Staring at a blank computer screen thinking of content topics and drawing a blank?
Worry not, it happens to all of us!
To boost content marketing and SEO, and to rank high in Google organically (not with ads), it’s a no-brainer that you need to continuously find fresh website content ideas to keep your audience engaged.
But what to blog about?
You will find lots of online sources suggesting hundreds of ways on how to come up with content ideas. They are fantastic ways to find original content ideas, sure, but with 2 challenges:
- They work only if you have a lot of time. Which is always a challenge we small business owners face.
- These methods are not always data-driven. So you might find some topics to blog about, but maybe there is not enough demand for these topics, or they are so popular, that it is almost impossible to rank high in Google for that, with your small business website.
So in this post, we will do it a bit differently.
This post will show you, with lots of examples, how to find engaging topics to write about, with a focus on 2 key aspects:
- Find creative post ideas specific to your niche, that actually have good potential, but low competition. So topics that are more likely to help you rank high in Google organic searches.
- Find these ideas quickly, usually within one hour.
What you need to follow the process in this post:
A proper keyword research tool.
I would definitely recommend SEMRush, as in my experience they have the most accurate data and lots of useful tools for any level of experience.
You can get an extended 14-day free trial to see if it suits you (their usual trial period is 7 days).
Tools like KWFinder and Ubersuggest may be cheaper, but they don’t have as big a database of information like SEMRush, Ahrefs, and Moz. The process of filtering out topics to get very specific ones suited for you is also a bit limited.
What is the overall process of finding website content ideas?
It is a 3-step process to finding content topics to blog about.
1. Get content suggestions by researching topics and websites.
2. Use a powerful SEO tool to filter and narrow down the topics that match your business.
3. Filter the content ideas for SEO (find the ones with high-ranking potential).
What are the criteria for finding high-potential topics?
An SEO tool will give you lots of data on topics. The key metrics you need to focus on, at least in the beginning, are the volumes/ keyword difficulty/ page traffic. In a tool like SEMRush, some metrics would be:
- Volume of 80+
- Keyword Difficulty < 70% (< 60% is even better)
- Competitor and other reference pages with high traffic
- Question-type keywords
What is the difference between content topic research and keyword research?
The objective of content topic research is to understand what questions people are asking, what information they want, so you can get ideas on what to blog about, or create other types of content.
Keyword research is the process to identify all the primary and related keywords you should use in your content to can optimize your site for SEO.
Can I use free blog topic research tools?
You can use free tools like Google (Related Searches, People Also Ask), Answer The Public, to get content marketing ideas at any time.
Pros of using free topic research tools:
- They are free.
- They give you an idea of what people are asking and related searches.
Cons of using free topic research tools:
- It takes a lot of time to collect keywords and filter them exactly the way you need.
- These tools don't give you the data and metrics you need to determine the potential of reaching high SERPs.
If you want to get data directly from Google, you can use Google Keywords Planner (free) to find overall content ideas for your website. But to get very niche-specific ideas, you should run these topics through an SEO tool to determine their ranking potential.
How to quickly find content ideas in 5 different ways
1. Keyword Research
Let’s say you are a small business selling children’s books. And you want to find content topics related to this niche.
Step 1: Log in to SEMRush.
Step 2: On the left, you see the dashboard. Go to SEO -> SEO Dashboard -> Keyword Overview. Enter your niche (in this case, children's books). Choose a country (I chose United States). These are the results I see.
Step 3: Click on Questions -> View all 3,819 keywords.
Note: The goal is to find topics. So as mentioned in the criteria above, the first priority is to find questions that people are asking, so you can write a blog post that answers these questions.
If there are not many questions for the term you entered, then click on Keyword Variations.
Once you click on Questions, at the top, you see all the 3819 keywords. The key metrics you need to focus on here are Volume & KD, as marked in the image. You can click on either of them to show the data in ascending or descending format.
The left-hand section shows you the keywords included, and you see many are about self-publishing, writing, and illustrating books.
These are not relevant for you as in this example your business is about selling the books, not advising people how to make them.
Step 4: Click on Exclude Keywords. Scroll through the left section, to find all the words not relevant for you. Write them in the Exclude Keywords box and click on Apply.
In this case, I filtered out the words: write, writing, publishing, illustrator, make, sell, create, manuscript, agent, copyright, donate.
Now the list has narrowed down to 2,497 from 3,819. And they are more relevant for the niche of selling children's books. You can filter out more keywords, to narrow down the list even further.
