I originally wrote and published this column on Entrepreneur.com on June 16, 2016.
If you’ve been interested in business and marketing within the last five years or so, chances are you’ve heard this phrase so much you’re ready to cry: “Create valuable content for your prospects and customers so they will know, like, and trust you.”
It’s easy to poke fun, but it’s actually good advice — when executed properly.
The problem is, when the average Joe hears that (meaning, anyone who doesn’t have time to spend hours a day researching marketing techniques), he thinks: “All right…time to pump out some blog posts. Not sure what to write about, but who cares? Just has to be valuable.”
It’s that mentality that leads to blog posts like “Interesting Facts About [insert random subject]” and, my personal favorite, the classic “[insert number] Reasons You Need My Company.”
If I just described one of your blog posts, don’t worry, it’s not your fault. You’re doing what you think is right. The problem is, you’re only guessing. You’re not sure what your audience really wants to know about, so you come up with a few topics on your own because you’re creative like that.
After you read this, you will know better. And next time that thought creeps in your head, let it meander right back out, never to return. Instead, do this: Come up with blog topics people actually want to read.
1. Use Google keyword planner.
Go to the Google Keyword Planner and enter the main category (keyword) of your business into the top text box and click “Get Ideas.”
Click the “Keyword Ideas” tab just under the bar graph
Optional: At the top of the list of keywords, not the individual keyword you just search for, click the heading of the “Avg. Monthly Searches” column. This will sort by search volume so you see the most searched keywords first. Keep in mind higher search volume usually means more competition.
Scroll down and write down every keyword that could be turned into a blog post. For example, when I entered entrepreneur as my main keyword, I got things like:
- What is entrepreneurship
- Entrepreneurship ideas
- Young entrepreneurs
- Successful entrepreneurs
- Entrepreneurship development
- Social entrepreneurship
- Small business entrepreneurship
Now click the “Ad Group Ideas” tab and scroll down until you see more keyword ideas. For example, I see things like “Business Ideas” and “Online Entrepreneur.”
Now go back to the search bar and type in your main category or keyword for your business, but this time get a little more specific. So for me, this time I typed in “young entrepreneur.” Do the same thing you did before and check out the keyword ideas tab
You should see more specific keywords this time, like:
- Starting a business
- Top 10 entrepreneurs
- Characteristics of an entrepreneur
- Becoming an entrepreneur
- Entrepreneur skills
I tend to start by looking for keywords that have around 1,000 searches a month or more and under 10,000 searches a month. Sometimes I look for keywords with under 5,000 searches a month, just because anything over that amount of search volume typically has a ton of competition.
Once you have a list of 20 to 30 keywords, move to the next step.
2: Use KWFinder.com to check competitiveness.
KWFinder.com is a site that will show you how hard it is to rank for certain keywords. This is an awesome resource when you’re trying to decide what to write about, but you only get a handful of searches each day with a free account.
So, unless you want to pay for KWFinder, you may want to use it wisely. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to pick back up where you left off.
If you’re not sure about your keywords yet, skip to step three. If you have a couple of keywords that look appealing, go ahead and finish this step.
Type in the main category/keyword for your business (use the more specific one, like “young entrepreneur” instead of just “entrepreneur”) and click the search button.
Now in the far-right-hand column, you should see a heading that says “DIFF”. That’s the keyword difficulty score – or how hard it is to rank for that keyword organically. It ranges from 1-100, with higher numbers being more difficult.
Play around with this tool for a while (it probably won’t take long because you’re limited on the number of searches you can do for free), then when you’re ready, move on to step three.
3: Use Quora and Google to seal the deal.
This is probably the most important part. Now that you know what people are searching for, and what you can rank for fairly easily, it’s time to see what people actually asking about those topics.
Head over to Quora.com and type in one of your keywords in the search bar at the top of the page (you’ll have to create a free account if you never have before). I typed in “starting a business” because that’s one keyword I found that I like a lot.
When you type in a keyword in Quora’s search bar, a drop-down should pop up, and you’ll have to click the bottom option that says “Search: ____” in order to do an actual search.
Now on the left-hand side click the “Questions” link (under “By Type”), and you should see a list of questions about your keyword.
Under each question, you should see the word “Follow” with a gray box next to it that has a number in it. That number is the number of people who are following that question. In other words, that’s how many people are interested in that question. Look for questions that have a large number of followers, and boom, there’s a list of blog post titles for you to pick from.
The beauty of using Quora to find popular questions people are asking about your topic is you can also use the blog post you right to answer that question to paste an answer into Quora itself with a link back to your website. So Quora actually serves as a place to generate ideas and a place to generate traffic.
Keep in mind, once you get some ideas from Quora, it’s perfectly okay to bounce back-and-forth between Quora, Google’s Keyword Planner, and KWFinder when you find people using keywords that weren’t on your list at first.
For example, one of the most popular questions about starting a business had to do with low-cost business ideas, so I would head over to Google’s Keyword Planner to make sure “low cost business ideas” is getting searched on a monthly basis. And of course, it is. It’s getting searched 2,400 times a month.
Now I head over to KWFinder.com, where it looks like “low cost business ideas” has a difficulty rating of 55. Not great, but I’ll go with it for now. On the other hand, “business ideas with low investment” is on KWFinder’s list of suggested keywords, and it actually gets searched about 4,400 times a month with a difficulty of 40, so that might be a better keyword to go for. Same content, just a slightly different target keyword.
When I searched specifically for “business ideas with low investment” in KWFinder, one keyword that came up was “unique business ideas”. That keyword gets 6,600 searches per month and has a difficulty of 22. That’s definitely one to look into.
So “business ideas with low investment” and “unique business ideas” are both going on my list of keywords and I’ll probably write an in-depth post about the topic of low cost (or low investment) business ideas.
Now that we’ve come up with some keywords and hopefully a few blog post ideas, it’s time to scope out the competition so we can make sure our post will actually be good enough to actually rank on the first page. So head over to Google and search for the keyword you’ve decided to write your post about. For example, I would search for “business ideas with low investment”.
Now read through the top three to five articles, paying particular attention to the very first one. What’s missing from this article? Is it too short? Did they skip something? Maybe it’s an old post and the information is outdated.
Read the comments, too. See what people are saying and notice what they’re adding to the conversation. Most of the time you’ll have at least one or two people asking questions that they feel the post didn’t answer completely. Take what you learn from examining those posts, and use it to outshine them and leap-frog them on Google.
Whew, that was a lot. But you’re much better off now that you know one good way to pick a blog post topic.
So next time you’re tempted to “create valuable content” by coming up with whatever you think is a cool topic to write about, stop. Instead, do the research required to write something you know will actually move the needle. Your business will thank you later.