Welcome to the How to Have a Successful Blog series in which we share blogging tips for beginners from content marketing experts! This is part 3 of the series.
When it comes to business blogging, you have to find topics that will resonate with your audience in order to create compelling content. Whether you’re a marketer or a publisher, you need to keep in mind your target audience to understand their pain points, motivations, and what gets them excited and engaged.
You might have a general idea of what makes a good blog, but coming up with ideas for blog posts is more difficult than meets the eye. You might have a couple of ideas, but writing blog posts consistently require you to have more than a few topics to write about.
In a landscape where it’s tougher than ever to gain the attention of your audience, how can you come up with ideas for blog posts? We asked the best content marketing managers we know to share their secrets.
1. Lean on your customer-facing coworkers for ideas
As the person running the blog, you might spend most of your day writing and delegating work. How often are you talking to customers? Probably not very often.
Guess what? Your customers are the best place to go for ideas. Jana Barrett, Senior Content Marketing Manager at GetFeedback, a software platform for surveys, constantly leans on her customer-facing colleagues for ideas. “Sales, support, and customer success teams interact with customers every day, so they have amazing insights into the challenges customers are facing,” she said. “Staying in sync with them is the #1 way for me to produce useful content that our customers and prospects actually want to read.”
On a daily basis, Jana jots down ideas for blog topics based on the questions and comments that her customer-facing colleagues bring to meetings. Jana also set up a Slack channel called “Content Ideas” and regularly encourages these colleagues to contribute.
2. Stay connected to the news cycle, read a lot, and collect ideas
There’s a lot of great content out there– content that’s generated by customers, random people on the internet, and brands. As a content manager, you have to stay connected to the news cycle and read what’s out there. As you encounter compelling content, collect what you find.
Take it from Mia Quagliarello, Head of Curation and Community at Flipboard, a social platform that aggregates and organizes the world’s stories into social magazines. “The Flipboard Editorial team reads a lot,” she said. “And that informs almost everything we do, as does our mission: to highlight great journalism through unique packages of stories. When it comes to thinking up ideas for blog posts, my philosophy is ‘always be collecting.’”
No matter what Mia is writing about, her process remains the same. She’s always collecting interesting topics, finding unique hooks for a certain audience, researching, and writing, packaging content in the most attractive and consumable way, and then sharing it with the world.
3. Rally around pre-selected topics
Even though we all like to think we’ll have a light bulb moment where we’ll dawn on the perfect idea, the best content managers recognize that structure and process are an important piece of the puzzle.
“A big breakthrough for our edit team was the moment I realized the importance of everything that needs to happen before we actually sit around a conference table pitching stories,” said Jordan Teicher, Managing Editor for Contently, a technology company that helps brands create great content at scale. “It’s tempting to rely on aha lightbulb moments, but coming up with good ideas takes a structure, time, and research.”
Jordan’s team meets weekly, and at the beginning of each month, he sends out an email to the team outlining the month’s themes and content formats. He might request specific pitches. “Since we’re all thinking about the same topics and have weeks to prepare, the discussion during the meetings is much richer,” he said. “It’s really like an hour-long conversation instead of just a series of standalone pitches.”
Dew Smith, Managing Editor at Vendasta, takes a similar approach with monthly topic clusters. Each month, the team decides on a specific theme, based on keyword research, to target with the blog and other types of content.
For example, the month of October, was deemed WebTober. “WebTober was chosen as October’s theme in early September to promote our new release of Website Pro—a white label website hosting service for our reseller partners,” said Dew. “With this topic in mind, we were able to perform some initial keyword research using various SEO tools, and pick out a few great topics to focus on with our content.”
4. Make decisions based on data and SEO
Decisions for blog topics shouldn’t be based on intuition and what you feel will serve your audience. You have to make data-based decisions and make sure your content ideas fit into an SEO strategy.
Lizzie Kardon, Head of Content and Engagement at Pagely, takes a very data-driven approach to marketing in general, and especially content. “Organic search is our largest source of traffic and we’ve worked hard to secure rankings for a number of high-value keywords that relate to our services and offerings,” she said.
How does Lizzie generate so much traffic? She relies on keywords. “My approach to developing content ideas for our blog, which receives tens of thousands of views per month, is all about keywords,” she said. “I use SEO tools to find inspiration for topic ideas in top ranking blog posts that match the keywords I’m targeting.”
Similarly, the content team here at ShareThis also uses SEMRush to identify top-performing keywords that drive traffic to our site as well as our competitors’ sites and create more content around those topics.
5. Get collaborative
Members of the content team may be responsible for creating and publishing content, but they’re not the only ones with great ideas. Tapping into your colleagues is a sure-fire way to wind up with more topics to write about.
“We never seem to have a shortage of ideas because we are very collaborative in our process,” says Kim Courvoisier, Director of Content and Social Media at Campaign Monitor, an email service provider. “Any good content organization serves the needs of the entire company, so we partner with our customer and prospect facing teams including customer support, compliance, sales, and customer success to gather ideas and topics.”
Kim not only partners with the customer-facing team but also works closely with those who specialize in SEO. “We partner with our SEO team to make sure that the useful content we create can be found by search engines,” she said. “We write for people and optimize for search. Not the other way around. We’ve found this to be a winning combination.”