October 2, 2014

How To Generate Content Ideas For Your Site

keyword tool

One of the biggest reasons that SMB sites fail to rank and attract visitors is because of a lack of content on their sites. They simply don’t have enough of the good stuff to support the rankings, to attract links or to serve as a resource to customers. And most times, it’s a result of site owners not knowing what type of site content they need.

“Content is King” is one of the most overused phrases in the search marketing world. But it’s also true. Any good SEO practitioner will tell you that you need content to elevate your site in both the eyes of users and the search engines. The content on your site will help you attract links, make you an authority to the search engines, answer searchers questions and help them feel comfortable making important purchasing decisions. Your content is your lifeblood.

But not all content is created equal. You want to dedicate your time to creating the content that will most benefit you. The best text for your site will answer searcher’s natural questions, help them find what they’re looking for and turn your site into a valuable resource.

If you’re not sure how to go about doing that, here are some tools that can help you identify areas where content can be built out:

Site search: Many SMB Web sites have some type of site search already installed. The power of this magic box is incredible, as it serves as your window into a searcher’s soul. When they have a question or can’t find something on your site, they’re going to type it right into that search box. They’re essentially feeding you information. You want to be analyzing these logs on a consistent basis to give yourself an idea of what’s happening on your site and what your customers are really looking for. Often, people will be searching for natural questions like, “where are you located?”, “what do you provide?”, “how much does X cost?”. However, they’ll also search for [how to fix X], [how to install Y], or [how to use Z]. These are all prime opportunities to provide informative content to increase the value of your site to both to users and the search engines.

Twitter: People are constantly talking on Twitter. They’re looking for information, to share likes and dislikes and to find others going through the same experiences. If you want to know what people are interested in in relation to your topic, search for it on Twitter and see what conversations come up. Use the Advanced Search option in Twitter to find conversations about specific keywords ( ie “wedding”, “florist”, “bouquet”, etc), to track Twitterers talking to a particular user (perhaps a competitor or someone else in your industry), to find local conversations in your area, and to track sentiment around a particular term or product. By looking at this information, you can get an idea as to what the hot topics are related to your industry and then find ways to create pages on your site to address them.

Google Trends: Google Trends is a free service from Google that lets you see what terms people are searching for and whether or not the number of searches is on the rise, decreasing or staying the same. You probably won’t be able to glean too many content ideas from it, but you can use it to find hot button issues that are suddenly taking off, perhaps due to seasonality, sporting events, news occurrences, etc. For example, if you’re a local wedding boutique, you may notice that the traffic for a certain type of wedding veil heightens in April or May while anxious brides are putting their last minute touches on their summer wedding. If you see more people looking for Ann Barge wedding dresses or wedding tiaras, you may want to create content around these areas since you know people are already looking for them or have hinted at an interest in the products. This type of data is also very helpful when writing blog posts because it allows you to piggyback off already determined search traffic.

Wordtracker Keyword Question Tool: I’ve saved the best for last. Wordtracker’s Keyword Questions tool is a really great way to find ideas for new site content. It’s probably my most favorite content tool out there. You enter in a term related to your site and Wordtracker will give you a list of questions that people are already asking about it. They’ll also tell you how many times that question has been asked to help you prioritize which pages to focus on first. For example, I entered in the term [wedding]:

And just like that, Wordtracker populates a list of content ideas that you can write for your site to help answer wedding-related questions. Wordtracker lets you hone in on real questions that you can build content around to help answer a searcher’s concerns and to create content people will want to link to. I use this tool quite often when coming up with content strategies for clients.

Though it’s overused, content really is king when it comes to helping making your site more attractive to users and the search engines. Hopefully the tools above will help you get some insight where your site could benefit from additional content.

What are some content strategies you’re using for your site?

24 Comments ▼

Lisa Barone


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

24 Reactions

  1. Lest we forget, all of these tools are online renderings of real life.

    Who is handling sales? They will know the pain points your customers have and you can write content addressing those issues.

    Who is handling customer service? They will know what questions your customers have about using the product/service and you can write “How To” articles to help them out (and help make customer service easier down the road).

    Want to know what questions customers are asking? You’re probably just a pen and paper away.

  2. I never knew about that Question feature in Wordtracker – how great is that?

    In the same vein, it helps to just get inside your buyer persona and ask as may questions as possible that they might ask. When you have an idea in your mind of that one person who would buy from you, it’s easier to see what the problems, concerns, worries, fears, curiosities of that person are.

    When you have these, you have a wealth of content! And you know you have your buyer persona right when you see them responding to what you write. And if you don’t, it means you probably haven’t figured out exactly who you’re writing to and then it’s time to reevaluate just who your market is.

  3. The keyword question tool is awesome! I’ve already wasted a few minutes playing with that one. I can see how this gem will come in handy when looking for article ideas. Thank you for sharing it with us Lisa.

