If you’ve spent any time at all doing research into SEO or content marketing, you’ve likely read or heard the phrase “content is king.” You might be surprised to find out that that mantra actually stems from a 1996 essay written by Bill Gates. The essay begins with this prediction:

“Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.”

This was back in the days before SEO, before PPC, before social media, and before all of the other digital marketing practices that are now commonplace for most companies. Needless to say, his prediction has certainly proved true.

Audience Is King

These days content marketing has become a specialty in and of itself, but just publishing a steady flow of content isn’t enough to guarantee visibility or conversions. Your content needs to speak directly to your target audience and should seek to answer the questions that your audience is asking.

In fact, some might argue that content is no longer king when it comes to online marketing; your audience should be the centerpiece of your marketing strategy. The most important question to ask yourself when creating a content marketing strategy is “How am I providing value to my target audience?” If you can’t provide a clear answer to that question, then your campaign is already destined for failure.

What Content Does Your Audience Need?

Ask most bloggers and they’ll likely agree that coming up with fresh ideas for engaging content is one of the hardest parts of their day to day. Before you sit down and start brainstorming, it’s essential to not only define a specific target audience, but to figure out what questions your audience is asking, what content they’re searching for, and where your unique point of view can fill the void and provide valuable content that might not currently exist.

These 5 tools and strategies will help you easily identify the types of content that will provide the most value to your target audience. Used properly, they’ll help you supercharge your content output and drastically increase the amount of engagement that you’ll receive from your audience.

Ask Them Directly

This might seem too obvious to be an effective strategy, but there’s really no better source for great content ideas than asking your audience directly. Whether you reach out via email, social media, via a call to action or contact form on your site, or ask in person, your audience will appreciate the fact that you’re taking the time to understand their needs and wants.

Depending on your business, you might not have the luxury of asking your audience directly, but that shouldn’t stop you from diving in and doing your research. There are plenty of other simple and effective ways to find out what your audience is asking.

Quora

Quora is one of the hidden gems of the Internet. With over 100 million monthly active users asking questions and giving answers, it takes the idea of a worldwide knowledge base to the next level. active According to their About page, their mission is to:

Quora’s mission is to share and grow the world’s knowledge. A vast amount of the knowledge that would be valuable to many people is currently only available to a few — either locked in people’s heads, or only accessible to select groups. We want to connect the people who have knowledge to the people who need it, to bring together people with different perspectives so they can understand each other better, and to empower everyone to share their knowledge for the benefit of the rest of the world.

That might sound like a difficult feat to achieve, but Quora has been consistently growing its user base, and as a result, it’s become one of the most useful sites on the web. In 2015, there were close to 6,500 questions asked per day; in 2016, that number doubled to near 13,000 questions per day. With the sheer amount of information being exchanged on Quora, there’s no doubt that your target audience is already engaging on the platform. A few quick searches will let you peer into the mind of your audience and study the answers your competitors are giving.

Twitter Search

Most people these days are on Twitter, which means there’s a wealth of information at your fingertips about any topic you can imagine. Twitter is a great network to connect with your target audience because it allows you to engage with them on a personal level, but it’s an even more powerful tool when used for brainstorming content ideas. Twitter’s search feature allows you to find users and individual tweets that are relevant to your query, along with a wealth of other great information.

Searching for a particular keyword is useful to see relevant tweets and find users that are interested in your targeted subject. Searching for a hashtag will narrow your results down even more, but here’s the real secret: the question mark operator.

There are a variety of different operators you can add to your queries to change the results you receive. To see what questions Twitter users are asking about a given subject, simply add a ? to the end of your query (e.g. instead of “social media” or “#socialmedia”, try “social media ?” or “#socialmedia ?”). This is a quick and easy way to zero in on your target audience’s most frequently asked questions.

Pro Tip: You can use Twitter’s advanced search feature to narrow down your results even further by location and a handful of other modifiers.

Facebook Groups

Joining and interacting with your target audience in Facebook Groups is another great way to understand the types of information they’re looking for. You can use Facebook’s search feature to find new groups to join that are relevant to your business’s industry or your blog’s niche, browse groups that have recently been joined by your friends, or check out Facebook’s own recommendations on which groups it’s algorithm thinks you’ll enjoy. There’s no shortage of ways to find new Facebook Groups, but once you’ve found the right groups, you still need to use them properly.

Don’t just lurk in the background, since that’s generally frowned upon. Even worse, don’t blatantly promote yourself or your brand—that’ll put you on the fast track to getting kicked out by a group admin. The best strategy to use Facebook Groups to find new blog topic ideas is to engage honestly with other members. Whenever you see a question pop up in the group feed, note it down and consider writing a post about it. Not only will this generate great topics for you to write about, you’ll be able to leverage the members of the group to provide you with relevant information to use in your post. Of course, if you do end up using any of the information that the other group members provide, be sure to cite them and link back to whatever site or social network they prefer!

Google Search Console

For those of you familiar with SEO, it should come as no surprise that Google Search Console is included in this list. Adding your site to Google Search Console provides you with tons of great information about how your site is being found in organic search results. You can see how many impressions your site has received, how many clicks you’ve won, and how your click-through rate has changed over time.

More importantly, Search Console allows you to view the specific queries that led users to your site. You should check into your queries at least once every month (or more frequently if possible) and identify any queries for which you don’t currently have content on your site. It’s almost like getting a direct glimpse into the mind of your target audience.

 

Understanding your audience’s needs and the questions they are asking is crucial to the success of your digital marketing campaign. It will take time and a lot of research, but when used properly, you’ll not only notice an increase in engagement, but also conversions.

Jordan Stella
Customer Success Manager at | More Posts

Jordan J Stella is a digital marketing professional whose passion is to help brands find their voice, tell their story, and connect with real people. As Customer Success Manager for UpCity, Jordan helps clients integrate our Agency Growth Engine into their existing workflows and processes.