Getting your content seen is only half the battle. The attention you’ve worked hard to capture can all-too-quickly be lost if you don’t provide precisely what your audience is looking for. But what does your audience care about? What do they know, not know, and want to know? Intuition and guesswork aren’t enough, and you can’t adequately address the needs of your audience if you don’t know what they are. Fortunately, gaining that insight has never been easier than it is today.
Keyword & Content Research
Often, the keywords people use to search can give you some insight into what it is those people care about. Most of the valuable information you’ll glean will come from long-tail keywords, which is where someone searches for a phrase like “cheapest plumber in Seattle.”
Getting your hands on those long-tail keywords is as simple as loading up Google Keyword Planner. Not every set of keywords you encounter will give you something, but you’ll almost certainly learn something about the values and priorities of the people performing the search.
To search and sort content by popularity, you’ll want to try BuzzSumo. BuzzSumo allows you to sort various types of Internet content by the number of times it’s been shared, which is a fairly strong indicator of audience interest.
Ask and Tell
A commonly overlooked way of figuring out what your audience cares about is by simply talking to them, or joining the conversations they take part in on social media. Countless social media communities and cliques exist hidden in plain sight. Joining Facebook groups, Twitter lists, or similar private groups is usually as easy as finding them and then saying “hello.”
The method for finding these groups varies from site to site, but it’s usually no more difficult than performing a search. For example, to find Facebook groups, you’ll want to select the “Groups” button on the dashboard of your Facebook page, then click “Discover.” You’ll find a pre-populated list of suggestions based on your profile, and you can use a search bar on this page to find other groups that may be relevant to your niche.
Ask Quora or Reddit
If you’ve never heard of Quora, it’s basically a glorified Yahoo Answers. But what makes Quora stand out is the site is filled with qualified experts, and they often provide detailed answers to complicated and involved questions. For countless products and niches, Quora can provide a wealth of information you can use to better understand your audience.
Reddit is another alternative because it’s possible to find countless subreddits for just about any topic that people care about. Even if there isn’t a page specifically set aside for your niche, there’s bound to be pages that are mostly populated by your target audience. Most people don’t think of Reddit as a search engine, but a quick search for questions pertaining to your industry can yield surprising results.
Developing New Ideas
Finally, you’ll need to prioritize the ideas you’ve just collected. Odds are, many of the topics you’ve gathered from your research are useful from an academic standpoint, but aren’t necessarily compatible with your business goals. If content solves a problem for your audience, then it’s still worth publishing — but not necessarily worth prioritizing.
This type of research is unlikely to lead you to topics that no one has ever covered before. In other words, you won’t be the first person to answer these questions, and you won’t be the last. However, you can probably find at least a few things in the existing coverage which can be improved. And you can definitely establish your own content as the definitive authority that people link to the next time the question gets asked. But to get started, you’ve got to get in the conversation.