Deciding to start a company blog is one thing, but actually putting it into action is a completely different ballgame. We often hear that the most challenging part of writing a blog is coming up with the ideas for each post. Most organizations start out strong with three or four posts out of the gate, but then the ideas start to wane, and the marketing team isn’t sure which direction to go in with their blog research.
If you’ve ever felt like you hit a wall thinking about new and interesting blog topics, this article is for you. Not only will we cover how to perform blog research to come up with engaging topics your audience will love, but we also show you how to implement those ideas into SEO-optimized posts that get your website found online.
1. Start your blog research with a buyer persona.
All effective blog research starts with a buyer persona. An archetype or a fictional character, the buyer persona is representative of your ideal buyer and their personal attributes. Buyer personas typically include:
- Demographic information such as age, gender, occupation, and income
- Geographic information such as location, population density, and climate
- Psychographic information such as beliefs, motivations, interests, and priorities
- Behavioral information such as brand loyalty, willingness to buy, and level of engagement with brands
In order to create a buyer persona, you can’t just guess each attribute. For accuracy, which is imperative for blog research, it’s best to conduct interviews with your customer base. Pinpoint a handful of ideal customers and set up interviews to help you build out the buyer persona. In addition to gaining an understanding of the elements above, you will also need to ask questions about their day-to-day needs, the goals they are trying to achieve, and the obstacles standing in the way of reaching their goals.
Once you know who your ideal buyer is, you will have a solid foundation from which to conduct blog research. After all, if you don’t really know who your blog should appeal to, it’s going to be near impossible to come up with topics that get the visibility and conversion you need.
2. Get the team together for a brainstorming session.
Gather members from different teams within the organization — preferably those who interact with customers and have a solid understanding of your ideal buyer. We recommend bringing sales, customer service or customer success, and marketing colleagues together. Set up recurring brainstorming sessions where you can generate ideas for blog topics.
Don’t worry about the quality or efficacy of ideas at this stage of blog research. Right now, you’re just throwing spaghetti against the wall (you’ll see what sticks later!). Think about the ideal buyer persona you created and what kinds of blog posts they may be interested in reading based on what you know about them.
Keep in mind that the ideas you come up with in this brainstorming session don’t need to be tied to a specific product or service you offer. They can be top, middle, or bottom of funnel ideas — all of which make for effective blog posts. The top of the funnel is all about attracting new leads and getting them interested enough so that they want to engage with you. After that comes the middle of the funnel, where those leads are learning more information about your business and interacting with your brand. Lastly, it’s the bottom of the funnel, where those leads are getting close to making a conversion and closing the deal.
Here is an example: Say we offer digital marketing services, so our blog ideas may include:
- Top of funnel idea: What is digital marketing?
- Middle of funnel idea: What are the different digital marketing services?
- Bottom of funnel idea: Why is [Insert Company Name] my best option for digital marketing services?
Your ideal buyer could be looking for any of this information depending on their stage in the purchase cycle. Good blog research considers every stage of the funnel — not just one area.
3. Look for keywords relevant to your business and your buyer.
Remember that spaghetti you threw at the wall? Now, we’re going to see what sticks. SEO research is a critical part of overall blog research; however, you need a solid list of seed ideas first — which you generate through a buyer persona and brainstorming session. If the keyword ideas you’re looking into aren’t appealing to your buyer, it won’t matter how highly they rank.
In order to do this stage of blog research, there are a number of different SEO tools you can use. We’re partial to SEMRush, but Ahrefs and Moz are also excellent options. Keep in mind that what matters more is the process, not the tool. You always want to make sure you’re tying blog research back to your buyer persona.
Using whichever SEO tool you like, look for keywords relevant to the topics you have identified. Keep in mind that when it comes to SEO, you have to (sort of) stay in your lane. What does that mean? Well, if you’re a small company with a relatively new website, it’s unlikely that you will find success going after a large and highly difficult keyword like “digital marketing.” This wouldn’t be a practical or effective approach.
Instead, you have to find keywords that match your level of authority and size, which help you get the wins (front page of Google!) that you want. If you’re a smaller website, opt for keywords that are not as competitive or are in a lower tier as high-difficulty keywords. You can start building out subtopics around the content ideas you identified in your brainstorming session using this approach.
Not sure what size your website is or what your “lane” looks like? Here are two tips:
- Understand your current ranking: Check to see which keywords you currently rank for on page 1 of Google (excluding any branded keywords). Look at the keyword difficulty or keyword competition of each one using any of the tools listed above (SEMRush, Ahrefs, Moz) . For example, if most of the keywords for which you are ranking on the first page have a keyword difficulty of 20, this means that any new keywords you try to rank for should also be within that range.
