Content marketing is all the rage these days and it’s not hard to see why.
According to a survey by Smart Insights, in the past four years, marketers from all industries have consistently rated content marketing as the most effective marketing technique today. It’s why phrases like “content is king” and “high-quality content” are bandied about so often.
They’re not just meaningless buzzwords; it’s been proven time and time again that content marketing is here to stay.
But the problem with content marketing is that it’s hard to consistently produce quality content.
In my experience as the Content Crafter for Foundr, one of the hardest things to do is come up with topics to write about. There’s no point in spending hours and hours on research and writing thousands of words if I’m exploring a topic that no one is interested in. And it’s hard to tell if you have a good idea since it’s not always intuitive what people will be drawn to.
That’s why, just like with startups, you have to make sure that you have a validated idea.
Here are some of the ways I make sure that the content Foundr produces is always relevant and applicable to our community:
You need to validate a blog post topic before you start writing for the same reason you need to validate a startup idea. You want to make sure you have a proven product before you start investing your precious time, energy, and resources into turning that idea into a reality.
One of the easiest ways to validate any idea, let alone a blog post, is to see what your competitors are doing. Instead of posting an article and hoping for the best, you can let others in your niche validate a blog idea for you.
This is why I absolutely love using Buzzsumo to validate my blog ideas.
Buzzsumo is a popular tool for content marketers, because of its ability to analyze and report on both your own and your competitor’s content performance. With Buzzsumo, you’ll actually be able to see what content is performing well based on the number of shares it receives.
Using the “Content Research” feature, I’m able to check how much engagement a blog topic is receiving.
With a recent goal-setting article we ran, I was able to find out that these types of articles were getting tons of engagement, with the highest performing article receiving more than 2,000 shares! This proved to me that people were genuinely engaging with this topic, and that my audience would probably love this kind of article.
Another trick I like to use with Buzzsumo when it comes to validating blog post ideas is to filter down to specific competitors and see how their articles are doing.
By doing this, I’m able to see how well our shared audience responds to this type of content. Not only that, but I can then use the skyscraper technique and create an even better, more in-depth article that I know will crush.
According to Lean Startup Methodology, when it comes to validating a startup idea, the first step you need to take is to develop a minimum viable product.
As you may know, a minimum viable product is the most basic version of your idea possible that you can start selling. The logic is that if people are willing to buy your product at its most basic version, you know you have a winning product. You get the validation you need with the least amount of effort, and you only start working on building a complete product once you get the results back from your MVP.
Same logic applies to validating blog topics, and one of the best places to showcase your minimum viable blog post is on Quora.
Quora is a popular Q&A forum filled with people looking for in-depth answers to their questions. Unlike other Q&A platforms out there, Quora has a thriving community of experts and knowledgeable professionals, coupled with a strong team of moderators, so you know the answers you get are worth paying attention to.
When it comes to validating your blog post ideas on Quora, there are two steps.
The first is to find someone asking a question that relates to your blog topic.
Next, just write an answer to that question to the best of your ability. No extra research required, just what comes to you off the top of your head.
Instead of spending hours and hours crafting a 3,000-word article, just write a summary that outlines the basic idea behind your article, it doesn’t have to be anything longer than 500 words. That’s the perfect length for a well-informed answer on Quora.
You can see here how my answer on Quora is used as a mini-article and I can gauge how my answer is doing based on the amount of upvotes and views it gets.
Now I can check and see how many views my answer gets, how well it’s ranking against other answers, and whether or not I’m on the right track with my article. By going on Quora regularly, not only can I get continuous inspiration for future articles, but I can also immediately test these ideas out.
We all know about all the different ways you can use Instagram to take your business to the next level. But did you know that you can also use the platform to help you validate blog ideas?
There are two main ways you can use Instagram to help you do this.
The easiest way to validate your blog idea, especially if it’s a how-to article, is to create a very simple infographic, easily done with Canva or Venngage. If you don’t have the time to create your own graphic, you can always just do a (credited!) repost of another account’s infographic—who knows, you might even be able to get an S4S deal out of it.
This mini-infographic actually turned out to be a unicorn post for us, and actually inspired us to create one of our most popular articles yet, a how-to guide on how to wake up earlier.
The second tactic, which I frequently use with my personal Instagram, is to actually treat your Instagram like it’s a mini-blog.
Despite being primarily a visual platform, Instagram gives you a 2,200-character limit within the caption of each post. Meaning there’s just enough space for you to write an MVP of your blog idea. It can be a great way of checking how much your audience connects with that topic based on the amount of engagement your post receives.
This account utilizes the caption very well when it comes to create MVP articles, along with using an eye-catching visual and headline for the post itself
Also make sure to take advantage of Instagram’s hashtags and get your post in front of your audience.
But don’t forget that Instagram is still a visual platform. Be sure to create flashy posts based on your headline to get people to actually read your caption in the first place.
