Great content ideas can come out of nowhere — in the shower, while you’re out jogging, watching the TV — but having flashes of inspiration isn’t really a solid content marketing strategy.
To make content marketing work and produce positive SEO results, the key is consistently finding the right topics to write about, and that means having a proactive plan to find new ideas on a regular basis.
What Makes for Good SEO Content Ideas
These content ideas should ideally do three things in order for Google to rate them highly:
- Match the intent of your target audience: Great content has to match the intent of your target audience. Are they looking to be entertained? Are they looking for inspiration? Do they want to buy now? If it matches up, you’ll start to see great results.
- Answer their questions: Great SEO-focused content ideas have to answer a specific your target person may have. If your content provides the best answer possible, there is every chance you can rank highly for this piece.
- Meet an existing demand: You don’t want to be creating content for non-existent questions, that’s a waste of time. You therefore want to orient your content creation ideas around questions that are already being asked by your target persona.
Note that I’ve not mentioned anything about content creation or distribution, because these are related but separate topics. This post is focused just on finding ideas that will work well for SEO-focused content.
8 Great Places to Find Questions to Turn Into Content
So, where do you go to find ideas that meet these criteria? Well, assuming we want to match the user intent of answering questions asked by our target personas, there are 8 great sites you can start with:
- Quora: The strength of Quora is in questions about startups and entrepreneurship. However it covers a huge breadth of questions, and has carved out a niche as a great place to ask questions about interesting or unusual life experiences.
- Stack Exchange: The main property of Stack Exchange is Stack Overflow, a Q&A forum dedicated to programming. However they have a huge range of other topical sites covering topics from English language to home improvement. Questions and answers tend to be of a more technical nature.
- Reddit: ‘The front page of the Internet’ covers literally everything, but it is particularly well known for topics related to consumer and Internet culture.
- LinkedIn: This is the place to find business questions from B2B marketing to customer service to manufacturing heavy machinery.
- Hacker News: The format is similar to Reddit, where users can submit links to spark discussions or simply post a question. It has a very active community, and focuses mostly on startups, digital entrepreneurship and technology.
- GrowthHackers and Inbound.org: Similar in format to Hacker News, both of these sites cover digital marketing topics.
- Disqus: Disqus powers comments for millions of blogs online, but it also has its own central site where all of these discussions are linked and can be searched.
- Twitter: A near real time stream of the whole worlds’ activities, interests and questions there is no specific topical strength to Twitter, there is probably very, very little that can’t be found on there.
Finding the Best Questions to Answer
But now the question is: How do you use these sites to get great ideas for your SEO content?
The problem of large Q&A sites and forums is having to root through all the crap in order to find questions and topics of relevance to your brand and, most importantly, your target persona.
The answer is to use Google to navigate their content and drill into exactly what you want to find. So rather than visiting their respective sites and trying to search internally, start with a Google query, which follows a simple formula:
site:domain “question” AND “topic”
Here are a few examples:
- site:growthhackers.com “how do I” AND “content marketing”
- site:twitter.com “where should I” AND “eat in London”
- site:stackexchange.com “what is” AND “infinitive”
As you can see, you end up with some pretty specific questions — all of which are great ideas for your SEO content to answer.
Choose the Most Promising
Here’s another great tip, courtesy of a post by Bryan Harris of VideoFruit, who explains a clever way of testing whether or not to write a particular article. Basically you find a question on one of these sites, tweet it out, and see if there is 2-3x spike in engagement for that tweet versus your normal tweets.
If there is, write the post. If not, reformulate the question a few times until you see that spike. If there’s just no interest, move on to the next question and see if that has more interest amongst your audience.
There are two more bonuses to finding your content ideas in the way I’ve shown.
Firstly it gives you an obvious distribution strategy — share your published content on the site where the question was asked, ideally in direct response to it. That way there’s a high chance the questioner will share it with their network.
You can also see which social networks the question has been shared on the most by using a free tool like SharedCount, so for example if I clicked on 2nd link in the stack exchange and added it to SharedCount I would see the following, indicating to me that Facebook is where I want to spend the majority of my time promoting the answer:
The second bonus is that it shows you’re a company that is responsive and cares. That you take the time to actually find out what people are asking and then sharing answers with them is a brilliant way to build a strong relationship with your customers.
There are plenty more topic-specific forums out there to mine for content ideas — TripAdvisor for travel, Moneysupermarket for personal finance, MumsNet for parenting, etc. — so the advice here can be expanded to all kinds of different topics, customer segments and businesses.
The key thing to remember is that by basing your SEO-focused content on answering real life questions, you’re much more likely to create content that people actually want to read, and in turn you should be rewarded with improved search rankings too.
Do you have a Q&A content success story? Let us know all about it in the comments.