Lee Odden

Smarter Ways to Get Content Ideas for B2B Blogs

One of the most common challenges of business blogging is sourcing content. The range of things that can interrupt content creation are important obstacles to overcome because without content there is little reason for readers to return.  Blogs are fairly easy to start and if you’ve been a reader of this blog, chances are pretty good that you have started your own blog (personal or for biz) at some point in time.

Many of the companies TopRank Marketing consults with have either started business blogs and need help or want to start a new blog to advance a variety of business goals. In fact, in our blogging survey earlier this year, 95% of respondents indicated they incorporate blogs as part of their search engine optimization efforts. Many others use blogs for public relations, customer service, product support and recruiting.

Whatever the reason for starting a blog, long time content creation with B2B blogs requires creativity, social participation and a smart feedback loop. Here are a few specific ways to generate content ideas for business to business blogs:

Editorial Calendar Smart B2B bloggers treat their blogging effort as an editorial endeavor. Publishers of newspapers, magazines and other news media operate, in part, based on a calendar of topics. For business bloggers, this means creating scheduled blog posts according to topics that support the intersection of customer interests and the value the company can provide to those customers.  If a company sells red widgets then the editorial calendar will schedule blog content around the needs of customers that buy red widgets.  For example:

  • Widget reviews
  • Tips on buying widgets
  • 100 uses of widgets
  • Widget industry news
  • Interviews with authorities on widgets
  • Liveblogging widget conferences, webinars, podcasts
  • Lists of widget facts, statistics and resources
  • Archived widget Twitter chats
  • Widget book reviews
  • Weekly widget Q/A
  • Widget surveys
  • Widget industry event calendar
  • And so on

The editorial calendar can schedule ongoing post formats as well, such as Widget Reviews on Tuesdays and Widget Tips on Thursdays so that content can be created in advance and scheduled to post. This allows a other days for spontaneous, reactive and on-demand content outlined in the next few tips.

Search Marketing Keywords – As a blog develops a body of work published to the web and the business incorporates a mix of marketing and PR tactics to drive traffic to the blog, the web analytics in place to measure visitor activity will reveal many useful content opportunities.  The low hanging fruit here is referring keywords. Whether the blog is optimized for a set number of keywords or not, any kind of crawlable content that has quality links to it will achieve some level of visibility within search engines. Watching the keywords that send traffic to a business blog can be insightful and help inform what customers are interested in. Keyword referring information can be analyzed across different time intervals, entry/exit pages, goal pages and conversions to determine weighting of importance and potential impact on blog goals.

Social Media Keywords – I’ve been promoting the idea of social media keyword research for over a year at conferences, in my presentations and in various blog posts. Monitoring real-time news for editorial opportunity is something public relations professionals have been doing for years. With search engines’ improved ability to crawl, index or syndicate and then publish real time streams of information from the social web, there exist numerous opportunities to monitor and tap into content ideas.

In the way that media placements and prominent advertising drive search traffic, so do social conversations. Monitoring trending keyword topics from social participation such as blogging, comments, Q/A sites, tags, Tweets, status updates and similar sources can reveal opportunities to create content on a BtoB blog. If customers are talking about a particular topic that intersects well with your company’s products/services on social media sites with increasing frequency, then it makes sense to leverage a blog to publish and syndicate via RSS what they’re looking for.

Offer contrarian views, concrete research or more compelling points of view and you can capture readers that are researching.  Social media monitoring tools are the most likely way to capture what social keywords are trending, but I have yet to find a service that does this well and none that interact with search keyword research tools. At least not yet.

