All the hours you spend tirelessly brainstorming ideas for content that your audience may or may not like … you’re wasting them. The truth is your audience is already telling you exactly what they want. You just have to know how to listen.
Crafting the right piece of content is no longer a guessing game to be won by the most creative or the most popular. Analytics and the ability to “overhear” conversations on social media or forum sites mean anyone can do a little bit of research to find out exactly what their target audience are all but guaranteed to like, love, share, and discuss.
So where do you find these hidden gems? Glad you asked! Take a look at these free or low-cost tools you can use to pull your audience in and have them eating from the palm of your … website.
The name might confuse you; but don’t worry, it has nothing to do with wrestling. The “sumo” in Buzzsumo refers to the wealth of information this online tool provides about buzzworthy topics people are viewing, sharing, and discussing right now.
Enter your chosen keyword into the search bar and it’ll deliver a metrics-based list of exactly what content has gotten the most attention in the time range you specify, from twenty-four hours to a year. This is a great way to keep track of the latest developments in your field and discover what format, headlines, and issues your audience likes most.
And the best part? Your keyword can be a topic or it can also be a domain. So if you really want to know what your readers are checking out, plug in your competitors’ websites.
Alternatively, you can easily use the tool to reverse engineer popular topics within a niche. A couple months ago, even though I wasn’t writing for them, I plugged in Forbes and discovered their most popular post over the last year was entitled “5 Minutes Early is On Time; On Time is Late; Late is Unacceptable”:
Over four-hundred thousand shares … on punctuality. I had no idea.
So, what’d I do?
I used that to write what became my first article for Lifehacker, a publisher I’d tried to crack with four previous articles, all of which were rejected.
This time, instead of starting from scratch and leaning on my own ingenuity, I wrote a post all about online business etiquette. And guess what the first point was …
2. Google Trends
When I last checked, Google handles over 3 billion searches per day. That’s everything from, “what’s that song about the girl who like a skater boy” to “what’s the square root of 568943.” So it’s safe to say Google knows a lot about people’s interests and how they fluctuate on any given day. If only they’d share those insights with the public.
Turns out … they do.
Google Trends is the place to go to find out what people are looking for via search. Just like the previous tool, the point is to reverse engineer your topics based on those insights.
Case in point: two years ago, when I was an absolutely unknown web writer trying to get guest spots at major publications, I did a search for what the top Google terms were and (boom) found out that Mindi Kaling hit all time high in August of 2014:
So what’d I do?
I wrote the “Mindi Kaling Guide to Entrepreneurial Domination,” which ended up being my very first Entrepreneur.com publication:
Not only did they accept it after I literally cold-emailed the full article to everyone I could find with the words “Editor” and “Online” in their job titles, it racked up nearly 8,000 shares, which for a first time post blew me away and opened the door for regular submissions directly into Entrepreneur’s CMS.
In the grand scheme of things, content creators don’t give Reddit — the so-called “front page of the internet” — half the credit it deserves.
Whether it’s because Reddit’s not as beautiful or aesthetically arranged as some of the other tools on this list or because often its most valuable information gets hidden beneath useless chatter, I’m not sure. But one thing is certain: using Reddit the right way means you’ll never go hungry on popular topics again.
The first thing you should know is that Reddit is organized into groups called subreddits, each dedicated to a specific topic. So you won’t need to wade through everything to get to valuable information like you would on say Twitter or Facebook.
The second thing you should know is that Reddit users are powerful. They’re often little-known Internet celebrities who maintain a wide network of friends online and spend hours reading and sharing content.
To source great content on Reddit, go to SearchReddit.com, enter your most valuable keywords, and instead of jumping directly into the posts themselves look for relevant subreddits:
Once you’re in a subreddit, select the “Top” results from the menu bar and sort based on the last month and the last six months. This will automatically load that category’s most popular posts.
Not only is Reddit a phenomenal source for ideas and topics, but the comments reveal exactly how you can improve on what’s popular and outdo the competition, a practice that’s key in the next tool.
Let’s say you have a competitor. Obvious, right? Now let’s say that competitor is getting far more traffic than you are. They’re crushing it.
How can you uncover exactly what they’re doing … so you could do it better?
One answer: Moz. Or more specifically, Moz’s Open Site Explorer.
(Image Credit: Moz Open Site Explorer)
Moz’s Open Site Explorer allows you to plug in a URL for any website or niche-specific keyword and get details on that site or keyword’s most authoritative pages as well as who’s linking to them. The latter might not sound relevant right away, but consider this: the websites that link to your competitors, could be linking to you, and sending their traffic your way. Even more vital, those links are the strongest indicator Google uses to prioritize search results.
That’s if your content is good enough to compete.
Sady, most content isn’t. In fact, according to Moz and Buzzsumo’s own research, 75% of the one million articles they analyzed had “never been linked to and 50% had fewer than two Facebook Interactions.”
This means that not only should you use Moz to determine the topics your competitor’s are generating links to … you should also use it to analyze that content itself.
For instance, after you’ve uncovered the top-ten, most-linked-to articles for specific keywords, make a cumulative list of those articles’ characteristics:
- Word count
- Image count
- External links (including author and URL)
- Data and case studies presented
- Relevant “how-to” tips
- Most positive on-page comment
- Most negative on-page comment
You can then use that list to create your own article that doesn’t just compete, but wins. This is what’s known as “skyscraping”:
Say, for example, the top three competitive posts you captured … were on average between 1,500 and 2,000 words.
Your task in skyscraping is to write at least a 2,500-word post — preferably closer to 3,000-4,000 words — double the number of examples, cite the very best from the other leading posts, identify their weak points or missing elements, and leave those so-called “bests” cowering in your post’s shadow.
While more involved, this principle is the same as the others already mentioned: don’t take a stab in the dark about what you think will be popular. Start with what’s already working and go from there.
Listen to What They Already Want
The next time you find yourself stumped, wondering what topic to focus on or what content to create, stop yourself from picking something out of thin air. Instead, start taking a strategic approach to the creative process by digging into the tools listed above.
Don’t waste your time and effort on content that — in the end — falls flat.
Listen to what your audience already wants and reverse-engineer irresistible content.
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