Last week we brought you the first pack of marketing hacks on how to come up with content ideas for your website and blog. Enjoy part 2!
Natalie Bidnick Andreas
Michelle Messenger Garrett
Laura Lopes - Runrun.it
Here in Runrun.it we work hard with content marketing strategy. In the past, we use to choose just some keywords - the same used for Adwords. After a deep analysis, we've started to create the content based on more keywords about our universe (leadership, career tips, productivity and people management) and which was highly searched in Google. Additionally, we picked up the blog post types which were more shared and/or with more conversion, and look at what our competitors and other websites were doing. This strategy has increased our audience by 45%, as the conversions also has increased the same rate.
Kara Kamenec - Gogotech
I’m an advocate of a strategy before tactics approach to content marketing. My team and I research not only keywords, but market trends, industry happenings, current news, as well as our target audience first and foremost. Understanding the personas of our target market and the keywords and trends we have to work with allows us to best shape our brainstorming sessions. Without this structure, I’ve found brainstorm sessions to be somewhat pointless. We can come up with ideas all day, but if the ideas don’t apply to audience and help us reach our goals they get tossed out as soon as we do our research. Therefore, we rely on our research to ensure we can provide the right content, to the right people, at the right touch points, and for the right reasons.
Jonny Campbell - FM Outsource
Essentially we do all of the above in a weekly content meeting. Every Monday at 9:30am we get together (me and 5 others) and we throw ideas out there. This gives us chance to discuss the ideas and implications. We can check if they’re relevant and on topic, we can make sure the field is marketable. The list is endless.
Once we have our ideas, I come into the fold. I specialise in PPC and SEO so I know how to make a website tick both paid and organically. I’ll look at the topic and pull out keywords for assessment. When I’m assessing them I am checking how viable they are in an organic search sense. I’ll check the relevance of the topic and anything else we can use – such as sporting/world events, a topic to link to.
So recently we covered a piece on Google AMP and its implications. I then decided to focus on the new Google Panda Update (as it caused a stir in the marketing/website world) and used that to pull in more organic traffic. The result was a 50% rise in traffic for that week – simply by adding keywords. We also employ outreach writers but we provide the keywords and they run away and write the piece.
Brittany Lawton - Colonie Chamber of Commerce
I use Answer the Public, which is an online tool where you enter a term (since I’m a digital marketer and communicator for my local chamber of commerce, I often search “social media,” “blogger,” and “small business) and it creates a visual of the Google questions that have been most searched with your term. It’s an awesome way to get into your ideal consumer’s mind and really answer their questions and address their needs with your content.
Also, if you join some online groups (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) that are filled with your ideal customers, you can directly ask them. “What is the number one thing you would like to learn about?” This is a great way to fulfill your customers’ needs with your content.
Jeremy Knauff - Spartan Media
I start with the overall strategy in mind—what is the client trying to accomplish? We never produce content just based on keyword research, trends, or a whim.
Our first step is to determine exactly who the influencers in their industry are and identify the problems those people are trying to overcome. Then we will develop a content strategy around solving those problems, usually planning 6-12 months worth of content in social media at a time.
We brainstorm topics by reviewing posts on industry blogs, and also take the time to dig through the comments sections because there is often a wealth of information there that's not going to show up in any keyword research tools. Forums, social media, and press releases can be another great source of ideas, but it takes a lot of work to filter through the noise.
Next we'll clearly define our client's customers and identify the problems they are trying to overcome, and develop 6-12 months worth of content and social media for them, as well.
Creating topic ideas that work for customers is a little different and takes a lot more work, but if you're willing to put in the extra effort, you can uncover opportunities that your competitors have missed. Answer sites, like Yahoo Answers and Quora, are a great place to start, but you can also find a lot of idea in the comments section for relevant products on Amazon as well as consumer review sites.
Finally, I use this data, along with traditional keyword research and data collected from sites like BuzzSumo to prioritize the development of the topics we've brainstormed. You can plan your content using Google sheets, then transfer individual items into a project management system like Basecamp or Trello to assign and manage the workflow.
Alex Kemmler - eBoundHost
I start with a few basic questions when I'm developing ideas for content.
- Who is in my audience? Who am I talking to?
- What does my brand stand for? What do we help people do?
- What does my audience care about? What are they searching for help with?
Looking at it this way, in a sort of bottom-up fashion, instead of wracking your brain trying to figure out yet another angle for a piece about your product or service category, can be really fruitful.
For example, we provide web hosting services for e-commerce. But not all of our content has to focus on web hosting - there are only so many "top 10 ways to speed up image loading" articles we can write. Looking at the customer's world instead of our own is a simple way to generate a lot more ideas.
