Getting ideas about what to write about

A major question when it comes to writing a content, is “what should I write about?“. It’s a classic question, one that stumps people before they even get started, and often results in them never beginning. Here is a short guide to how we approach it for our clients, hopefully you find our tips useful in your online content strategy. This is how we run all our copywriting projects.

Speak to Personas

Like how your website (should be) is designed around personas, your content also needs to speak to a certain set of buyers. For example, this piece of content we are writing is targeted at people who are struggling to figure out what they should put on their blog. If this is you, we’ve done our job!

For any content piece you need to narrow the focus and decide who it’s for. Perhaps it’s for a few of your personas, but it should at least speak to one in a very strong way. If you are wondering if you’ve designed your online business around personas or not, or you need a primer I suggest you read this piece from CrazyEgg.

Selecting topics

So your content is now targeted to a persona, great. Now you need to think about how you are going to talk to that person, how you are going to get across that you are in fact knowledgeable about this topic, and ultimately why they should trust you and potential buy from you. Again this can be a challenge, and a hurdle that stumps a lot of businesses.

As a general rule of thumb you want content that is evergreen. Evergreen in the fact that it will be useful today, as much as it will be next week, next month or next year. This means avoiding hot news worthy topics. This type of traffic tends to spike around a news event, but can quickly fall out of favour and drop off. So when looking at what to write, you should do some cursory checks on tools like Google Trends to see if something is becoming more or less popular.

Yoga versus Travel on google trends.

Here you might see that the way people are searching for something is changing over time, is trending upwards or is getting less popular.

Topics don’t always need to be a straight sale, like “Our guide to why you should buy X from us”, but it can be a more subtle, “Why you need X in your life” which could contain a link to your store where you can buy that product. Also start to think of ancillary information that people could use, “X ways to use Y you never knew about”, “Ways to pair X with accessories”, “Guide to taking care of your X”. All of these topics speak to the person who is interested in the product, and they may or may not be ready for a purchase, or may need a repeat purchase.

What if I don’t have a direct product to purchase?

If you are selling a service, and not a product the challenge is still there to show that

  • A) you know what you are talking about in the industry,
  • B) you can deliver what you say you can.

Again blog content is a great way to show off that you know a lot about a certain industry, that your business is passionate, innovative and capable. That takes care of the first question a visitor may have. As for delivery, this is where you need to get testimonials and social proof. This can be highlighted in some content you offer, like a case study about a client project, or an analysis of an industry you can help.

Get writing – Example content planning board

The hardest, but most important part, is starting off putting pen to paper. If you are finding it difficult to do it, then perhaps a colleague or a copywriter can help. Give them an outline of what you think the customer needs / wants to learn. This is something that someone can take, do some further research and come back to you with a draft of something interesting for your audience.

Now one article or piece of content doesn’t make a content strategy, so you need to start to build out a pipeline of topics. We use Trello to separate out the stages of the content process into Kanban boards and we share these actively with our clients. Our Trello boards have the following stages:

  1. Topic Ideas – here we gather all the ideas from everyone on the project. You should open up the idea collection to as many people as possible on your team. Each idea should have an outline, a small piece of why this article is needed and to what personas this should talk to.
  2. Approved Topics – Depending on your process of choosing topics to write about, these topics get moved to here for the writers to start to work on. In our case we let the client vote on the topics and set an order of preference. We also encourage discussion about the topic, additional ideas, quotes can be added here.
  3. In Progress – Often we have multiple pieces of content in progress. This helps with avoid writers block or some slowdown due to input from anther partner. Having an overview of what the team is actively writing about now will ensure you don’t get too many similar posts being launched at the same time.
  4. Ready for Review – Once the article is completed it should be reviewed by multiple people. The review should check for completeness, similarity to other content for cross linking as well as an overall sanity check.
  5. Ready for Publishing – Once review, its move here, to be schedule. Again, it’s useful to have multiple content pieces ready to be published. This will enable you to deliver regular content, which is something search engines (and people) love.
  6. Published – Keep an easy archive of past content.

The great part of this type of a content planning board is that you can quickly see bottlenecks and issues. You can also scale this project to have multiple writers all working together to a common inbound marketing goal.

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