Instructional Leadership, emphasis: K-12 School Leadership (MEd)
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Essential NAU guide to successful blogging

Why blog?


A successful blog can generate leads or help our NAU site climb to the top of search engine rankings. In addition, sharing tips and insights related to your college, department, or program can make our NAU brand look credible and trustworthy. A successful blog provides readers with valuable, interesting content and generates organic traffic to our website – a win-win for everybody.


To increase your blog’s chance of success, it’s important to do your homework. This guide covers everything you need to know to get started – from goal setting to topic selection to optimizing your blog formats to give you a feel for what’s popular.

Types of blogs

When writing blogs, there are many formats available. Choosing the right format depends on your objective. We’ll cover goals and objectives later in this guide – so keep reading! But first, we’ve included some blog formats to give you a feel for what’s popular.

News post

Covers time-sensitive information or news relative to NAU or a specific college, research, or program.

Suggested word count: 600 – 1,000

View Example

Announcement post

Highlights a new or updated program, initiative, service or event.

Suggested word count: 400 – 600

View Example

Question & answer post

Summarizes an interview with a specific person of interest (president, dean, faculty, students, alumni, topic authority, celebrity, etc.).

Suggested word count: 600 – 1,000

View Example

What/FAQ post

Introduces or explains a specific concept, highlighting what it is and why it’s relevant, or answers asked questions about colleges, programs, or overall student experience.

Suggested word count: 600 – 900

View Example

How-to guide

Covers a series of specific chronological steps on how to do something and its great for addressing an audience’s pain points.

Suggested word count: 1,500 – 2,500

View Example


Listicle (List post)

Written in a list format and covers a specific topic. Each item includes a few sentences or a paragraph to educate readers (could be a listing of student resources and services).

Suggested word count: 1,000

View Example

Pillar page

A central place of content that serves as the cornerstone for a topic cluster.

Suggested word count: 3,000+

View Example


Presents information (data, rankings, and statistics) in a visually appealing manner.

Suggested word count: 600 – 1,000

View Example

Read about more types of blog posts


Who is your audience?

Before you write your first word, you should define who you audience is. It’s important to learn as much information as you can about your target reader so you can provide valuable, relevant information about them.

If you don’t know much about your audience, take some time to gather the information below:

  • demographics (age/gender, level of income, location, family status, level of education)
  • psychographics (professional/personal goals, beliefs, and values)
  • interests
  • pain points and challenges
  • information sources and influences (preferred blogs, social networks, websites, influences they trust, favorite events)
  • buying habits (may not apply in all situations)

What is your audience’s search intent?

Search intent is the reason a person is seeking information online. Blog posts that do the best job of answering an entire search query, instead of a few words, tend to do better in search rankings.

Your reader’s search intent should determine the format of your blog, the message you convey in your blog, and the call to action you choose.

There are four main types of search intent to consider: informational, navigational, commercial, and transactional.

Types of search intent


Seeking general information about a topic.

Search example: “First generation college student”


A person is looking for a specific web page.

Search example: “NAU first generation programs”


A person is investigating their options.

Search example: “Best MBA program in Arizona”


A person wants to apply to a program as soon as possible.

Search example: “Northern Arizona University MBA application”

Have a clear goal and call to action for your blog post

Set a specific goal for every blog post, and map out how the post will achieve your goal. A call to action (CTA), put simply, is the step that you would like your audience to take as a result of reading your content and a necessary step toward achieving your goal.

To achieve your goal and get your reader to complete your call to action, it’s important that your blog content satisfies your reader’s search intent. If you address your reader’s needs and objectives with your content, they will be more likely to act on your CTA.

Examples of goals:

  • Get as much organic traffic as possible to your page.
  • Get on the first page or Google a specific topic or search query.
  • Increase enrollment in your program via an organic search.
  • Create an email list of people interested in your program.
  • Generate likes and shares on social media.

Examples of CTAs:

  • Share your content.
  • Request more information about your college or program.
  • Apply to your program.
  • Get them to sign up to receive regular news or information.
  • Get them to read more in-depth content.

Choose your topic

When choosing your blog post topic, consider what content you can easily and passionately write about, what people will want to read, and what your readers will want to share with others. This is a great start—but you’re not done yet! Here are a few additional ways to ensure your topic will provide value to your audience:
Student works on a laptop outside in Sedona

Investigate your audience’s pain points

Three N A U students sit on a log at Buffalo Park in Flagstaff.

Focus on evergreen topics

A student studies on the couch at home with a laptop and notebook.

Analyze high-ranking content

Student writes in a journal while sitting on a stool in a field

Include keywords

A student looks at his phone and laptop while sitting in a greenhouse surrounded by plants.

