The Frugal Guide to Content Marketing (Part 1): How To Find Proven Content Ideas
Those who succeed at doing content marketing tend to have a couple of things in common:
They have a large audience already; these guys do the heavy lifting in amplifying their content.
And secondly, the content is ‘built’ to go ‘viral’.
The challenge for most brands or individuals doing content marketing is that they have neither of those elements. And what makes it even harder is that you don’t have a sizeable budget to commit.
Over the course of this 3-part blog series, we’re going to provide you with a comprehensive blueprint for your content marketing – how to find proven topic ideas (part 1), how to ‘frame’ your content to maximize sharing (part 2), and how to promote your content (part 3) - and all without spending a cent on advertising or tools.
All you need is time, the desire to take action, and some hustle….
Finding topic ideas that fly.
You may have sat in one of these meetings before.
Someone fairly high up the food chain in your organization comes up with a brilliant idea that is “absolutely, positively, bound to go viral”. Everyone else nods and gets carried away by their admirable enthusiasm. No one asks for or sees any evidence as to how that will actually manifest.
This common problem, associated with many who publish content, is that they do so based on a whim or a hope that it will take flight. There are some techniques to find content ideas. Hope, however, is not one of these tactics.
Top Ranked Podcasts on iTunes
We are currently experiencing a wave of enthusiasm for the podcast.
The biggest authors and bloggers are now devoting serious attention to this aural medium. The intimate and engaging format allows great minds and organizations to really tell a story and draw in an audience while they walk the dog, workout at the gym or sit in traffic.
Here's how you can plunder the world of podcasting for content ideas.
On either of those players (we’re using iTunes), search with a broad keyword that’s relevant to your business. For example "startup".
Now, take a look at each podcast episode or channel. Each one of them is a potential topic idea.
Next, click to expand the series description and make note of those to find WHAT to discuss.
Or look at the top charts for a relevant category to your business (eg. Management and Marketing) and see what is the most popular, fast-moving, or most shared to help get a feel for the topics or themes that are earning most attention.
PRO TIP: Find your industry’s top influencers that do podcast and subscribe to their list. They often break down the content of their podcast.
Amazon search suggestions
Amazon is Disneyland for content topic ideas. Think about it. The online retail giant is many things nowadays, but primarily, it is a book retailer. And books are basically very large blog posts with catchy headlines.
So let's say you're in the business of vegan wholesales. - an intentionally obtuse area of research by the way. Type "vegan diet" into Amazon’s search bar and over 28,000 items were returned. Significantly, most of these are book headlines and topics that you could modify for use straight away.
Let's take it a step further and pick one of the books that came up in our search.
We chose "Green & Lean: 20 vegetarians and vegan recipes for building muscle, losing fat, and staying healthy" (wow, that's a long title).
Let's see what's in the table of contents:
And just like that, even more topic ideas on a silver platter.
Now, let's take a look at the customer reviews. We know that this book is quite popular because it was number four on the "vegan diet" charts, so let's see how we can use what's missing in the book and use those as topic ideas.
PRO TIP: Narrow the reviews down to two and three-star reviews because they are the ones that are critical of the book (Shout out to Sarah Peterson for this 'filter' trick).
"Not a lot of recipes",
"protein recommendation is way off",
"not enough vegan recipes"
Looks like the author doesn’t differentiate vegan and vegetarian…..
When you see these complaint trends, take note because this is your audience telling you what they want to see more of and there’s a gap in the market you could exploit.
Real Twitter conversation
Twitter is a great go-to source for breaking news, for live event conversation feeds, or just for networking with other professionals in an exchange of ideas.
The golden nugget for content creators, however, is in the real conversations happening between people.
But, how do you weed out real conversations from people promoting their blog posts or sharing links?
Type into the Twitter search bar ‘#hashtag -filter:links’
Now you can see the discussions people are having in real time, that don’t involve some sort of promotion or branding. This will give you a great sense of what is popular and you may be able to create some more newsworthy content.
PRO TIP: Take notes of tweets that have a lot of likes and retweets. Those likes and retweets virtually validate the topic ideas.
Wikipedia table of contents
This is one our favorites for blog topic research.
Wikipedia is literally an encyclopedia of any topic imaginable curated by thousands of experts and organized into categories.
First, head over to Wikipedia and type in your broad keyword. For example, "pregnancy"
Then look at the table of contents for that topic.
Some content ideas that sprung to mind after looking at the table of content:
- Average weight gain during pregnancy (from ‘Weight gain’)
- Effects of smoking during pregnancy (from ‘Recreational drugs’)
- Workouts for pregnant women (from ‘Exercise’)
PRO TIP: Browse around references, further reading, and external links sections, and note down topic ideas
Did you know that YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine with more than 3 billion searches processed a month, 100 hours’ worth of video are uploaded every minute and is bigger than Bing, Yahoo!, Ask and AOL combined?