Matthew Mercuri - Dupray
My name is Matthew Mercuri and I am the Digital Marketing Manager at Dupray. We sell steam cleaners and steam irons in six countries, on six different domains. Among other things that I do, I am an SEO and SEM specialist with 10 years experience, with specific focus on PR and Social Media. We spend 2 million dollars plus a year on Adwords and I have a small team of SEO/SEM-specific employees under my purview. Under my leadership at Dupray, I’ve increased web traffic by 500%.
One of the best things that I do for inspiring content marketing creativity while lacking inspiration is to take a light run outside. This kills two birds with one stone. Why? An elevated heart rate moves you away from laziness, and the things that you see outside spark thinking and curiosity. Thinking about the reasons why a bird flies can lead to a thought about soaring profits, which leads to another thought. Next thing you know, you have fifty article ideas lined up. Let your mind run wild! Surely, the worst thing in this whole experience is the first few steps…
David Vallance - Digital Impact
When we’re picking subject matter for a blog, video or infographic, we assess each individual topic against three general questions.
One, is it interesting to our current or potential users? This is the most important question to ask. If our content isn’t interesting, it’s never going to return results. Stop thinking about what you would like to read and start thinking about what your customers really want.
Two, are users going to be able to find it? While you can attract readers through tactics like influencer outreach and paid promotion, your content should continue delivering results without your help and that means it has to be organically visible. To maximise our organic visibility, we identify high traffic, low competition keywords and produce quality content around that keyword.
Three, has it worked before? Think of all your competitors as a dedicated research force, testing your market and discovering what sort of content works best. If a competitor tries ten different pieces of content before and come up with nothing, that’s ten pieces of content you should avoid. On the other hand, if they’re achieving outstanding results with a particular content formula, there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t steal it.
Mike Raines - Special Risk Term
I specialize in a niche area of the life insurance arena. I specialize in placing life insurance protection on individuals that most insurance companies do not. Therefore, my blogging consists of medical conditions, hazardous occupations or avocations that many insurance companies won't write coverage for. Most of my research and blogging consist of personal experience of knowing what risks insurance companies frown upon, but that some very specific carriers actually do very well with. Therefore, I target individuals with need for life insurance but have pre-existing medical conditions. By using keywords for those conditions, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. my target audience is located.
Alex Hrynkiewicz - Limelight Platform
Any high growth startup lives and dies by its content creation for both awareness and lead generation. In terms of process the content ideation process is centralized around how we can help our customers. So a great deal of our best content is not so much keyword targeted, but based on interviews with current customers. We cherry pick these interviews for successes and challenges that we can develop content from with instant credibility from those Fortune 500 companies. After the piece has been devised we bake in a keyword strategy for SEO purposes and then find outlets in the same field as our customer to pitch those pieces.
I'm a digital marketing consultant who has worked with more than 100 brands and professionals on improving their online presence.
My career involves coming up with fresh content for multiple brands in various industries on a regular basis. Below please find my top tips for content development:
Read, read, read. In digital marketing, it's essential to become a subject-matter expert in your clients' industries. For example, if my client is a dentist, then I read dental blogs and publications and become fully versed on what's trending in the dental health industry. Knowing an industry is a more well-rounded way to find content ideas - especially over keyword research.
Interview your client and prioritize their needs. What's important to your client or your client's boss? This can set the tone for the kids of content you create. Of course a client wants to make more money, but perhaps increasing web traffic through interesting content can show value.
Watch the competition. Never, ever steal ideas outright from a client's competition, but stay fully aware of their marketing successes and failures. For example, if a dental practice competitor finds obvious success in a giveaway campaign, it's a sign that your own client (or dental practice) could be more creative and reward loyal customers.
John Anthony - Radosta Advanced Sports Technology
As a digital marketer, the way I've built the content surrounding the blogs my company runs is a mix between two types a) keyword articles and b) press releases. Keyword articles are more or less articles written on a specific topic that pertain to highly searched terms pertinent to our product lines.. Press releases are more or less company updates that we want to our customers as to company happenings. There is an element of keyword research that goes into these as well, such as the one we just did on the AquaArm site about a new retailer we're working with, but the core focus on that is awareness.
Adam Busch - RentLingo
My strategy for content marketing:
- Research keywords that receive traffic worth writing for and create a target subject based on this research.
- Reach out to experts in the field for quotes. My favorite tool is HARO, however I also use Twitter. I'll also look at the top 10-20 searches for the keywords that I'm targeting and send out emails to these websites asking for a quote.
