For many businesses, one of the hardest parts about blogging is coming up with fresh ideas, and crucially, coming up with fresh ideas that will resonate with their target audience.
When it comes to generating content ideas, it’s often useful to work backwards; first identify what information the user needs or wants, and create content to reflect it. This could be answers to questions, solutions to problems, or just stuff that makes them smile.
Doing this takes a lot of the guess work out of blogging, as you already know there is demand for content you’re creating.
Here’s how to action this technique in five simple steps.
Step 1. Identify forums
Identifying relevant forums is as simple as going to Google and searching for ‘<subject> forum’.
For the purpose of this post let’s assume I am the owner of a ski company, looking for ideas for my ski blog.
At this stage it pays to spend a few minutes having a dig around to establish which of the forums are the most active, as these will invariably present the best opportunities. I’m going to go with snowheads.com in this instance – a site I know is popular amongst my target audience.
Step 2. Search
Forum(s) identified, we can start searching for topics – we’re looking for threads in which users are posing questions, seeking advice, and generally starting discussions which receive a lot of interaction.
We could search for these threads manually, by reading every thread in turn, but no one has time for that so we’re going to use some simple search queries to help us. Like so:
If the forum sits within a folder of a main site (i.e www.mainsite.com/forum), enure you enter that url into your query string, and not mainsite.com. Like so:
Note that the keywords following the url are all query related – they are the type of terms people might use when looking for help or advice.
Here are the results from my search. Note the highlighted numbers, which represent the number of responses to the thread (note, not all results will have this). The higher the number, the more interaction the post has had, which is useful for gauging interest in the topic.
This is all great stuff, but with 86,000 results we could be here for some time. If it’s just new discussions you’re interested in, use the Search tools function to show only new posts, which will cut the number down significantly.
Step 3. Analyse
It’s now a case of trawling through the results and picking out the best topics: topics which are both relevant and have a good level of engagement.
Here are 3 topics that tick those boxes for me, along with some ideas for blog posts:
1. First time in Soll, Austria any advice?
Blog post idea: A skier’s guide to Soll
2. Best advice you’ve ever been given?
Blog post idea: 10 bits of advice every skier should hear
3. Help reqiuired choosing next year’s trip
Blog post idea: 5 awesome ski destinations for 2016
You get the idea.
Step 4. Create
While blog posts have been the focus of this article, there may be instances where something more visual would work better – an infographic or a video, for example.
Or in this case, maybe even a playlist:
Let the content define the medium, rather than the other way around.
Step 5. Amplify
Having spent time researching ideas and creating content, it’s always worth going back to the source of the post’s inspiration to see if you can share it. Say I’ve gone to the trouble of creating a sweet Spotify playlist based on suggestions made in the thread above, the first thing I’d want to do is go back and share it with the community.
However, bear in mind that this is almost always easier said than done; forum members do not take kindly to strangers posting links, particularly when said link points something even vaguely promotional. However, if your content is genuinely helpful and relevant to the discussion, then it’s absolutely an option worth exploring.
If in doubt, contact the forum admin and ask their advice. It may be that they offer sponsored opportunities, or have a blog which would be a more appropriate place to share your work.
If you can’t justify linking to your content, don’t.
Play around with different queries in your filter until you see the best results – every industry is different. You could also try searching for specific topics or product keywords, if you’re looking for discussions around something in particular, for example:
site:snowheads.com/ski-forum/ goggles or site:snowheads.com/ski-forum/ meribel
And finally, to maximise the potential exposure of these blog posts, consider using Google’s Keyword Planner to identify specific terms relating to your chosen topic. By choosing phrases that people actually search for, your content stands a much better chance of being seen in organic search results. More about that here.
Tapping into real-life discussions can be a highly effective way of producing engaging blog content. With a bit of trial and error, anyone can take advantage of this technique.