In my blog post 6 Reasons Why Blog Posts Go Viral, I discussed science-based reasons why some blog posts go viral while others flop.
In this post, we’re going to delve more into how to create great content for your blog.
Specifically, I’m going to teach you 3 proven methods that will help you find out the exact topics your readers want to read about.
Why it’s important to blog about topics your readers want
When you create content that your readers are just dying to read about, your blog traffic is going to increase as well as your social shares. You’re going to be able to create blog magic.
Your readers are THE REASON why you blog. You may also blog because you love fashion or want to make money blogging, but the true reason you blog is for your readers. If you’re not blogging FOR THEM, your blog is certainly doomed.
Your readers will make or break your blog. Your blog will absolutely fail if you’re not always thinking about your readers and what they want to read. The key is to get into their heads and figure out what they want.
This is one of the key pieces that I know that many bloggers are missing.
So, here goes. You ready for this? Let’s do it!
The “Zone of Magic”
All credit to Jon Marrow for the using the term “Zone of Magic” for describing this idea.
But I prefer a little more descriptive name and I call it “Getting In Tune with Your Audience”.
When you’re blogging, it’s easy to think you know what your readers want to read about.
But the truth is, most bloggers write about what they want to talk about. They’re not actively “listening” to their readers to find out what kind of content their readers really want.
Getting in tune with your audience and producing content they really want to read is the key to creating a superstar blog.
There are a few key ingredients you need to get in tune with your audience.
Ingredient #1: A Topic (or Topics) You’re Passionate About
We should all blog about something we’re passionate about. If you don’t love your blog topic, it’s going to be tough writing about it several times per week for years and years on end.
So, the first ingredient in Getting in Tune with Your Audience is to find a topic you’re passionate about.
Or a group of topics. Lots of hugely popular blogs write about a group of topics that are related via their audience. Their approach may seem “topicless”, but their blogs work because all their disparate topics appeal to a certain audience.
So, the first place to start is finding a topic or topics you’re passionate about and want to write about.
Check out my post on how to find your blog niche. It includes a free worksheet when you sign up for our email list.
RELATED POST: How to Find Your Blog Niche: 4 Easy Steps [Worksheet]
Ingredient #2: Define Your Target Audience
This is a step I KNOW many bloggers skip. They’re passionate about their topic and they figure lots of other folks are too.
Not always true.
You have to find a topic (or topics) that appeal to a pretty wide set of readers. Your target audience should number in the millions of potential readers.
If you’re targeting 30 Something organic gardeners in upstate New York, you may find a small audience that’s as passionate as you are about the best tips for growing zucchini in your part of the world. But your blog’s potential for growth will be severely limited.
So, in addition to defining who your target audience is, you also need to estimate the size of your potential audience. Ideally shoot for over one million potential readers.
At the same time, you don’t want to appeal to everyone. Then you’re going too broad.
You want a broad audience that’s not too broad. This is a really tough juggling act.
So, general rule of thumb, your potential audience should consist of at least one million people. But shoot for something less than twenty or so million as well. This is not a hard and fast rule but it will set you up with an audience large enough to succeed.
If you’ve defined your target audience as “everyone in the United States”, all 300+ million of them, your target audience profile is way too broad. Ratchet it down. Example, 20 – 30 something moms in the United States who are interested in saving money and parenting tips.
Ingredient #3: Identify Your Audience’s Interests
This is the big key most bloggers miss.
Again, most bloggers blog about what they love and what interests them. They just assume there’s a large enough audience on the internet that will be passionate about these topics too.
And that’s just not always true unless you have some slammin’ natural instincts for what other people want to read.
Sadly, this is not true for most of us (me included!). If you’re one of those people that hits it out of the park every time, congrats. I’m just a tiny bit jealous. 😉
For most of us, we may occasionally stumble upon a topic or two that we’re furiously passionate about and that our audience is dying to read about too. But more often than not, our posts probably land somewhere in the infield instead.
Remember that your readers are THE REASON you blog. Give them the content they really want and they will reward you with traffic and shares.
I see it over and over again in groups and on boards, “How to I get more traffic” and “how do I get more readers”?
There are lots of different ways to get more traffic, it’s true. But before you worry about Facebook ads and Pinterest apps, make sure your content is something people actually want to read!
And if you stop and take a look, your audience is telling you what they want to read about. And it’s so easy to discover! No fancy systems or complicated apps required!
How to Find Topics Your Audience is Dying to Read About
I’m going to give you 3 different ways to discover what topics you should be blogging about.
The first and second methods assume you have an existing blog with some level of traffic. The third method works equally well for established and new blogs.
Method 1: Check Your Analytics
If you don’t have it installed already, install Google Analytics on your blog. Start tracking your traffic. This is something you should do from day one.
New bloggers or bloggers without current Analytics data, go install Google Analytics on your site right now. Then come back to this step in 30 – 60 days and repeatedly after that.
We’re going to use our Analytics to find out what our most popular posts are. This is the best way to find out what your readers are reading and what topics you should be focusing on.
