I hate to tell you, but Googling “blog topic ideas” is not going to give you the content you should be creating.
Not all content is created equal. Letting the internet tell you what to blog about leads to mediocrity. Mediocrity is fine in some cases, like forcing yourself to show up at the gym at 5:00 p.m. when you’d much rather call it a day. But if you’re going to try and stand out in the very crowded search results page, you won’t stand a chance.
The reality is, it’s hard
The web is overrun with companies that have bigger budgets than you and can churn out content every day. Meanwhile, you’re lucky to get a blog post out once a month. Where you put your time can make or break your digital efforts. How do you compete? What content will grow your traffic month after month and year after year?
If you’re going to put your time into creating and promoting a blog post, and hope to get results, you owe it to yourself to figure out what you’re best suited to blog about.
Forget the 50 handy tools and blog topic lists
The internet will say: “Just research topics using these 50 handy tools and you’ll get a ton of ideas!” That’s cancelled. Slogging away with topics every week for three-plus years taught me that this advice — though well-intentioned — quickly wears thin. Especially if your topic or industry is niche.
So here’s what I would recommend instead:
- Figure out what your people care about
- Find where the magic happens
- Keyword research your topics
- Brainstorm, categorize, and prioritize
And that’s what we’ll cover. It may take a little more time, but it will give you ideas and direction you can use for months.
Figure out your people
The best way to find blog topic ideas is to look at your audience. What are their pain points, concerns, and obsessions when it comes to your products? Easier said than done sometimes, but chances are you already have at least an inkling on why they choose you. So start there and backtrack.
If you’re lucky, you’ll have some research or set personas to use. If you aren’t, make do. The point isn’t to get hung up on idealizing your audience, or nailing down that brand of tofu sausage they like. The point is to nail down their pain points and desires and move on.
Think about your best customers: How are you helping them live their best life? What are you helping them solve? What frustrates them about your line of services? When do they realize they need someone like you?
Take the time to understand the people that currently buy from you. So you can find more of them. In some cases, finding your audience is easy. In other instances, your audience is really diverse, or you just want what your neighbor’s having. Getting the perfect audience persona isn’t super important. Just get a good enough portrait, and move on.
Find where the magic happens
I barely passed math in college but one thing I did get was Venn diagrams. Two circles, and the magic is where they intersect, cool.
When mulling over what to blog about, I use this type of diagram to decide what I am best positioned to talk about. On the left would be the audience interests and concerns that you figured out in the previous step. On the right, your expertise. In the middle, you get a set of themes that you can specialize in. This doubles as the position you can take in your customer’s world. If you can pinpoint a mix of exciting, aspirational, and realistic themes here, that’s best.
It’s one thing to know what your audience likes. But chase that, and you’re competing with Medium or Buzzfeed.
It’s another to know what you’re good at talking about. But chase that, and you’re talking to yourself.
The magic is finding the spot where your audience’s interests and yours intersect.
During a recent workshop, a woman asked me, “I’m a photographer, and the people who like to work with me are outdoorsy — so are you saying I should create a blog post on hikes in the area?”
Don’t do that.
There are a lot of websites out there that are way more invested in writing about hikes than you, and chances are they have more authority in that topic.
My reply to her: “How about creating content around the most photographable hikes in the area? You can create one blog post for Instagram, another for portraits, and even another one for engagement photos!”
The point is not to create content just because people care about X, Y, or Z. Ask yourself what you are best equipped to talk about, and how that intersects with your audience's interests. The more specific, and more unique to you and your audience, the better.
Keyword research your topics
Once you know your sweet spot, think about general topics and plug those into a doc or spreadsheet. Then pull those ideas into your favorite keyword research tool. I generally start with a list that has one root word, and export out different keyword ideas using a few tools. As I get more ideas, I plug those in, export, and build a small but healthy list to work with.
There are a couple of tools worth investing in to get this information (and some free options, too). Because I believe in a simplified approach to tools, I recommend:
- A keyword research tool like Moz, SEMrush, or Keywordtool.io
- A content research tool like Answer the Public, or Buzzsumo
- A bonus tool like Ubersuggest or good old “People Also Ask”
Rank your bounty by monthly search volume, keyword difficulty, and social interest. Then, cherry pick the topics you want to tackle for the quarter.
Don’t be disheartened if your key terms are competitive. It’s the 2020s — anything worth anything is competitive. The goal is to start creating content that will pay off over time, while you grow your domain authority.
Word of caution: the topics you pick should be in your sweet spot and help your readers live their best life.
Brainstorm, categorize, and prioritize
Once you've defined the themes that can anchor your content efforts, use these four categories to help you pick topics within those areas. I like to think of this approach as a pyramid where you cover all the obvious “duh” questions before moving on to the sexy stuff.
Think about topics that would apply in each of these four sections, starting with the largest, general foundation category.
- Evergreen content relates directly to the product or industry. These are the questions people ask day in and day out. At face value, the keywords may seem like small fish — i.e., they only get 800 to 1K monthly searches. But if they are aligned with your topic, then you very much want to answer these questions. If you don’t, someone else will. Ultimately, the goal of content is to bring in website visitors who are researching your product or service.
- Original research answers a question or provides insight for an area closely tied to what you do. It’s premium content (long form blog posts, supporting guest posts) that takes more resources to create than a typical blog post, but helps build domain authority. This content hopefully helps you get links from reputable sources and is also fun to work in.
- Trends and timely content are blog posts that aim to generate buzz, capture attention, and may aid in link building, but tend to be short-lived. These are topics that are in your sweet spot and hot right now. Jump on these seasonally.
- Lifestyle content is blog content on topics that relate to company values and will connect with readers. Yes, it’s nice to show the human side of your business, because people buy from people they like. But I’d rather have a post that answers my questions over a post showing me cute dog photos, you?
What might seem like basic info to you might be a totally new revelation to your potential audience.
I've built a blog to attract over 100K monthly visitors, and one thing I learned was that the content that brought us traffic month after month was the basic stuff. The simple, how do I figure out ______ stuff.
And chances are your blog (or website for that matter) lacks this “beginning of the buyer’s journey” content. If you think everybody knows this stuff, they don’t. You’re probably too close to it — I’ve been there, too.
Questions you can ask yourself to get going:
- What are some common questions that your audience asks? What are the solutions you can give them?
- How would you explain this concept to your grandma, or a kid?
- What is a cool trend with __________ that is worth investing in?
- What do you wish your best customers knew about __________?
Sources of information you can also look at:
- Trade pubs (for ideas that can be repurposed for the general audience)
- Events (for ideas that can be super timely and relevant to a select audience)
- Influencers in your space (for ideas on what your audience gravitates to)
Ideally you’ll have a mix of topics on the pyramid to choose from, each quarter. Schedule those. I’ve used Google Sheets, or Trello. The cool kids use Airtable — whatever floats your boat and helps you get your content out.
Eyes on the prize
Blog traffic growth should pick up speed over time. If you build your content accordingly, it will. Determine the point where your interests and your audience interests intersect. Find topics that cater to that sweet spot by answering common FAQs. Add original research seasonally, and sprinkle in some trends and lifestyle content.
When you create blog topics that are more in line with your brand and your strengths, and that match what your audience is looking for, you are much more likely to stand out in a crowded space. The internet is hella crowded — to differentiate and appeal to customers, you need to “do you” best.
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