Your website needs content. Your pages need to be filled out with sparkling prose that includes just the right amount of keywords. And most of all it has to be engaging – you have to write what your audience wants to read.
The rules of content marketing are pretty easy to put down on paper, and they’re pretty easy to understand too – you write content that people like and they’ll comment on it and share it, and those actions then lead to more people coming to your site and reading your stuff. You get more traction via social networks through the extended reach and you rank higher in Google because people are visiting your site and linking back to your posts. Simple, right?
But it’s not that easy, is it?
It’s one thing to say ‘write great content,’ it’s another thing to actually write great content. You need a level of writing talent, for one, but more than that, you need to have an idea of what your audience wants to read and the type of information they expect to see from your brand. And it has to be focussed too. You could post cute cat pictures all day and get a heap of Likes, but that’s not actually driving potential customers towards making a purchase.
So you need a plan, you need to know what content will be of most relevance to your target audience and will help build your brand as a trusted source of information in your niche. Where do you start? Here are a few ideas.
1. Start with Your Industry
One of the easiest, most basic ways to start your research into what your audience wants to know and is interested in reading about from your brand is to use an app called BuzzSumo. BuzzSumo is a freemium product, meaning elements of it are available for free, but to access their more in-depth tools you’ll need to subscribe. Using BuzzSumo’s content research element, you can enter in any topic – for example ‘fish’:
Image source: BuzzSumo
…and BuzzSumo will show you the most shared posts, based on social media shares, around that topic. You can filter the list by date (on the left side of the screen above), by language, country or city, even content type so you can get an idea of what’s being most discussed amongst your target audience.
Using this, you can enter in all your brand’s keywords and terms and get an idea of the key topics of discussion, then use that to fuel your own blog posts. If you have time, you can do a search of the top posts from the last 24 hours, every day, and put a quick post together based on trending topics. You’ll likely have thoughts and opinions on all the main issues in circulation, and seeing them listed like this will spark those responses in your mind and enable you to cover such issues on behalf of your brand, helping establish your position as a leading voice in your field.
2. Check in on Your Competitors
Another great element of BuzzSumo is that you can search by domain. So if you wanted to know what the most shared content from Red Bull is, you could do a search of their website.
Image source: BuzzSumo
…and it’ll show you the most shared content from that domain.
Where this comes in particularly handy is in competitor research. You can enter the domain of any of your competition and get a complete listing of the content that’s worked – and not worked – for them. This can help in planning, as you can use their experiences as a guide for your own content strategy.
You can also search for what providers in your industry from other nations have shared that’s worked for them – they might not be your competitors, but you can still learn from their efforts, and that may help maximise your own audience engagement.
3. Ask Your Customers
Of course, the best way to know what will resonate with your specific target audience is to hear it from them.
There are various, inexpensive, ways you can do this. The first point of call would be your staff – ask your customer facing personnel what the most commonly asked questions are and compile a list that you can then use to fuel your content. Go online and look at the comments amongst your Facebook community members and Twitter queries – are there any recurring questions that could be answered in a blog post or two? And you can also use your existing e-mail marketing list, in conjunction with something like Survey Monkey, to get responses from the people who already do business with you.
This is a great way to build a better understanding of the key issues and topics your audience wants to know about.
4. Research Your Keywords
How people search for you online is a crucial indicator of what they’re looking for from your brand. You should make yourself aware of not only of the search terms that people use to find your site, but also the searches they conduct in conjunction with those terms to get an idea of the further context around those searches.
One option for this is Google’s built-in Keyword Planner Tool, which is part of Google AdWords (note: you don’t have to make an ad to use it, but you do have to sign-up for an account). Using Google’s Keyword Planner Tool, you can enter in your search term and Google will come back with a listing of other terms and topic groups related to it.
Image source: Keyword Planner Tools
This is great for getting ideas on how your keywords are being searched, and may highlight areas you’d not thought of previously. Another tool for conducting this type of search is Keyword Tool.io, which does the same thing, but in a different format.
Image source: Keyword Tool
You can also click on the ‘Questions’ tab to see what the most commonly Googled queries are in relation to your term/s.
This is a great way to get more perspective on what information your customers are seeking from your brand, which you can then add to your list of potential topics to cover for your blog.
5. Facilitate Interaction With Your Content
The more questions people ask, the more data you have to work with. In this sense, encouraging participation with your blog content through comments – either on the blog itself or via your social media properties – can be a gold mine of information. But people won’t comment unless they feel you’re listening, and that you’re genuinely interested in hearing what they have to say.
Including a call-to-action (CTA) on your blog can be a great nudge in the right direction. Various studies have shown that having an explicit call-to-action can increase interaction, and conversion; significantly, people just need to know what you want them to do. In terms of feedback, putting a simple note like:
“What do you think about the latest changes to fishing regulations? Let us know in the comments below”
At the end of your post can be a great spark to get people talking. But you have to be listening. People won’t be inclined to comment if they don’t think you actually care, so it’s important that you acknowledge and respond to all comments (within reason) to show your community that you value their contributions. You should also ensure your comments are moderated and approved in good time to encourage interaction. The more back-and-forth you can get in the comments, the better, so definitely use a CTA and respond to comments as soon as you can to prompt further discussion.
6. Re-Purpose Your Content
The final tip I’d offer on working out topics for blog content is to not neglect the added value of re-purposing. Jason Miller, the Content Marketing Manager at LinkedIn, refers to his approach as ‘Big Rock’ content – where you work to build one big piece of content around a specific idea then filter off various, smaller pieces of content on the back of that one big pillar.
For example, you might do a big post on fishing regulations and the logic behind them. Then you might be able to make an infographic out of that content, too. Maybe you can do a SlideShare presentation based on the key points. There’s a huge amount of options available through which you can present your information – if your audience responds better to certain kinds of media, work with that and use your blog as the backbone of those efforts, informing the pieces that contribute to your whole content ‘meal’.
Image source: http://www.slideshare.net/Jasonmillerca/searchmetrics-search-engine-journal-seo-content-analytics-conference
And that’s it – six simple, easy tips to help guide you on your way towards building a content plan that will help fuel consistent ideas and keep your blog content fresh and relevant to your audience. Once you put some of these into effect, you’ll work out the best processes and practices for you and you’ll expand your ideas on what you can achieve with your blog and material. But the important part is to be consistent, to have a plan down that you can follow to keep your posts flowing through. It takes time to build an audience online, they have to get to know you and know to check back in when you have fresh content. Start with these ideas, stick with it, and the rest will get easier over time.
Do you have any other ideas on how to fuel content planning?