Keyword best practices

Build the structure for your blog

Once you’ve selected your blog topic, mapping out the structure of your blog post before you start writing will help you create a thoughtful, cohesive piece that grabs your audience’s attention.

Creating an outline with a clear structure of H1, H2, and H3 tags that aligns with on-page SEO best practices will not only help your blog post rank with search engines like Google but will also save you valuable editing time.

What are H tags?

Header tags, also known as H tags, are HTML elements that search engines use to understand the structure of a page. H tags rank from H1 to H6 and should be applied to the section titles and subtitles of your blog outline.

H tags are placed in order of importance within a web page, with H1 being the most important and H6 the least important. H1 should be the title of your blog, H2s the main sub-sections, H3s nested under each H2, and so on.

Here is an example of how H tags can be organized and nested to correctly structure the content of a blog:

  • Heading 1
    • Heading 2
    • Heading 2
      • Heading 3
        • Heading 4
      • Heading 3
    • Heading 2

Important! There should be only one H1 tag per blog or web page.

Writing an effective blog

Keep your writing informal and conversational

Unlike academic writing or professional journalism, blog posts use an informal writing style. You want your reader to feel like you are talking directly to them. Even though the majority of blogs you write will not be personal, they should feel that way to your reader.

No matter what your topic is about, write with a conversational tone—even when explaining a technical or niche topic. What does this mean in practical terms?

  • Write as if you are talking to your reader
  • Write in second person. Use the words you, your, and yours—a lot!

Grab your audience’s attention with a hook

What is a hook?

A hook is an opening statement (usually the first sentence) that convinces your audience that your blog is worth reading. It should be clear, concise, and catchy.

Why is a hook important?

An effective hook will generate a sense of urgency for your audience to keep reading.

How to “hook” your audience

There are many ways to hook your audience, and the best way often depends on the topic you are blogging about. Here are some tips for writing effective hooks with examples.

Professor and students standing next to a cliffside

Your blog title is actually your first hook

NAU student rides a skateboard on Flagstaff campus

Ask an interesting question about your topic

NAU professor writes on a whiteboard

Present a startling fact

A student teacher speaking with another student teacher about lessons outside.

Address your reader’s pain points

NAU student takes a photo with Louie the Lumberjack

Use a quotation relevant to your topic

Tips for successful blogs

Avoid walls of text

What will drive your blog readers away fast? Walls of text. A wall of text is exactly what it sounds like—a big scary block of text! Paragraphs that take up more than a few lines are intimidating to readers.

Don’t forget—blogs are meant to be informal. A good rule of thumb is to break each paragraph down into no more than three sentences.

Be authentic

A top rule of thumb in blog writing is to always be genuine. Too many bloggers write about topics they know little about or aren’t really interested in. Audiences can see through this.

Be genuine and write about topics you are passionate about. Your readers will pick up on your passion and want to learn more.

Use bucket brigades

Bucket brigades, also known as grease slide copy, are a writing technique that keeps your audience reading your article to the end. Top marketers and bloggers use it to transform their copywriting, and so can you.

How do bucket brigades work?

To leverage the power of bucket brigades, all you need to do is find a place in your blog where someone might stop reading and hit the back button. Then, add a bucket brigade. Rinse and repeat until you have about 5 bucket brigades in your post.

Here are a few examples of bucket brigades:

  • You might be wondering
  • Want to know the best part?
  • But here’s the kicker
  • It gets better/worse

You get the picture. Strategically placed bucket brigades will transform your copy.

Add images and videos

Research by Semrush on top-performing articles shows that blog posts with images get 30% more shares and 25% more backlinks.

Blog posts that contain videos generate more traffic and shares compared to blogs that don’t.

Consider adding images, infographics, and videos to your blog post to increase your reader’s time on the page and shares, which may help improve your blog’s search engine ranking.

Be actionable

A big mistake in blogging is being too vague. When writing, stay away from vague ideas and give your audience concrete, actionable steps and examples.

Grow your subscribers

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to meet your goals. Getting business results from blogging all starts with getting—and growing—subscribers. More subscribers means more content shares and more traffic!

You can do this by adding a subscription CTA and using an email marketing tool to send an email newsletter to your subscribers to alert them when new blogs are posted.

Make CTAs simple, one-field opt-in forms and place them above the fold.

Find more information on building an email list.

Optimize your content for on-page SEO

Believe it or not, when you write a blog post, you are actually writing to two audiences: your target readers and search engines. Optimizing your content for search engines is important because it helps your blog get found.

Student works on laptop while professor watches

Use H tags

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Add internal links

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Create a strong title tag

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Write a compelling meta description

Now it’s your turn

Congratulations! With these blog writing and SEO tools at your disposal, you’re ready to write blogs at NAU that attract, engage, and convert your audience, and most importantly, reach your goals.