  4. I say get out there and talk to live people. Do market research. You accomplish many things this way. 1st…you get an opportunity to prospect. By introducing yourself to people, asking questions engages the prospects. A) you find out if this is a potential client for you B)if so, you can exchange contact info and offer to send a link to your blog and if not, you learn something anyway on how to improve your services and offer content

    2nd. You directly hear the problems in the marketplace and your can target your content to address their specific needs.

    Twitter, Facebook and the like should never replace real world relationships and contacts.

  5. Nice article, content is great for readers and SEO, but is often a stumbling block for site owners.

    For content ideas I also look to Yahoo and LinkedIn questions. I’m a Web designer and blog about Web design/marketing/SEO/Social Media and related issues. I typically answer questions on LinkedIn once a week and I find it a great resource. Seeing the questions people ask gives me ideas on what people want to know about Web related issues. Answering the questions gives me a head start on writing future blog entries related to the topic, and the ability to add links let’s me link to articles I’ve previously published that support my answer. All in all the process works well on several levels and I’m sure you could apply the same strategy to other fields as well.

    Also, as long as one is running Google and Twitter searches, I’d also run them on your brand, company name, products, etc. to monitor feedback specific to your business. You can then subscribe to an RSS feed or e-mail alert for the search. You can also use Delicious to see who bookmarks which pages on your site. That can be another good way to measure what content people find most useful.

  6. Hi Lisa
    That Wordtracker tool is awesome. I see and agree with Robert’s point here and I’m actively talking to the customer-facing experts at my clients, but sometimes, you just need that nudge. People who are not writers often just stare at you like a deer in the headlights (you live in NY State so that should make sense to you!). And so a tool like Wordtracker lets you prime the pump with the questions that the market is asking.

  7. @Robert Brady — since we’re in content mode, I’d be very interested in your perspective on blogging at http://www.bigthink.com as a way to build seo value and links.

  8. I really didn’t know about that wordtracker tool Lisa. Thanks a lot for sharing that. I checked it out and it’s really very cool tool.

  9. Thank you for this article Lisa. I am with everyone else, Wordtracker is worth checking out.

  10. Great information! We have websites for a number of very small niche markets and these tools will be a great asset. Thank you!

  11. @TJ McCue

    I took a look at BigThink.com and it looked to me like somewhat of a video blog platform? In this format the SEO benefit to YOUR site would be virtually nil. However, BigThink.com has amassed some impressive PageRank and with all the content people create for them, they probably rank quite well. To get any SEO benefit they would need to allow you to link back to your site somehow.

    However, if you are striving to be viewed as an expert in a certain area, this site may provide a platform for you to gain listeners.

  12. Lisa, thanks for the tip on Google Trends and Wordtrackers Keyword Question Tool. These are going to be very useful to my work.

  13. To echo some of the comments here, I recommend that people start by going to other blogs/Twitter/forums and begin participating in conversations before focusing on their own content. There are several benefits to this: 1) people generally spend more time on other sites than they do on yours – if you show up with thoughtful comments where people are already hanging out, that is often a better way to get noticed than to play the SEO game; 2) By reading other sites and seeing what is popular there, you can find out what sort of content attracts people and contributed an informed perspective to the conversations; 3) along the same lines, making someone else’s post the starting/reference point for one of your own is a great way to get noticed by them and, potentially, earn a referral from their site to yours.

  14. Lisa,

    What a great tool: Wordtracker’s Keyword Questions tool! Thanks a lot for mentioning it. I will search on keywords as a preparation for my new site focused on the sole trader (sole proprietorship) and solo entrepreneur. I could get a great list of FAQs and then try to answer them in different ways by linking to great content, writing blog post, interview experts, etc.

    TJ: I am intrigued by Big Think and I will start to “hang out” there. I like their tag line: “We are a global forum connecting people and ideas.” Do you more background information on the site?

  15. I agree with all of these comments about getting out there and asking the right questions – you’ll get the right feedback. Another way to tap into what content is appealing is paying attention to where your customers are going. Noticing what conferences, speakers, and industry events appeal to your customers can provide great insight into the type of content that will get them to sit up and notice.

  16. Great post Lisa. The list of tools are very informative. Wordtracker seems very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  17. @Lisa
    As a small business owner I feel these things are often ignored and perceived important issues are addressed. But I think these things can really bolster the rankings of website and some SEO work along with it can race the business rankings ahead of competitors.

    Sonal
    USourceIT: Riskfree IT outsourcing/sourcing partner for small and medium businesses

  18. Well I really liked the way you spoke of the idea. Well to all of you, u can take a look at this post on How to generate new post Ideas.

  19. Content has always been important, but with the recent changes in linking it is even more vital. There have been companies everywhere scratching for ideas. That is why we have seen so much re-purposing going on. I agree this is an issue. It will be interesting to see how Google deals with similar topics and content in the future as a result of this.

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