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How to Find Blog Topics Your Audience REALLY Cares About


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Andy's slides >>>



Andy: Welcome everybody! We have for you today the most important, one of the biggest questions in all of digital; the question about topics: our topic today is about topics.

What does your audience want, what do they care about, how can you find clues using data, using tools, using reports to make sure that everything that you create is something that they want? That's the job because it's not that good stuff gets good results and great stuff gets better; it's that good stuff gets okay results and great stuff gets amazing results.

So if we can use a few simple tools, a few simple reports we can have much more certainty that the content that we create will connect. So with us today we have Susan Moeller from BuzzSumo. Susan, thank you for joining us.

Susan: You're welcome, I'm so glad to be here.

Andy: Tell us a bit about yourself?

Susan: Yes, um I work with BuzzSumo, which is a company that helps people to understand what their audiences are interested in based on what they share socially.

Andy: Excellent, and Kevin an introduction for yourself.

Kevin Phillips: I'm Kevin Phillips I'm the content marketing consultant here at Impact brand and design, and I work with clients to teach them a lot of the things we're gonna talk about today. The first step in consulting is finding out what is your audience care about, what do they want to know about, what are we gonna write it is gonna start driving traffic to your website.

Andy: Let's jump right in you framed the question that is the question, what will my audience care about, how can you help me choose the topic for my next piece that is just exponentially more likely to connect and resonate with them?

Kevin Phillips: Yeah, so I'm going to screen share if you're okay with you. Today we're gonna talk about how to find blog topics your audience really cares about, and these are topics you are gonna write content on that is going to then start ranking for keywords, it's gonna start driving traffic to your website, and ultimately we're hoping to close some more leads and sales.

Find Out What Questions Your Customers Are Asking

One of the first pieces of advice I really have, and a really great brainstorming exercise is just getting a list of questions from all your customer-facing employees. These are people on the ground level that talk to customers every day, they hear the problems, the concerns, and the questions these people have about the products and services you sell.


So before even doing market research or anything, I like to just have people do an internal brainstorming session. Now you can either do this through email just email or you can even get a bunch of people either the entire company or if it's a large company get individual groups into a conference room get on a whiteboard and just start cranking out questions.

And it's important to ask different people from different organizations because they're gonna do different questions. One of the keys to this though is you want to focus on questions about the things you do and the things you sell; not about you.

When it comes to blog articles you're really going after the educational content, you want to be about 80% educational we're just explaining things to you, we're helping you solve problems, and you want to be about 20% promotional.

So here's a quick spreadsheet. We did this exercise just recently with a new client got on board, and you would think how many questions could I pass they come up with.

Now, this is a company it's a medical company that does like in vitro fertilization among other things, just under the header “insurance” they've got over 70 questions that people ask about insurance, in vitro fertilization, they've got several questions here. They broke it down in a coping, donor and egg sperm, clinical nursing. And this is enough content if we're publishing it say two articles per week, this is gonna last you like years right here.

Customer Problems, Product Reviews, And Other Blog Topics

This one can be a hard pill to swallow, but you're also gonna want to talk about problem articles. Their (prospects’) problems, which are those awareness stage type questions for me. Those are ones that a lot of people focus on; those top of the funnel problems people have that bring them into the funnel and then we start taking these other pieces of content.


So let people be aware of the things that might come up that are problematic and maybe even the article is a “problems with solutions” too like, “hey these are common problems you might have heard but really there are some missed considerations going on here that we should address”.

Reviews is another one and this is mostly if you're going to be doing if you're in retail you sell a lot of products because you can review every single piece of equipment you have. Reviews are insanely important.

When was the last time any of you made a purchase without just looking up reviews? When was last time you hired a company without checking to see the reviews of that company? How did other real people just like you feel about the products or services they ultimately bought?

Another type of article is pros and cons, which is mixing those problems but also benefits too, the pros and cons of a spray polyurethane roof, this type of rigid foam insulation versus the other three. Problems, cost, comparisons are the top three types to get traffic from.

