“I’d like a blog like Heathfields‘.” It’s a phrase I hear regularly. The Bolton school has a well deserved reputation for being amongst the foremost bloggers in the UK if not the World. You won’t be surprised to learn that to achieve what they did in such a relatively short time was no accident and took a great deal of dedication and enthusiasm. However, there is no reason why your new blog project cannot aspire to greatness and there are some simple mistakes that are easily avoided as you set out along your blogging journey.
1. Not linking your blog and your website
It seems a bit of a no brainer to link your blog and website even if only by hyperlink, but many schools overlook this. In fact, because WordPress is a perfectly adequate Content Management System (CMS) in its own right, it seem senseless to maintain two entirely separate entities. The number of pages on your blog are likely to mean that it will tend to move up search rankings at the expense of a static website so it makes sense to combine the two. It may save you a few quid, too. Blogs are highly visible to search engines for two basic reasons, the first is that every single post on a blog is treated by a search engine as a separate page with it’s own index of tags. This means that even a fairly modest school blogsite can have hundreds of pages, usually with new ones being added all the time. Secondly there are comments and links appearing all the time which contribute to the site being highly visible to search engines. Compare this to a small, static school website consisting of a few pages with an occasional update and you quickly see why the blog is more attractive to Google and friends.
2. Publishing Infrequently
There is no faster killer for a school blog project than infrequent publishing on so many levels:
- The audience (parents, children, external visitors) get switched off and stop visiting;
- The site will slip down the search engine rankings;
- Children lose motivation and it becomes yet another educational project that isn’t seen through.
Commit to getting at least one blog post a week on your class blog. It shouldn’t be too difficult: get the children to write it.
3. Ignoring Tags
Adding tags to blogposts are important for at least two reasons:
- They act as signposts to your content: click on the tag “Stories” to read stories; click on the tag “James” to read all James’ posts;
- They are used by search engines to find content.
When James leaves your school, wouldn’t it be great to give him an e-book or CD containing every blog post that he authored while at your school? This is a really simple task if James has tagged every post he ever wrote with his name. Supposing a visitor to your site wants to focus on stories written by your children. By clicking on the “Stories” tag on the homepage of your site the global tagging system in Creative Blogs sites will pull in content from across all of your different class blogs with the tag “Stories”. Hopefully it will be much easier to demonstrate progression than it would be if you had to visit each blog in turn. Finally, tags are used by search engines to index pages, so if moving up the search engine rankings is important to you, tagging every blogpost with your school name, as well as general tags such as “Year 6 Blog” etc. will soon have your blog flying up the rankings (as long as you are not guilty of 2, above!
4. Failing to promote your content
Publishing a story on a blog is no more easy or more difficult than writing it on a word processor or in an email. The important difference is the exposure to an audience. However, in this day and age there are so many calls on people’s time that visiting a school blog might not be top of their priority list. You need to actively seek an audience and ask for their engagement and this can be done in lots of different ways:
- Make sure your blog’s web address is highly visible on stationery, websites and displays;
- Use school newsletters to highlight new projects and content;
- Use the parent’s email and text system to link to content;
- Add QR Codes to displays linking to blogposts about the display;
- Use Twitter and Facebook to link to content;
- Have a “subscribe by email” widget in the sidebar;
- Make sure children are taught to visit other school blogs and peer review their work linking back to your own blog.
This last point is especially important. Sign up for a Quadblogging project and to the 100 Word Challenge and make sure that you have a ten minute slot in your timetable at least once a week in which you model visiting a class blog and leaving an appropriate comment with a link back to your own blog. It is important that if you do this, you add the link to that school’s blog to the links in the sidebar of your own blog so that children can do the same activity for themselves at home.
Don’t, however, be guilty of over promotion as this can be just as harmful as no promotion. If you are going to link to some content to your blog, make sure that it is high quality content. Nothing will turn off an audience quicker than being asked to visit a school blog with no content or poor quality content (note that if the child writing on the blog for the first time is a major cause for celebration for all manner of reasons, it’s a really good idea to signpost your audience so that they know how to respond even if, on the face of it, the content doesn’t look great.
Making sure that you have a strategy to encompass the above four points might not turn your school’s blog into the next Heathfield, but it will give you a fighting chance of getting noticed.
This blogpost was inspired by a post on business blogging I read here on the Hubspot blog. I’m attempting to put an educational spin on it.