Show me a company that hasn’t struggled to generate blog topics and I’ll show you a company that doesn’t have a blog. It’s just one of those things that make content creation so tough — you need to constantly generate ideas. Every one of my clients asks me to help them generate content ideas and blog topics. I teach a quarterly class for entrepreneurs, and the most passionate discussion revolves around how to generate ideas for content.
I have plenty of individualized answers to this question, most of which involve asking a series of probing questions about the company’s or entrepreneur’s goals and target market. This post on What to Write About on our sister site, PlanITPDQ, references a brainstorming session with a realtor. In my class last week, we generated blog topic and content ideas for a nonprofit consultant, a jewelry designer, a spa owner, and a high-end textiles designer. In a client meeting last week, we homed in on a topic for a contributed byline based on a specific publication’s editorial calendar.
All of them were great ideas, and all of them helped the individual. But I can’t meet with everyone who has this question one-on-one. I started thinking about the common themes I use to spark the brainstorming so that I could provide a guideline for anyone to follow, and narrowed my list down to three common three areas. Blog topics, story ideas, and other content pieces that address any of these three areas are going to be good. Those that address two are really good. But when a topic hits all three — that’s GREAT.
Let’s face it — generating content is an expensive proposition and you have to decide where to invest in content marketing. Following is a Content Venn Diagram to help you understand the three areas, explore the intersections, and decide on a library of blog topics to create excellent content.
The Three Core Content and Blog Topics Focus Areas
- Create What Your Customer Needs. I always advise clients and students to start with the low-hanging fruit: what questions do your customers ask most frequently? What information do they need to do their jobs better? This is the most important and meaningful category. In a recent blog post by SEO master Rand Fishkin, he highlights this step as one of the three most important elements of marketing:
- “Determine the stories and messages that resonate with [customers and prospects] — what are their primary complaints and problems?”
- If you get stuck, review your FAQs, scan your email responses, and ask your sales team what people want and need to know. You cannot go wrong with these ideas as blog topics, story ideas, and video content.
- Mine Your SEO Keywords and Phrases — These terms represent the products and services you sell, phrased in the way your customer does. For example, you may be an optometrist, but your customer needs glasses. Create your search terms accordingly. Once you get inside your customers’ heads to figure out searchable terms about your products, develop content that offers meaningful insight into them. This include how-to pieces, product comparisons, reviews, new innovations, ties to current events, and more. Expand your library of content about these terms to help you rank in the search engines.
- Create Content on Your Areas of Expertise — There are certain subjects that you understand deeply, opinions and insights that distinguish you from your competition, and knowledge that you have gained through experience in your industry. These are the subjects on which you are a credible and useful authority — use these for blog topics and content ideas. This area can be tricky as some people don’t recognize their authority. I have heard many clients downplay their expertise until I or someone on the team points out that their body of knowledge is not commonly held. It is useful to share their insights with others who are just learning, who are new to the industry, or who want deeper insight. Don’t talk yourself out of your own expertise.
Any of these areas is good for blog topics. But things start to get interesting when they intersect:
- Content that intersects what the customer wants and SEO terms is good for getting traffic to your website about what you sell.
- Content that intersects what the customer wants and your area of expertise is good for sharing valuable and helpful information. Create links to these pieces for sales to share with their prospects.
- Content that intersects your SEO terms and your expertise is good for identifying you and your company as a thought leader.
The ultimate sweet spot on our Content Venn Diagram is when all three things intersect. The holy grail of blog topics are those that feature information about what you sell via search terms and phrases, highlight your company’s strengths via areas of knowledge and expertise, and answer an important and ongoing question that your customer has.
Use this tool to help you spark your next blog topic brainstorming session, and let me know how it goes!