We hear it all the time from businesses that create their own content. In fact, it may be the most common problem in all of content marketing:
How do you know if your topic ideas are any good?
Of course, that’s assuming that you have a few topic ideas to work with at all. (If you’re just staring at a blank Word document labeled “Topics,” with nothing coming to mind, try this or this. Still nothing? OK, give this a try, but a warning: individual results will vary.)
Assuming you have at least one idea to move forward with, the following questions should help you determine whether your idea is worth pursuing.
- Does it answer a question or solve a problem? This is the first rule of any piece of business content: virtually all of your topics must solve a problem or answer a question that your intended audience is confronting. Very few people will read your content just to be generally informed or entertained, the way they might something posted on the websites of People magazine or The New Yorker. They’re coming to you for the same reason you came here today: Because they need help with a specific challenge, and they’re hoping you can provide it.
- Is it something that lots of your readers are dealing with? I don’t mean to suggest that only topics of the broadest interest are worth pursuing. On the contrary, that will limit your range of potential subjects and soon your content will get tediously repetitive. Niche topics absolutely have their place. But, obviously, the more people who are dealing with the question you’re answering, the broader your potential audience.
- Does your topic address an emerging issue in your industry? Some of the best content addresses timely topics that have recently caught the attention of a large number of readers. Check the website of your industry trade journals and subscribe to their email newsletters; attend networking events of your local trade association; and keep abreast of upcoming key dates, such as, say, the release of a new regulation or the date of a major industry event. Most important, maintain regular communication with your existing customers and prospects and listen to the challenges they describe in conversations with you. If it’s not your role to have those conversations, make sure you talk regularly to people who do.
- Is the topic something you haven’t covered before, and haven’t seen much elsewhere? Answering the questions that no one else is will help make your website a more vital resource to your readers (read: potential customers). Try searching your topic idea online (be sure to search in several different ways). Are the entries that Google turns up exactly the same as what you’re writing? If so, you may be walking on well-trod ground. However, if you find a lot of items that are in the same ZIP code but not quite the same neighborhood, so to speak, then you’ll know you’re on to something. Be careful, though, not to take this test too far: You needn’t be the first person on Earth to publish content on this subject. Try to bring something new to your version, but remember that there is very little entirely unique in the world (except snowflakes, of course).
- Do you actually know what you’re talking about here? Why am I writing about this topic, instead of some other topic, like What to Do About the Latest Google Algorithm Change or How to Get Your Web Redesign on Track? Well, because I know about this topic, and I don’t know very much about those others. Now, don’t get me wrong: sometimes you have to develop content that’s outside your comfort zone. (And the day may come when I have to learn what an algorithm is.) But remember that demonstrating your expertise is a major reason why you’re doing content-driven marketing in the first place. If your company isn’t really an expert in a given area, then why are you writing about it? (If the answer is that your firm should be an expert in that area, well, that’s a problem – but not a marketing problem.)
The art of effective content development is about understanding what your audience wants and needs, then delivering it. That’s easier said than done, but the list above should help focus your efforts. For help planning where to start, or a deeper conversation, reach out.