You have a reputation for creating great content for your business. But, as you stare at a blank calendar you wonder how you will fill all the empty spots waiting for more great content. Or worse, as you stare at a blank page you wonder exactly what you can share that will provide value to your audience.
I’m frequently asked how to identify content topics that are truly important for the target audience. A well-worn yet useful answer is to use Google. Google is an amazing resource for understanding customer intent at each stage of the customer journey because Google sees so much traffic go by -- and not simply a nameless, faceless sea of humanity. They see the searches and clicks from your specific audience. For example, Forrester estimates that 92% of B2B purchases start with search and 68% of B2B buyers prefer to research online, on their own.
Advice for how best to harvest content ideas from Google abounds on marketing blogs, podcasts, and videos. We can Google our topic keywords and study the highest ranking results. We can use the autocomplete search feature to get more specific ideas for our category (e.g., running shoes for…). We can search common customer questions and then study the “People Also Asked” questions or the “Related searches” that are returned on the search engine results page (SERP). And on and on. I too start my research for content topics using these techniques.
Let me show you how in 15 minutes or less you can speed up your research and develop a comprehensive set of content topics when you combine a couple of Google queries with Cobomba. And yes, you can do it yourself for free.
Step 1: Determine the business context for your content
The gateway to Cobomba’s content topic zen garden is through the Business Objective statement. Not only does it make good business sense to begin your content strategy with the end in mind, Cobomba uses the Business Objective statement as the input to the AI-driven topic research. The Business Objective is easy to complete using a “MadLibs” style interface. This section describes tips for using the Business Objective statement to generate meaningful content topics.
Your customers search the internet everyday when seeking solutions to their problems. They may be looking to learn more about your product category. Or, they may be even earlier in their journey and simply seek answers to a challenge (persona goal) or solutions to overcome their challenge (persona action). Alternatively, they may know many things about their problem and the potential solutions. In this case they may be searching for information about your specific product (offering) and your competitors.
Customer context for business objective:
- Product category
- Persona goal
- Persona action
These five elements are key pieces of your overall business objective. They also provide the context for your content strategy. You will engage your audience and help them progress through their journey when your content answers the questions related to their searches. Cobomba uses the five inputs listed to build a network of relevant and related topics using hundreds of search queries and search results - so you don’t have to.
I’ll use a B2B software example, specifically dental practice management software, to show you how it works. Here’s what the business objective could look like if we were in marketing at Dentrix software.
Let’s run through some tips for writing your business objective in a way that will result in high-quality topics from Cobomba’s content topic engine.
Tip #1: Think like your customer. What language would they use when searching?
Tip #2: Relax on the corporate lingo. Your company may have an official way it speaks about your products and product categories. I get it. That works well for internal presentations, but it does not work well for content topic research. (This is actually Tip #1 in disguise. It’s that important.)
For example, think “Fast food” vs. “Quick-serve Restaurants.”.
Tip #3: Don’t be afraid to test some of your ideas in the Google search bar before committing to them in the Cobomba Business Objective.
Cobomba builds its topic recommendation network based on Google’s People Also Asked (PAAs) questions and the Related Searches answers found on a search results page. You may have a brilliant way to describe your Persona Goal or Product Category, but if you don’t see any PAAs, I can tell you right now that you’ll get better topic results in Cobomba if you rephrase and try again.
Tip #4: Pick one persona at a time and be consistent throughout the business objective including how that persona thinks about the product category, her goals, and your competitors.
Tip #5: If you are stuck thinking of ideas for Persona Goal and Persona Action, reference your target audience description or work you’ve already done with personas.
You’ll be on the same page with the rest of your team when you work from a common persona description. If you don’t have any work on personas, it may be time to have a quick brainstorm with your team to quickly identify the top goals and behaviors of your key audience personas. You can capture your persona notes in the Persona Library.
Tip #6: Add Brand Terms for your offering and your Competitors when relevant.
It turns out that when our searches include specific brand or product names, we are more likely to be further down the funnel towards a purchase decision. Mind blowing, right? Cobomba’s content topic engine is tuned to take advantage of this fact, but it needs your help. For example, in the dental practice management business objective, we included the parent company brand name, the product name of the primary offering, and some alternative product names. When you add specific brand terms to either your offering or one of your competitor’s offerings, it helps us spot those high value later stage content topics.