Now, there are ways to go beyond these big five too. One of the most common was just definitions: what the heck is this thing? What is sleep apnea? What is the metal roof? How to tutorials; these are great visual articles. Types and classifications of what you're selling, is there any laws or regulations that people need to know about? Misconceptions, is there a negative stigma of some kind that's been following your product for a long time that somehow just cannot seem to get dispelled?

Pros and cons: that's benefits and problems wrapped up in one nice little article, correlation, causation, these were some of my bread-and-butter especially like in the health industry like “my knee is clicking, does this mean I tore something?” Qualifications, how do I know that the people that are gonna be performing these services are qualified, how can I vet a commercial contractor of some kind, do they need to be licensed, bonded, insured, is there certain certifications they should have, awards they should have one won?

Timeline based questions: when is the best time to build this or download this piece of software? Anything they can have like a “when” type question attached to it.I'll share this link at the end: 17 business blog topics your audience wants you to write. Now, Andy, I'm gonna turn this over to you, so you can show people, hey how can we also use Google for this stuff?

Andy: Yeah, just listening to that, that was awesome. I love what you just said Kevin because the closer you are to the audience, the more likely you are to write stuff that will connect with them. And part of that is just riding shotgun on sales meetings or listening in on calls if you're any service company, or just grabbing and stealing the laptop of your top salesperson and looking at their sent mail folder because you're trying to find the questions your audience is asking and answer those questions.

So topics flow from sales to marketing and content flows from marketing to sales in this loop where you keep making more stuff that answers more questions at this audience. The most helpful brand will win.


Commercial Intent And Information Intent Queries

Now the other thing that you got into that I love too is that the top of funnel and middle of funnel or top of funnel and bottom of the funnel, in other words, information intent queries and commercial intent queries.

There are three kinds of queries that people type into Google or search, and they have three types of intent, this is very broadly speaking: information intent, transaction intent, or navigational intent. I'd like to call those the question marks and dollar signs. Everything you search for, just look at your own browsing history, is either a question mark or a dollar sign or you're just trying to get to the brand.


But what the research showed is that 80% of all queries we search for are information intent queries, only 10% of the queries research for our the commercial intent queries, the transactional ones. But those are the first ones to focus on because those people are farther down there at the bottom of your funnel.

Taking this one step further we begin to understand that really we have two kinds of visitors to our website. They are different types of people, people who have commercial intent, and people who have information intent. People who want your product or service and people who just want answers, people who search for Chicago plumber and people who search for why does my sink smell weird.

And they land on two kinds of pages; we have sales pages that convert visitors into leads and customers. We have blog posts, and articles, and webinars, and podcasts, and videos and helpful useful information intent aligned marketing content. And these pages might get people to subscribe to follow or to link, which is critical to grow our audience, but it's these pages that really sell.

Those pages that you say people searching for reviews, they have a high commercial intent, but a lot of those things like they have no commercial intent, they're just searching for information. Google made it so that you can find stuff quickly, but we can use it so we know what to create. Google did not make Google Suggest and instant Google search results to help content marketers do better content.

If I search for office kitchen I get all kinds of ideas, and these are the things that I could write about tomorrow and rank for next week. But it's long and slow, and boring to type that the next letter of the alphabet 26 times, which if you do you keep seeing more search results.

How To Use Tools To Find Better Blog Topics

So keywordtool.io website, a free tool, will scrape all of Google's suggest out of google search results, or YouTube, or Bing, or Amazon, or an app store and show you what people are looking for. And Answer The Public, very popular tool, free tool, answerthepublic.com. There are other tools but Sumo has a version of this where you just type in a word, and it finds all the questions people are asking on the Internet.

Basically, as long as you have a search tool the search tool is... also a listening tool for you to see what people want. (In Google Analytics), go to behavior site search, search terms; actually, I think it's called queries now. This is for a travel site. This is all the people search on this travel website. They want to find New Orleans, and Hawaii, and Costa Rica.

