Using Data to Create Content People Want to Read

(This is part 2 of a 10-part series on optimizing content. Often optimizing content begins before you create anything.)

Perhaps the biggest challenge in creating good content is determining what people want to read. Although search engine optimization is important, ultimately people buy your products, not search engines. So when you’re blogging (you do blog, right?) or writing about your organization, how do you cover topics that people want to know about? Do you just guess? Isn’t there any data out there to help you choose topics to talk about? Yes, there are a few good resources that allow you to find the topics where you have expertise and can provide value to those who interact with your content.

We’re going to make an assumption here, and assume that once you have a topic you can actually write something useful, so we’ll focus most of our time on helping you

Source #1: Your Own Customers
Before you go exploring the world wide web looking for new topics, first look at your own customers. Start with your help and support logs. Are there constant questions people are asking about your product? Is there anything you haven’t explained well? Are there any topics that are not fully product specific. Meaning are there any questions you can answer that may be beneficial to people who are not already your customers? If you’ve been in business for a while, you likely have a goldmine of potential topics just in your support forums. Comb through these and look for new and trending topics to write about.

Source #2: Google Suggest
One of my favorite tools to find relevant topics is Google’s Suggest tool.
Google Suggest for SEO results

Suggest allows you to find terms people are looking for online. However, it is a pain to type a bunch of terms in Google and only get a few results, so we use Ubersuggest is a scraper that reads all of Google’s suggestions and gives you a comprehensive list based upon topics people are looking for. It can help you understand what terms are important and find keywords to tackle with your searches.

Source #3: Google’s Keyword Tool
One of the most powerful tools available for keyword data analysis is Google’s AdWords tool. Google’s AdWords tool gives you the results of local and global search volumes of any keyword you search for (local means local to the country, not the city).

Once you open up the Keyword Tool, be sure to select the “Exact Match” option for the keywords. The “Broad Match” option brings in similar words and phrases, but these types of phrases will never show up in the search results. In order to get an accurate picture of how keywords are used in the real world, the “Exact Match” is much better.

It’s important to remember that the Google AdWords tool is designed to help you target key phrases for ads. As such, there are limits with the tool. For example, the competition column is for ads in those particular phrases. Competition in these phrases may or may not reflect organic SEO competition. One of the best tools to determine keyword difficulty is SEOMoz’s KeyWord Difficulty Tool. Unfortunately, you need a PRO level membership to access it.

Once you have a list of exact match keywords, determine what topics are relevant to your industry. Is there anything that you can tackle? What phrases do you think you can rank for in the search results? The key topics will be those where you can add value to the community and meet a need that people are searching for. These keywords are hard to find, but they are the ones that should drive your content strategy.

Source #4: Google Trends
Although this isn’t technically a “source”, it is a great way to test your sources. Google Trends shows you the popularity of search terms over a given time period. Much like stocks, you can’t predict exactly how popular a search term will be, but you can see trends in the data over the time. These trends help you determine if something is growing or shrinking in popularity. This information may be helpful if you are looking at several content creation options. If one topic seems to be trending, perhaps it might be good to write about that topic – or even choose not to write about it and wait until the initial surge is over. It depends on your goals and content you’re creating.

Google Trends for SEO Keyword

Source #5: Social Media

Social media is a powerful tool. Today’s viral content is mostly the result of continued social media sharing. One of the tools we use in-house is HootSuite. HootSuite allows you to create custom filters to determine what’s trending. For example, our company is based in Indianapolis. So I have a #Indy feed saved so I can keep up with events around town. I also have a #blogging and #seo feed to help me know what’s happening on those hashtags in the Twittersphere.

Social Streams from HootSuite

Raven Tools also provides some powerful social media analytics, but it does require a paid subscription. If you’re serious about your social analytics though, it’s worth considering.

Without creativity your content won’t go anywhere, but solid data allows you to create content the meets the needs of the market. These tools allow you to do “market research” to determine what’s popular and then add your own voice to the conversation. It is important to note, that just because you pick a popular topic does not mean your content will be popular. You still must create great content. We just want to help you use your time as efficiently as possible.

About the Author
Tyler Brooks
 is a SEO and video production specialist at Proof SEO.