Why do I need to write content? Why can’t I just post videos and pics to my blog? Why do I need to be an English major in order to have a successful blog? Why does everyone keep telling me that “content is king?” If you’ve ever had any of these questions then don’t worry, you’re not alone: heck, you’re not even special! You’re normal and, trust me, everyone that owns a blog has had these questions.
Writing content for your blog can sometimes be a struggle. Unless you were born to be a writer, or you’re one of those people that’s spent a significant amount of time in school learning exactly how to write (E.g. an English major), then you’re most likely just one of us “regular folk” who find it hard to write content for your readers day in and day out.
I also know from experience, you usually don’t have this problem when you first get started with a new blog. Nine times out of ten when you first start a new blog, there are tons of content ideas floating around in your head and writing is usually fairly easy. The only problem bloggers are usually faced with initially is finding the time to write their ideas down.
However, as time goes along, we tend to run out of ideas and start finding it harder and harder to remain creative. This applies to blogging beginners and professionals alike. Individual blog owners, especially many SMBs find that even though they may know about their product very well, they simply just aren’t experienced at writing about their products or services. All too often this will cause the blogger or SMB to encounter the inevitable writer's block syndrome.
In fact, many times professional writers, such as those who build links professionally or those whom are professional content curators, will have these same struggles from the very beginning of a project! This usually happens because the professional writer or link builder is dealing with so many different industries and clients at the same time, it becomes a struggle to remain creative. After all, even the most creative people run out of ideas at times!
Gathering Content Ideas
Recently I’ve come up with a totally new (new for me anyway) way to generate 100% relevant topics for the various blogs I own, but we’ll get to that in just a minute. First, I would like to point out an incredible resource for so-relevant-it-hurts (thanks for the catchy phrase Megan) ideas that Ryan Hanley pointed out to me the other day as I watched one of his videos. Ryan suggests that we use customer questions as content ideas and a stimulator for awesomely insightful, 100% relevant content ideas.
I mean think about it, what could be a better source for content ideas than asking your customers questions, and better than that, answering your own customers’ questions? Okay, I’m sure this is throwing up all kinds of red flags for some of you that are reading this post. I’m also quite positive you’re already asking, “How the heck can I ask my customers’ questions like Ryan did?” For starters, “I don’t own a brick-n-mortar store where customers are walking in all day,” or maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t want to stand up there like some kind of fool and ask questions to everyone that walks in the door…”
Well, if you don’t want to record videos and ask questions at the door like Ryan did, there are many other ways that you can accomplish this same task with almost the same effectiveness. Simply have your secretary or other customer service representative manually record the questions they receive from your customers on a regular basis (you could even do this yourself if you’re an entrepreneur). Then, in their spare time, when they’re not assisting customers they can record their answers to those questions and email a consolidated Q&A list to either yourself or whomever has been designated as the content marketer at your firm.
Keyword Data / Research
A second source for content ideas (my personal favorite) that is quite possibly the most well known and most favored source for content ideas amongst professionals would be to use keyword research data from sources such as Google Analytics™ or Clicky™. However, with recent changes in the world of search, Google (implemented 100% secure search on September 23, 2013) and now even Yahoo! (implemented 100% secure search on Jan 23, 2014) have made their user’s searches secure. In layman’s terms this means that all the terms or phrases (their keywords) that they used in the past to perform that search are now “not available” in our analytics systems. We now have absolutely no idea what these terms are, therefore we have no idea what phrases our readers are using to find us!
While it used to be very easy to obtain this data simply by logging into your analytics software of choice, now we’re all given the proverbial middle finger in the form of (not provided). In the example I’m showing you below, over 95% of the keywords that are being used to find this blog are (not provided)!
So, how is it possible to know what topics your readers want to know about? How is it possible to know how they’re even finding your blog, and furthermore how can you possibly get any content ideas if you can’t even see what keywords are being used to find you in the first place?! While there have been many different ideas and suggestions from various corners of the web about how to maneuver around the (not provided) issue, I believe I’ve discovered a new, “better way to obtain your once lost, (not provided), keyword data”!
Yes, I know I’m not the only one that knows about these new services, and no, I don’t feel special for being the one who brought you the info first here on the Linkarati blog!
