When companies start their content marketing efforts, often the first question is, “Well, what should I write about?” Here are some tips and tools to improve your content marketing ideation.

Choose Your Goals

Content marketing can achieve many goals.  It can:

  • Attract links
  • Serve as an organic search landing page
  • Move customers further along in the sales cycle (from awareness to consideration; from consideration to short-listing; etc.)
  • Increase customer success and lifetime value

And more.

Depending on your goals, you’re going to want to choose a different system of ideation. 

  • For link attractive content, you’ll want to ideate creatively and appeal to link rich segments (like SEOs, web designers, or Apple enthusiasts)
  • Organic search landing pages will focus on keyword phrases used by your prospects
  • Content for the buying path will answer customer questions – pretend your best salesperson has been turned into a webpage
  • Customer success content will focus on answering questions from customers already using your product or service

You’ll also want to combine these use cases – for example, you might want top of funnel content that attracts links, or mid-funnel content that acts a search landing page for feature-level comparisons.

Knowing this, how do you generate content ideas?

Ask Your Customers

If you’re trying to move your customers down the sales funnel, or make them more successful with your products and/or services, the easiest way is to ask them. 

There are a number of scalable ways to do this:

Surveys

You can survey your customers and ask them if they have any questions.  At BuzzStream, we use SurveyMonkey to do this – it works very well.  They even have a free version.

Qualaroo

Qualaroo (formerly known as KISSInsights, is the little question popup you see in the lower right hand corner of this page.  You can use this survey tool to ask your visitors one quick question.

At BuzzStream, we’ve tested using the stock Qualaroo question – “What should we write about next?” against a question based on a pain point – “What’s the hardest part about link building?” We found that the quality and insight of the pain point-driven question is much higher than asking your customers and visitors what to write.

Ask Sales & Support

If you have staff members who talk to customers every day, ask them about the questions they hear the most frequently.  This content will not only inform your customers and prospects, but reduce support calls and improve the quality of your sales team’s conversations with potential customers.  (Justin Briggs wrote a great post about how they do this with game walkthroughs at Big Fish Games.)

Use Search Volume Data

If you’re making content for searchers, you can use search data to guide your topic selection.

UberSuggest

While going to Google and typing in terms related to your market without pressing enter is a useful technique, there is an amazing tool out there that does this for you: Ubersuggest.  Here is part of Ubersuggest’s results for ‘business intelligence’:

If you find a frequent search term that’s relevant to your customer journey (for example, if we look at the business intelligence results, we see ‘business intelligence framework’), you can use that as a basis for a blog post or a landing page.  

It’s worthwhile to check your own brand through this tool – you might find people are repeatedly asking the same question about your company to Google, or are repeatedly comparing you to a competitor. 

Google Trends

Google Trends is one of my next steps in evaluating content themes.  The tool gives you relative (not absolute) numbers about the popularity of certain search terms. You can also find ‘related terms’, which can generate even more content ideas.

The really valuable thing about Google Trends is how it can help you plan for the future.  As Wayne Gretsky said, ‘ I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.’  Because content marketing ROI is typically realized over a long period of time, you want the topics you write about to be more popular in the future, not less.  

Always Remember Searcher Intent

While utilizing search data is important, don’t make content choices by term and volume.  Every search represents a question – can you provide a relevant answer?  If not, maybe you should focus on another term.

The other side of this coin is making your search landing pages relevant.  Too often, I see SEO content that looks something like “We have a great selection of winter coats.  Winter coats keep you warm in the winter. With a winter coat, you’ll never be cold.  Check out our selection of coats for winter.” or something that provides a similarly poor user experience.

(I am suddenly transported to that scene in Full Metal Jacket, except people are yelling “This is my SEO Content.  There is much Content for SEO like it, but this SEO Content is mine. “)

Don’t be that website.  If you can’t create a good experience for a searcher on that landing page, think about choosing some other terms.

Ask yourself, “What relevant resources can I offer the searcher here? What knowledge are they seeking?  How can I both help them and serve my company’s needs?”  As Define Media Group’s Marshall Simmonds has said, “Every [landing] page should be a destination or a hub.”  If you can’t be a destination, consider being a helpful curated resource hub.

(Opening photo from AlexKerhead under Creative Commons)

How do you choose content marketing ideas?  Leave any thoughts or questions in the comments…

 

mattgratt

Matt works on customer acquisition at BuzzStream. Before BuzzStream, he worked as an SEO Strategist at Portent and a Marketing Manager at AppCentral (acquired by Good Technology). You can follow Matt on Twitter or Google Plus.

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