Here's how you can leverage YouTube to find blog topic ideas.
Head over to Google, type in your broad keyword. For example, we typed in "DIY wedding", and choose the 'videos' tab.
Straight away, you can note down those topics, but we're going to take it a step further.
Click on one of those videos. We chose "DIY Wedding: How to Plan a Wedding On A Budget! | VICKYLOGAN".
Scroll past the video and look at the description.
Look at these topics and sub-topic ideas!
Take note of these topics, and put them in Google Keyword Planner to see which one is worth pursuing.
PRO TIP: Look at the most upvoted comments. They usually provide incredible insights.
First, join Facebook groups that are relevant to your niche AND are active.
Once you've been approved, look for questions in that group.
PRO TIP: Look for questions that receive lots of likes. Take a look at the comments as well for further topic ideas.
Just like Facebook groups, researching topic ideas on forums is like conducting a focus group with an audience validating your questions.
Here's a simple way you can find forums in your niche (we'll show you the search strings to use and other forums search engines when we talk about content promotion. Click here to be notified when the post is live)
“keyword” + “forums”
“keyword” + “forum
“keyword” + “board”
We used "cooking" + "forums"
The beauty of forums is that they are typically categorized into different subtopics. If your site is broad enough to discuss many subtopics, then you're really in the right place. But if you only run a website that caters to small niche topics then don't fret.
Now, here's the trick:
Sort the threads by "views".
Look at those topics that people are interested in. Note them down.
PRO TIP: Check the comments to see possible sub-topic ideas
Quora is a never ending source of topic ideas.
Here's how you can find topic ideas on Quora.
Type in your broad keyword in the search bar. We used "travel".
Look for questions that have a lot of "follows". What that means is people are looking for an answer to that question.
PRO TIP: Look at related topics and questions in the sidebar. You can locate those by going to the topic overview page.
reddit, the self-proclaimed front page of the Internet.
When something goes big on reddit, it gets picked up by major news sites.
Huffington, BuzzFeed, LifeHacker, and other huge publishers keep their eyes on reddit to find soon-to-be popular topics.
The way reddit works is simple. People find content and if they like it, they will upvote it. Reddit users are known for being VERY critical, so if a thread has a lot of upvotes, it’s a seal of approval that is harder to obtain than many others.
Here's how you find topic ideas on reddit:
First, you need to create an account.
Once you have an account, go to the reddit homepage and type in your broad keyword in the search bar.
We used "finance".
There are a couple of ways to find ideas on reddit:
1. Go to related "subreddits", for example, https://www.reddit.com/r/personalfinance/
Click "top", and sort by "all time"
Those are ideas that you need to take note of.
PRO TIP: Look at the comments and take note of recurring themes
PRO TIP 2: Go to related subreddits, which are usually located on the sidebar, and repeat the process.
2. Skip over the subreddits section on the search page, and look at the 'posts' section.
See which posts have high "points", relevant to your niche, and take note of those.
PRO TIP: Look at the comments and take note of recurring themes
Pinterest is such an underused research tool.
Create an account on Pinterest.
Next, type in a broad keyword in the search bar.
We used "college tips".
Look for content/topics that have a lot of pins, and take notes of those.
Let's take it up a notch.
We love Pinterest so much because it's incredibly user-friendly.
See those little pretty boxes under the search bar? Those are basically other categories that you can search from; similar to a sub-topic classification on forums.
From a single keyword phrase "college tips", we can rinse and repeat our search on "study", "for girls", "for guys", "infographic", and so on.
We wouldn't have thought of separating college tips for guys and girls, but apparently the data says otherwise.
Education marketplaces are booming. You may hear them referred to as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and some of the larger brands in this space are Udemy, Skillshare, and Lynda (recently acquired by LinkedIn).
These are a great left field way to find topic ideas. We're using Udemy as an example.
First, type in your broad keyword.
Straight away you're presented with a list of topic ideas. Take note of these.
Next, choose a popular course that is relevant to your industry.
The way Udemy courses are structured is that they list out the curriculum. Think of a course as your topic, and the curriculum as subtopics. Take note of these subtopics as they might be useful when structuring your content.
PRO TIP: Just like our Amazon tips, look for 2 to 3-star reviews, and see if you can incorporate their critics into your content.
Ok, so hopefully you have a huge shortlist of topic ideas that you positively KNOW are the things people want to know more about. Do you have any other great content research tactics that we left out? Share your expertise with our readers. We’d love to hear from you.