What will your next blog post be about?
Do you know what your audience is actually interested in?
Addressing these questions is what sets the successful blogger apart - she’s done her homework and understands who her audience is and what they want to learn about. She’s researched the niche and identified the specific topics and questions that need to be covered in blog articles. And she's mapped out a publishing calendar for herself.
Sadly, that’s not me.
I tend to blog about whatever comes to mind. Whatever topics I think my audience might be interested in.
Sometimes that works really well, particularly if I’m capturing a timely bit of news and sharing that with my audience.
Other times, not so much.
And while I’ve delivered hits more often than misses, those misses still bug me. I think about the articles I spent time drafting, polishing and publishing, yet which received no attention, and wonder what I might have accomplished had I used that time differently, had I written about something else entirely.
As it just so happens, there are three new tools that have just come out which strive to help bloggers like me and you avoid such issues, and help us be more like that successful blogger who has her stuff together.
These tools give us deep insights into the topics and questions that our target audience is interested in today, which means now, almost miraculously, we no longer have to guess whether anyone else will be interested in a topic before we write about it!
The tools are actually features of existing tools you may already be familiar with: BuzzSumo, SEMrush and Scoop.it.
Question Analyzer by BuzzSumo
BuzzSumo offers a tremendously valuable resource for understanding what pieces of content are popular and why. With the Question Analyzer tool, the attention is turned toward surfacing questions that are being asked regarding particular topics. These questions often represent topics that we should be answering ourselves within our own content.
Punch in any of your main topics and watch as Question Analyzer compares your query against Quora, Reddit, forums and more.
As you can see, a simple keyword search returned over 43,000 questions sorted into 362 topics. Those topics are presented visually in a word cloud, and then sequentially below.
In this example, the topic “Bloggers” returned the most results (1278 questions), followed by WordPress and Blog Post. You can click on the topic in the word cloud to get to that topic’s section on the page, or just scroll down.
As you review the various topics and corresponding questions, you can watch for good questions to answer, as well as those that come up repeatedly.
For instance, the “blogging platform” topic is a popular one with 368 questions. The question of “What blogging platform should I use?” is one that would make sense to answer in an article. And four of the top six questions were all variations on a theme.
There’s a magnifying glass to the right which will show you all of the questions associated with that topic. And of course each question can be clicked to open that particular question in a new window so you can see if it was answered, and how.
Simply take note of the questions you’re interested in writing about and start filling up your content calendar.
Question Analyzer is included with the Pro plan and up with Buzzsumo, which starts at $179/month. There is a 14-day free trial you can take advantage of to give the tool a test drive!
Topic Research by SEMrush
Another tool that you can use to surface writing topics is Topic Research by SEMrush. This tool has just come out of alpha and is currently in beta, so this is an exclusive first-look.
Unlike Buzzsumo’s approach, SEMrush utilizes the entire web, focusing on quality pieces of content. In fact, Maria Belkina, SEMrush Product Owner for Topic Research, considers their algorithm her favorite aspect of the tool.
"Our algorithm for finding relevant subtopics, that, we believe, most qualitatively on the market removes irrelevant, duplicated and trash subtopics. We spent a lot of time on refining it, went through three iterations of its modification, and are going to further improve it.”
Getting started is easy. Again, just type in a topic you want to research and then wait for the results.
After a few moments, Topic Research will present you with a number of subtopics arranged as cards, sorted by volume.
You can also prioritize by Difficulty or Volume/Difficulty, as well as take advantage of the fact that the tool is in beta and ask for other options.
When you click on a subtopic, the card expands to reveal the top ten headlines, five relevant questions, and a number of related searches to help you refine your results if you aren’t quite there yet.
When I was getting ready to publish a recent article on starting a blog, I actually used this tool to help me narrow down my title.
It seemed like “How To Start A Blog” was a popular query and topic, so that’s what I went with.
One of the features I particularly appreciated was that, once you enlarge a particular topic, that topic remains expanded even as you change the prioritization and sort.
To the right of every headline is an Add To Favorites button so you can collect specific ideas and resources for future reference.
