Learning Hub | Content Marketing
How To Find Blog Topics
August 8, 2019 | Steve Tschirhart
Somewhere out there right now are prospects who need your help. Producing and promoting the right content at the right time may be the difference between their success and failure.
You want to help, but how do you find the topics most relevant to them? How do you know what’s most relevant — most urgent — to prospective readers?
Here are four suggestions.
1. Talk To Subject Matter Experts
Whether you’re part of an in-house creative team or an agency dedicated to delivering the best service to your clients, you have access to a subject matter expert (SME) or two. SMEs attain such status because of their education, experience, and — especially relevant here — understanding of current marketplace challenges. If your responsibilities entail generating content, your plan of action needs to include spending time speaking with an SME.
But the SMEs aren’t the only experts with who, you should speak.
If the enterprise in question has a sales team, talk to its members, too. These are the folks charged with maintaining and increasing revenue for the business. That puts them face-to-face with prospects who are asking the kinds of questions that will help you identify relevant topics. If you aren’t already communicating regularly with a salesperson or business development lead, you owe it to yourself to start.
2. Access The Right Free Tools
SMEs and sales associates hold the keys to the special mix of insight and information that make your enterprise’s take on a particular topic unique. But they won’t always be available. And sometimes you simply need more ideas than they can help you generate.
Now it’s time to break out the power tools.
If you’re marketing a product or service, one of the greatest aspects of the internet is its transparency. You know which topics are of particular interest to prospects because … well, they tell you.
They tell you by typing search queries into Google, which Google is kind enough to share with tools such as Google Keyword Planner. Other companies offer products with a similar approach but much broader feature sets.
Let’s say I work for a company looking to expand into eco-friendly cleaning products. Aside from whatever my SMEs and business development directors tell me, I don’t know anything about this topic. With a tool such as Ubersuggest, however, I can enter “eco-friendly cleaning products” and view an assortment of results that apply a level of context which will help me create content around that term. That includes what people wish to clean with their eco-friendly cleaning product. (Ovens and boats, apparently.)
Another free resource worth checking out is HARO. It stands for Help A Reporter Out. HARO is a no-frills email newsletter that helps media and information outlets connect with SMEs and other sources for stories on which they’re working. It’s an advanced peek at what articles might be coming out soon and a terrific source of inspiration for your content.
3. Access The Right Paid Tools
Unfortunately, even the most generous free services aren’t likely to deliver everything you need. Some of the most helpful tools come with monthly fees attached (often discounted if you pay upfront for a full year).
Services such as KeywordTool.io can help break searches down even further, providing questions your content can help answer:
- Why use eco-friendly cleaning products?
- What are eco-friendly cleaning products?
- Are eco-friendly cleaning products better?
Another service I strongly recommend is BuzzSumo. Like KeywordTool.io, BuzzSumo can help produce questions that can serve as seeds for blog posts. Where it shines, though, is in tracking the most-shared content among popular outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit.
I can use such information for research, to help ensure I’m offering the type of information my audience wants most, and to identify key influencers. A search for “eco-friendly cleaning products,” for example, returns an article titled, “How Environmentally Friendly Are ‘Eco’ Bath And Cleaning Products?” If I’m working on behalf of a responsible producer of genuinely eco-friendly cleaning products, it lays out a challenge I’d happily meet with a blog post.
Finally, there’s Ahrefs.com. Ahrefs offers a digital marketing feature set that calls to mind Meijer’s original “one-stop shopping” tagline. Certainly enough to leave KeywordTool.io and BuzzSumo in the rearview mirror when it comes to blog topic ideation. But at $99 per month for the “lite” version and $179 per month for the “standard” version, it’s also pricier than those other two and other services. If your budget allows for it, you must at least consider it. But I recognize that can be a pretty big “if” for smaller enterprises.
4. Leverage Existing Content
By one estimate, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day. That’s a lot of information.
But while the amount of data we create is a relatively recent development, the practice of creating data isn’t. Not by a long shot.
In fact, there’s a good chance that, right now, content exists within your organization that’s waiting to be rediscovered and refurbished. Content whose days of resting forgotten in a filing cabinet or a folder on a network drive are over thanks to your efforts.
This might be an article from a printed newsletter circa 1997 or a tri-fold brochure from 2003. Maybe it’s an old PowerPoint file or media kit.
Your best bet is an “evergreen” topic, one that is unlikely to become dated in the foreseeable future. Evergreen topics make rejuvenation a relatively straightforward job of:
- Updating facts and stats contained in the piece
- Modifying its voice to accommodate your company’s contemporary tone
- Placing the content in front of a brand new and appreciative audience
Let’s try this one out right now. Here’s some old-fashioned information I stumbled across:
Be Polite and Kind to Your Customers
Politeness and civility are the best capital ever invested in business. Large stores, gilt signs, flaming advertisements, will all prove unavailing if you or your employees treat your patrons abruptly. … Men who drive sharp bargains with their customers, acting as if they never expected to see them again, will not be mistaken. They will never see them again as customers. People don’t like to pay and get kicked also.
That language is undoubtedly dated. Can we turn it into something more contemporary?
Invest In The Client Experience
Politeness and civility are the best capital ever invested in business. Fancy apps and pricey premiums will do nothing for our bottom line if we treat our clients poorly. … We may be successful in squeezing every last drop of profit out of each customer for a while — always driving a hard bargain and never giving an inch — but they’ll tire of such treatment and find someone more agreeable with whom to transact business. We will never see them again as customers. People don’t like to pay and get kicked also.
Maybe you don’t have the equivalent of P.T. Barnum’s “The Art of Money Getting, or Golden Rules for Making Money” — the public domain title from which I borrowed the above example — hiding away on one of your network drives. Hopefully, though, my point is clear: even content created 140 years ago can help get you off a blank page and into a blog topic or two.
Where Will Your Next Idea Come From?
There’s a common thread connecting each of these points: revenue. An idea for idea’s sake can be a very noble thing. But if none of your customers or prospects care about a particular topic, revenue is unlikely to follow.
That’s why it helps to chart web traffic, which KeywordTool.io and BuzzSumo do. And that’s why it’s good to know what SMEs and editors at professional outlets (as revealed through HARO) think are relevant topics. And the older content you may come across? Your predecessors produced it for a reason … and helping clients succeed is as fresh an idea today as it was when that content was created.
What you do next with a particular idea — the unique perspective or insight you apply to it — is what will distinguish it from others with access to the same tools. Produce the best piece you can with the care and attention it deserves, and you’ll have something that can serve your company for many years. And if you need help, let us know: we’re here for you!