Content is the driving force of modern marketing, underpinning channels like SEO, PPC, and many others. In a digital space overflowing with content, the challenge for marketers is clear: standing out in a crowded field.
So, how do you engage the right audience?
The key is relevance. Content that speaks directly to your target audience's needs, pain points, and challenges is what truly engages them with your brand.
In this post, I'll address the following based on my experiences working with content writers and strategists:
- What Makes a Good SEO Content Idea?
- How to Find New Content Ideas: 6 Amazing Sources
- How to Turn Data Into SEO Content Ideas
Instead of identifying what might engage the audience, I’ll teach you how to rely on data to come up with excellent content ideas to improve your organic traffic.
Recommended Reading: 8 Tricks to Creating Engaging Content
What Makes a Good SEO Content Idea?
Three key factors make a content idea capable of truly engaging your audience, ranking high in search results, and improving your organic traffic.
1. The Information Has to Be Significantly In-Demand
In other words, a lot of people must be searching for it to justify investing time and effort into it. This is where a keyword research tool or SEO platform comes into the picture.
You need to find a query that clearly refers to a problem of a wide audience. This will help to deliver a greater ROI.
2. The Content Must Address 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.
3. The Content Must 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 mobile, we exhibit one of four distinct user intents– to learn, do, go or buy.
And so, to engage, content must relate to the appropriate search intent – informational, transactional, navigational, and local.
(This specific query has an informational intent.)
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 the 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.
How to Find New Content Ideas: 6 Amazing Sources
A lot of it comes from Google directly. Other insights live across other third-party data providers.
So, here are six of the best sources I use to generate engaging and relevant content ideas regularly:
1. 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, that 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.
2. Keyword Planner
I'll admit that identifying keyword intent can be tricky. A phrase that appears informational, might actually relate to a transactional intent or vice versa.
Take the term “Florida rentals.” I have a feeling that the term is related to an intent to rent a place for holidays and we can use data to confirm this hypothesis.
("Florida rentals" has a transactional intent.)
One way to avoid targeting the wrong intent is by looking at long-tail keywords. These additional descriptors reveal why a person would look for certain information specifically.
And to reveal those, you can use the Adwords Keyword Planner – a SEO tool many digital marketers use to identify the best phrases to bid on.
3. 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 keywords – 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 a relatively high cost per click suggests a significant demand for such information.
4. Social Media
Similarly, looking into the information your audience discusses or shares online could reveal a lot about their preferences.
And there are many different ways you can assess social media content.
#1. Analyzing content sharing trends
Inspecting which existing content assets attract the most shares could spark ideas about what topics engage your audience.
#2. Researching the most shared content
Similarly, looking at other content (not just your own) that 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. Consider asking them a direct, open-ended question or sharing a poll.
5. Online Forums or Q&A Sites
Websites like Quora or Yahoo! Answers give you direct access to your audience. What’s more, these sites allow you to monitor for specific conversations or challenges people have.
Also, the upvote systems on these sites allow you to identify advice that has engaged the audience the quickest.
The challenge, however, is that researching such information manually requires incredible amounts of time and other resources.
The solution – use dedicated content marketing and ideation tools like Content Ideas that collect relevant data and present it in context.
6. 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 "engagement rings".)
How to Turn Data Into SEO Content Ideas
Everything we discussed above generates nothing but data and insights - not the actual topics themselves.
So, here’s how to turn all that data into 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 terms among them by looking at the CPC data.
To turn that research into actual topics, consider how your product, services, or expertise help solve any challenge a person searching for that 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.
To do this, you must identify the specific intent behind a keyword.
Now, our Content Ideas tool reports on that directly. But 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 type of 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 you need to go through all those steps.
Here are some of the many benefits of using audience 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.
Now that you know the process, it's time to go out and create content that is relevant and optimized for your audience to enjoy!
<<Editor's Note: this piece was originally published in July 2018 and has since been updated.>>