Investing in content is generally a great idea. But, do you know the difference between good, great and awfully bad content? Without this, your investments are going to be futile.
A good content piece always derives from great content ideas. If the idea itself is bad, need I say more about the content that comes on its back?
A research found that more than 3/4ths of b2b marketers struggle with consistently producing great and relevant content. The research report pegs the number at 87%. Yes, 87% of b2b marketers haven’t got a clue on how to produce engaging content.
Despite that, they’re producing some content. Planable’s research shows that 45% of marketers produce 5 content pieces a month. Plus, it takes an average of 5.4 days for a blog post from start to finish.
That doesn’t mean content generation is struggle free. Or that it helps the end party.
It’s fair to say that the trouble is around content ideation. You can’t write because you don’t know what to write about. With that roadblock gone, content creation becomes easy. This post is all about generating all the ideas you need.
1. Think of your reader first
Even though b2b marketers struggle with producing content, most never ask their readers what they need. Readers never drive their content strategy.
Instead of starting your research with tools, start with your reader first.
Content markers create content for an audience of one: them.
The content they create plays into the interests of the person behind the content—you. Its ideas and words that you like and find to be interesting. It’s solving problems from your vantage point. The truth is most people who you’re writing for may not be able to relate with your interests, your skill levels, or your problems.
Your audience has a different set of concerns, desires, and likes. By not taking that into account, you kill any scope of a reader resonating with you. To create content that’s effective and drives your business forward, understanding your target audience is the first and foremost step.
That’s why for you to hit your goals with content marketing, content ideation and processes need a major revamp.
Content ideally should be around your reader. A little empathy goes a long way.
So here’s how to start:
- Find out the pain points of your audience
- What do they seem to struggle with?
- Questions about your product or service
- What awareness stages they’re at?
- Do you have content catering to that?
- What do they generally read?
- What forums are they part of?
This exercise helps you glean relevant information and structure your content marketing strategy around marketing personas.
Personas are representations of who your ideal customer looks like. This helps you plan out content in a way that’s useful to them.
According to content maverick Alex Birkett, “Your product or service should play an integral role in your content strategy as well as creation.”
It’s true. All the talk about personas and struggles ultimately helps us find people who are correct for our products. Products should lead your content strategy.
Also, content strategy isn’t about tailoring blog posts to fit customers’ needs. It’s also about personalizing each stage of the customer funnel— be it blog posts, their email experience or social media experience.
High tech water bottle maker Gululu raised $100,000 in funding thanks to content marketing efforts. Even before they launched they generated 10,000 plus subscribers from their site and 5000 Facebook fans, all thanks to content marketing that helped parents envision Gululu as a brand that made water drinking fun for their kids. They made their product take center-stage and created product-led content. This improves the customer experience.
Research from Getvoip shows that companies who focus on customer experience register double-digit gains.
2. Ask your audience
Before going guns blazing into keyword research tools, the first point of contact should be your customers. After all, you’re writing to them. As said before, common sense dictates that you approach your readers on what to write about.
How to ask your audience?
If your website has some traffic already, add a popup form filled with one or two questions around your content. This form should pop up as people scroll down your content.
Or you could conduct a poll on groups you’re part of. I am part of a few SEO and content marketing groups (the core niche of my blog) with thousands of members and a poll helps me qualify what kind of content people might like.
You could simply ask “What are the problems you’re facing now professionally?”. Or if you’re in the SEO niche like me “What SEO tools do you use?
Here’s an example:
The guy behind the poll probably wants to conduct a roundup of the most popular affiliate networks.
Or here’s another example.
A few days before writing this post, Matt Diggity reached out to the group asking members what their biggest struggle in marketing was.
He got a resounding chorus on— “generating quality links”. This post is the answer he came up with.
There are several ways to conduct polls. I find groups and brand-owned Facebook pages or Instagram pages to be the second-best place to do this other than my site.
You could also discover content ideas through forums.
Search in places that already have your audiences bustling with traffic. Niche relevant forums are one place. Q&A sites like Quora are another good source.
Gather data to find relevant bits and pieces of useful information around topics your core audience seems most interested in.
3. Browse for content ideas
There are other ways as well.