Repurpose Content – The social web for the most part, has a short memory.  That does not mean you should re-publish content from 2 years ago in a “Blast from the Past” format. But it does mean that you can revisit topics that were previously well received to update them for today’s business environment or simply to update information. We’ve covered re-purposing content a number of times and here are a few specific tips:

  • Turn Powerpoint decks into articles/blog posts
  • Use email interview Q/A with journalists that didn’t get published
  • Break up a long article you’ve had published into a series
  • Rewrite press releases in a conversational or blog post format
  • Aggregate specific tips on a topic from numerous old posts

Exposing Your Thought Leaders – Doing interviews with industry thought leaders is a great way to create interesting content and tap into their audiences f0r exposure.  What’s also important is to connect with and interview internal thought leaders, whether they are business leaders that the PR department is pitching to the media or product managers and engineers. Interviews with these busy people can be done via phone and then transcribed into text. This makes it easy for the interviewee and also provides both audio and text versions of content. Questions can be keyword optimized and responses can inter-link using anchor text to support your SEO efforts.

Bonus! Content Curation – A fast emerging area of content marketing, especially in the B2B space is the notion of content curation. We interviewed 10 content marketing industry thought leaders on this topic recently that give insightful definitions as well as where curation and creation fit within an online marketing mix.  Syndicating content from other topical sources into a central location can help companies create a destination of value to readers where they can go to get industry news.  Some software systems can manage all of this or you can construct this type of site using RSS and RSS to HTML tools like CaRP.

What creative ways have you found to keep the content creation machine alive with your business blog? Have you found success in repurposing content or sourcing ideas from keyword referring data? Have you tried real-time content sourcing through social keyword monitoring?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.

Comments

  1. Richard says:

    Nice post thanks for the info. I have a similar article on my blog

  2. Thanks for the fantastic ideas! The Editorial Calender would be a great way to keep editorial staff on-track while avoiding stale content. I love the idea of using social media trends for content ideas, but the time and effort involved in monitoring and writing fast enough to keep up with trends is a daunting challenge. When you find the perfect social media/keyword monitoring tool, be sure to let us know!

    • Glad you like them Marjorie. I should have built the social/search keyword tool a while ago, but I believe others have taken up that torch. 🙂

  3. Good info.

    “Watching the keywords that send traffic to a business blog can be insightful and help inform what customers are interested in.”

    This is very true and gives you some very powerful information. And guess what? It's free. You may think that people are using certain words, but these keywords which people actually use to get to your blog will tell you the exact keywords that your potential customers use.

    “Doing interviews with industry thought leaders is a great way to create interesting content and tap into their audiences f0r exposure. “

    Yup. This is also a good idea. Though, I do not remember where, but I actually saw a post which went against the idea of interviewing in blog posts.

    “Repurpose Content”

    What a great idea! It really is useful and is a form of great leverage! The same content being used multiple times in multiple forms! I do use this, and it is a very good idea, in my opinion.

    Kindest,
    Nabeel

  4. This is spot on.

  5. In addition to your great suggestions, I find that asking customer service, field and inside sales, and sales engineers what are the top 5 or 10 questions they are asked the most an abundant source for highly-searched content. Often, each bullet point in their unwritten FAQ makes an outstanding post. They know the answers and extra detail that will result in a post that prospects are looking for on search engines.

    Another good source is LinkedIn Answers. People in your industry are asking questions that are important to them. When you find a question that is a fit to your company’s domain expertise and your blog’s focus, have your internal expert provide the relevant details that answer the question. Then write it as a post for your blog. If you want, you can use it to answer the question on LinkedIn, too.

  6. Another source is reaction to your tweets on Twitter. I know that only a small proportion of your blog readers are on Twitter but you can use Twitter as a sounding board. One post I still need to add on my blog is the top articles by clicks from my tweets. I use su.pr to track all of my links I add in my tweets.
    @chadhorenfeldt

  7. Fab tips. If you’re connected to thought leaders in your field and it’s likely that your subscribers aren’t, I think informing them about updates to things like Google, LinkedIn, Twitter etc is also really valuable content

    • Thanks Melinda. Even if you are not connected to thought leaders, asking them for an interview is an effective tactic for creating a connection.

  8. Blogs are very useful for a website. It not only share information but also keep the content changing over a regular interval. Search engines love fresh and updated content. But blogging must be done in such a way that readers should revisit the blog and they must find content useful and readable. Start up blogging is easy but as we keep on doing it requires skills and knowledge.

