By now, you understand that content has become the driving force behind today’s marketing.
SEO, PPC, and many other channels rely on content assets to generate results.
It comes as no surprise then that organizations, large and small, create incredible amounts of blog posts, pages, social media updates and other content types. In fact, within just one minute, 1440 new articles alone go live.
But only a fraction of this content achieves the critical outcome needed to:
- position the brand in front of qualified buyers, and
- build long-lasting relationships with them that result in a sale.
That outcome is engagement.
The sole reason for missing it is a lack of relevancy. When your content strategy relates to your target audience’s real problems, pain points, and challenges, you can engage them with your brand.
Unfortunately, in my work, I encounter more and more content writers and strategists struggling with identifying topics to achieve the above.
I hear stories about how most of their content fails in the search, or how they no longer understand what advice their audience wants from them.
And so, I decided to help. In this post, I’ll show you how to overcome this problem by looking at generating content ideas differently.
Instead of identifying what might engage the audience, I’ll teach you how to find that out from them directly.
What Makes an Engaging SEO Content Idea?
Three key factors make a content idea capable of delivering the above results.
First, there has to be a significant demand for this information. In other words, a lot of people must be searching for it to justify investing time and effort into it.
For example, these two phrases relate to a similar problem – creating landing pages. However, one focuses on information requested by relatively few users. The other, however, clearly refers to a problem of a much wider audience.
And needless to say, it’s the other that promises to deliver a greater ROI.
Then, it has to answer specific questions the audience asks. As I’ve mentioned above, to engage the audience, a piece of content must relate to their pain points or challenges directly.
Finally, it must also match a relevant search intent. This factor becomes particularly important, as we continue to consume more content on mobile devices. Because, as it happens, when searching on the mobile, we exhibit one of four distinct user intents– to learn, do, go or buy.
And so, to engage, a content must relate to the appropriate search intent – informational, transactional, navigational, and local.
Search intent is closely correlated with a keyword. Searchers use different phrases depending on their goals.
For example, the phrase “content calendar” has an informational intent. Queries including phrases like “near me” or “where is” suggest a local intent. And words like “buy” or “purchase” signify transactional nature of a keyword.
Your target keyword for the content should inform how you’ll structure the piece and what information you’ll include to make it relevant.
The common link between all three factors is that they relate to your audience’s current situation:
- Demand signifies the severity of a problem,
- Questions reveal their challenges but also, objectives, and
- Intent reveals what your audience would use this information for.
Here’s how to discover the data to reveal all three factors.
Where to Collect Insights to Generate Engaging Content Ideas
One of the many advantages of writing SEO content is the abundance of data to inform a content marketing strategy.
A lot of it comes from Google directly. Other insights live across other, 3rd party data providers.
So, here are sources I use to generate engaging and relevant content ideas regularly:
Google Search Console
Since Google restricted access to keywords driving traffic to the site, GSC has become the primary source for this information.
For example, the Search Analytics report includes data about top keywords attracting visitors, along with other information about the site’s visibility.
For the most part, we use these insights to identify new keyword opportunities.
However, it can also reveal your audience’s topic preferences. Here’s how.
- Sort the results by click-through rate (CTR)
- Look for higher than average CTR, compared to other keywords with similar intent. Note, this doesn’t necessarily have to be keywords with the highest CTR. We’re looking for above the average.
- Analyze the intent behind those keywords, as well as top landing pages to identify an opportunity for creating more content.
Why focus on CTR? As Derek Edmond points out on Search Engine Land:
“A higher-than-average click-through rate suggests that content associated with our website is relevant and that searchers will dig deeper to find good results.”
I admit, identifying the intent can be tricky. A phrase that appears informational, might in fact relate to a transactional intent or vice versa.
Take the term “Florida rentals.” My first idea was that it relates to an intent to rent a place for holidays. But as it turns out, to Google, people using it, search for more information instead.