Go through content that’s already present online. Given a subject, there might be 100s of sites covering the said topic. Browsing for ideas doesn’t require you to leaf through books in a big library to find inspiration. You can do your research from the comfort of your own home. Find what your audience is interested in by going through the following:
- Go through iTunes podcasts
- Go through reviews of books in your core niche
- View popular niche relevant videos on YouTube
- Look at presentations on Slideshare
- Research more topic ideas on Quora and on sites like Answerthepublic.
With books, videos and other content, you get proven ideas you can use to create content around on. You could read reviews and comments to get a deeper idea of the topics that videos and books cover.
Amazon offers a free Kindle preview for most books. You can take a look at the table of contents on these books to develop an idea regarding what’s popular.
4. Use tools for content ideas
It’s only now we’re going to talk about tools. As said before, talking to your audience is the best possible way to get insights on what to write. When that’s exhausted, you can use tools to achieve the same thing.
Quora started out as a tiny question and answer platform. It’s gigantic today. Quora sports hundreds of thousands of questions on all manner of topics and ideas.
Here are questions around keyword research on Quora. In addition to finding inspiration, you could also answer these questions to generate some great traffic.
Just have a few keywords at hand and start researching them on Quora to find relevant discussion threads. You will get deep insights into the kind of content that’s popular now and how to create content that helps people.
Answer The Public
It’s another customer insight tool where you can enter a keyword and the tool returns several relevant questions around the subject.
The tool also pulls up suggested search snippets from Google and compiles them all together into a search cloud.
The questions look something like this:
The tool organizes questions into categories and gives a demographic overview of people searching for these questions.
You find out what your audience is asking and in what context. It doesn’t matter if you’re creating content for a b2b blog, an eCommerce site or a hobby blog. You can use Answerthepublic to find relevant things to talk about.
Organize what you glean into an excel or a sheets file and run those questions by Ahrefs to get even more phrases and ideas you can use.
With tools like Answerthepublic and Quora, you have a ready list of FAQ content you may want to use.
Buzzsumo is a great tool to identify trends around questions and phrases and what’s popular. When you research a keyword, the tool lists out social share counts for each and every post it finds.
It also finds out who shared the content. That means you can reach out to these influencers for quotes and more opportunities.
You also get to see the number of backlinks the post got, giving you ideas on who to reach out to, to get more links.
With Buzzsumo, discovering trending content on any subject is just a few taps away.
UberSuggest used to be a free tool but isn’t any longer. However, you can still plough around with a free account to gain insights into hundreds of different phrases.
The results are sorted by—their search volumes, their cost per click on Google and their organic keyword difficulty scores.
If you key in a topic you get the most relevant content on the said keyword. You can also do competitor research. You get an estimated amount of traffic the top pages on a domain get.
- You get a list of keywords the page ranks for
- You get the backlinks that the page has
- You get even more content ideas.
- Backlinks – how many people are linking to each article? Their URLs, domain scores, and even page scores.
Here’s a snapshot of the information you get with a free account.
To sum up, you get a ton of insights that let you create better content.
5. Find out popular topics and create satellite content based on them
I guess you already have some sort of tracking enabled for your website traffic. If not, why not?
When you want to publish new content you don’t have to look for inspiration far.
Your analytics is a proven resource of ideas that you know your audience likes.
Check your site’s analytics. If you’re using Google Analytics, here’s what you can do to get a better idea of what’s working.
Go to behavior>>site content>>all pages. Here decide the date range you want to apply. You could go back a day, a week, a month, a year or more.
Once you’re happy with the selection— scroll down to see blog posts by the number of pageviews. The list before you shows the most popular content on your blog for a selected date range. You can also see their bounce rate.
In addition, to get an idea of what’s popular on your site, you could also go through social media analytics.
Case in point— on your Facebook page go to Page insights>> followed by posts and scroll through the posts to determine reach and engagement. Similarly, you can find top performing content on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles.
What to do next?
Spend time analyzing top content. Based on the topics they cover—do additional keyword research and discover more ideas you can write about.
Also, find if your popular posts share a common theme or topic.
Discover if the content from one source is more popular than content from other sources.