Step 2: Evaluate topics
Content topics relevant to your marketing initiative will automatically populate in the Content Topic Explorer once you complete the business objective.
You start by picking a single customer journey stage when you create your list of content topics. Starting with one journey stage focuses your efforts on detailed content topics that help your audience answer specific questions or solve specific challenges. You are building a rich content ecosystem that engages your customer and builds your brand.
Cobomba automatically sorts topics into 5 journey stages:
You’ll see up to three initial topic recommendations for a particular journey stage. We’ll look at the consideration stage for our dental software example.
It should be easy to determine if these topics are relevant to your marketing initiative and audience. You may want to reorder the topics or throw one out. In the example above, “What software is useful for human health,” sounds awkward and is not specific to dental practice management, so I will remove it from the list.
It’s easy to explore additional topics beyond those originally listed on the journey stage card in order to expand the topic list.
In the dental software example, I see three topics that will be useful to include in my consideration stage content. I’ll add those to my list. At the same time, I notice several topics related to managing a law office. Those topics are clearly not relevant, and I’ll ignore them. I now have four topics selected on the Consideration journey stage card. I’m ready to move on to another journey stage so that I can create topic lists for those stages, as well.
You may already have content topic ideas in mind that are not shown in the Content Topic Explorer. Or, you may see a topic that needs some modification to be relevant for your business. In those cases simply write in a new topic to complete your list. The image below shows content topics relevant to the dental software example for the Retention stage of the customer journey. The original topic refers to “open dental,” a Dentrix competitor. However, the topic suggestion is related to a common use case that may be relevant to Dentrix users. I’ve written in a new topic to reflect Dentrix rather than “open dental.”
Step 3: Plan content that supports your content strategy using your new topic list
You should now have a rich content topic list for one or more stages of your customer journey. For example, here are a few of the topics we identified in the dental software example.
A content topic is the starting point for planning an effective piece of marketing content. You’ll want to consider other details such as keywords, content format, distribution and promotion channels, and an appropriate call to action. The additional details along with the content topic form the foundation of a content brief.
You can use Cobomba to create content briefs and assign publication dates if you are the one building the content calendar. Also, you can invite your team or partners to join you on Cobomba for easy collaboration. Your team will experience greater alignment when everyone can see the content strategy in one place.
Alternatively, if your role in the content process is to be the “Idea Guy/Gal,” simply share the list of content topics with those responsible for content creation and downstream content distribution.
The Business Objective → Topic Review → Content Planning sequence will enable you to build content as a strategic asset for your organization. Cobomba can make the translation process from business objective to a full content calendar much quicker. But Cobomba need you, the marketer, to provide the inputs. If you get stuck, think about rephrasing the product category, persona goal, persona action, or your offering or competitor names to match how your customers would phrase their own search query.
There are some areas where Cobomba still needs to improve. If you are in a B2B2C industry where your primary customer is a business, but that business customer serves a large consumer base using your product (e.g., dental implants), you’ll likely throw out many suggested topic ideas provided by Cobomba because they relate to the end consumer and not your business buyer. Also, you can complete the business objective statement in Cobomba in languages other than English. However, you aren’t guaranteed to get as many great topics or as accurate a journey stage sorting in your chosen language as you would in English.
Hopefully, using this process, you will learn more about the needs of your target audience and quickly have a long list of juicy content topics.
If you ever need help formatting your business objective statement so that Cobomba will zero in on the right content topics, shoot me an email (bart at cobomba dot com). I enjoy helping!
Looking for other ideas for adopting a smart content planning process? Check out The Beginner’s Guide to Smart Content Planning.
Deciding what content to create and then how to distribute and promote it is a guessing game for most marketers. Cobomba is a content strategy platform that uses AI to help marketers plan the right content so they consistently grow sales with content marketing.
Cobomba is a platform designed with a built-in content marketing workflow that enables you to build your content strategy with data-rich recommendations and consolidate other tools for research and planning. This leads to streamlined planning and team alignment.
Having your content strategy and content calendar in one place makes it easier to demonstrate the effectiveness of your marketing activities. You’ll also be ready to feed your team and your tech with the data they need for creation, distribution, and measurement of your content.
You can try it for yourself and sign up for Cobomba's free trial today!