Social Media Examiner does their social media images very well. For each article they create a visually appealing image which contain the article’s headline
Google Keyword Planner
Any of the more technical SEO-focused content marketers out there are probably already familiar with the workings of Google Keyword Planner as way to help them increase blog traffic. And most content marketers are familiar with using the tool as a part of their content creation process, often unknowingly looking for validation as they do so.
The first step in validating your blog topic idea with Google Keyword Planner is exactly the same as any SEO strategy. You must first break down your topic into its keywords.
Typically when you’re using Google Keyword Planner, the stat you’re paying the most attention to is the “competition.” After all, the goal of any good SEO strategy is to rank #1 on Google, and it’s hard to do that with high competition.
However, when you’re validating a blog post, what you want to be paying attention to is the number of monthly searches your target keywords are generating.
This was enough proof for us to see that it was a topic that people wanted to know about and that we could do a top-notch article on the subject. It also helped that the keywords we were targeting also had low competition, so we knew we could rank highly for this kind of topic.
Another way you can use SEO tools and tactics to help you validate your blog post idea is to use MozBar, an incredibly nifty tool that gives you a quick overview of a page’s key metrics, like their social shares and backlinks.
When I want to validate an article idea, I’ll often go to other blogs that have written similar topics. I’ll then use MozBar to check, not only how many people have shared this article, but also how many other articles link back to it by checking its linking root domains.
Doing this gives me a general idea of the level of interest this topic has.
A common flaw in validation, especially if you’re looking at your competitors, is that you can spend way too long in the validation phase. Meaning that instead of striking while the iron is hot, you’re so busy tinkering and trying to get something right, you miss the opportunity entirely.
Which is why the best way to stay ahead of the curve and validate early is by integrating yourself into your niche. You need to find out where your audience is hanging out and start talking to them.
For me, I like to go on Reddit. Although, if I’m being honest, it is a bit of a love-hate relationship.
Reddit is a fantastic resource in growing your blog, but you have to be careful, because the Reddit community is a fickle one. If you’re not an active redditor posting genuine content, and all you’re doing is promoting yourself, the Reddit community will come down on you. Hard.
But the best thing about Reddit is that it’s an incredibly diverse community. There’s a subreddit for pretty much everything, meaning that you’ll easily be able to find a thriving community around our niche.
By being an active part of this community, I’m able to keep my finger on the pulse and keep up to date with trending topics.
You can also take advantage of the fickle nature of Reddit and the fact that it’s a community that demands good content. You can also create minimum viable blog posts on Reddit, whether it’s through comments or creating your own posts, and see in real-time how responsive your target audience is to what you’re saying.
One tool that I recommend for anyone looking to use Reddit as part of their strategy is TrackReddit .It’s a nifty tool that allows you to track certain keywords by giving you either an immediate notification or a daily report every time someone uses it.
TrackReddit can tell you how many people are talking about an article topic and whether or not it’s something to pursue.
Ask your audience
At the end of the day, no one is going to know what your audience likes more than your audience themselves. So the last thing you want to do is create a validation process where you don’t speak with your target audience at all.
Sure there are certain benchmarks and metrics to consider, but your validation doesn’t mean much if all you’re doing is making assumptions about what your audience wants. The closest thing you’ll ever have to guaranteed validation with your blog post ideas is if you have members of your audience actually telling you they want that specific piece of content.
If you have a way to interact with your readers, you have a way to ask them to validate your blog ideas for you.
At Foundr, for certain articles, I’ll ask our community a question and encourage them to answer in the comment section below.
Not only does this give you a chance to interact with your reader, but it also provides you with a bunch of new ideas and inspiration for future articles.
Another way we directly ask our audience is through Instagram. Just doing a simple post where you ask your readers if they’ll enjoy a certain topic can be a great source of validation.
With Twtpoll, you can even create simple surveys or polls for your followers to answer. Just presenting them with a handful of options of blog ideas you have in your head and having a few of your followers reply can be all the validation your blog post needs.
Back when I was studying journalism in college, I was taught that there are five components that make a story newsworthy. They were: timing, significance, proximity, prominence, and human interest. Together, these five factors determine whether or not your story is considered relevant, or newsworthy, to your audience.
As you get more experience, you’ll slowly get better at figuring out what type of content your audience likes and considers relevant. But there’s always an element of mystery there. I’ve been doing this for a while now, and I still struggle with figuring out what my readers would like to see. I’m also still surprised by how they respond (or don’t respond) to certain posts.
But relying on these eight tools certainly goes a long way toward helping me validate my blog post ideas. They can also be fantastic ways to help you generate even more ideas for the future.
Work them into your content creation process, and you’ll definitely be able to more consistently create high-quality content your audience loves.
Any tools or tricks I’m missing out on? Heck, while we’re talking about it, any blog posts you’d like to see?