One of the biggest challenges for any writer is finding new topic ideas that speak to your audience. Let’s face it, when you’ve been writing for a while, specifically on a blog or website, you start to run out of topics. It happens to the best of us.
They key is realizing that there are actually some really easy ways to come up with new ideas that your audience will want to read. Namely, answering their questions.
In my opinion, this is one of the most overlooked strategies when it comes to content creation. We spend so much time thinking about how we can get our customers to buy our product or use our service but we don’t always think about the basic necessities they need to do so.
Know what your customers are asking about and give them the answer.
Aside from your own general knowledge regarding customer needs, there are a few places that can help you determine what questions are being asked and provide you with some pretty solid content ideas. I’ve outlined a few below:
One of my clients showed this tool to me (thanks Tori!) and I thought it was brilliant. SERPStat is a free keyword suggestion tool that scrapes Google search results to provide you with keyword suggestions.
What makes this tool so valuable in my mind, is the “Only questions” functionality offered:
The Only questions section will show you exactly what people are asking Google for around a specific keyword/keyword phrase. Using your target keywords, products, services, etc., you can identify questions that your audience wants answered.
Even better, you can export the data so you have it all in one place.
LinkedIn groups offer a wealth of data, specifically around a certain profession or industry. As they typically consist of questions and discussions, they can provide you insights into audience needs, issues, and give you a few content ideas you may not have thought of.
For example, if you target HR professionals, there are some really great HR groups. Even better, people are having conversations and asking interesting questions within these groups:
This question alone can offer a few content ideas:
- X Healthcare Challenges Facing HR in 2015
- What Healthcare Challenges We Can Expect in 2015
- What’s Your Biggest Healthcare Challenge? 5 Experts Weigh In
As noted in the last idea, LinkedIn groups can also provide opportunities for round-up or expert posts. See who is commenting on a discussion and ask them to contribute to a blog post you are putting together around the topic.
When you think of forums, you mind probably floats back to the 90’s – black background, white text, blinking graphics…you get the picture.
However, when I think of a forum, I think of any place someone can go, ask a question, and have their peers answer it. And it turns out, there are a lot of great forums out there that are active, contain great content, and are highly targeted – Quora and Spiceworks are two.
If you aren’t familiar with Quora, it’s a fantastic site. It describes itself as “Your Best Source for Knowledge” and it’s probably true. There are questions in there related to just about everything.
Need a content idea? Simply pop a keyword into the search box and you’ll find plenty of good questions:
Spiceworks is similar however it is geared specifically to technology professionals. If your customers are in the IT world, they are probably on Spiceworks. See what they are asking about.
In terms of traditional forums, there are plenty of niche ones out there. Take for example Garage Journal. Garage Journal is a community where people talk about their tools, their cars, ask questions, and share photos of what they’ve built. It’s highly active, it’s well managed, and for my client who sells toolboxes and workbenches, it’s perfect.
This one question alone gives me several topic ideas:
- How to Care for Your Butcher Block Work Bench Top
- 3 Things Not to Put on Your Butcher Block Work Bench
- Can You Use Polyurethane on a Butcher Block Top?
Don’t discount forums. They are still being used and people are still asking relevant questions. Use that to your advantage.
Support Teams & Communities
This is one of my favorite places to find content ideas. If you have a support team, start talking to them! After all, they are the ones actually speaking to customers and potential customers. They know the issues, they know what questions are being asked, and they know the answers.
When I worked in-house, the marketing team met with our customer support team weekly to ensure that the marketing team knew what questions customers had and what we needed to do a better job of answering on our site.
If your marketing team isn’t talking to your support team, it’s time to start doing so now.
Have a support community on site? Great! See what people are asking in there. The people asking questions on your site are the exact audience you want to reach. If they have questions, prospects likely have those questions as well.
As an aside, don’t hesitate to check out your competitor sites. What are people asking in their support forum? While much of it may be product specific, you might find a few gems in there.
Twitter can be used for any number of things when it comes to business – customer service, brand awareness, content distribution, sales prospecting, etc. But Twitter can also be a great asset in content generation.
I love the fact that you can search Twitter and set up feeds for specific keywords, keyword phrases, or Hashtags. It allows you to not only manage your brand or product, but also identify new opportunities, both sales wise and content wise.
Need a content idea?
Search Twitter for a service or product you offer. See what people are asking about, what they are saying, and how their peers are responding. Also check out your competitor feeds to see what they are responding to. If they are using Twitter as a support mechanism, you might find some good stuff in there.
Some tips on Twitter search:
- Use quotes to target an exact phrase. “b2b seo” is a different search than b2b seo
- Tweetdeck allows you to exclude words and/or search by tweet types.
Also check your own Twitter feed to see what questions people have asked you. If you don’t already have an answer on the site, it may be a good opportunity.
Customer questions are great for generating content ideas so don’t overlook them. These questions can be turned into blog posts, FAQs, product page content, support content, and much more.
What other places or tools do you use to identify customer questions?