- By reaching out to experts, you are not only creating more interesting content, but you are building relationships with people highly likely to share your content.
- Once the content is complete, I reach out with a thank you and a link to our created content.
An example of my strategy: http://www.rentlingo.com/condo-vs-townhouse
Ford Kanzler - Marketing PR/Savvy
There are certainly a range of approaches to this. In the tech sector where I've practiced PR for many years, the essential thing is demonstrating specialized expertise. Likely this is true in many other sectors as well. But before attempting to develop content for various channels (a tactical activity), it's necessary for the company to have a communications strategy which focuses on differentiating their brand from competitors. What's particular about this company and/or is products that competitors either are not or cannot claim? How does the company want to be known in its market? Strategic questions like this need to be answered and agreed on before launching a communications campaign. With that in place, developing content ideas flow out in support of the differentiation claim. Having a strategy makes tactical planning MUCH easier and effective as well as saving time and money.
In developing content topics, I mine the expertise of the key personnel by listening and asking questions:
- What do they believe in passionately about their market?
- What do customers need?
- What's broken or out-of-date and no longer viable?
- What technology solutions should people be looking at?
- Where's the market heading?
- What's next?
Company leaders have to have a perspective on these area and be willing to offer their vision on business and technology dynamics. They know their market and customer pain points far better than I do. They have to be willing to put their ideas out there and put a face on the company to engage prospects and customers. Being controversial is especially valuable. Sharing knowledge about how and why to use a piece of technology in various ways is also.
"Content marketing" is just a recently made-up term for various types of sponsored media (books, films, videos, articles, newsletters, etc.) which has been done by PR pros since the early 20th Century
Tim Ohlrich - Straight North
The best way I have seen to create content ideas that are going to drive links and shares is to play off of past successes of others. In every industry there are sites out that that have done a great job of creating content that has acquired a ton of links and social shares.
What I like to do is find those sites and put them into my backlink tool of choice and look at their most linked to posts. Then I start looking at those posts to see if there is something missing in them. Is the post broken? Is the post just outdated? Is it designed poorly? Or is there a topic my client could parlay off of that is similar to what they did.
This approached has worked so well using because is that we are picking topics that have a proven track record on generating our end result (links/shares). Then by analyzing who actually links to that specific URL we have not only specific sites to pitch our updated piece to, but we have figured out who the overall target market for a post like this is. Then we can find more similar sites to it. We have uncovered tons of different groups to pitch to that we never would have thought of if we just went with our initial thoughts.
At the end of the day we are just trying to learn from what has done well in the past and do it better than they did. Most of the time well-designed, simple problem-solving content that is targeted at the right groups gets the job done. Not every idea has to be something no one has heard of before.
Will Blesch - Breakthrough Business Branding
You asked about how we come up with content marketing ideas.
Well, that’s the real trick, now isn’t it?
While there may be a ton of marketing professionals that reach out to reporters and bloggers, and who use research relevant Google keywords, I find that using an online survey helps create a laser-like focus in determining the direction of my team’s content marketing efforts.
Katherine Kotaw - Katherine Kotaw
I'm Katherine Kotaw, CEO of KOTAW Content Marketing in Los Angeles. I specialize in brand storytelling and use my background as a journalist to find story-based content. I read voraciously, everything from The New York Times to interesting, but little-known bloggers looking for trends or information that I can use to help make a client the thought leader in his industry.
How does this work practically?
Let's say a client is an interior designer. I start with a Google News search for terms relating to interior design.. Interior design itself is a broad term and not used all that frequently in news and feature stories. So I narrow the search to terms such as "kitchen makeover" or "luxury bathrooms." I also read publications relevant to interior design.
I always put the story before the keywords. When I find a good story, it's relatively easy to write it around keywords pertinent to a client. But I never force a story to align with keywords. Earning and retaining your audience's attention is more important than ANY keyword. If you write about topics meaningful to your audience, keywords easily find their way into your content.
Crystal Ignatowski - Surety Solutions LLC
My content marketing process is simple:
- Research what my potential customers would want to read (aka do buyer persona research)
- Blog/create content that answers their question(s)
Choosing the right keyword(s) is only one of the keys to successful content marketing. Therefore, keyword research for me sometimes comes before, but most of the time this is just to create a master list of starting terms. Since the company I create content for is super-niche, our keywords are all long-tail and easy to target and go after.
