You’ve heard you should write a blog for your course. But what should you write about?
If you’ve read any of our posts on how to market your online course, you’ve probably heard content marketing mentioned a few times. Content marketing is an great strategy for almost any business, but it’s especially suitable for e-learning for two reasons:
- It’s online, which is where your market is.
- It’s information-based, which is what your course is.
The theory behind content marketing is that, by giving your audience something of value (in the form of information, inspiration, or entertainment), you establish a bond of trust that builds your brand and encourages them to eventually make a purchase.
It also has the benefit of targeting only those who are interested in reading the content. Unlike interruption-based methods (like advertisements on YouTube), the people who consume content marketing materials are those who haves sought it out intentionally.
All this is fairly convincing, but for many course creators, it leaves one problem unresolved: how do they create the content in the first place? What are they supposed to write about on their blog (or talk about in their podcast)? And will anyone sign up for their course if they’ve given it all away for free?
Those are good questions, and answering them is key to creating an effective content marketing strategy. So, without further ado, let’s dive in.
Think about your audience.
Whenever you’re struggling to come up with a topic, think about who you’re writing for. If you’re running an online course on business accounting and money management for small businesses, then your audience will primarily consist of entrepreneurial CEOs and CFOs. Identifying that audience will give you a place to start, and help you speak more clearly to their needs.
Commit to a schedule.
The blog schedule is a tough one for many beginner content marketers. After writing their first blog, they feel so drained by the effort that they set their pens aside for the month and, as often as not, never pick them up again.
The reality is, you won’t get anywhere with a monthly blog. That’s only a dozen blog posts over the course of a year—hardly enough to cover any of the details. Instead, aim for a weekly blog at least. It will seem tiring at first, but after a few weeks you’ll hit a rhythm and it will be easier to keep going.
If you can, more blog posts will get you farther, faster. You have a lot of ground to cover, and more posts gives you the flexibility to write about trending topics, breaking industry news, or even just obscure side points that might otherwise get the cut.
Don’t write yourself into a corner.
Another big mistake many content marketers make is that they define their range too narrowly. They focus on writing only one kind of post, and because they won’t expand their topics, they soon run their subject into the ground.
Your blog content should be somewhat related to your course material, but it’s perfectly acceptable to adopt a generous interpretation of what that means. Instead, your content should be a mixture of broad and deep. Write about tangential subjects, but also write about highly specific subjects. The broad posts allow you to cast a wide net and draw in a variety of readers, while the deep ones help you write to those with greater expertise.
Be more than a curator.
When blogs first started, content curation was all the rage. People used blogs to establish themselves as arbiters of taste in their particular field, gathering select lists of relevant articles and sharing them with their followers.
These days, we have Twitter for that.
Instead, your blog is your opportunity to provide the content everyone else will want to share. You won’t get far as an online educator if you can’t offer your own thoughts on a subject.
You can still use your blog to share articles, infographics, or other content you feel will be useful to your readers. But use it as a supplement to your regularly-scheduled content, or else be sure to include your own commentary.
Give real, useful information.
Finally, if you’re going to do content marketing, you have to be real. You may gain some initial interest by baiting visitors with click-worthy headlines if the content is fluffy. Instead, you must retain visitor attention by offering the information they came for.
Doing so establishes trust with your audience. After all, if your blog is filled with useful and informative content, how much more so your course? But if your blog is full of fluffy, then your readers may suspect your course of being too light as well.
Blogging about your course content won’t give it away. In fact, it’s the best way to sell it.
You may feel at first that you’re giving too much away with your blog, but in fact you’re doing the opposite. Your blog can actually be a means of generating new course content by identifying what’s most popular for your readers. And, since you will have written about it already, you’ll have a head start when it comes to refining that content into an actual course.
Of course, some of your readers will take what they can from your blog, but usually these are the ones who wouldn’t have signed up for your course anyway. They may learn a lot for free, but they can also be promoters of your course, sharing articles online or recommending them to friends.
For the rest, reading your content is more likely to convince them of your qualifications than turn them off your course. Besides which, your online course has added value by providing structure, a means of assessment, and instructor feedback, not to mention added features that are accessible only to registered students.
Starting a blog as part of your content marketing strategy is nothing to be afraid of. While it may seem daunting at first, once you start you’ll probably find yourself overflowing with blog ideas. And if you ever run dry, return to the basics: think about your audience, draw upon your expertise, and tap your community for inspiration. There’s no shortage of great content out there to learn from.