Getting Your Keyword Data Back
Enter hittail.com (Disclaimer: I am not promoting Hittail.com’s services in any way, but I do think they provide an absolutely awesome service by assisting you with content ideas). I initially signed up for Hittail.com’s services around June or August of 2013, but I was never able to get the kind of keyword data and research information from them that I really needed. This was initially due to the fact that some of the blogs that I’d installed their tracking code on were not receiving enough traffic to make their service financially justifiable, but around September 2013, just as my traffic was starting to build to the point where there was useful data, Google gave all of us marketers the middle finger in the name of enhanced privacy (which don’t get me wrong, I’m all for…), and severely cramped our marketing efforts by making 100% of their search traffic secure.
However, hittail.com has had a development/coding breakthrough! As of Mar 4, 2014 they can now provide you with all of your (not provided) keyword data! I don’t know about everyone else, but this was a huge relief to me. Personally, I really want to know how people are finding my sites, but I also want to know “What they want to know!”
In a way, this is just like Ryan Hanley’s customer questionnaires that he performed with his camera phone. How you ask? Well, I’ll show you how. Hittail.com takes things a step further by providing you with suggestions such as the ones pictured below.
These are active searches from users, and all three of the ones I’ve highlighted are users’ questions! Now all you have to do (literally), is write an article or blog post (answer) to your customer’s questions. Heck, you can even create your own videos to answer these questions, then post these videos to YouTube, G+, FB, etc. There at least three or four different content ideas right there in front of you, all from the same day!
Leveraging Your New Content Ideas
Your content, whether it’s on your own personal blog, an SMB’s blog, or someone else’s blog via guest post, is one of the most powerful marketing tools you could ever have.
Leveraging this content to convert “shoppers” into “buyers” and “customers” into “repeat customers” is what content marketing is all about, and you can’t ‘market’ your content if you’re not writing content that your potential / current customers want to read… content that answers their questions! Copyblogger Media gives us the following definition for content marketing:
Content Marketing means creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and buyers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell; in other words, you’re educating people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.
Ok, so now you’ve got all these incredible ideas for content, but how are you supposed to leverage these new content ideas to help you build your brand’s awareness and strengthen your business’ visibility on the web?
A) Are you supposed to start writing new blog posts every day for your blog?
B) How about writing a guest post on someone else’s blog once a week?
C) Should these new content ideas be spun into short stories fit for social media, which is then shared on a regular basis?
D) Do I need to be building links to my blog every day?
E) Or, last but not least, do I need some form of all of these?!
Well, there simply isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ content creation / marketing plan that will fit any and all types of businesses, but you are correct! ‘E’ is the right answer! One constant in online business is the fact that your website absolutely must be available to searchers when they search for phrases that relate to your business or the products you sell. Let’s go ahead and face it here and now people; without excellent search engine placement / visibility, your business is virtually invisible!
This is where your new content ideas and content marketing efforts first start coming into play. You know you’ve got the answers to the questions your customers are asking because you know what their questions are, and you know what they were searching for when they found you. The only thing left for you to do is to take all this great information that you’ve acquired, and put it into an article or blog post that your customers and prospective customers will enjoy reading!
Getting Totally Awesome Links
Take some of this awesome content that you’ve just written and use it to build links to your site. Links are the foundation of Google’s search engine, but they can also be an excellent way to gain targeted, 100% relevant traffic that your online business is so desperately in need of. Simply take some of your content and position it in places on the web where it will get lots of relevant traffic (E.g. Write a guest post on a relevant, high traffic blog, and/or share your content on social media platforms where you know there are users looking for the information you’re presenting by choosing the correct G+ groups, hashtags on Twitter, etc., etc.).
One of the awesome side effects of guest posting and social sharing are the really awesome link opportunities that are usually present as a result of a particular post you’ve written or social share that you’ve performed. For just one second, let’s forget about the fact that Google likes links! Just imagine for a second what could happen in terms of traffic and customers that are looking to buy something, when a reader comes across one of your awesome pieces of content that you’ve posted to the Huffington Post or one of the PR News sites. I can tell you from personal experience, when these readers (your prospective customers) come across your link in one of these strategically placed pieces of your content, that link will literally turn into dollar signs either for you or your client!
Strengthening Your Brand Awareness – Understanding Your Customers
The only way you can increase your brand’s exposure in a knowledge graph-driven, search-engine-based-world, is to start by creating the kind of content that answers your customer’s questions… the kind of content that educates your customers. The kind of content that builds trust between your brand and the customers it serves.
If you’re interested in marketing your business online then you MUST create awesome content, and you MUST link to and from that content both socially and from various blogs / websites. All of that starts with understanding your customers’ needs and answering their questions without them ever even having to ask the questions verbally. For all intents and purposes, you should be “reading their minds” and giving them the answers they desire!