Best Practices for Blog Writing for Underdog Colleges and Universities

What’s the difference between a college with a surplus of applications and one with an unacceptably high acceptance rate? Sometimes, it’s curiosity and nerve. Adversity — brought on by geographic isolation, shifting demographics, living in the shadows of giants, deep-pocketed for-profits and other Goliath competitors — can inspire a college and university to challenge assumptions and try new approaches to gain an unfair competitive advantage.

We call these schools underdog brands — and salute the leaders willing to rethink the potential of a school website, blog, and social channels. Underdog brands evolve from thinking of marketing assets as a fixed cost — an unwelcome guest knocking at the budget door — to seeing its potential to enlarge the vision and change institutional culture.

Underdog brands tend to serve a lot of first generation in college families and students who are willing to try harder. These students are unafraid to roll up their sleeves and get things done, and are eager to find their rightful place in society. This creates an opportunity to create unique content with a specific point of view.

Here are some guidelines for creating and managing blog content for underdog college brands:


  • Know your goals.
  • Create a readership that engages with your passion for delivering practical, valuable and advice-oriented content.

Target Audience

  • Speak to different generations of prospective students: high school, adult, online, and undergraduate.

Start with a Keyword or Key Phrase

  • Identify the keyword or key phrase you would like your blog post to be ranked for, and search Google to see who else appears on page 1 of Google for that phrase.
  • Infuse the keyword or key phrase into your blog posts.
  • Use SEO best practices to ensure that the blog has a fighting chance at securing page 1 Google ranking.

Content Focus

  • Tell stories.
  • Leverage newsjacking when appropriate.
  • Act as a guidance and career counselor.
  • Educate prospective students.
  • Quote other authoritative peers and aspirational brands who’ll lend you credibility.
  • Write blog posts with commensurate fidelity, which is less than that of an academic program page or a news item.
  • Tie it back to the institutional offerings.
  • Honor the blog writing style guide for the institution.


  • Be positive, real, helpful, accessible, insightful, professional and knowledgeable.
  • Avoid jargon.


  • Limit the length of blog post to less than 500 words.
  • Build topic authority by creating a series of small blog posts instead of packing everything into one long one.


  • Encourage questions and comments on the blog.
  • Share the blog post on your institutional social networks.
  • Respond to comments on the blog and social media.


  • Measure the number of shares and likes.
  • Measure blog post views with Google Analytics.
  • Monitor Google rankings for the chosen keyword or key phrase.

I welcome you to share your guidelines with us.

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