- Does a particular format perform better?
- Does a certain content length speak better to your audience?
Based on the insights you glean you should be ready to churn out more content that’s bound to succeed.
It’s not just the pages that get the most traffic. It’s also pages that generate the highest time on page.
When on your analytics, it’s easy to get blindsided by numbers by focusing only on pages that get the highest traffic. Pages that generate great engagement too are important. The problem is—you may have great content but also sport a high bounce rate.
The reason? Pages that load slowly. That was the case with me. Once I fixed that, I was able to easily see which of my posts were performing well by focusing on the twin parameters of pages that get the highest traffic and also those that get the highest engagement. That should form the foundation of your content strategy.
6. Follow trends
Go to Google trends and discover even more ideas of popular and trending content around your core keywords.
This is called brainstorming.
When was the last time you brainstormed a list of content marketing ideas for your blog?
You just write whatever you feel like writing.
However, going through trends and search suggestions is a powerful method of coming up with interesting ideas and topics for your site.
List-making helps you branch out to related and relevant topics and this can be particularly helpful when you want to come up with a bunch of ideas you can use in your content.
Another thing to do is go to the bottom of a Google search page to see the keywords that appear under related searches. These are phrases that others searching for the phrase that you now keyed in too are asking about.
These topics are great to write about because they are semantically relevant to your core ideas.
7. Store your ideas somewhere
When you have gone through all the steps mentioned in this guide, I can assure you that you will have more ideas than you can use.
That’s a problem. Because you can’t use all of these ideas at one go.
That doesn’t mean they’re not worth it and you should dump them. List out all the ideas that came to you as a result of this research and keep them in a Google drive or sheets file.
Keep all your ideas organized. If you don’t like doing it online you can use a scrapbook to store all the ideas.
There are plenty of tools that let you copy snippets from Google search.
8. Get inspired by competitors
If you’re just getting started with content marketing, you have absolutely no idea about the kind of content that would work best. Or if content marketing will work at all?
To be safe there’s a proven way. Go through the content your competitors have written.
You may not know it yet, but the odds are high there are loads of competitors in your space. And looking around can get you more ideas than you can handle. Try and understand who’s creating terrific content. Narrow down to people who are getting results with their content.
You may already know the names of influencers in your space. Look at the topics they’re writing about. And then leverage their most shared articles to create your own content campaigns.
Use tools like SEMrush to do deep competitor research and analysis on top-performing content from your competitors. The basic premise is— great content doesn’t need you to reinvent the wheel. Blog posts aren’t the only content formats to use. You can also repurpose the content, syndicate content to different platforms, say by converting the blog post to an infographic for social media and more.
9. Improve on your competitor’s work
Once you have your competitors nailed and have a well-rounded idea of what’s working for them, proceed to the next steps. It isn’t enough to be inspired by content ideas and topics your competitors have written on and create content of the same wavelength. You need to improve upon their work and go all in.
How? What we do here is called the Skyscraper technique. We find out a competitor’s best content and then improve it by 10x.
We try to beat their content with even better content.
How? Some think that if a competitor’s post zips past 3000 words, adding 500 words to the post is skyscraping it. Not true.
If you want the content to perform by 10x, your content needs to be much better. Identify gaps in the competitor’s marketing strategy. Find out things that are relevant to the topic but they haven’t written anything on. Add more screenshots and graphics. If possible, add videos. Improve your content so that it looks, reads and feels 10x better. Turn blog posts into full-fledged landing pages rich with multimedia.
That’s called skyscraper content. This is content that you can be proud of, do outreach and get links for.
To do this successfully you need great writers and editors. David from BeOmniscient notes, “If content is cheap or free to produce, there’s a higher chance the content will be garbage (though not a certainty). That’s a simple lesson in content economics.”
Great content isn’t something you pick off Fiverr or from a writer who charges 2 cents per word. When you create content this way remember that it’s going to be a team effort so communication, content planning, and collaboration are must. Use a few of these tools to manage and run your content team.
How do you usually come up with ideas for content? Which of the proposed tactics from this list of 9 ideas do you like most?
About the author:
George is a writer and blogger who now blogs at Kamayo, where he shares his marketing journey online.