Instead of excluding keywords, if you have an idea of what sort of content ideas you’re looking for, you can also choose to Include Keywords to focus on the ones you think may be relevant.
You can also do a mix of Include and Exclude.
Step 5: If you are not a mega website, you will most likely find it hard to rank for topics that have a lot of competition. So as mentioned before, look for low difficulty topics, yet with high volume.A good metric balance that small business websites could target for content topics to rank high in Google is a Volume of 80+, and Keyword Difficulty of <70%. (SEMRush) Click To Tweet
Add those to your filter. You can also indicate the language you want.
This will narrow down the list further.
And now you have a list of questions that people are asking, that may be relevant for you as content topics.
Step 6: Click on Export on the top right of the table and all the data will be downloaded in an Excel file.
Step 7: So far you’ve been looking at Questions. To get more content ideas, you can click on ALL in the above menu. The same filters still apply.
Now you have more content ideas, related to children’s books, that people are interested to know about. Content ideas that may boost your Google ranks, if you follow the other SEO steps as well. You can also use these ideas to refine your brand/ marketing message.
Just click on Export and download this data too.
If you find only a few topics relevant for you, and you don’t want to download all the data, then you can use the Keyword Manager feature to just select the few that you like.
- Go to SEO -> SEO -> Dashboard -> Keyword Manager.
- Create a new list.
- When you like a keyword in your list of results, just click the ‘+’ button to the left of the keyword, and choose the list you want to add it to.
- When you’re done selecting all your ideas and adding them to the list, just go to the Keyword Manager and download your list of cherry-picked keywords.
2. URL Research
Sometimes the topic you have in mind is so vague that SEMRush or any other SEO tool doesn’t have any related search result to display. Or it is a huge sentence and if you enter it in an SEO tool, it comes up empty.
But you know what you mean.
And usually, so will Google.
For example, let’s say you are a tax and accounting firm. You know your audience wants to get maximum tax benefits whenever possible. So you want to center your content around this topic.
You think they may be searching for “tax refund for business owners”.
So enter that in Keyword Overview, but SEMRush comes up empty.
Google to the rescue!
Step 1: Put the search term in Google. Note that topics like 'tax' are country-specific.
If you are based in a different country than your audience, then the Google search results you get for a search query in your country, may not be the same ones that your audience sees when they type the search query in theirs.
Then you can use a VPN like Surfshark for example, to search Google. Just connect to the VPN, choose your city, and connect. Then you open Google again, and put in your search term.
I am based in the Netherlands, and I connected to Surfshark to New York, US. And you can see my search results below. Very US-specific.
See the top 10 results. See how they focus on mostly small business owners.
Step 1: Take any page in the results you think is relevant.
Step 2: Go to SEO -> SEO Dashboard -> Domain Overview, Enter the URL of the page to see which keywords it ranks for.
Note: Remember to click on Exact URL, and not Root Domain, to see the results for the page.
I chose the URL from lendingtree.com. Now there is a list of 420 keywords that the page ranks for, from which I could select potential content topics.
Step 3: Click on Keywords to see the entire list. You already see many question-type keywords, which could be your blog post topics.
Step 4: Apply the advanced filters again to narrow down the list.
The menu here looks a bit different, but the principle is the same. You can include and exclude keywords, volume, KD, etc.
Step 4: Narrow down your list and export the data (or use Keyword Manager)
Step 5: Repeat for any other URL you found in your Google search.
3. Competitor Research
Now you may be in a niche where you know who your competitors are, exactly. There are 2 ways of getting ideas from them.
- Check their best-performing content
- Analyze the keyword gap
Before we get into these methods, let’s also consider the possibility that you don’t know who your competition is. Or at least, any websites similar to yours.
You can find that out from SEMRush as well.
Already know your competitor website? Jump to the research process.
Let’s see an example where you don’t know your competition. Say you have a real estate business. I randomly took this one: zillow.com.
Enter the domain name in Domain Overview and click Search.
Scroll down the results page and you will see Organic Competitors and the Competitive Positioning Map.
These websites may not be your exact competition, but they are sites similar to yours. A good start to finding niche-specific content ideas.
Now let's see the process to getting content ideas from these sites.
Check their best-performing content
Step 1: In SEMRush, go to SEO -> SEO Dashboard -> Domain Overview. Enter the domain name.
Step 2: Click on Organic Research.
Step 3: Click on Pages.
Now you have a list of their pages, by default, ranked in descending order by the traffic they receive. The higher the traffic, chances are, the more popular the topic, and the better-optimized the post is, for relevant keywords.