    • Hey Peter, you've touched on a big piece of mis-information that has been floating around the web for a very long time. The notion that content must be changed is good for SEO. It's the addition of new content, ie new web pages that can serve as link destinations and entry points into the site that are valuable. The more relevant pages you publish over time, the broader the footprint you have on the web with which to attract visitors and links. As you know, links are strong signals for search engines, so with more content, there's more links and with more links there's better search visibility and more website traffic.

  9. Guys – your content just gets better and better! Love the idea of the 'calendar' – had not thought to plan it that way. Will do now without a doubt.

    • An editorial calendar for a blog helps keep you organized, on topic, SEO friendly and serves as an ongoing reminder of what the blog's focus is overall.

  10. I meant to also add that we have experiented with the 'leader-type interviews' and are finding it a superb source of content (for SEO purposes), but also an excellent PR exercise for our sales consultants to use in offline channels.

  11. bryanps says:

    I really like the idea of having the editiorial calendar. Organizing your post and writing about a particular subject at a particular time that caters to the needs of specific groups of people is something i've never thought of yet.

    • Glad you like the idea Bryan. It's a way of bringing some structure to blogging that may lead to intended outcomes. Many people (and even companies) blog randomly, which is fine, except if the blog is to be accountable for some kind of result.

  12. Social media keywords is something that I stumbled on to by accident. If you want to increase your retweets, it helps to have an article that is a 'hot-topic'. Once I realized this, I always try to factor hot-topics into as many posts as I can.

    Very good advice on re-purposing content too. It makes a lot of sense to re-use already completed information; it's much easier than starting from scratch. I'm looking forward to incorporating these techniques into my blog

  13. I found your article so helpful. One thing that I tend to do is make lists of potential blog ideas, and then expand briefly on each idea. This way when I go back to my list I know where I wanted to go with each topic, it makes really easy to sit down and do a quick blog posting.

  14. KatieStoeller says:

    Your idea about focusing on social media is really good. I've started using a new site, wordloo.com, to keep up on keywords I like to keep an eye on. It has been a great keyword monitoring tool for me to use because I can keep a list of my keywords and then check what are the most up to date blogs, articles, and news feeds. Also it feeds in everything from multiple sources including Twitter so I feel like I am getting tons of info all on one site.

  15. zephyrmarketing says:

    Very helpful and timely article. I just completed a goal setting exercise for publishing content on a new blog/website. Your post gave me dozens of ideas for the next step – developing the content creation calendar to keep me on track.

    I especially like the thoughts around tapping into your search marketing keywords and social media keywords as these help integrate your overall engagement and efforts to expand reach and influence with blogging/content creation. It seems to me to be an approach of killing two birds with one stone. Leveraging assets, integrating activities and being open to creative ways has helped fuel and inspire me to continue to create content.

  16. “Whatever the reason for starting a blog, long time content creation with B2B blogs requires creativity, social participation and a smart feedback loop.”

    This explains all.

    Great info.

    Regards,
    Petra

  17. Albert Maruggi says:

    STOP – there is a huge void in this post and the comments. I’ve been saying this for a while. An editorial calendar is a process, wonderful, excellent, and mandatory. So on that point I don’t disagree with my esteemed colleague Mr. O.

    If, however, no one in your organization thinks like a reporter then you’ll have a timetable to post marketing pablum. I’m not a fan of commenters linking back to their own blog, but here’s a post about “getting a reporter’s mentality”

    Lee if I’ve violated a blog comment policy or offended anyone in anyway, or have a typo, then I owe you a lunch. Look i’ve made the criteria so broad that I suspect we’ll be breaking bread together soon.

    All the best,

  18. Albert_Maruggi says:

    One thing missing is to have someone on the team thinking like a reporter, without it you get marketing pablum content.

  19. This is a great article….very insightful and made me think..good job

  20. Really these are the best ideas I ever got on B2B blogging. One of the lines from editorial calendar “Smart B2B bloggers treat their blogging effort as an editorial endeavor “made me think. I am going to implement these ideas wherever it is necessary for B2B blog.

  21. Thank you so much for these tips. I’m about to start my own blog, and this helped ease my mind of the “what ifs”.