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12 Feb 2014

Never Run Out of Content Creation Ideas with These 8 Research Tools

Never Run Out of Content Creation Ideas with These 8 Research Tools

You have the best intentions when it comes to your content marketing strategy, yet you find it tough to produce enough content to fulfill your goals. Does this problem sound familiar? Maybe because it is…content creation is one the biggest challenges that companies face, whether they’re big or small. According to a joint Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs study, over half of enterprise businesses and a whopping 64% of small businesses say that creating enough content is the main challenge they face. 

We all know that the more content we produce, the more opportunity we have to be found in search engines. But it’s not only the amount of content; it’s the quality too. It’s creating the kind of content that is intentional and relevant to your business and that brings in the right type of consumer, ultimately (and hopefully!) converting them into a customer. Even with that said, I bet you’re still wondering: “But, how can I create enough quality content while not getting a major headache?!”

Though it seems daunting, I promise it’s not. Like anything else, if you have the right tools and processes, any task can seem like a breeze. There are tons of tools out there to help inspire fresh ideas and simple methods that anyone, in any industry, can take advantage of. But enough of the exposition, let’s get into the tools that will make your content creation process a whole lot easier.

Let’s use the example that I’m a hotel in Napa Valley looking to target brides-to-be’s planning their weddings through my content marketing. Here’s the process I recommend this venue follows… but don’t forget – this can be applied to any and all industries as a research process.

When in Doubt, Google It

You’re aiming to have your content found on Google, so why not use the tools inherent to the platform? Simply type in the keyword phrase that your customers might be searching for. In my wedding venue example, I’ll type “napa valley weddings.” But before I even finish typing, Google Suggest automatically rolls out relevant phrases to my search as you can see in the screenshot below. Voila! Content ideas. These aren’t just random terms; these are terms people are actively searching for. This is a great place to start researching ideas based on real data. Searchers don’t just want to know about the venue for their wedding (which may very well be your hotel). They want to know what packages are available, what venues they can book, who will snap their portraits, and on and on.

Google Content Research

Then you’ll want to scroll down to the bottom of the search engine results pages to the “related searches” section. Here are more great content opportunities separated into two themes of cost information and vendor information. If I were the hotel, I would recommend putting together a resource list for weddings in the area – highlighting the best wineries, photographers, and cake shops. I might even make it into a whole series of posts on “Planning your Perfect Napa Valley Wedding” and make sure there was a clear call-to-action somewhere on the page to find out about my own hotel’s wedding packages. Since these topics are showing up on the related and suggested searches, you can rightly assume these are keywords often being searched for.

Related Searches on Google for Content Research

Don’t Forget About YouTube

YouTube can be another essential content development method to see what people want to find out more about. Even though it’s a Google owned site, YouTube offers up different suggestions than the search engine. Wine is obviously the top of the list for Napa Valley, so creating content around wedding wine tours might be a great opportunity to nab some interested viewers. You can create an optimized piece for these type of searches and even embed a relevant video from YouTube. Just make sure it’s not a direct competitor’s! If you have the internal resources, going a step further to create a unique video on the topic – explaining how wedding wine tours work with interviews of happy brides and family members sipping on a glass of Chardonnay – could really go far.

Youtube content research

Delve into Yahoo Answers

Yahoo Answers is an interest-based Q&A site where you can find a plethora of questions that people want to know the answers to…i.e. opportunities for you to answer them via content. When I searched for “napa valley wedding” I got 5 pages full of questions like:

  • Where is a nice, reasonable place to host a Wedding in Napa Valley, California?
  • Where can we have a tent wedding for 150 in Napa Valley that will allow liquor?
  • What is the weather like in Napa Valley in early December?
  • Is there a location in Napa or Sonoma where I can have a small wedding of about 50 people?

Right off the bat I see multiple great content opportunities: cost, location, liquor, tent weddings, weather by month, and group sizes. These are all great topics that are fairly specific and of interest to people visiting the area. You may even want to use the questions themselves as the title of your blog post and then use the content to answer them. By following this process, you will be able to rank well for long-tail searches and see more traffic coming into your blog.

Using these past 3 search tools, you can come up with multiple ideas with little effort. Here are a few more tools that I recommend to further your research.

Quora

Similar to Yahoo Answers, Quora is another Q&A site that is rapidly growing. The community is very engaged and include more in depth questions than on other similar sites. The quality of the answers also seem to be better as well. Use it just like Yahoo answers and search for topics based on questions that are relevant to your business.

LinkedIn Groups

You don’t often think of LinkedIn as a content research tool since it’s mostly people connecting and looking for jobs. But there’s another side to it that can be useful in content marketing strategy. Users can take part in group discussions where they share industry information and ideas, along with their personal interests. You can find treasure after treasure if you wade through these discussions. This is especially helpful on LinkedIn because there is elevated industry insight that you won’t really find on Facebook or other social networks. By reading discussions in relevant groups, you can uncover trends, questions, opinions, and other invaluable information that can be the basis for your next content piece. Hint hint: the topics you get from LinkedIn can directly address your customer needs.

Google AdWords Keyword Tool

All along I’ve been talking about keywords and using the right phrases to find content ideas. So it’s important that keyword research be included in your process. The Google AdWords: Keyword Tool is an immensely helpful free tool that gives you estimates of traffic data for each phrase. They are only estimates though, so I recommend not basing all your findings on just this tool. This tool can give you a general idea of what phrases are searched more or less than others based on the settings you pick. If you are a local business like our Napa Valley hotel, you can either search for localized (US) or global data depending on who you’re targeting.

Your Internal Team

This isn’t so much a tool like my previous examples, but a method to follow that we’ve found successful. Your internal staff knows more about your product and services than anyone else. And they get asked questions from clients and customers more than anyone. Why not mine their minds for content gold? Ask everyone who interfaces with your customers to list 5 questions they get asked all the time. Put these into a spreadsheet and start to separate them by category, weeding out anything that is irrelevant and highlighting anything very important. Depending on the size of your team, you’ve now come up with even more topic ideas directly in tune with what your customers want to know. You can go further and add columns for what type of content would be most fitting for the topic like Blog, Video, Infographic, Free Guide, etc. See the photo
below for an example of our own internal spreadsheet.

content research spreadsheet

Your Customers

Since you asked you team what your customers are asking, it’s now time to ask your customers directly! Ask them these questions:

  • What do you want to learn from us?
  • What topics and formats do you prefer?
  • Where you do read content online?
  • What are we covering well and where are we falling short?

Don’t shy away from sending out surveys with questions like these every so often so you make sure you’re addressing the most important people. This is probably the most important point I can make. By giving your customers what they want, you can safely guess that you’re addressing prospective customers as well. When you know how to package a content piece in the way your customers want it, you know you are doing the best you can to engage and compel them further.

Conclusion

This list isn’t exhaustive, but serves to show you that content creation is not without hope. I know it can seem daunting from the outside, but if you start small with understanding who you’re trying to address, you can use these tools and methods to help you understand how to reach them. Whichever way you go about it, there can never be a point when you come up against a blank brick wall with no content ideas. I promise you, they’re all out there for you! You just have to do a little looking.

Do you have a preferred process or tool for developing content? How has it helped you engage current and new customers? Let me know in the comments!

 

1 Comment

  • Bradley Robb Feb 12, 2014

    There’s a slight problem with your intro paragraph. The CMI/Marketing Profs survey sites quantity as a challenge for 64% of SMBs and 53% of enterprises, but as the primary challenge for only 26% and 17% respectively.