One way I use to avoid targeting a wrong intent is looking at long-tail keyword. By including additional terms, these immediately reveal why a person would look for certain information specifically.
And to reveal those, you can use the Adwords Keyword Planner – a tool many digital marketers use to identify the best phrases to bid on.
Adwords Cost Per Click Data
Another strategy to assess how important a particular idea is to your audience is by looking at how much other brands are willing to bid on it.
But the Adwords’ CPC data – the average of bids for a list of target keyword – helps gain insight not only into your audience’s preferences. With it, you can tap into your competitors’ experience and insights too.
Because let’s face it, none of them would bid on a key phrase unless they already knew how relevant it is to the audience.
And so, seeing a keyword with relatively high cost per click suggests a significant demand for such information.
Similarly, assessing what information your audience discusses or shares online could reveal a lot about their preferences.
And you have many ways to assess it there.
#1. Analyzing content sharing trends
Inspecting which of your existing attract the most shares could spark ideas about what engages the audience.
#2. Researching the most shared content
Similarly, looking at other content your audience shares the most might reveal their common problems or interests.
#3. Asking the audience for help
Finally, you could test different topics by inviting your social media audience to help. You could do it by asking them a direct, open-ended question or sharing a poll.
Online Forums or Q&A Sites
Websites like Quora or Yahoo! Answers give you direct access to your audience. What’s more, they allow you to monitor for specific conversations or challenges these people have.
Also, these sites’ upvote system allows you to identify advice that has engaged the audience the most quickly.
The challenge, however, is that researching such information manually requires incredible amounts of time and other resources.
The solution – use dedicated content ideation tools like Content Ideas that collect relevant data and present it in context.
The Content Ideas Tool
Content Ideas crawls more than 1 billion pages every day, applying natural language processing (NLP) to reveal real user questions, high-value keywords, popular long-tail keywords, and trending topics.
As a content writer, you can leverage the tool to find out:
- Content demand by assessing search volume behind new ideas
- The inspiration for new content ideas directly from real user questions,
- Additional long-tail keywords to define the intent,
- Google trends to determine the demand further, and
- Additional information to boost your authority on the topic.
(Image of the Content Ideas feature in a search for "things to do in Florida".)
How to Use This Data
Everything we discussed above generated nothing but data and insights - not the actual topics themselves.
So, here’s how to turn all this data to generate relevant SEO content ideas.
#1. Brainstorm content ideas based on the research findings above. Let’s pretend that you created a list of relevant keywords from the Google Search Console. You also identified the most engaging ones among them by looking at the CPC data.
To turn that into actual topics, consider how your product, services or expertise can help solve any challenge a person using such keyword might have. This way, you’ll identify the most relevant topics to what you ultimately want to offer the reader.
#2. Prioritize those ideas by assessing their seasonal demand.
As I wrote in an earlier piece - To win a customer, you must give them what they need at the exact time they need it. In other words, you must prioritize your ideas based on seasonality and customer demand.
#3. Map your ideas to the four search intents.
We’ve talked about the importance of intents already. You know that targeting a specific reason for using a keyword assures that your content delivers the most relevant information.
And to do this, you must identify the specific intent behind a keyword.
Now, Content Ideas tool reports on that directly. If you’re using different solutions, you might have to analyze the SERP manually to determine:
- The type of information to include,
- The most relevant format for your content – blog post, video, landing page, etc.
- What approach to take when creating it.
All this combined will help you better address your customers’ challenges.
How Will This Process Help You Create Better SEO Content?
I admit that what I outlined is an elaborate process. Naturally, you might be wondering why to go through all those steps. So, for the end, let me list you just some of the benefits of using audience’s insights to identify content ideas:
- You get to discover high-value, relevant keyword opportunities.
- You learn how your audience describes their problems, and how to communicate with them using their language,
- You identify trending topics and can bank on the highest audience interest
- You publish more relevant content than your competitors, and
- You improve your content’s reach.