Blogs aren't as mysterious or complicated as you'd think! In the simple sense, blogs are simply a form of online journaling. Similar to diary entries on a daily or weekly basis, personal blogs record an individual's thoughts and ideas (often on a specific topic) and are shared with friends or subscribers.

Businesses and organizations have have taken advantage of blogging to promote themselves to their customers. Many business blogs contain helpful, educational information or news in their specific industry. How does a blog help with online marketing? By integrating a blog into your Christian school website and adding blog entries, you can drive people to your website and easily, inexpensively inform currently enrolled families about school information!

Before You Begin

Like any project, prior planning is essential to making your blog a successful marketing tool. Make a checklist before the first post is written to clarify the purpose and direction of your blog. Include the following:

-- Define Goals: Do you want to provide useful information, educate with tips for parents, entertain readers, or attract new students? You can use your blog to do any or all of these things, but be sure your posts are aligned with your purpose.

-- Define Audience: Do you want to create a communication exchange with students, parents, or the entire community? Knowing your audience will help you better target the topics of your posts.

-- Choose Platform: From simplicity to flexibility, there are many options to consider when choosing a platform for your blog. WordPress, Blogger™, and TypePad® top the most popular list, but a lesser known platform may be a better choice for you. Because each has different features, it's important to choose the one that best suits your needs.

-- Determine Post Frequency: Evaluate the who and how of creating a blog when deciding frequency. If you feel there is a lot of information that needs to be distributed, you may choose to do a daily blog. On the other hand, fewer blog posts each week may be more realistic based on the workload of your school blogger.

-- Determine Content Strategy: One easy way to create a strategy is to use an editorial calendar for your blog that includes daily, weekly, or monthly topics or themes. Your calendar may be chosen by topic. For instance, you may decide to post sports scores and milestones every Monday, and academic news on Wednesday. You may choose Monday for humor, Friday for the arts, and give a chosen teacher a forum on Teacher Tuesday. Once you've determined your strategy, stick to it.

Step 1 - Have a Website

Before you have a blog, you should have a school website. Blog platforms can be integrated into websites differently, depending on how your website was created. If your website was custom made, you will have to find out from the developer how to add a blog within the website's code and where it will fit in you website structure. If you used a pre-set template to make your website, you can likely integrate a WordPress or Blogger template into your existing website quite easily! Blog platforms offer different features, so pick what fits your needs. There are many helpful technical articles online with steps of how to integrate blogs seamlessly into your existing website.

Tip: It is ideal to know you want to include a blog when you create your original website! It may be more difficult to integrate a new blog into an existing website, and with a little extra effort, it will be worth your time.

Step 2 - Pick a Design Template

If you have an existing school website, you likely want your blog to match with your website's design to help establish your school brand and help your readers to increasingly connect your blog with your school. Depending on what type of blog platform you decide to use, beautiful free templates can be integrated to easily match website design elements and support your brand identity. The placement of your blog within your website's framework will likely determine design specifications for your blog and will help you choose the most appropriate template design.

Tip: Don't make your blog template design extremely different from your original website. You can have fun, but don't forget that you don't want to distract your readers or make them confused. Similar design supports your brand and confirms to your audience that they are in the correct place!

Step 3 - Decide What and When to Post

Blogs can be a very useful tool for marketing your Christian school! How? They can spread information that's up-to-date, that reaches everyone, and that's cost efficient. By integrating your blog on your website, you can simply direct currently enrolled families to the blog for school information, updates on schedules, and so forth. You can also post information about activities, sporting events, clubs, teachers, students, and curriculum news.

When a blog is new, it seems like a novelty, but maintaining it can quickly become a chore. Create a posting schedule so you know when and what to post. Consistent posting times can help your readers know when you will update information. Nothing is worse then an out-of-date blog, so make your schedule and stick to it. Also, don't be afraid to modify your schedule. If you have exciting news to post on your blog, don't wait to share it! Timing is everything; the more relevant the information posted, the more people will want to read it.

