How to think up customer-friendly blog post ideas
If you're running your own business, blogging is likely to be part of your marketing plan. And if it isn't, it should be. Blogging is a great way to offer something extra to your customers. It's also good for showcasing your expertise, and it can help people to find your site on search engines.
Even if you don't run a blog on your own website, you can write guest posts for other people. Or you might want to send something to customers on your email list. Just to remind them that you're still in business.
The tricky thing can be finding something to write. And not just something: ideally you want to write blog posts your customers will like. Who wants to spend their evening writing a post that no one reads?
The trick is to hold off from the writing for a little bit. Much as you might want to dive in and fill up that blank page (said no one, ever...), make time for a little research first. Find the ingredients for your post, and the writing will be so much easier.
Ingredients for a blog post your customers will like
- A topic they want to know about
- Keywords that help them find the post
- A headline that tells them what they're going to get from the article
- Helpful content that solves their problems
- Nice pictures (Seriously. People like nice pictures. Don't we all like the magazine bit of the Sunday papers best?)
There's a useful by-product to tackling your post like this. You turn a monolithic writing challenge into a series of short tasks. Each one might take 10-15 minutes, and you can slot it in when things are quiet. It makes blogging much easier to fit around the rest of your work.
Step 1: find a topic
The first challenge is to find a topic that you want to write about, and your customers want to know about. You'll find loads of ideas in customer research or feedback that you already have. Emails, product reviews, questionnaires, even customer complaints can all be useful.
Whenever customers ask a question, talk about a goal or a problem they have, or tell you about how they've used your product, that's a potential post, right there. You might like to start a list of ideas, and add to it when you're looking at feedback or emails.
If you have customers but no idea what they think, or you don't have customers at all, here are some ideas to get you started.
On top of any customer feedback, there are a few tools I use to help me find blog post ideas.
Quora is a question and answer site. Search for any topic to see what questions people have about it. You can also find answers from other people. For me, the answers are as good as the questions for topic inspiration. Especially the answers I violently disagree with.
Huballin is a tool that shows you search queries that people have done on a topic. For instance, when I was researching this post I asked for ideas on 'blog topics' and I got:
- what are good blogging topics
- what should a good blog have
- what are some good how to topics
...plus about 50 other ideas. These are questions people have entered into Google. That's a good sign that at least someone will want to read your answer.
BuzzSumo finds articles shared on a topic. It lists them in order of popularity, based on the number of shares. On the free plan, you only see the first ten articles but that’s often enough to give you some ideas. You can use this to see what’s popular. Or you can turn it the other way and see what others have written, so you can pick a new angle.
Avoid going for topics just because they're trending. You might strike it lucky and get lots of attention, but you're up against big brand marketing teams trying to do the same thing.
Aim for subjects that will be valuable for a long time: to your customers today, and to customers you haven't even met yet. This kind of long-lasting content is sometimes called evergreen content. It keeps attracting people to your site long after you wrote it.
Another tip I picked up from a Copyblogger webinar: don't be shy about revisiting a topic you've covered before. Either with a new post, or with an update to an old one. New customers might still need that content, even if long term customers have moved on. I made a list of types of post that can work on most blogs, and several of these would make for great evergreen content.
Step 2: find useful keywords
Keywords are the words that Google (and other search engines) pick out of your website text to decide what subject your site is about. Imagine your business is about project management tools. Google knows that because you use lots of words related to project management. And where do you use those words? In your blog posts.
So, using the right keywords is helpful, because it means Google shows your pages to people looking for the information you have to offer. And this all works a lot better if you use the same words on your website that your customers use when they search for information.
For instance, I call a survey a survey. As in 'customer satisfaction survey'. But a lot more people search for 'customer satisfaction questionnaire' than 'customer satisfaction survey'. Strange but true. So, when I write posts about surveys, I try to throw in the word questionnaire now and then, just so we're all clear that we're talking about the same thing.
And how do I know that? I use keyword research tools.
Google Trends is where I tend to start. I take the keywords from my list of topics I made earlier, and start putting them into the Trends search bar. This shows the volume of searches for that word or phrase over time. You can graph several different keywords together to see which is the most popular. There's also a section below where you can see related searches, to find extra ideas to include in your post.
Adwords Keyword Tool gives even more detail. You need an Adwords account to use it - you don't actually need to run any ads to have an account, though. The Keyword Tool can show you search volumes for keywords, and keyword ideas for a topic. You can also see which words are 'high competition'. That is, lots of advertisers are bidding for those keywords. Which could mean that lots of full time marketing teams are also writing blog posts with those keywords. Sometimes you see a keyword that has a high search volume and low competition. Those are the ones I like.
Don't get bogged down in keyword research. It's more about making sure you're talking the same language as your customers, than trying to win at Google. And please don’t take your nice list of keywords and write your post with them and nothing else. It will be horrible to read and Google will hate you.
Step 3: write a good headline.
You’ve now got a topic, and some words to use in your post. It's time to start thinking about a headline that will make your customers desperate to read more.
The best way to do this is by watching what works for others, and practicing a lot. But given we all have businesses to run, there are some tools you can use to help.
Coschedule Headline Analyzer scores your draft headlines on various factors, including length, number of words, style and positivity. Coschedule also offer lots of articles to help you improve.
If you can't even face writing a headline, you could try a headline generator.
Portent's Title Maker can come up with amusing ideas, and explains why the suggestions might work. I keep it on standby for when I'm flat out of inspiration.
Hubspot Blog Topic Generator takes any subject and creates a week's worth of headlines. (I think there are one or two news websites that use this on a fairly regular basis.) Be careful which ones you pick, if you don't want to sound like every clickbait site on the internet.
I wouldn’t use a headline straight out of a generator. But they’re good tools to get you started when your mind has gone blank.
Step 4: finding ideas to fill out your blog post
If you started by researching questions, this bit is easier because you just have to answer them. I generally find by the time I've finished doing the research above, I'm full of ideas. I start outlining at this point, jotting down subheadings and notes.
I fill in any gaps in my own research with Quora, and of course Google. Google is particularly handy because it shows me relevant notes from my Evernote account along side other search results. This is a great way to pick up things I saved ages ago and have since forgotten. If you have the Evernote web clipper installed you can turn this feature on in the options.
Step 5: find a nice picture
Once I've done the outline, I like to take a break from the article before I start writing it properly. I use this time to find nice images for the post.
Time to get writing
Now you have all your ideas ready, your post should flow pretty easily. If not, and you're struggling to organise all your material, you might like to try this approach to planning your article. And once you’ve written your first draft, try these tips for editing in a hurry.