I don’t think about keywords; I think first about what’s going to interest, educate or entertain the target audience. I’m not a believer that everything you do in content marketing needs to be about education or drowning your audience in product messaging, nor that it should always be text-based or text-centric. I’m not suggesting branded cat videos; I am saying that B2B vendors can be a lot more creative than settling for yet another white paper or infographic promoted on SlideShare. For example, finding creative ways to engender more brand affinity with prospects is something way too many content marketers overlook. Depending on the content medium, keyword focus comes much later or not at all. It does play a huge part in the promotion activities, however.
Here’s an example. It’s a Dec. 2015 content marketing project for a client that makes a SaaS platform to manage intellectual property, such as patents, trademark and copyright. The origin of the content was simply thinking about the target audience, which is comprised of IP attorneys working in-house at innovative companies.
How could we do something 1. to stand out in an industry in which marketing is pretty unremarkable and unmemorable, and 2. that customers and prospects could share with their kids and connect what Mom or Dad do with something the kids could understand? Santa Claus, of course.
The result was the IP of Santa’s Sleigh. http://www.ipfolio.com/the-intellectual-property-of-santas-sleigh/
We printed and distributed 250 11’X17” posters to customers and prospects, did a little media relations outreach, LI group promotion and social media promotion. The keyword research factored into the promotion of the digital version of the poster. Overall, a very successful project that we repeated for Super Bowl 50 in February 2016.
John Kinskey - AccessDirect
We have recently begun writing to our customer's pain points as culled from past case studies we have done. Those pain points naturally play to our key words. We try to first write to topics we think our small business audience will find useful or interesting and from there, the keywords flow naturally with the topic. We then promote some of our posts via social media in an effort to gain exposure to other small businesses that may be able to relate to the topic. We particularly like facebook for the ability to micro target content to a vertical market, i.e. other financial planners.
Katie Schwartz - Business Speech Improvement
I'm a speech coach for business, specializing in workplace communication. I come up with ideas by observing what I see around me in daily life, or sometimes after reading various media and learning about common issues. After experimenting with different types of blogs, e-newsletters, etc, I found that I get the most readers by simply updating my LinkedIn's profile update with a 2-3 sentence daily tip, called a "Talking Tidbit". What matters to my readers are the frequency and relevancy of my tips.
Kaleigh Wiese - Garment Exchange
I am CEO & Co-founder of Garment-Exchange.com a peer-to-peer women’s nationwide clothing rental community. As a 2-sided online marketplace, we are creating fresh content for both wardrobe owners and wardrobe renters. We have a broad target audience on top of that (women 18-34), with different fashion tastes and sizes.
To begin, we typically do Wine Mondays in the office, where we stay late and brainstorm content ideas based on certain groups (i.e.: bloggers, moms, students, working women) — we then talk about words they are using on social media, and what imagery those groups are interacting with. We then test the market by throwing the words and imagery to our potential audience through Facebook ads, Instagram posts, and social networking. We then study our analytics hard. We determine where they are clicking and what they are actively responding to — then we push more into those successful content strategies more constantly using those successful channels.
We have seen huge results utilizing analytics to refine rapidly how our new users joined the Garment Exchange community.
Mark Aselstine - Uncorked Ventures
When I create content I try and find ideas in 3 basic places. First and foremost, anything that comes up in our day to day work, or meetings with others within our industry (wine) is our main focus. Secondly, anything that a customer asks about, or anything we see being talked about in terms of wine on social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc) or on Q&A sites like Quora or Yahoo Answers. Lastly, we do read and research on other wine blogs and through a number of industry specific portals and email lists
Victor Tang - Sage Software
Once I have a topic I want to write about, I typically use a combination of Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends. Keyword Planner helps me to understand what other keywords would be relevant for the content I’m creating, while Google Trends helps me understand the seasonality of what I might be writing about. The two together helps paint a cohesive picture of what impression volume I can expect on a given subject.
Anna Lebedeva - SEMrush
My name is Anna and I am the PR Manager at SEMrush, the world’s leading competitive intelligence suite and all-in-one platform for digital marketing professionals.
It really depends on the specific situation. If I want to create an article for a specific outlet or blog, the first thing I do is investigate their content and topics that the media covers. I would pay attention to the articles that received the highest engagement. After that, I would write to the editor and provide a short brief on a possible topic and wait for their comments.
Sometimes I do write posts without a preliminary agreement with any media outlet for publication. This usually happens in a situation where the topic I would like to develop into a post is of great personal interest. In this case, after I finalize my article, I contact media representatives that would most likely be interested in publishing it.
Also, your current or potential customers can be a valuable source of content ideas. Keep up with the questions they’re asking about your brand or the problems they face, then write a post that answers their questions and solves their problems.
Another way to look for trending topics is to monitor your competitors’ mentions. This could help you investigate the topics they’ve successfully covered and for which they’ve managed to receive positive feedback from their readers.
