Blogging is such an effective way to build a business that the question is why more companies don't engage in it. After all, it's well understood that the more high-quality content a website has, the better it will perform in attracting sales leads—and, ultimately, clients.
According to a recent study by HubSpot, an online-marketing research firm and inbound-marketing software developer, companies that blog generate 55% more visitors to their websites, 97% more inbound links (which helps them rank better on Google) and 67% more monthly leads. With statistics like these, why would a business not want to blog regularly?
The two most common reasons I hear for not blogging are simple ones: "I don't have the time" and "I don't know what to blog about." My suspicion is that if most business owners were to see the statistics in the HubSpot study, they'd be keen to make time for blogging. But that still leaves the objection of "I don't know what to write about." And that's a fair objection to raise. Without a good topic, a blog post is a waste of time.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to come up with killer topics; here are seven that my experience has shown are effective:
GO FISHING IN THE ANSWERS ARCHIVES: Use Yahoo Answers and LinkedIn Answers to find the questions that people ask most often about your industry. The attraction of these sites is that they have such a huge volume of questions—which anyone can ask or answer—on so many topics that you can see what interests substantial numbers of people. If you sift through the commonly asked questions that are relevant to your business, you'll soon get a sense of the topics that interest your blog readers.
USE KEYWORD-RESEARCH TOOLS TO PEER INTO SEARCHERS' MINDS: Tools such as this one at Google AdWords yield monthly figures on how many people have entered given keywords on the search engine. When people search via Google, they're generally seeking answers to questions, so tools like this offer a gold mine of insight into what they'd like to know. To brainstorm blog topics, simply enter search strings of various keywords relating to your business. Google will provide monthly search totals not only for the keywords you've entered but for a long list of variations. Peruse these keywords and then, for any of these keywords that generated a reasonable volume of searches, imagine how you would word them as questions. This will yield a number of options for topics for your next blog post.
PUMP YOUR OWN PEOPLE FOR IDEAS: Talk to your company's sales and customer service groups to determine which questions your company's customers and prospects ask most often. This is a great source of ideas because these questions will reveal exactly what's on the minds of your existing and potential clients.
HANG OUT AT COMPETITORS' WEBSITES: Imagine if you could review rival firms' sites to determine which of their blog posts have performed the best over time, and then create even better content on the same topics. Actually, you can: a free tool called Topsy permits you to enter competitors' sites, returning the content from these sites that is performing best, including the number of times each post has been tweeted about. All you need to do is enter the URL of a competitor's website into the "Search" field and then hit "Search." You can also choose to see content-sharing numbers over different time periods: all-time, the past 30 days, the past seven days and even the past day. This will yield valuable insights and a treasure trove of ideas for blog topics.
ASK YOUR FOLLOWERS WHAT THEY WANT TO READ ABOUT: Use social-media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to ask your followers what content they'd like to see. Presumably, most of your followers are already fans of your brand, but even they would like more information about certain topics. Once again, let those who are the most likely to enjoy your blog posts help choose the subject matter.
RIFF OFF THE LATEST NEWS: Monitor the news of the day for stories that may impact your industry in some way, then be among the first to write a blog post about it. Rather than just repeating the story, detail how this development may affect your blog's readers. You can monitor the news by going to Google News and entering keywords relating to your industry, then choose those stories where you feel you can offer your blog readers insight and analysis.
KEEP UP ON WHAT OTHER GOOD BLOGGERS ARE WRITING: The final technique is simply to read the blogs of others in your industry. I often get ideas that wouldn't have occurred to me otherwise from reading other people's blogs. To be clear, I'm not suggesting copying their content. Rather, you should marry different ideas from various sites into a concept that few have considered before and that no one—or almost no one—has thought to write about before.
To use a hockey example, reading the two following blog posts could make you aware of a connection that you hadn't considered previously: Why Leafs GM Brian Burke is likely to return as USA Hockey's CEO for 2014 Olympics and Bruins Goalie Tim Thomas Waves No Trade Clause. Could this mean that Tim Thomas wants to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2014, which might give him a better chance of making the U.S Olympic squad in 2014?
Realizations like this can make for great posts. As well, they can position you, the blog writer, as an authority in the space because you're helping others see those relationships.
Jeff Quipp is an expert on search and social media marketing. He is the founder and CEO of Search Engine People Inc., an Ajax, Ont.-based search and social media marketing firm that has been on the PROFIT 200 ranking of Canada's Fastest Growing Companies for the past four consecutive years.
More columns by Jeff Quipp