Creating killer blog topics is no easy task— and if anyone knows this firsthand, it’s the team at Audience Ops.
In our post How to Pinpoint the Perfect Topics for Your Company Blog, we showed you the step-by-step process that we use to find the best topics for our clients. The good news is that this process works really well.
We’ve seen engagement with our posts and we’ve had lots of positive feedback from our clients. This tells us that our process is a great starting point.
But we couldn’t stop there; we knew that we could push our topic selection process even further. So for the sake of our target audience, we did.
We overhauled our topic selection procedure and came up with an improved strategy for developing awesome topics for our clients.
Now at this point you may be thinking that if our first process worked so well, why are we still here talking about developing topics for your audience? That’s a great question.
We don’t spend extra time on things just for the sake of doing so. We constantly strive to perfect our processes and make them stronger for our clients.
So that’s what we did.
And we’re here to share this new process with you in today’s article so you can do the same for your company blog.
One thing to note: we haven’t changed our original procedure; we’ve added to it and we’ll explain why in this post. But if you haven’t checked out our first article, now’s a good time since we’ll be building on the lessons in that one today.
Step 1: (Re)Evaluate Your Target Audience
Before you dive into choosing better topics, you should give yourself (and your team) a refresher on who your target audience is.
Check out the customer avatars you created from our first article and ask yourself:
- Has anything changed?
- Have you learned anything else about your customers’ needs that you didn’t know before?
These two points and your original customer personas should be considered before moving on.
Remember, since your goal should be providing your reader with something of value, it’s important to understand exactly who you’ll be talking to and what their needs are.
Step 2: Create Categories Before Choosing Topics
When choosing topics, we learned that it’s actually best (and easier) to create categories that describe general post themes first. These themes are directly related to the needs of your target audience. Once that step is complete, then—and only then— you can jump into topic selection.
You’ll want to create a handful of broad categories (5–6) based on issues that your target audience may need help with.
For each category you create, add a one-sentence description or a ‘why’. Your ‘why’ could answer questions like: Why would my reader care about this? or Why would this be valuable to my reader?
To keep things neat and tidy, it’s a good idea to create a Google spreadsheet that lists details about your customer personas, categories, and topics in different columns.
You should also assign a different color for each category that you create. Color coding your categories is not only fun and easier to read, but it also helps you quickly see if you’re rotating your categories evenly.
Go ahead and jot down the categories and descriptions you came up with on your Google spreadsheet and keep them in mind as you look for topics.
Step 3: Topic Selection & Research
Sticking with the categories you created in Step 2, you can find specific topics that relate to your target audience’s needs using the tools we mentioned in our first article. Google’s Keyword Planner, BuzzSumo, and questions found in forums such as Reddit and Quora are perfect places to find ideas for your blogs.
This step hasn’t changed.
You’ll still need to spend a good amount of time scoping out what your readers are searching for and relevant questions they may have in forums.
Choose around 6–8 topics at a time if you publish around two articles a month. This gives you a 3 month supply. Once you run low on topics, you can repeat this process.
Here’s where things have improved:
Each time you find a topic that seems like a gem for your readers, fill out a chart similar to this one to really gauge if the topic is worth using
Ask yourself: “What problem or question is this article solving?” Write down any helpful notes next to that answer like we did in the example image above.
The notes you add should give you a sense of direction for the article. This way, when you go to write the actual article—sometimes two months later— you’ll know exactly where to take it.
Step 4: Create an Editorial Schedule & Collaborate with Your Team
As you can see from the example above, you’ll also need to add a target Publish Date column to your spreadsheet to keep your team on schedule.
By filling out your publish date, you’ll be building an editorial calendar to streamline the posting schedule of your company’s blog. Everyone on your team will be able to see the next topic coming up and the direction the article is going to take with a simple glance at the spreadsheet.
Sharing this information and your notes is great for collaboration and minimizes confusion. Plus, it opens your team up for constructive brainstorming.
At AO, we like to use a 5-star rating system for each topic we come up with. A perfect 5-star rating means the topic and problem/question solved are good to go. But a 1-star rating means the article’s topic has been overused or lacks a unique angle.
Here’s what our full rating system looks like:
Share your topic chart with your team and ask them to rate the topics from 1–5, with five being the highest mark. Go back to the drawing board to come up with a better angle for any topic earning a 3 or below.
This little exercise shouldn’t take long, but it may give you some valuable insights or ideas that you may not have considered.
Plus, it’s always helpful to have a second set of eyes just to make sure your topics are worth exploring.
Readers are inundated with content these days, so it’s important to stand out by giving them something of value – this is how you make your company’s blog a success.
Taking these extra steps when choosing blog topics ensures that your content marketing efforts are not wasted. With better topics, your audience will be more likely to read what you have to say and more likely to take action, since they won’t be able to find this information anywhere else.
We’ve found this to be true with our own blog and we’re certain that any business’ blog will benefit from these strategies too.