Do keyword research with any digital marketing tool available. This will not only allow you to find relevant keywords, but it will also provide you with valuable information about their popularity over time. Also, it will help you to discover relevant topics for future posts.
Anna Lundberg - Crocus Communications
The optimal content mix can be found in the sweet spot between what you as a brand or business want to communicate, and what your customer wants. On the business side, I’ll look into the brand equity, the story of the founders, the ‘why’ behind the business, the product or service, the lifestyle around it, and so on. On the customer side, I’ll look at search queries using Google Keyword Planner, check Amazon or similar reviews for customer insights, and run surveys or conduct studies if required, in order to understand the questions that our customers may have that we can answer with our content.
Based on this research, I’ll come up with a number of content themes, each with a set of sub-topics. Once I have these content themes, I’ll look into the distribution of this content i.e. where should each type of content live (on the website, on Instagram, on YouTube, etc.) and in what format (text, images, video). With this strategy in place, I can then go ahead and brief the content creation i.e. blog post writing, image shooting, video editing, and so on.
Amanda Collins - The Grammar Doctors
I first talk to the client to determine their FAQs, target market, and USP. We also look at four different broad categories of the business and go deeper into those to choose topics. Then I run Google Alerts on the keywords and topics we discussed, which is where I get the final ideas and supporting "evidence."
Michelle Messenger Garrett - Garrett Public Relations
I tend to do my own research and then write the blog post. I usually have an idea of what I want to write about (I keep an idea file). I sometimes reach out to colleagues to ask a few questions, depending on what the topic is, or I’ll ask for input via Twitter. For clients, I follow the same process. They usually have an idea of the topic, so I’ll either research it on my own or they’ll provide some info and perhaps a person to interview. Then, I write the post.
Khuram Zaman - Fifth Tribe
As a business, the best way to do develop content strategy is by focusing on the target audience. The first thing we for our clients is by doing a user journey map wherein we define who the main stakeholders are, their goals, and how our client's product or services can help them achieve these goals. Once we have a customer profile developed, we develop a draft of keywords and use organic search to see what related terms we should also add to our keyword list. We also identify potential influencers that display during the search results. Next, we spend a small amount of ad budget on Google, Facebook, and Twitter to see what sort of clicks and conversion rates specific keywords generate. Based on the best performing keywords, we generate themes and content to post via their various channels (blog, social media, email, etc). Once the content has been generated, we then launch an influencer outreach campaign and get the content distributed far and wide. We rely heavily on analytics and constantly adapt our content marketing in real-time.
Shaun Walker - HERO|farm
Take a Stand, Use the News
One great way to come up with content marketing ideas is simply to take a stand. By "take a stand", I'm saying find a meaningful connection between a timely event and you/your business, service or product - then pounce on it.
Constantly scan the news and see if there is any way you can hook yourself onto a developing story and how doing so will benefit the public. This way, you take an interest in something that has already garnered headlines. If you take a stand with the story or issue you can become a first mover, and then you easily become a shaker.
Here is an example of one my New Orleans-based agency did for a client with almost no budget. While it was web-based, it was a local company and could easily be done with a similar idea to generate traffic and spur sales:
Back in 2009, the New Orleans Saints were having one of their greatest seasons. And when the NFL began suing local New Orleans companies and people over the useof "Who Dat" the entire region got up in arms. New Orleans was in a heavyweight battle with the mighty multi-billion dollar machine known as the NFL for ownership of the phrase “Who Dat.” That phrase is ours and we weren't going to let it go.
One of our clients, a new local version of Snapfish that lets customers print pictures and personalize books with local flavor, needed to connect with the community and Saints fans on an emotional level and give support during their struggle to retain a piece of New Orleans culture.
We positioned the client as a preserver of New Orleans memories and associated the company with defending the city’s heritage. We utilized our tip by creating a Facebook page entitled "Who Dat Nation Preservation Project"
The Who Dat Nation Preservation Project was created to allow fans the opportunity to immortalize their fandom through the client's online memory saving services.
From Jan. 27 to March 30, 2010, the WDNPP gained 1,921 fans and had 1,330 interactions. In that time, the client's website saw 2,787 unique visits and 5,081 page views with over 300 new user profiles created in two weeks. The WDNPP even appeared in an article by the local New Orleans newspaper documenting defenders of the Who Dat Nation. We still use the page and as of today has over 2,400 fans.
To sum up our last two articles; solid content marketing should be the foundation of your online strategy regardless of whether you need digital marketing for a franchise or SEO for your small business.