by Arnie Kuenn
Creating a content marketing strategy and producing content on a regular basis might seem like daunting tasks for the uninitiated. But as the years go by, more and more companies are seeing the true ROI of content marketing. No matter how niche or mundane your area of expertise, you can create great content that followers or industry peers are looking for and ultimately bring more people to your brand.
Regardless of whether you’re a mom-and-pop shop or a Fortune 100 brand, content marketing can transform your organization. Excellent content can come in the form of videos, articles, images, infographics, you name it. Content marketing is all about providing value to the audience. It’s about helping, not selling. But how do you generate the ideas for this great content? It might be easier than you’d expect.
Google AdWords Keyword Planner
Every content marketing strategy needs defined or targeted keywords and phrases. The Google AdWords Keyword Planner is a great place to start when brainstorming awesome content ideas. The Keyword Planner allows any brand to enter multiple keywords and discover related keyword phrases that their audience is likely searching for.
Google even refers to these results as “ideas”—and for good reason. The vast amount of information that comes back can offer tons of great topic ideas for content. For example, a search for San Diego beaches brings up all search terms that include the words San Diego and beaches.
You can get hundreds of results for a single term, but you can also enter multiple terms to get variations and even more great content ideas. Adding on the term restaurants changes the results to include related terms to both entries as well as combinations of both, such as beachfront restaurants in San Diego, best restaurants in San Diego, etc.
If I were in the travel industry, all of these variations could be used in my content marketing strategy as possible topics to write an article, create a video or design an awesome infographic about showcasing the fun sights and sounds around San Diego.
Answer sites, such as Yahoo! Answers or Quora, can be the crown jewel for content ideation. Yahoo! Answers is one of the most widely used answer sites, receiving an incredible number of questions and answers every day.
Yahoo! Answers has a very simple format, wherein participants submit questions to be answered by the vast community. The user categorizes their question by topic, making it easier to search and easier to answer.
Use your targeted keywords or phrases to sift through and browse questions that are being asked, either within niche categories or as a broad search. For example, after searching for the key phrase Nashville music, more than 400 questions and answers came back. Here are the top three questions at the time of my search:
1. Should I move to L.A. or Nashville for music (singing)?
2. Best Nashville Music Industry Jobs?
3. Is Nashville all about country music?
If I owned a business near Nashville or in the music industry, these questions (and the hundreds that follow) would give me a few ideas about what specifically people are after (and not all the questions are about becoming a famous musician). Think of common questions your audience is asking related to your business, and use Yahoo! Answers to generate a longer list of ideas that will make a great content piece.
Quora is another great place to go content ideas, but this answer site is known to be even better for B2B organizations. Over the years, Quora has become an important player in the Q&A space. It functions much the way Yahoo! Answers does, and similar to the others, it’s meant to be a useful knowledge-indexing tool, a database of information provided by users.
Quora is a continually improving collection of questions and answers because users have the ability to review, edit, flag as useful or not useful and even organize the site’s Q/A. The creators’ goal was to have each question page become the best possible resource for someone who wants to know about the question. The community is a bit more credible and the questions tend to be catered more toward B2B-related topics.
Where would we be without social media? It gives you the power to reveal your potential customers’ interests in real time. By simply paying attention to the conversations and engagement surrounding the topics related to your industry, you’ll discover trends or patterns in what people are talking about. Before you know it, you’ll become aware of the specific ways your customers phrase searches or questions, what content they respond to and what invites the most user engagement.
When you start to understand the dynamics in these conversations, you can develop great answers to their most pressing questions through content. The top three social sites can help you answer these questions. But keep in mind that every social media site has its own community, culture and etiquette.
- Twitter: What #hashtags or trending topics are booming in your industry? What are people talking about and asking for?
- Facebook: What type of content gets the most shares and likes in your industry? Are you posting as much content on Facebook as your competitors?
- LinkedIn: How is your company viewed compared to your peers? Do you contribute or publish content that establishes your brand as a thought leader in the industry?
Be sure to engage with a variety of social networks to keep current with the changing social trends. According to the Content Marketing Institute, the most successful B2B marketers are active on an average of seven networks. Companies and content marketers need to take social media seriously and become active in the various social networks related to the audience in their industries. That way, you can engage your potential customers right where they are, acting as an almost instant resource for their needs.
Google Suggest and related searches
Google uses a keyword suggestion feature to help searchers find what they are looking for more efficiently. Google Suggest instantly offers the top related keyword phrases as the searcher types the keyword phrase into the search box. The suggestions can change drastically as the searcher types each letter in the search box.
For example, say an aspiring actress is looking to follow her dreams and move to New York City to pursue a career in entertainment. She’s never been to the Big Apple, so she starts with an online search to find information on nearby studios and attractions to plan her trip to fame.
She starts by simply typing in the keyword phrase New York acting. With every letter she types, the search suggestions become more and more specific. Her opening search is actively refined to help discover the best possible result for her.
At the bottom of the search results, Google offers an additional “Related Search Suggestion” list. This offers even more content ideas for popular search phrases that people are looking for. It is your job to provide valuable content to the audience that offers information or answers for their questions.
If I had a business that benefited at all from entertainers in New York City, such as a music venue, hotel, acting/dance studio, travel agency, restaurant, visitors’ bureau, convention, etc., Google Suggest just gave me awesome ideas for content that would relate direct my target audience in a matter of seconds.
Ask questions! (a lot of them)
For your brand to generate great content topics, you must start by understanding what your audience is searching for most often. It is your job as a content marketer to provide valuable information or solutions for their questions and challenges.
One of the easiest ways to generate relevant content ideas is to gather your entire staff—including the sales department, human resources, executives in the office, that new guy—and have them write down the questions they get asked all the time.
This is your opportunity as a brand to offer up an answer for these popular questions. After all, if you do not answer these questions or issues, your audience or current customers will find answers somewhere else. Providing answers not only creates effective content, it also provides value to the audience because it offers a solution to their problem and will inevitably build a trusting relationship.
I sometimes suggest going directly to your clients or customers and asking them, “What is your biggest challenge or question?” Keep in mind, this question may need to be tweaked depending on the type of business you’re in. But the main point here is to try and keep the question open-ended. With every answer you receive, you can start addressing your customers’ needs by building great content.
The tools listed above are excellent ways to remedy frustration after a long brainstorming session, or late in a content marketing strategy when it feels like every idea is a dud. Using these tools will assist you in generating endless content ideas for your business.
Arnie Kuenn is the CEO of Vertical Measures, a full-service internet marketing agency dedicated to helping clients drive profitable growth through content marketing. Arnie has held executive positions in the world of new technologies and marketing for more than 25 years. He is a frequent speaker and co-author of Content Marketing Works. In 2014, Arnie was honored as the Interactive Person of the Year in Arizona. You can find Arnie on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and LinkedIn.