Today’s question is:
How can I plan blog posts that will generate traffic?
This is a great question and there are plenty of things that you can do to skyrocket your traffic, those things also tend to be that which a lot of people tend to forget.
This is an ongoing struggle for a lot of bloggers.
The scenario goes a little like this:
You spend days and days of your time researching and learning how to build a blog.
Then you put together some really great content and promote it.
But nothing happens.
I’ve been there, and a lot of other bloggers have too – you’re not alone.
The problem is that we sometimes have a tendency to miss out the most crucial step – planning.
It’s the foundation for any successful blog post.
Without having that solid foundation – you just aren’t going to get the traffic that you deserve.
By the end of this post you will have a great idea of the steps that you need to take to plan blog posts and give them the best chance possible.
And of course – get the traffic you deserve.
It all starts with your target audience
In order to grow your traffic and keep that traffic coming back you need to ensure that you are 100% focused on understanding what your target audience needs.
Start off by breaking down your audience into different types of people and put together personas for each of these.
Here are some examples based on the new job site I am currently planning for bloggers:
- Blogger Bill – Bill’s blog is growing quickly and is looking to expand his team, he needs talented individuals to add to the mix to help with writing and developing the technical side of his blog.
- Blogger Ben – Ben blog’s regularly but has a flare for writing and is looking to top up his income by writing for other bloggers.
- Business owner Bob – Bob has recently started to invest in content marketing and is looking for some talented writers to work on his blog.
- Agency Alison – Alison works for a marketing agency that is focused around content marketing, she needs talented writers, designers and developers to outsource work to when her in house team hits capacity.
One you know the type of people you are targeting, it’s time to drill down a bit further and ask some serious questions:
- What motivates them?
- What are their fears and worries?
- What challenges are they facing?
- What questions do they have?
I usually fill out some rudimentary personal information to give me a better idea on who it is that I am targeting which can include: job title, income, family status and hobbies etc.
You can also grab yourself a free template with a 100% filled out example and additional questions by sharing the post below:
Click the link below to access your personas template.
Note: it’s in Google Docs so in order to edit this you will need to go to ‘FILE’ then ‘MAKE A COPY’.
You can also go to ‘DOWNLOAD’ and get a copy on your computer if you prefer.
A full example has been filled out for you but what is important to consider is that everything has to match with this type of person – it can be a challenge to do this correctly if you don’t understand your niche but if that’s the case then maybe running a survey using a tool like Polldaddy.com may help you here.
Use this guide to build your own audience personas and then you can ensure that you gear your content towards them.
Your ultimate goal should be to discover the problems your audience has and solve those problems.
What questions are your audience asking?
This is important.
We touched upon this previously but I think it’s important to talk about a bit more.
You may have an idea of some of the questions your audience has but there will always be more questions.
Go to the source
One of the best things that I ever did was to survey my mailing list subscribers – I asked them about their challenges and the questions they had and then started to turn them into blog posts.
This entire Reader Q&A thing is how I decided to directly answer these questions.
I also noticed that there were shorter questions that I was getting asked more frequently so I created a public FAQ section for bloggers.
Start off by sending a survey to your mailing list subscribers and then publish a post on your blog that includes a link to a survey or an embedded survey – then wait for the results to come back.
The easiest way to do this is to use Polldaddy.com which is 100% free to use.
Check out niche forums
Niche forums are a goldmine for blog post ideas and the fact that people go to the trouble of posting on forums about their challenges and questions shows how desperate they are to find the answer.
They are fairly easy to find, you could try just using a search operate in Google
“insert niche or topic area”+forum – this should get you some actionable results.
The other option would be to use a forum search engine like Board Reader.
Check out niche social communities
There are far more niche social communities out there than there are niche forums and they are straight forward to find.
Here are some to get you started:
Which blog posts are already working well for you?
Take a look in your Google Analytics account (if you have one setup) then navigate to > Behaviour > Site Content > Content Drilldown and you can see your most popular posts in terms of traffic generated.
