As someone who’s been college blogging since the good ol’ days (like circa 2015), I’ve been around the block before. When I first started, it was easy to stand out as a college blogger. There were only a few other bloggers talking about the same topics at the time. Today, it’s a whole different story.
If you’re starting a college blog this year, you’ve got to face a whole new beast. Businesses, big-name bloggers and the like are all competing for the same college-age readers. Frankly, it’s never been harder to get noticed as a college blogger.
The good news is that all hope isn’t lost. You can stand out as a college blogger with a bit of creative thinking, marketing know-how, and all of the tips below. Let’s get started. I believe in you!
1. Use a Self-Hosted Website
First, you need to start off on the right foot. There are a lot of blogs and how-to guides saying it’s just fine to start your college blog on a free platform or even social media. I’m here to be the voice of reason. Don’t do that! Say no to free platforms!
But why?? You’re a college student after all. You’re not rolling in the dough.
I feel you, but you’ve got to invest a bit to make some money. If you want to be taken seriously as a college blogger, you’ll need to treat this as a business. Businesses cost some money to run. Luckily, it’s not much. I started my college blog on a shoestring budget, and you can too.
You need a self-hosted WordPress blog, and you can get started with an inexpensive domain and honesting plan for just a few dollars a month. It’s too inexpensive to cheap out with a free website where you don’t technically own any of your content!
When you’re ready to get serious, check out my complete guide for setting up a self-hosted blog in 5 steps. It’s so easy!
2. Write Better Content
I talk openly about my content creation strategy on my Millennial money-making podcast Offbeat Grad. The best way to find what content to write is to scope out the competition. You can see what’s working for them, what your ideal user is looking for, and (most importantly) how to do it better.
Simply put, the best way to stand out as a college blogger is to create higher quality content than everyone else. As a college blogger, you have a lot of source material to work with.
Do you have a topic in mind? Search for a keyword on Google. For instance, you might search “Best outfits for lazy college days.” From there, check out the top hits. How could you offer something different and better to this discussion?
Going about and beyond your competition is the TOP way to stand out. In the college world, it’s impossible not to write about the same topics. It’s totally okay to do something that’s been “done” before. Just do it BETTER.
3. Be Specific with Your Topics
Remember what I said about writing about what’s already been done before? Well, I want to be clearer about that. I want you to write about highly specific topics.
This is what I like to call keyword gold. A keyword is something people search on Google, like what they type into the search. Some search terms are absolutely swarmed with articles and content. You want to steer clear of these the majority of the time.
As hard as it is to hear, most of these well-known, popular keywords in the college niche are full of businesses that either are posing as small bloggers or have taken an enterprise approach to college blogging — yuck!
Stay far away from these beaten-like-a-dead-horse keywords. There are better ways to stand out. Find highly specific topics that haven’t yet been covered. How do you do this? Search for more of those keywords I just spoke of! Look for areas that don’t have millions of results. This is the sweet spot!
4. Build Backlinks
This is a bit of an “advanced” SEO strategy, but I’ll break it down into simple terms. When it comes to standing out on search engines (where your readers are searching for you), you need to have backlinks. Whenever another website links to yours, it’s like sending a message to Google that your content is quality.
Because it’s hard to build backlinks, do some outreach of your own. The best way to do this is to be an active member of the community you’re in. Here are some ideas:
- Link swap – Ask a fellow blogger friend in your niche to swap links with you! This means you link to his/her blog, and he/she links back in a relevant, natural way.
- Guest post – One of the best ways to get your link out there is to pitch a guest post to a high-authority website in your niche. Many websites and blogs are always accepting guests posts!
- Be topical – Finally, if you write topical, high-quality posts, odds are you’ll naturally attract links.
5. Be Active on Social Media
Social media is a fabulous tool for college bloggers. While I don’t think tools like Instagram and Twitter are particularly good at driving traffic to your blog for a number of reasons (namely, they’re designed to keep people on the app), they’re great at creating a persona.
This is what will set you apart as a college blogger. Who are you as a person? Letting your readers get to know you on social media shows them a part of your life that you might not always show on your blog.
Posting on social media consistently is much easier than blogging every day of the week, so it helps your users know you’re still active. I love following my favorite bloggers on social media, and I know others feel the same way.
6. Explore New Content Formats
Writing blog posts is only one side of the story. Today, new formats are really making a big impact. What am I talking about? Specifically, I’m referring to video, audio, and visuals. Here are some stats to draw my point home:
- One-third of online activity is spent watching video (Wordstream)
- 51% of Americans (12 and older) have listened to a podcast (Convince and Convert)
- 31% of marketers say visual images are the most important form of business content, above blogging (Hubspot)
Creating something in a new way just gives you another way to connect with your audience. Whether you’re most comfortable with video, audio (podcasts), or even just visuals/graphics, there’s a new way to leverage your audience.
Pro tip: These new forms of media are amazing for backlinks!
Is It Possible to Stand Out as a College Blogger?
To answer the question above, it is possible to stand out as a college blogger. As long as you’re paying attention to the 6 key things above, you’re unstoppable.
In my past 4 years as a college blogger (and now a post-grad blogger), things sure have changed quickly. While I went from a small fish in a small pond, today I feel like a big fish in an even bigger ocean. I can only imagine how intimidating it feels to just be starting now.
That being said, it’s totally possible to make a name for yourself, especially if you’re willing to try one of the new forms of media (or all of them). You never know what you’ll like until you give it a go yourself. Are you ready to stand out as a college blogger?
Check out more of my college blogging resources below:
- Best online jobs for college students
- How to make money as a new blogger
- FTC rules for bloggers and influencers