Now I'm going to add a second a dimension from this drop-down, quick review, the first column in Google Analytics is the primary dimension everything to the right is a metric. There are only two things in Google Analytics: dimensions and metrics. The normal dimensions are basically the reports on the left, but if you want to add data from a different report you can grab data from another report by adding another dimension as another column on this report, so I'm going to add a secondary dimension by clicking this drop down.

The combination of dimensions here that's useful is the search query, and the exit page because when I'm looking at a column that shows the exit pages, I can see where people left the website, what page was their last visit? People who searched for New Orleans left from the New Orleans page, that's not weird, people who searched for Hawaii left from the Hawaii page, that's not weird.

But people who searched for packing lists left from the search results page in other words, they're searching for that but not clicking on anything, why would that be? It's because this website doesn't have a packing list, it's the report of broken dreams, it's literally showing you all the ways in which your website wasn't satisfying.

I mean I want this report for everything in my life. I want to know what my wife wants me to do that I'm not doing I would see it in two seconds, and I could fix the problem, right, what am I putting in my fridge but not eating. This report shows you a list of the content your audience wants, but you are not giving them.

So look for every phrase in that report, did you find it, you have a page that isn't ranking; maybe optimize for that, maybe you have a packing list, but you called it “what to bring”. So past that there was a question a second ago let me see who asked this Kim asked recommendations for repurposing content, I love that question, I want to answer that question. But before I plow through a whole bunch of more stuff here, sorry, let me stop sharing screen. Susan, how much of this is what are we missing here from your approach as a content strategist?


Learning From Your Competitors

Susan: I guess I love the emphasis on questions, I think that's tremendously helpful. I think there's something to be said for learning from competitors, so just keeping an eye on what other people are publishing in your industry is really useful that's something that we've learned a lot.

I see sites like at HubSpot, at Buffer, getting a lot of traction for content types that we don't have, and so I find that useful in deciding what to write next. Yeah, and I think too there's something to be said for paying attention to industry trends so that you can, first of all, get a sense for where people are headed and what they're interested in so being a good consumer of content related to your topic is really useful too.

I'm not sure if you know Donna Moritz from Socially Sorted, but she also maintains a list of monthly holidays and special days. And I was just looking through the ones for April and in BuzzSumo I just entered each of the holiday dates in for April. The great thing about trending is it’s only 24 hours, so when it's World Adopt-A-Pet Day you've got 24 hours worth of content on that and then that one drops off and the next months pop up.

Andy: That's a great tip, I think social media marketers might look at that just in the near term like what's coming up, but a content marketer maybe if we looked out a few months we could actually build up a piece or two on that thing to align with that day.

Kevin Phillips: All right, so now I'm gonna grab one of the top competitors of impact, Kuno Creative. I'm representing right now Kuno to see what I can do against impact; now we're looking at keyword gap now first look up here, we're looking at what we have in common with a Venn diagram, these are the keywords we have in common.

Look through all the stuff you have in common, who's beating who out in certain areas, then switch the Venn diagram to say, "Okay, I want to look up things that they have that Google doesn't even know me about." And just stalk your competitors out what they're doing really well out that you would like to jump in there on.

Now I don't want to take time away from questions, so we have 10 minutes left, what questions can we answer?

Susan: I have one how long does it take to do this for a particular topic or client?

Kevin Phillips: You really wanna dive in I'd probably say spend like an hour or two on it and really going through some of these ones and mapping your content out and saying, maybe I want to build a calendar for the next three, six months, and I want to do two a week.

So I'm gonna need X amount of pieces of content, and I'm gonna find each one of those in there and dig through this tool, or some of those other methods like we mentioned. Yeah, you can get deep dive into it, or you can just jump in here real quick just to find that next thing you want to do.

How Does Organic Website Growth Lead To Increased Sales?