You are best trying this over a good time period though.
You will then have a good idea of which posts have done the best in terms of generating traffic.
Another trick you can use is searching your domain in BuzzSumo.com – currently this tool is free (at the time of writing) and uses Twitter to pull in your content.
The tool will show you up to 6 months of your blog posts and pull in your social sharing data.
Which blog posts are working well for your competitors?
No matter how established you are, it’s worth taking a look at what’s working (or not working) for your competitors.
There are 3 key things that we can look at here:
1) Which blog posts are earning your competitors the most links?
This is a great indicator of which type of posts can go viral.
I typically prefer Open Site Explorer for this because it pulls in FB Likes/FB Shares, Tweets and G+1′s into separate columns.
Just enter the blog URL that you are searching for and click ‘Top Pages’.
From there you can filter based on different metrics pictured above.
You will be able to do limited searches with Open Site Explorer for free but to get real use of it you would need to upgrade to the $99/month plan.
A similar result can be achieved with Majestic SEO and Ahrefs – all work quite well.
Remember that while this is a great indicator of what works well, you need to ensure that the competitors that you use are at the top of their game.
This won’t work if the competitors you choose are using dodgy link building tactics.
2) Which of your competitors blog posts are generating the most social shares?
If you have access to Open Site Explorer – it will give you a great idea of your competitors most shared content but BuzzSumo can also be useful here.
On top of the social media sites supported by Open Site Explorer, you also get Pinterest and Linkedin here too along with a total social share count.
3) Which keywords are your competitors ranking for in Google?
A lot of people struggle to generate much traffic from Google (or any other search engine).
One of the key reasons can often be targeting the wrong keywords.
But what if you could see not only which keywords your competitors are ranking for in Google, but also exactly where they rank and an estimate of how many searches that keyword gets?
That’d be pretty cool right?
I currently use SEMrush for this:
SEMrush won’t pick up every keyword that exists, but it does have quite a sizable database of keywords which it frequently tracks.
You can get access to limited data for free, although you would really need a paid account to unlock all of the awesome features and data.
As well as being able to see keywords, monthly search volumes (estimated) and ranking positions, you will also be able to see the URL that are ranking.
It’s worth checking out those posts and seeing what you can do to create a better resource.
They will definitely have the legs on you because they’re more established but you can make up some serious distance by just creating a better resource or blog post.
What are people searching for?
Understanding how often people search for certain topics or keywords in search engines can be extremely useful.
A lot of people say ‘write for users not search engines’ but it’s definitely possible to write for both.
By planning your topic ideas around popular topics and keywords you will increase the likely hood of gaining a decent amount of traffic from Google and other search engines.
Ultimately there may be scenario’s when you can’t write for both, in those situations – always write for the user.
Below are a number of keyword research tools that will give you an idea of search volumes but it’s important to note that these aren’t 100% accurate so don’t put everything on these keywords.
Also popularity and search volume can fluctuate over time and in accordance with various offline factors.
4 Incredible keyword research tools to get you started
SEMrush ($) – Whenever I’m doing keyword research or competitor research, the first tool I go to is SEMrush. It has a huge database of keywords that it tracks so just type in your competitors and you can find what keywords they are being found for, where they are ranking and estimated search volumes for those keywords.
You can also find additional competitors being picked up for common keywords.
Those are the main features that I use SEMrush for but it does so much more.
Long Tail Pro ($) – I use Long Tail Pro for my core keyword research and it does source keywords from Google’s Keyword Planner (along with estimated search volumes) but I much prefer the interface. It also does on the spot rank tracking and ties into the Moz API to provide keyword difficulty scoring.
Google Keyword Planner (free) – This is the tool that replaced the Keyword External Tool provided within Google AdWords. It’s designed for Pay Per Click advertising but can work great as a keyword tool.