Now, you may say: “I don’t want to keep blogging about the same thing over and over again. My readers will get bored and so will I.”.
We’re not looking to keep writing the same post over and over again. We’re looking at trends in the types of posts that are seeing the most action on your blog. Your readers viewing traffic is telling you what your best traffic is, you just have to listen to them.
How to find your most popular posts:
1. Established bloggers with Analytics data, log in to your Google Analytics dashboard.
2. Click on the Behavior tab in the left sidebar menu to open all the reports under this section.
3. Click on the Site Content link and then on the All Pages report link.4. A list of stats for your individual posts and pages ordered by most to least page views will open.
5. I like to click on the Page Title option instead of viewing by URL.
6. Now you have a sorted list of your most popular posts and pages.7. You can expand your date range to get a longer time frame using the date range at the top right corner of the window above the graph.8. Your pages and posts will be listed all together but from this list you can make a list of your top 10 -30 posts.
OK, now you have your most popular posts list.
Look for trends within your most popular content. Are all the posts clustered in a certain topic or two?
Once you’ve established your trends, you’ll know what topics to focus on.
For example, my most popular posts are DIY Blog Design posts. These practical tutorials help my customers customize and enhance their blogs. These are consistently my most popular posts. So, I have planned an upcoming series around this topic.
You can also take these topics and use Method 2 below to refine your topics even more with real feedback from your readers.
Method 2: Ask Your Readers
This method assumes you have an established blog with some traffic flow. It also helps if you have an email newsletter list.
In this method, you’re going to ask your readers directly what kind of content they want to read.
There are 2 ways to get feedback from your readers:
1. Use Your Email List
Send an email to your list and ask them which topics they’d like to read more about.
There are several ways to do this:
- Ask for general feedback. This is a great way to get new topic ideas you may not have thought of.
- Provide a list of topics for your readers to choose from and ask for them to email you back with a response.
- Use an embedded survey in your email that quickly allows your readers to respond.
- Redirect your readers to a survey embedded in a page on your blog where they can choose their topic(s) of interest.
Using your list of email subscribers is a great way to get invested feedback. Chances are that your subscribers are regular readers of your blog, they’re familiar with your content and will have great insights and input.
If you have a large list of subscribers, consider sending your survey to the group that most consistently opens and reads your emails or clicks through to read your posts.
2. Post a Survey on Your Blog
If you don’t have an email list or your list is very small, consider adding a survey widget to your blog. Add it in a prominent place like the top of your sidebar or under your header if you can. A popup is also a good alternative. An exit popup could work as well.
Gather feedback from as many users as you can and then evaluate the results.
Nothing says you can’t use both of these methods for feedback, either!
Method 3: Scope out the Competition
This method works for both new blogs and blogs with established analytics data.
There are a number of methods to check out what content is hot on blogs that are similar to your own. I’m sharing the cheapest (FREE) and simplest way I know to do this.
The “Easy” Way to scope out the competition
Find 10 – 20 blogs in your niche which target a similar target audience.
I recommend looking at “big” influencers because this will give you the widest range of data possible. Plus, these are the guys that have hit it big. Who better to learn from?
Also look for blogs that share topics with your blog but may not target the exact same audience. Say you blog about parenting, budgeting and getting out of debt. Check out the big parenting blogs plus the best budgeting blogs. Look for overlap but not total agreement in topics.
Visit each site. Look for a list of their most popular posts. Many blogs use these kinds of widgets or feature areas to drive traffic to their already popular posts.
Make note of their most popular posts and topics.
Caution: I do not want you trying to copy or imitate anyone! Use this data to find trends in topics and get inspiration. Do Not ripoff your competitors content!
An alternate method is their “Trending Topics” section or page. Mom.me is a great example of this. They don’t have a Popular Posts section, but on their “Explore” page, they display a grid of their trending topics. Check out the posts in these topics for trends and ideas.
A third method is more time-consuming but can provide great info. Lots of bloggers use “social proof” by displaying their post share counts on their site. You’ve seen the little Facebook share icons with the number of shares next to it. Comb through their post archives and look for posts that have the most shares.
Your tactic will depend on what information is available in plain sight on your competitor’s website. It’s likely you’ll need all 3 of these methods to gather enough data. Compile a list of topic trends and posts that are the most popular with their readers.
Now use this as inspiration for your own content. What unique perspective can you bring to these topics?
I love the site Ruzzit. They monitor the most popular social sharing networks. You can visit their site and find out what posts are going viral RIGHT NOW. You can explore content by category, social network or keyword(s).
This is a great tool to discover what topics are hot right now.
More great tools include:
Sum It Up
Are you ready to Get in Tune with Your Audience and take your blog to the next level?
You are blogging for your readers. They will absolutely make you or break you. So you need to find out what they really want to read from you. Finding that magic zone where your passions meet your reader’s interests is key in creating a successful blog.
I’ve shared 3 great ways to gather data that can help you find topics that your readers want to read.
Once you have a list of topics and post ideas, you’ll be right in tune with your audience and ready to start producing content that appeals to your audience.