I clicked on redfin.com, for example, and below are the results I got.
I already see a potential topic: what-is-contingent-vs-pending. Or even, what-is-my-home-worth.
Step 4: Export the list of all these pages, to find topic ideas that you can use.
Step 5 (Additional): If you click on each URL, like in URL Research, you will see all the keywords that the page ranks for. Then you can filter them again, like in Keywords Research (Step 4) above, and follow the steps, to get additional, very specific ideas from each page.
When you're wondering what to blog about, and get ideas from your competition, be careful not to just copy their content or write the exact same things that are in these pages. Find a different angle from your expertise to cover the topic, or write it better.
Analyze the Keyword Gap
In this method, we analyze which keywords your competition websites rank for, and you don’t. Or where your ranks are different.
Step 1: Go to SEO -> Keyword Gap.
Step 2: Enter your domain and up to 4 competition ones. Select the country. I entered all the domains here that we found in the Competitive Positioning Map earlier.
Step 3: Since you want to know the more popular topics, you can filter it down to competition positions in Top 20. i.e., for which keywords do they rank in the top 20 of Google?
You can also choose custom positions, like 10 - 20, 1 - 30, etc.
Step 4: Include other advanced filters as applicable. It could include volume, KD, even the actual keyword, etc.
Now in the results, see the tab ‘Missing’. So keywords that your competitors rank for, and you don’t.
You can research these keywords like in the above process of Keyword Research, to get content ideas.
Step 5: You can also look at the other tabs (besides Missing) to see where your competitors rank better than you and get inspiration for more content topics that have high potential.
4. High-Authority Domains
You may be a small business, but there are possibly big players in your niche. Every industry would have some. You can also get inspiration for content ideas from them.
Steps 1-3: Same as in Competition Research above.
Take a high-authority company website and like in Competition Research, enter it in Domain Overview. In my industry of content marketing and SEO, SEMRush is a big one, that writes loads of content. So I will take that as an example.
Go to Pages. They will include everything on the SEMRush website, including products, pricing, etc., but we mostly want to know about content topics.
I see that most of their URLs contain the subfolder ‘blog’.
Step 4: Run an advanced filter of Include Keyword Containing ‘blog’ -> Apply.
Now I have a list of their blog/ content pages, and the traffic they receive.
Step 5: Follow steps 4 & 5 as in Competition Research above. i.e., export a list of their pages to inspire as content ideas, and dig deeper into each page’s keywords to find additional content ideas.
5. Community Sites
When you Google how to find content ideas, many websites will tell you how you can use Reddit or Quora to find ideas. Usually, this process will take hours if you hunt on the website directly.
This is how you can do it quickly, instead of spending hours going through each of those sites. The process is very similar to Competition Research or High-authority Domain Research.
Step 1: Enter quora.com or reddit.com in SEO-> SEO Dashboard -> Domain Overview, click on Organic Research, go to Pages.
Let’s say you own a bakery or make cakes from home. And you want to know what people are asking about cakes.
Step 2: Filter by URL contains ‘cake’.
Now you have a ton of questions that people are asking on that topic.
Step 3: Follow steps 4 & 5 of Competition Research.
Bonus for service professionals: Course websites
If you are a service provider, then you know that many people want to learn about a subject online. And there are loads of courses already available.
A look at popular courses should tell you what people are interested in knowing about most. There are lots of course websites, but we can start with a popular one, like Udemy.
Step 1: Enter udemy.com in Domain Overview, click on Organic Research, go to Pages.
You will see all the URLs, including topic pages, specific courses, and other pages.
Step 2: In Advanced Filters, Include URL Containing ‘topic’ OR ‘courses’.
Step 3: Filter it further by niche. Let’s say you are a design studio, working on all kinds of designs.
You can also add a condition in Advanced Filters, with Include URL Containing ‘design’.
Step 4: Follow steps 4 & 5 of Competition Research.
1. Write your unique perspective in your blog posts
It's great to get content ideas from other sources. But make sure that the actual content of your post showcases your thoughts and helps your particular audience in the way they need most.
2. Conduct keyword research
After you've chosen a blog topic, ensure that you make your post SEO-friendly by using high-potential long-tail and semantic keywords that are relevant to the topic
3. Use data continuously as you develop your content
To know more about your topic before you write it, research the pages that rank in the top SERPs for it, analyze what could be its ranking factors (backlinks/ keywords, etc.). To be in the top 10 for a topic, you have to do better than what most other top pages are already doing.
How do you find ideas on what to blog about? Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Leave a comment!