Website SystemTM can be used to create blogs that live on the school’s main domain or a separate URL. This option also enables the blog to easily copy and modify the main site design, or create an entirely new design. Blog articles are managed through the News content type, where there’s the ability to include media, add custom title tags and meta descriptions for SEO, make commenting available, and customize the layout of the blog article pages.
Another option is Blackbaud’s WordPress integration that provides single-sign-on (SSO) functionality with the education management solutions, as well as an easy way to partition teacher and student blogs from group rosters. The WordPress route does require you to think about whether you will host your school’s blog(s) internally or through a third party.
For schools with websites that have no blogging capabilities, you may need to consider using an outside platform like Wordpress or Squarespace, or a full-blown content marketing solution such as HubSpot or Uberflip.
When running the blog through a platform separate from your school website’s content management system, the blog will have to live on a subdomain such as blog.schoolname.org or a completely different URL. Unfortunately, this means that it will be more difficult for each article to perform well in search standings because it won’t be able to leverage the established authority of your school’s main domain. There are pros and cons here, and you may decide that the vast network of functionality widgets with WordPress or the inbound marketing capabilities of Hubspot or Uberflip are worth the tradeoff.
Once you know where your blog will live online, and the functionality options you have, how should you structure your school’s blog?
Think of your school blog as an online magazine. It should be an appealing and easy-to-navigate hub of information that your audience finds helpful and valuable. It should also allow you to nurture and grow your audience, and encourage them to take the next steps in their relationship with your school.
In an ideal setup, your blog should have most or all of the following features:
- An intro area (or page) that summarizes your blog’s vision, and what readers can expect from the content you share (learn more in post #1 in this series)
- Categories that show readers the blog’s topics, which helps them find the content in which they’re interested
- A subscribe feature, so readers can join your email list and get new-content updates (and so you can continue to communicate with them!)
- Social media sharing functionality (AddThis is a great tool to use)
- Calls-to-action on every post, so that taking the next step to find out more or to contact you is easy and intuitive
- Visual content, such as a photo or video (or both!), to support each article
- The ability to leave comments, allowing your audience to interact with your content
- SSL certificate to make the URL secure (https), which is preferred by Google search and will avoid “non-secure” browser warnings (Blackbaud takes care of this for Blackbaud School Website System sites)
- Readable URLs that represent the topic of each blog post (typically by incorporating the title) instead of generic ID numbers
- A link to your main website homepage (if your blog stands on its own URL)
You can see many of these features in action on the Sanford School blog, Education Matters, which is a HubSpot blog designed to look like it lives within the school’s Blackbaud-built website. The Sanford blog includes strong calls-to-action, posts organized by topic, articles that are easy to share, and areas encouraging comments. It shows how you can work important blog features into an existing website structure.
Here are some more great school blog examples:
- Crescent School Blogs (Blackbaud School Website System)
- Groton School’s Zebra Tales Blog (Wordpress)
- Indian Springs School Head of School Blog (Squarespace)
- Lawrenceville School’s Lville Stories Student Blogs (Blackbaud School Website System)
- Shipley School Blog (Hubspot)
In the end, the way you build your school blog is highly dependent on the platform on which you are building it—but regardless of technical requirements, your school blog should be structured in a way that makes it intuitive, interesting and easy for audiences to take action. A blog is a content marketing tool, so having both strong content and simple next steps are keys for success.
That wraps up our school blogging series. Now we want to hear from you! Tweet us a link to your school blog, and let us know your best tips and strategies for blogging success, @emilycretella / @blackbaudK12.
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