Want to create content people are looking for, but running out of ideas? Here are 7 ways to come up with great blog topics that your audience wants to read and share.
1. Discover What Your Audience Is Watching
YouTube is the second biggest search engine. What’s your target audience watching?
The YouTube Trends Dashboard gives you the power to search videos by viewers’ country, age, and sex, and you can browse the most viewed videos of the last 24 hours uploaded within 28 days. I admit that the dashboard leaves some additional functionality to be desired (can I get some more filters for views, date uploaded, keywords, and length?!), but you can still gain valuable insight to what’s hot now as well as any emerging trends.
Once you know what your audience is watching, here are a few easy ways you can use videos to put together an article your audience will want to share:
- Create a blog post featuring a popular video as the primary content, a catchy title, and share it via social media. Seriously, how often have you clicked a YouTube video on Facebook just to watch it on a third-party site like this one? Upworthy and Gizmodo’s entire sites follow this model.
- Use imgflip or another YouTube-to-GIF converter to make a listicle borrowing from popular videos (BuzzFeed anyone?). Be forewarned, GIFs live in a world of legal ambiguity, so proceed at your own risk.
- Replicate the video’s format and strengths in a way that’s relevant to your business. Your audience is already primed to like it! Not sure where to start? Watch Rand Fishkin explain the decisions behind the production of Moz’s Whiteboard Friday series or “How to Make a Sick Mountain Bike Edit” for inspiration.
2. Provide a Counterargument to Trending Articles
Want to capture the viral buzz of a trending topic and give it a spin of your own? Take the other side of the argument and stir up controversy by responding to a popular article.
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When Matt Cutts warned that you should stop guest blogging for SEO, a wave of articles proclaiming “guest blogging is dead” flooded marketing blogs. Yet, if you search that exact phrase, you’ll find an article by Elisa Gabbert titled, “3 Reasons Guest Blogging Isn’t as Dead as Matt Cutts Says It Is” near the top of the results.
Search rank aside (as impressive as it is), her article peaks interest because it provides a counterpoint to a popular topic. As SEOs, we want to know why we might be able to keep guest blogging.
Another thing that makes Gabbert’s article so successful is the timeliness of her post. She published it the same day as Cutts’s announcement (January 20th, 2014). Had she waited until today, her audience might not have the same level of interest.
Tap into your audience. Follow their other favorite sites on Twitter and Facebook and watch for an emerging trending topic. Then, create content with the opposing point of view and share it with them. Even if the audience doesn’t agree with you, they are primed to engage, share, flame, and comment.
3. Create Your Own Data
Data-driven articles make great references for other pieces and encourage sharing. Sure, you can go through public datasets and gather information to weave together with a cohesive narrative, but so can everyone else. You can create your own dataset for free by following anything that you can track that fluctuates and changes over time.
I recently used this technique to search for the price of various Las Vegas hotel prices by month using Hotels.com’s search engine. I then used the data to create an infographic showing that January has the lowest hotel prices in Sin City. You can use the same technique to track temperatures, airfare prices, Google estimated commute times, or just about anything else.
4. Search for Editorial Calendars
Want a link from Inc.com? Check out their editorial calendar to see what topics to target. You can find valuable information including monthly themes, examples, and due dates for the entire year. Want to promote your business? Share your “aha” moment with Inc. by 5/29/14 to be considered for summer publication.
You can find the editorial calendar for most major publications. I primarily search in one of two ways. First, try searching for “[publication name] editorial calendar.” You’ll be surprised how often you’ll find a link directly to a site’s calendar. The second place to look is in a company’s media kit. Often times, you’ll find an editorial calendar tucked behind an advertising rate card and sponsorship opportunities.
Once you know what a site wants to publish, craft an article on the subject to pitch as a guest contribution. Or better yet, put together an article for your website that would make a link-worthy reference on the subject that might interest the site and their contributing authors.
5. Google Plus Communities
Don’t ignore the value of Google Plus for SEO. Stop focusing solely on Facebook and Twitter for audience research and earn more +1s by targeting the right audience.
Google Plus gives you the ability to filter searches by people, pages, communities, photos, hangouts, events, and your circles. The default search view, however, provides extensive insight to the best performing posts across media types. A quick scroll through the feed allows you to see what content, people, and pages receive the most +1s and shares.
Try creating content that addresses an already popular post (or write a counterargument as described above) and reference your article in a comment. Or, write your blog post and share it @thetargetaudience with which you think it will resonate the most.
(Ed. note: Check out Conductor’s C3 for digital marketing conferences!)
6. Conference Schedules
For example, if you were working on a blog post for a travel site, you might visit the Public Relations Society of America travel conference schedule. In addition to topics designed to help marketers create better content for the travel sector, you’ll find sessions discussing what makes a great travel professional, the state of hospitality in the industry, and “the ins and out of travel ratings and rankings,” among others. Each idea comes complete with a synopsis, speaker, and list of places they have written.
Ed. note: Check out Conductor C3 if you’re hunting for digital marketing conferences!
7. Meetup Groups
Why spend time guessing what your audience wants to know about when you can ask them directly? Visit Meetup.com and search for the topic you’re covering and do some old-fashioned journalistic research.
Writing an article on how to pick a wedding venue? Search for a “weddings” meetup in your area and go to a meeting. You’ll have the chance to interact with your target audience directly. It’s best to be up-front about your interest as a writer and contact the organizer ahead of time. Generally, people will welcome you and be excited to share their thoughts.
Meetup groups are a great place to pitch article ideas, solicit contributions, and gain insights to the issues that matter most to your audience. Be sure to share your finished article with the group – the members you talk to will be primed to engage with your finished piece.
Use these ideas to create content that resonates with your audience and you’ll earn more shares, links, and viewers. After all, if I’ve done my homework, that’s exactly what you’ll do with this article (**cough, share please, wink, cough**). Have an idea of your own? Leave it in the comments below.