Andy: The very first question we got since was, and hopefully he's still on here, Brian Bloom says, "Amazing organic growth, how do you track that to increased sales?" I'm going to show my best attempt, which is a tough topic, my best attempt to answer this question because I think this is widely misunderstood.

So it's not common for people who visit blog posts to ever really go to a service page and become a lead. They make it sound like, oh just keep on blogging and that person will eventually become a lead. People who come to blog posts of information intent are very unlikely to become a lead.

You might generate tons of traffic from these the site has more than a million visitors, let's create a segment to show people that start their visit on the blog post, and you see it might be like 90+% of your visitors. But the conversion rate, in other words, the percentage of those people who affect the bottom line and have a monetary impact in your business might be insanely low. On this side, it's .03% of people who visit blog posts that ever become a lead.

In other words, if you make a segment for people who start their visit on a service page, they search for commercial intent keyword versus people who started their visit on a blog post, they search for an information intent keyword, the difference in conversion rates is like 50x.

The real mechanism is that you need the blog posts to get enough people to link to you because people are never going to link to your service pages, and it's all that links and authority that make your entire domain more likely to rank.

And sure those blog posts will generate lots of visitors, that's lovely, but if you want this service page to generate a qualified visitor because it ranks for a commercial intent keyword you must create high-value content marketing content to give influencers, journalists, editors, bloggers, something to link to or else this service page is never going to rank.

I think that the mechanism is widely misunderstood. But if you want to rank the sales page for the commercial intent key phrase you need to high enough authority, and you'll never get that unless you have links.

So that's my shortest attempt at answering that main question, which is how does all this stuff really make money for me? It's an indirect benefit, it's insanely powerful, anyone that's ever ranked for a sales page for a commercial intent keyword can tell you, that's the real secret to unlocking lots of demand gen.

The Value Of Repurposing Content

Kevin Phillips: So use the content in the sales cycle don't just think it's only there to bring traffic to the website. Your sales team should be sending this content to high-quality prospects to educate them, save you time, and save them time too.

Susan: Yeah, it's a great point Kim's question is about repurposing or rethinking top-performing content, and I think that's a great answer to that as well that's one way you can repurpose it is in sales. I have been trying with the content we have at BuzzSumo to never publish anything only in one format. So just planning from the beginning and not doing something unless it's going to be in at least two things; maybe a slideshow, maybe converting a blog post to a video. And so I think that's another helpful way to repurposing is just plan from the beginning to how you'll make the work that you've done available in more than one container.

Kevin Phillips: Oh yeah, the video is huge and then you're really tackling two search engines right there, right? You got that same how-to tutorial on YouTube, you got it in a blog article, the blog article has the video embedded in it.

The YouTube channel points to the webpage, you are doubling down on your search right there by going after Google and YouTube the two largest search engines right there for the same question, but with going after people's difference preference for learning. Some people like to read like me, other people want to watch a video, do a podcast, right?

Some people just want to listen, they want to be on the go, they want to be driving and getting that information behind the wheel, or while mowing their lawn, or doing the dishes, or something. Think about their different preferred styles of learning and try and make that same content to those different preferences.

Susan: I love it when search and humanity line up really well it's like you could make it better for search and people at the same time, that's a great thing.

Andy: Yeah, that's how it should be, I mean anything that you're doing strictly for a robot is probably spam.

Susan: Very good point.

Andy: So maybe the best blog topic isn't a new blog topic, it's whatever your best performing thing was now put that in another format, turn your top X into Y that is an almost guaranteed formula for success that Larry Kim says, and he's collaborated with SEMrush many times.

Larry Kim says that everything you’ve published is either a unicorn or a donkey and the purpose of analytics is to find the unicorns and then make baby unicorns. Turn that thing whatever that best thing was, right, turn your top blog post into a video, turn your top blog post into an infographic, turn your top three blog post into an e-book, turn your top social media post into an email subject line.