Tip: Add your school's newsletter to your blog for easy access. As an added benefit, it acts as a virtual archiving system where you can always look up info from the past!

Step 4 - Make Your Blog Easy to Find

By adding keywords to your blog posts, you can make blog posts easy for search engines to find and list in search engine results. This is called search engine optimization. For example, an interested family might type your school name or a sporting event into a search engine, and if you have optimized your blog post with the most relevant words and phrases, it will show up on the search engine's results page.

In addition, providing your readers access to blog updates and new posts via RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed allows them to subscribe to your blog and read posts at their convenience. Through the use of a feed reader or news aggregator, such as Google Reader™ and NewzCrawler, readers choose to get your latest syndicated blog updates. This helps readers conveniently receive new information without having to check your blog continuously!

You can also make your blog easy to find by giving it a prominent location on your website.

Tip: Link online press releases and emails to your blog post to allow readers to get more information if needed.

Step 5 - Create Buzz for Your Blog

If you want to get people excited about your blog, create buzz about it before it even launches. Announce you blog's arrival at activities or events, make flyers, post it in hallways and classroom, send out an email, talk about it with teachers and parents, make a press release, and promote it within your marketing materials! The best way to get people to read your blog is to tell them it is coming and what it offers them. Give readers a reason or value for visiting your blog. They will come back if it is useful to them!

Tip: Get your administrators on board promoting the blog by having them write a post!

Step 6 - Assign Blogging Tasks and Launch

Once you have everything in place, it's time to launch, right? Wait just a minute before you take off! Make sure that you assign blogging tasks to individuals so you have accountability and responsibility in place. You can involve all members of your school: teachers, students, staff, and even parents if you wish.

Guest blogging is a fun idea that gives variety to the usual posts you do. Create and distribute a style guide of which outlines acceptable copy and photo rules. Also, you should make a policy on how and who should answer questions on the blog. Nothing is more distracting than a hard to read post, so make sure your fonts are all the same and that graphics don't interfere with your posts.

Tip: You can make commenting on your blog either open to anyone or require a log in. To help curb inappropriate responses, have some one check comments or get updates on comments daily and give them the ability to erase comments if needed!

Step 7 - Encourage Interaction

Think of a blog as a two-way conversation. Nobody likes a conversation where you talk all about yourself. The focus shouldn't just be on your school. Encourage a conversation on your blog by asking for comments or responses. You can do this by adding questions to the end of your blog posts and making it simple for readers to comment. Feedback on your blog might not be all sunshine and roses, so be prepared to get the good with the bad. Receiving both positive and negative feedback is essential to growth.

Make sure your posts are written in conversational language. Remember that a blog is not a formal English paper; you want it to be reader-friendly. Don't forget to edit so your blog appears professional.

Final Tip: Integrate social media like your Facebook or Twitter school pages on your blog. You can also choose to add advertising on your blog's sidebar space if desired.

A school blog can be a great tool for marketing your school online! Remember, though, that a blog's purpose is informative. You might not get direct enrollments from it, but it's meant to drive traffic to your website, creating leads of potentially interested families. It can also help spread information to currently enrolled families more effectively and at less cost.

Give your blog time to build interaction. Listen to what current parents and interested parents say about your website and then adjust changes to accommodate needs, such as making the blog more prominent on your website or making it easier to comment. Perhaps readers would like you to include more pictures or organize your blog posts better. Whatever it maybe, your blog can be updated and improve to met your market's needs because you can add dynamic changeable content as needed. Maintenance is crucial to presenting an up-to-date website and for making a good impression for potential families.

In the end, your Christian school exists to reach more families for the glory of the Lord. As the Bible reminds us, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6). Don't pass up a great opportunity to showcase your school's information and news to current or potential families. Make a blog work for marketing your Christian school today!

Does your school have a blog? Do you have questions about making your own blog? Talk to us!