- Check your domain authority: Use Moz’s Domain Authority tool to see where your website stands compared to other websites on the internet. Moz uses dozens of factors to determine your domain authority — the higher the score, the higher the authority. A score of 15/100, for example, means your domain authority is low (for now). However, with this information, you can find keyword opportunities that, while they may be low competition, might help you rank on page 1 of Google and thereby increase your authority.
When you’re determining keywords for each post, remember not to go overboard. Stay focused on a maximum of five or six keywords for a 1,000–1,500-word article so you aren’t spread too thin. Even selecting one to three keywords will work for that article length. Just make sure the keywords are highly targeted to your buyer persona.
4. Learn from top-performing blog posts.
Once you have your list of keywords, it’s time to move on to the next stage of blog research: looking at competing content. Check to see which posts are already ranking on page 1 of Google for the keywords you’re targeting. Read through the first five or so blog posts to learn the search intent — what the user was trying to find out when they searched for that keyword in Google. Search intent can be broken down into four categories:
- Navigational: The user is trying to reach a specific location, like a certain website or product page.
- Informational: The user is trying to find out more information about a specific topic.
- Commercial: The user is trying to compare specific products or services.
- Transactional: The user is trying to find a specific product or service.
If the keyword is “what is digital marketing,” then it’s likely the search intent is informational — the user wants to learn more about digital marketing. If the keyword is “digital marketing services,” the search intent could be commercial or transactional. Knowing search intent helps you plan out what kind of content to include in the actual blog post to ensure it will be interesting and engaging for your buyer persona.
How can you apply your competitor research into your own blog? Consider these three key areas:
- Search intent upgrade: Once you have a solid idea of search intent, it’s a matter of reverse engineering the intention and upgrading it into a blog post. For example, if the current top five blogs for your keyword are all informational, see how you can combine certain key elements from those blogs into your own. If one includes a basic overview of digital marketing, another talks about the digital marketing process, and yet another focuses on the history of digital marketing, perhaps your blog can combine all those areas.
- Length: Blog post length is another major factor you’ll want to pay attention to. Gone are the days when a simple 300-word blog post was enough to get you on page 1 of Google. Now, the ideal blog post length is between 2,100 – 2,400 words — so you’re going to have to get in-depth about your topic. Ideally, you’ll want your blog to be longer than your competitors’ blog so you have a chance to outrank them.
- Internal data: An increasingly popular trend is creating and sharing quantitative information to help buyers with their own decision-making. What kind of data can your company create and share with your ideal buyer that will help them solve problems they are experiencing? You should include this information in your blog post.
5. Speak with an expert to find the interesting nuances.
When it comes to actually writing your blog and incorporating the keyword list you’ve researched, many companies do basic online searches and regurgitate information into their content. That’s an okay approach and is certainly considered common in many industries. However, from a buyer perspective, it doesn’t help your company stand out or create an authoritative presence in the industry.
If you want to really cover the nuances of the topic and offer an authentic voice, speak with subject matter experts in the field as part of your blog research. Worried you won’t know where to start looking for those experts? Follow these tips:
- Ask internally: Your organization is made of subject matter experts in your industry. See if you can tap into that wealth of knowledge for the blog.
- Use HARO: This is an excellent resource that connects writers with subject matter experts in virtually any field — and is a great way to build your network of SMEs.
- Check with your external stakeholders: Suppliers, vendors, investors, and even customers may have expertise in niche areas you’re covering in the blog.
When you write the blog based on an interview with a subject matter expert, you get a unique angle on the topic that is original compared to anything else your buyers will find online. (Coincidentally, that’s exactly what Nectafy does!)
6. Build authority through backlinks and an internal linking strategy.
Once you have a polished blog that focuses on content your ideal buyer is interested in and uses keywords strategically, it’s time to take one more important step: adding links. Two types of links can help your website and blog build authority:
- Backlinks: This is when another website links to your website. A backlink works kind of like a seal of approval in Google’s eyes — it says other people think your website is credible. You can increase the possibility of backlinks by sharing your blog on social media. By doing so, you increase visibility and get more eyes on your blog — with the hope that someone will see your social media post, read the blog, and decide to share it on their own website.
- Internal links: These are links to other pages on your own website. Internal linking is important because it helps users access other content on your site in a natural and organic way. You don’t want to stuff your blog with internal links — it can be distracting and lead to diminishing returns because it takes users off the page faster. However, using two to three strategic internal links per post is a good rule of thumb.
Need support with blog research?
Researching, interviewing, writing, and sharing blog content is a big job. If you don’t have enough bandwidth internally to manage the process or are looking for external expertise to take care of it for you — you’re in the right place. Let’s have a quick chat and see if we’re a good fit.