This article will not give you a millionth explanation of why you need content and how it helps your business. I’m guessing that by August 2017 we’ve all become, more or less, aware of this fact. What I’ll try and do is present you with an interesting and actionable tactic for gathering new content ideas.
Because, let’s face it, not many of us are able to come up with brilliant content ideas all the time, even when you have seasoned marketers in your team. Time spent exploring spreadsheets and keyword reports could have probably produced better results if it was invested elsewhere.
Although there are many ways to prepare a huge number of potentially interesting topics, one of the easiest ways is to look for them right in your neighborhood. And try to cover the existing content gap. Analyzing the content produced by your competitors is a quick and easy way for gathering ideas to write about. Most importantly, “spying” on their content is actually pretty easy.
A content gap is a term often used when a piece (or pieces) of content is underperforming, not bringing the value proportional to the effort invested in creating or promoting it. However, this is not the gap we’re going to talk about today. While this version of the content gap focuses on content and a bunch of KPIs that go from lead generation, cost per visit, funnel conversion rate and so on, we are going to be talking more about the actual gap.
The actual gap that’s created by you not providing the content relevant to your readers, who go on and fill their need for information in other places. The content gap that actually means that you’re not grabbing your leads and conversions at all.
An important remark—this methodology is focused on growing organic search engine traffic. Building links, referral traffic, and social media exposure can be a huge uplift to every piece of content, but in this article we’ll focus on an easy way to generate a huge number of relevant content ideas.
I actually had an interesting conversation the other week with our SEO specialist. She was prospecting for potential link building opportunities and she came across a bunch of different sites that had very generic article titles, along the lines of “The Importance of Social Media for Your Business”.
She rightfully raised the question about the validity of writing such a generic piece of content that outlines 5-10 semi-important reasons about how a business might profit from utilizing social media marketing. After taking a quick glance at the type of websites that these blog posts were published on, the answer became obvious. They all offered some kind of digital marketing service.
So, I tried to reason with her and said that if a reader wanted to know about social media, and couldn’t find the info on their site, they would go elsewhere. Thus, they would be willing to let a number of potential leads (however small) choose a different service provider. That is not something that any marketer would do.
However, there’s always a possibility that a piece of generic content might bring even more harm than good. More often than not, having a piece of content that doesn’t offer anything substantial and looks like thousands of existing articles can have a negative impact on your SEO. It’s actually very simple – if your content offers zero to nothing in terms of value, nobody will be bothered to read it. Thus, it will have a huge bounce rate, lower time on page, and all the things you wish to avoid. All of which are ranking factors. So, yes. Your rankings will definitely go down.
You definitely need to take time and explain. When I first joined ActiveCollab, I was asked to do a full SEO audit of our content and propose a content strategy that would start moving us up in the search rankings and start generating leads. All the way from on-page SEO, through keyword prospecting and research, down to creating a content schedule for the next 6 months.
After the initial few weeks of gathering data and tweaking the on-site stuff, I was left with a list of keywords that was too long to go through. After all, SaaS project management niche is a very saturated one, with a lot of big players. I had to determine someplace to start.
So, I asked our most experienced content writer, who’s been writing our blog for almost two years now, one simple question: if someone landed on our website, and wanted to know what project management actually is, could they find the answer to that question? And I got a quick NO. Great, we had a place to start, and so—Project Management Methodologies & Frameworks was made.
ActiveCollab: Topic list in a project
This might have been a bit of an overkill when it comes to introductions, but it was needed to bring you up to speed and help you realize how easy it is to generate hundreds of different content ideas. You just check what your competition is ranking for. After the arduous work of creating a list of keywords you wish to rank for and after assigning them the right place in your sales funnel, the only thing that’s left for you to do is identify the right type of content you need to create, and start working the magic.
You don’t actually need to go through every blog post on every competitor’s blog. That would take too much time. Instead, you should focus on the ones that are getting good organic traffic.
In order to show you how truly simple this really is, let’s go through a quick demo. For example, you own a website that is all about role-playing video games, and you’re looking for topics to write on your blog in order to get more traffic.
#1 First off, see what websites in your industry are getting the most traffic
SimilarWeb: Industry Analysis
#2 Write those down, and do a content gap analysis.Yes, there is a tool for that.
Basically, the logic behind this tool is utterly simple. I give it a list of domains, and it returns a list of keywords those domains (one or more of them) are ranking for, but my domain is not. It is as simple as that.
Ahrefs: Content Gap Tool
Aside from that, this tool also allows you to generate a bunch of different keyword reports that have info about the potential traffic, keyword difficulty and other useful stuff.
Basically, you get a report that looks like this:
#3 Look for the top-ranking content for those keywords.
This can be done without leaving Ahrefs, although there are tools that offer more insights into who shares this content and when. Yes, you know I’m thinking about BuzzSumo.
Basically, if you’re looking for an estimate of organic traffic, Ahrefs wins the battle.
Ahrefs: Content Explorer
If you prefer to know what people share on social media, BuzzSumo is the man.
Buzzsumo: Content Research
Moving on, we’re coming to one of the most important mantras I’ve learned so far. Your search competition might not be your business competition, but you should treat them the same nonetheless. For example, since ActiveCollab is a software provider, the most competitive keywords on our market lead to many different software review sites.
Capterra, TechnologyAdvice and ProjectManager are top 3 and they are getting the most traffic. They sell PPC traffic, not software.
However, when it comes to a broader set of keywords that we use to move potential users down the funnel, there are even more examples of this. Sources that offer more or less relevant information regarding project management, productivity, organizing your work, home, life, and so on.
They are also our competition and we’re approaching their content as seriously as we do when analyzing direct competition.
Content gap analysis will definitely present you with a bunch of quick and easy opportunities for scoring organic traffic. The first thing we did was sort the keyword list by keyword difficulty. Basically, this is a rough estimate of the number of backlinks needed to rank a page in the top 10 of Google’s search.
Ahrefs: Keyword Explorer
After that, of course, search volume. Higher search volume – lower buyers intent is the formula that works in 95% of the cases, but is very dependent on the niche. Finally, we did a thorough research and checked which of them worked better with blog posts, videos or infographics, and which of them required a landing page dedicated to that particular set of search queries. Different pages for different search intent—that’s marketing 101.
In most cases, you’re entering the market that has one or more established players who probably know what they’re doing—more or less anyway. This kind of strategy will work in such cases—when you’re presented with numerous opportunities that are fair game. All you need to do is create something better and compete with them head-on, no matter how big or small you or them are.
It’s not a bad idea to keep this in mind when creating a mindset when you find yourself in an unknown territory. Many players that are first in their niches experience big growth right at the start, but soon start stagnating and even losing over time, because of focusing on only a few things they’re good at. Always cover everything you possibly can, all the different topics you can imagine. Have a response to as many relevant search queries as possible.
Because someone else will come and build an even better bridge over the content gap. That’s how we’re doing it, anyway.
Mladen is the content researcher and SEO specialist @ ActiveCollab. After spending a bit of time in a digital agency working on his skills, he went to pursue a more challenging role. His work includes keyword research, generating content ideas for multiple campaigns (company blog, onboarding content, 3rd party publications, etc.) and technical optimization of all content and website copy.
Aug 16. 2017
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