Topic Research is included in the Pro plan and up, starting at $99.95/month.
Hawkeye by Scoop.it
That brings us to our third and final tool, Hawkeye by Scoop.it.
When we spoke, Guillaume went on to describe his vision for Hawkeye:
"Our goal with Hawkeye is to provide data and actionable insights that make content marketing more predictable. Nobody creates content in a vaccum: our content will always struggle for attention with many other pieces. The problem is that it’s really hard to look at what each competing website or influencer does on a a number of topics - let alone measure it. There’s just too much to do. By leveraging artificial intelligence, Hawkeye monitors, analyzes and understands content from all over the web to help marketers create better content and measure its impact."
One interesting difference between the various tools is their source of data. While Buzzsumo scans forums and Q&A sites, SEMrush tends to index the web at large. Hawkeye’s approach is to utilize the tremendous volume of content that Scoop.it users are clipping daily as a starting point for determining worthwhile content.
All of that content is indexed and analyzed so that reports can be generated on whatever query you want to run.
It starts as easily as the others; just enter an initial keyword:
I’m still interested in how the “How To Start A Blog” topic looks, and am particularly keen to find ancillary articles to write within the topic, so I punched that in.
I know there’s a lot there so I’ll break it down.
First, the default query looks within article Titles for your keyword phrase, but you can adjust the filters to adhere to whatever requirements you have.
- You can search within Title, Content, Author or Domain
- You can select Contains, Contains Exactly, or Does Not Contain
- You can additional keywords via OR
- You can add another filter as an AND statement
- You can select Past Week, Month, Year or All Time
- You can select a different language
- You can sort by relevance, popularity or freshness
Using the various options and boolean operators, it’s possible to construct very complex and exacting queries. And of course you can save them at any time.
Second, there’s a scatter chart that indicates the relationship between Word Count and Shares for the content fitting your query. As you can see in my example, there was one outlier blog post that achieved 144k shares and skewed the report. Mousing over the dot reveals that post’s information.
I could check out that post and see if it really warranted that level of social activity, or if there was something else going on. And if I wanted to, I could add a filter to my query to exclude that domain and bring the overall graph back in line.
There are still a couple of outliers I might exclude if I was trying to gain some insights about the average articles in this topic, but I can still see that most of the articles are under 3000 words and tended to accrue under a thousand shares each. I can also see that, for this topic at least, word count does not seem to have an impact on social shares.
Clicking on the gear icon for this chart allows you to change the data from Word Count to Readability or Image Count or Quality Score. Reviewing each will help you understand what the existing articles in that topic are like.
The next chart is simply called Topics and helps you see what the overall intended topic for each resulting piece of content in your query is.
For instance, out of the 324 articles the query returned, 16 have to do with “Money Blogging” (not surprisingly).
This list may indicate some interesting subtopics for you to pursue.
Below that are charts for Websites and Authors, which will help you determine who the players are currently for that particular topic. These might represents blogs to guest post for, or influencers to reach out to.
Finally, all of the articles returned by the query are shown in a sorted teaser list so you can review some of the best performing articles for comparison or ideas!
As I scroll through the list, I find articles I might want to check out, as well as recurring themes that I could feature in a blog post of my own.
So between the Topics breakdown, and the individual list of performing content, you will be able to understand what’s out there already for a given topic, and get ideas on what else you might write about.
Hawkeye is by invitation only, as we mentioned, and has not yet determined a pricing model while they’re still iterating features. If you’re interested in trying the tool and are willing to offer feedback, you can request an invitation here.
Virtually any content creator can benefit from these tools and wield them to create killer content.
Rather than spend countless hours analyzing datapoints and building complex spreadsheets that have to be updated manually, these tools can provide that kind of information at a glance.
More importantly, by implementing a data-driven approach to generating blog post topics, you can rest assured that there will be a significant audience just waiting for your content.
The end result? You’ll save time, and keep your creative energies focused on publishing the best possible content for your blog & business. And note that each of the tools offers other features and uses beyond topic ideation, so pick the one that interests you the most and give it a try.
This post was first published on the Social Media Hat blog.