You can add a list of keywords or a landing page URL and it will then generate a list of keywords, you can also select keyword groupings which can work well for highlighting topic areas.
You will also get estimated search volumes.
Google Trends (free) – This is great for gauging interest over time and which locations are most interested about a topic.
It’s important to note that the figures shown by Google Trends don’t convey actual search volume.
What are people sharing?
What people are sharing on social media can be a great indicator of what works.
I have targeted Twitter lists setup that I monitor in Hootsuite:
I also have targeted circles setup in Google+ to monitor various top level topics that fit with what I write about and like to share:
Take things a step further and get some helpful metrics
Using G+ and Twitter in this way is great from a surface level view but it’s difficult to put in perspective.
Earlier I mentioned BuzzSumo.com being great for identifying popular content.
It’s incredibly useful in this situation too because you can simply type in a topic and find an incredible amount of content from various blogs – and the number of social shares on Twitter, Facebook, G+ and Pinterest gets pulled in too.
You can then filter your data or export it to CSV or Excel files.
An incredible way of finding the topics that are getting shared the most.
Include influencers that add value to your content
Within every niche there are a select group of people (and companies in some cases) that influence the decisions of people within that particular niche.
Your aim should be to involve these influencers in your content and then let them know about it (via email, Twitter or G+).
When you say awesome stuff about people, they usually like to tell their followers about it.
I’ve used this tactic to great effect in the past and I’ve already written a post that can help you to get better results and also shows you a great example of this – read the post here.
Look for point #2 in the post for the section on influencers, but I think you will find some of the other information in the post useful.
One key take away about this influencer marketing thing – let influencers know when you have mentioned them.
This is the #1 mistake most people make.
5 Powerful tools to help you get influencer research done fast
Finding influencers manually is a needlessly time consuming task but fortunately there are some great tools on the market to help you:
- BuzzSumo (free) – quickly find influencers on Twitter.
- Inkybee ($) – a fully-fledged blogger outreach management platform that does a great job at identifying authoritative blogs (amongst other things).
- Authority Spy ($) – Easy to use desktop software that allows you to quickly find influencers within your niche. Pulls in Twitter, G+, Facebook, website and contact data. Check out my review of Authority Spy to learn more.
- Twtrland (free/$) – Straight forward tool that allows you to segregate influencers by type (e.g. celebrities, novice etc) along with some other handy features. Pro account does give access to some really nice features.
- Traackr ($) – An incredible platform, typically more expensive than the other tools I’ve listed but the data here is incredibly in depth.
Are your headlines up to scratch?
The titles/headlines of your blog posts are important.
It’s the first thing that people see in most cases.
That means that your headline could unlock the key to making your posts go viral.
Or ensuring nobody reads them at all.
There are plenty of posts out there that explain how to write great headlines in more detail than I could fit into this post but I’ll leave you with a few things to help you.
3 Great posts about how to write awesome headlines
- A Scientific Guide to Writing Great Headlines on Twitter, Facebook, and Your Blog – Leo Widrich/Buffer
- The Ultimate Guide To Writing Incredible Headlines – Rebecca Carlson/Contently
- 5 Easy Tricks to Help You Write Catchy Headlines – Jeff Goins/Goins Writer
3 Useful tools to help you when writers block strikes
There are some great tools on the web that can help you come up with some effective titles:
While these tools can generate some interesting and effective titles by entering a keyword/topic – some of them won’t make sense.
I prefer to use these types of tools as more of a source of inspiration.
The main reason is because when a lot of people use these tools, titles start to lose their impact and by relying on them too much it can hinder our creativity.
It all comes down to this…
Create titles that are persuasive.
Create titles that your audience can’t help but want to read.
You’ve got the resources and tools to help you create epic headlines – take a look and start creating some headlines.
Over to you
You have now had a run through of the key things to think about when planning your blog post ideas to ensure you generate as much buzz and traffic as possible.
How do you plan your blog posts?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.