Today’s a big day for me, as it was one year ago today that I set a goal to write at least one entry on this blog every day. Here I am, 365 days—378 entries—later.
Why did I do this?
The first reason was personal—I just wanted to see if I could do it. I wanted to see if I could discipline myself to write something on our blog every day. And I didn’t want to ever phone it in and post just to say I posted that day—I wanted to be proud of what I put up.
But there were a lot of business reasons I did this, too.
I wanted our blog to be the best one out there about college admissions. Our rule at Collegewise is that we don’t do anything unless we honestly believe we can do it better than anyone else. We’ve had a blog since March 2006 and I’ve never been (and still am not) the only one from Collegewise to post on it. But the blog needed a champion if we were going to make it as great as it could be. Our counselors work incredibly hard and they just don’t have the time to post on the blog more regularly (and it’s not their job to do it). So this was a natural fit for me.
Improving our blog was also a good way to decommoditize Collegewise. It can be hard to tell the difference between private college counselors. Other college counselors can tell kids when to take the SAT and whether or not they’re likely to get into Oberlin just like we do. But we’re not like other college counselors. We don’t do college admissions counseling the same way everybody else does. Our passion, our beliefs about how families should approach college admissions, the way we hire and train our counselors, the fun we inject into the process with our students—that’s Collegewise. And those things are much, much harder for someone else to copy. The blog was another way to inject Collegewise into everything we do and to make it easier for people to see and appreciate just how different we are.
I also hoped that more regular blogging would help us build an audience. It’s expensive to run advertisements and do direct mailing to interrupt people and beg them to pay attention to you. I thought if we could dispense good advice on a regular basis, people would come to us for information. And if we kept giving them good advice, they’d keep coming back. We wouldn’t have to buy their attention—they’d give it to us. And willing audiences are much more likely to become customers.
And finally, I wanted to use the blog as a tool to teach people. I’ve always believed that teaching people about college admissions is what we do best. Whether you’re a family in our program, an audience member at your high school’s college night where we're the featured speaker, or a subscriber to our email newsletter, when people tune in to what we have to say about college admissions, I think that's where we're at our best. A blog can be a great vehicle to teach, which further differentiates us from our competitions. Any college counseling company can run an ad or build a website that claims to have “premier college counseling.” And any college counseling company can have a blog just to say they have one. But if our blog can teach people better than anyone else can, it’s easy to see how we’re different. If you actually learn something from us on the blog, you’ve gotten a sense of what we do and how we do it better than any ad could communicate.
What have the results been?
- Our page views have increased dramatically. In fact, we’ve gotten more page views in the last year since I started blogging daily than we did in the first three years of our blog.
- Subscriptions to our free email newsletter have more than doubled, from 800 readers to over 2,000.
- We’ve gotten emails from students, parents, counselors and college admissions officers who probably never would have found us without our blog entries.
- Many of our Collegewise families read the blog, too. They’ve mentioned how much they enjoy it, and they often forward entries on to their friends, too. It’s good for any businesses to make it as easy as possible for your customers to talk about you. I think our blog helps our fan base do this.
- Our blog is becoming a place where people land based on search terms. If you Google, “Overused college essay topics,” “Should I take the SAT again,” or “How to fill out the activities part of the common app,” you’ll find our blog entries—and our advice. Again, those are people who are finding us without us running ads to reach them.
I plan to keep writing my daily entries for now, as long I feel I don’t have something to say. But if it starts feeling like I'm posting just to keep the streak alive, I'll wait until I'm more inspired. I’d rather post less frequently and keep it interesting than post mediocre stuff regularly. But for now, I'll blog on.
More importantly, we’re going to start offering products to this audience we’ve patiently built. I’m currently writing our college admissions book (the working title is “The Collegewise Way.”) We’re going to be creating videos of some of our most popular seminars. And we’d like to start offering training seminars for high school and private counselors who’d like to come spend a day with us to learn more about how we do college counseling. Without the blog, those products wouldn’t have a willing audience who are coming to us to hear what we have to say. But when each of these products is ready, we can announce it to our blog audience first. And we can gauge interest in new projects by getting reader feedback, too.
So thank you for reading our little blog and for letting me mark this day. If you’ve got any feedback, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below, or email me at blog [at] collegewise [dot] com.