Whatever that thing was you're not done with it, if it was good, stay on that, mine that gold and keep making more things on that topic because success is almost guaranteed. Through internal linking, success is almost guaranteed because whatever that new thing you made just like Kevin said, right, they can refer to each other.

Connect your traffic magnets to your new piece of content, and you've done a good job of promotion already.

What Should Be The Minimum Length Of A Blog Post?

Kevin Phillips: I got one from Craig here too, so what do you guys think about the minimum size blog posts should be? There's a lot of questions about how long should pieces of content be and also what about volume, is it challenging to get two articles a week out?

Andy: Yeah, the ideal length for a piece of content is exactly as long as it takes to completely address that topic in a thorough exhaustive way and not one word longer.

Kevin Phillips: Yeah.

Susan: Yeah.

Andy: So if you're tackling big topics you're likely making stuff that is 18,000, 2,000, 3,000 words. I recently wrote an article about how to share your Google Analytics, it's like permission and user management thing. 800 words it was done, that's everything I need to do.

I mean there's nothing else to really know about that topic. So there's lots of research, SEMrush has some of the best research and we can share a link, the correlation between length and rankings, but clearly there's a correlation between length and quality and length and detail, which would explain the correlation between length and rankings because high quality detailed, thorough exhaustive stuff that answers every question in a detailed way from every angle is likely to be the best page on the internet, what ranks is the best page on the Internet for the topic. So write short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs, but never try to write a short article, try to make the best page on the internet.

Kevin Phillips: I think it's really about answering the question because in the end someone shouldn't read your article and go, "I don't think that answered my question at all," or didn't answer enough so now I need to go back to Google and see what that other guy has to say." And if that guy has a better answer that's where people are gonna keep going, and your stuff is gonna end up falling off.

You might have made it to the first page or something, but if people are choosing other content over yours because they just think this doesn't address it thoroughly enough, or this isn't exactly the question I was asking, they're gonna ignore it.

Yeah, I'd usually say try and shoot for at least minimum of like 750 because Google does equate that length with quality because they think that you are exploring it through, but don't do it like when you're in college or high school, and the professor said you need to write 1,000 words, and you just start getting overly wordy just as you're watching that word count bar just to match up some perfect length.

Andy: Yeah, don't write an 800-word article and fluff it up to 1200 words. Write an 1800 word article and trim it down to 1500.

Susan: I think headings are a really important part of that equation too, and sometimes when we write long articles we pay more attention to how we break the text up, which makes it more readable for humans and Google too, so that's always good to make things skimmable.

Kevin Phillips: You get the skim readers and you got the thorough readers. You gotta satisfy both; the skim reader should be able to quickly find those major points that jump out at them and then the thorough readers should be able to read everything they want to know about it without having to go somewhere else. But you should also spark other ideas like, oh, now I need to go write this other article, now I want to know how this thing compares to that other thing, or how much it costs, and give links to those other pieces of content.

Andy: Yeah, I never read a paragraph longer than three lines, never write a paragraph longer, it doesn't work for scanners. Well, guys, we're at the time, I think, to wrap it up what we just sort of said.

Write content that answers your audience's top questions starting with sales questions and when you answer those questions, be the best answer. Write content that answers the question completely because like Kevin just said and like Susan just said we don't want them going back to search to get more information you want to have been the one to completely satisfy their information need.

The job of the SEO is to satisfy users information needs, that's what we're trying to... if you know what their needs are, and you know how to completely satisfy them you find the topic, and you wrote a deep article, that's the job. Well done, guys, yeah okay, so thanks for coming.

Check the SEMrush website, there are tons of fantastic webinars all the time. I've stalked that page a lot, add them to your calendar even far in advance so that you don't miss them. And keep an eye on the YouTube channel because the recorded stuff is always available here. Thanks again, and we'll see you on the next one. We appreciate it, Kevin, Susan.

Kevin Phillips: All right, thank you for having me.

Susan: Thanks, have a great day, everyone.

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