If you checked out our recent post titled Meet Your Content Marketing Team: Who Does What and Why?, then you were lucky enough to sneak a peek at how we choose the perfect topics for our clients’ blogs.
Unfortunately, it’s probably not what you were expecting.
We don’t sit in a big conference room brainstorming for hours on end while playing ping pong or tossing around a hacky sack.
Although this scenario might conjure up the creative juices, it’s not going to help what really matters: our target audiences.
You see, many companies adopt similar brainstorming sessions where one or two people from the team sit down and bounce ideas off each other to discuss what would make for interesting blog topics.
The team eventually comes up with a list of topics and then heads out to the trenches to write them, hoping that one becomes the next viral sensation or at least the sales equivalent.
But if that tiny brainstorming session is the only homework your team is doing as far as choosing topics are concerned, it’s highly unlikely that your awesome topic will go very far.
With the amount of articles being published each day (we checked: roughly 2.73 million posts), you’d be crazy not to spend more time on topic selection for your company blog.
Cue the moans and groans about having to do more work.
But the cliche about ‘working smarter not harder’ really holds true here. You don’t need to spend countless hours finding the perfect topic.
In fact, if you spend too much time brainstorming, you set your team up for ‘idea paralysis’, which is when you have too many ideas and end up freezing at the thought of which ones to tackle first.
So to help your team out, this article will show you how to narrow down the perfect topics for your company blog.
We promise that if you follow these tips you’ll be spending less than two hours generating a list of topics that could last your blogging team up to three months.
Identify Your Target Market
Although this should go without saying, many companies fail to pinpoint who their posts should speak to, i.e., their target audience.
Yes, in a perfect world, everyone would use and love your product or service. But we live in the real world, and this is not the case.
Spend some time narrowing down your company’s target audience and try to be as specific as possible.
Come up with customer avatars or buyer personas.
Even if your company has already narrowed this down (which they should have by now), revisit the characteristics of your target audience that you’ve identified.
Are they in their 20s or 30s or further along in life, let’s say their 60s and 70s? Does your company sell B2B or B2C? Are you addressing important CEOs with Master’s degrees or the average consumer who may not be familiar with technical terms?
This makes a difference in who you are speaking to.
Who you are speaking to is just as important as how you can help them.
Understand Your Target Audience’s Needs
At the heart of it, your blog (and business) should be focused on solving a problem for your target audience.
What problems do they face? What are their needs? How can your business help them?
Take some time to perform market research and learn as much as you can about your audience and the struggles they face.
You can even ask some of your customers for help with this. After all, they’re your target audience and you’ve already managed to solve a problem for them.
Conduct informal interviews with your best customers to understand how your product helps them. You may be surprised to find a topic idea or two from this conversation alone.
But what if your company is a new startup and you haven’t had any customers yet? Or what if you already have an established audience that may not be as engaged as you’d like them to be?
That’s where these next tips come in.
Instead of brainstorming ideas out of the blue, use the following resources to come up with solid topic ideas with proven track records of making an impact with customers and prospects.
Google’s Keyword Planner
Generate a list of keywords and possible topic ideas related to the product or service that you offer and run them through Google’s Keyword Planner.
Although this platform was created to give you an idea of the amount of searches performed for keywords connected to AdWords, it is extremely useful for choosing blog topics because you can see which keywords are being searched more than others.
Don’t focus on the specific keywords themselves; we’re not going to stuff them into our articles. Rather, using this tool gives you an idea of how many people are actually searching for the topic you’d like to write about.
Look for specific, long-tail keywords that contain around 3–4 words. These are usually questions or statements directly from your audience, so they’ll be much more helpful than a generic one-word keyword.
Create a list of the most relevant and highly-searched keywords connected to your topic.
Next, you’ll want to plug your list of potential topics into BuzzSumo, which is one tool that definitely falls into the ‘working smarter’ category.
With BuzzSumo, you’re able to run a search on the topics you found using Keyword Planner to see which ones turned into shareworthy content.
The platform gathers the amount of shares related to a specific topic across several different social media platforms.
Take a look at the second topic related to content marketing.
Notice how that particular article had 34 Facebook shares, 1 LinkedIn share, 17 Twitter shares, 28.2k Pinterest shares, and 14 Google+ shares for a total of 28.3k shares across all social media platforms!
So not only will this help you understand which topics performed better, but it will also give you valuable insight as to where the topic performed best.
Keep this second piece of information handy for after your article is published. Once it’s ready to be distributed to the masses, you’ll know exactly which social media sites to target.
BuzzSumo also has extra features connected to trending topics from the last 24 hours, week, month, or even 6 months so you’ll know if your topic was a fluke or if it’s truly a long-lasting hit.
BuzzSumo’s basic version is free, but the Pro version lets you dive into more details with influencers and content alerts.
Another way to find topics to write about is by visiting forums such as Reddit, Quora, or any other industry specific ones that you can find.
Forums are digital watering holes where your target audience goes to hang out when they need help on a particular subject.
In places like these, users submit questions relating to hundreds of topics in the hopes that someone has the answer they’re looking for.
Use these specific questions as topics for your blog since you already know that users need help on the issue.
Once your article is published, you can go back and spend time writing a well-thought-out answer in the forum that links back to the article on your site
Now you’re writing on a topic that people are already interested in, and offering help with your answer, which in turn solves a potential customer’s problem. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Repeat This Strategy Every Three Months
It’s best to come up with at least three months worth of topics at any given time. Although it may seem more productive to knock out a list of topics for the year, the market could change at any moment.
What’s relevant now may not be in 9 months.
So if your company wants to blog twice a month, come up with 10 topics and narrow down your best six. If the last four are worth it, you can carry them over for two more months.
However, after two months, revisit those last four topics to see if people are still as interested in them before you start writing. This ensures that your content is always fresh.
As with anything in business, a good strategy will get you much further than assuming you know what’s best. Take the time to research topics that your target audience will actually find useful and you won’t have to post every day in the hopes that one article will take off.
Focus on quality content that solves your readers’ problems and they’ll be back for more in no time.