If you want your content to be read by other people (and, let’s be honest, why else would you create it?), you need to do a significant amount of research.
How to research topics for blog posts
There are no shortcuts when it comes to researching topics for blog posts. Even if inspiration strikes quickly and you feel you’ve got the perfect post already bursting to get out, it’s vital that you take the time to plan exactly how you’re going to write it, the audience at which you’ll pitch it and the form it’ll take.
Great content has become increasingly important in the digital age, and it’s one of the main ranking factors (alongside links) when it comes to achieving a prominent position on Google.
However, as content marketing has evolved and become a more common marketing tactic, many have simply jumped on the bandwagon and started creating content for the sake of creating content.
It’s why, when we ask businesses why they’ve started a blog, they’ll often shrug their shoulders and say something along the lines of “well, we just thought we should”.
This kind of approach is highly unlikely to work. There needs to be thought, reason and strategy behind the stuff you create for the web if it’s to stand a chance of being effective. After all, if it never gets to be seen, the content you create on a whim will be of little use to your search engine optimisation (SEO) or sales efforts.
For content to be seen, it needs to rank organically on Google for specific keywords for which people are searching and attract shares on social media in order to drive more traffic from those platforms.
In this post, we’re going to consider how anyone with access to a laptop or tablet and an internet connection can research blog content that will rank well organically for keywords and be good enough to attract social shares.
Sometimes, the oldest tactics work the best, and brainstorming is a technique marketing departments have relied on for many years to come up with ideas for getting their products in front of as many eyes as possible.
You can do the same during your content planning. All you need is a big scrap of paper and pen (or something of the digital variety, if you prefer), a quiet room and a helping hand if you don’t fancy doing it alone.
Go wild and write down as many ideas as you can think of – even those which at first appear to be somewhat left field or downright bonkers.
Unload your brain; a gem will soon fall from it.
2) Use Google’s autocomplete
Google is far more than just a search engine. Canny content marketers have been using the internet behemoth for far more strategic tasks than simply searching for an answer.
In 2008, Google introduced autocomplete (which was later expanded to Google Instant in 2010). The premise was simple; users would start typing a search term as usual but be met with suggestions for how it might be completed.
The feature was so popular that we all now intrinsically use it when searching the web.
Autocomplete does two things:
- It speeds up searching on Google by reducing the amount of typing required.
- It makes suggestions based on what other people are searching for.
As a content marketer, you should be interested in the latter. Autocomplete uses a prediction algorithm to suggest search terms based on factors such as the popularity of keywords and the ‘freshness’ of search terms.
When researching blog topics, you can use autocomplete to find out what questions people are commonly asking in your niche. If you type in an idea you’ve had for a topic but no results appear, there’s a good chance you’ll struggle to find readers (because, clearly, very few people are searching for the topic in question!).
3) Related searches
Whenever you conduct a search on Google, you’ll be met with ‘related searches’ at the bottom of the listings.
Just like autocomplete, this is intended to help users delve further into the topic of which they’re searching, but it’s also a goldmine of information for content marketers.
If you’ve discovered a search term which looks promising, a quick glance at the related searches section will provide further insight into additional searches people are performing. It’s a great source of inspiration for new posts.
4) Competitor research
What are your competitors writing about?
You may feel that scouring the competition for content ideas is tantamount to plagiarism, but that’s not the case at all. Remember – you’re simply looking for inspiration that will lead you to write a completely unique, fresh take on a topic.
A word of warning, though. Don’t assume that the competition is getting it right with their content marketing campaigns, because they may have researched poorly themselves.
If you find a topic that sparks your interest on a competitor website, use the rest of the tips in this blog to see if they’re onto something. You can also check if their content was successful by asking the following questions:
- Is it ranking well on Google?
- Does it get likes and shares on Facebook and Twitter?
- Is it attracting links from other websites?
5) Good, old-fashioned keyword research
This is a no brainer, yet something many people forget to do when blogging for commercial purposes or to build a significant readership.
Just as you would do for the regular pages on your website, you need to perform thorough keyword research for your blog ideas. There are no special tricks involved, either – it’s just good, old-fashioned keyword research.
Thankfully, you can use your favourite keyword tools to do this, and while we won’t use this blog to go deep into keyword research, we’d recommend having a read through this post for some great advice.
6) Title- and topic-generating tools
We’ll start this tip with a caveat: there isn’t a single piece of software or website out there that will deliver the perfect blog post title for you with a single click of a button.
If that was possible, we’d all be doing it!
However, providing you’re willing to take the answers such tools give you with a pinch of salt and a healthy dose of common sense, they’re still worth taking a look at in order to fuel your inspiration.
Services such as Portent’s Content Idea Generator and Answer The Public will generate titles for you. They’re fun to play with and, occasionally, you’ll spot a gem of an idea among the more daft or irrelevant suggestions.
When you spot something that raises an eyebrow, delve in further by researching the suggested title. Use our other tips above to assess how popular the search term is on Google and whether or not the competition is talking about it.
Providing you discover that the idea is relevant to your target audience and appears to deliver decent search volumes, you may have hit on something.
Remember – if you fail to undertake the steps we’ve outlined above before creating blog content, you’ll risk the following:
- No one being able to find your content;
- People won’t be sufficiently engaged or interested enough to read, like or share your content.
Enjoy the content research process – it’s all part of the joy of content marketing!