By now, you probably know that blogging is paramount to your ability to drive traffic to your website, improve search engine ranking, establish brand authority and delight your visitors – all of which can help you generate new leads.
What you don’t know? What the heck to write about.
Choosing a great blog topic can be difficult – especially when your industry is considered “boring.”
To figure out what topics to write about, think about the people who will be using search engines to find information related to your product, service or industry. By creating people-first content, you'll be more likely to be found in search, prove your organization’s authority and capture people's attention enough to turn them from stranger to lead.
Think of Your Blog as an Education Channel, Not a Sales Channel
Before we jump into the questions to help you choose your blog topic, I’d like to make a critical note to keep in mind as you develop content: your blog isn’t the right place to be salesy. This is something people frequently struggle with – why wouldn’t they write about their product or service on their blog?
It’s simple: people aren’t on your blog to read your sales pitch. They are there to learn. This can feel like a fine line to toe – how can you teach someone about your product and its benefits without explicitly telling them about how your product will solve their problems?
The solution here may feel unnatural when you first start blogging, but avoid calling out your business, product or service by name in your posts. A good rule of thumb is to avoid writing in the first-person when discussing products and services.
This has a tendency to trip up a lot of bloggers, so let’s look at an example of how to do this:
If you need help making your assembly line more efficient, you’ll love our line of customizable industrial machinery!
The best way to make your assembly line more efficient is to use industrial machinery that is customizable.
The former is explicit in trying to sell (“you’ll love our product line!”) while the latter is solution-oriented, with no specific product or company recommended. Not only does this eliminate “sales” talk in your posts, but your reader will walk away knowing that they need to be searching specifically for customizable machinery if they want to solve their problem.
The Questions to Kick Start Your Blogging
Work through each of the following questions to develop blog topics that will provide helpful and interesting content for your readers.
1. What issues are facing the people who use your service/product?
In order to understand why someone would choose to use your product or service, you need to know what issues they face – both before and after purchasing your product.
Think about problems that your clients have (or had) that are related to your product or service, whether directly or indirectly. Maybe they need to increase production on their assembly line but aren’t able to hire employees to work on it. Maybe they are worried about the high number of worker’s comp claims coming from their assembly line team. Maybe they are losing a lot of money due to downtime from broken assembly line machinery. When you write a blog post that offers a solution to a problem, you’ll be able to introduce yourself to prospects at just the right time: when they need help with a problem you can solve.
A great example of a problem-focused blog is from women’s clothing company Madewell. Their post about how to keep black jeans from fading does a great job addressing an issue that anyone who wears black jeans experiences (regardless of whether they wear Madewell jeans). While this issue is indirectly related to the company – they don’t sell solutions to prevent fading, but they do sell black jeans which can fade – they do a great job of providing an actionable solution to a problem that impacts anyone who wears black jeans. The best part? The only salesy language is a quick note and link at the end, which directs users to view their denim collection.
2. What questions do prospects often ask?
Think back to the questions you frequently hear from prospects. What questions do you hear time and time again?
By writing about frequent questions, you’ll catch people who are asking those same questions to search engines. Aligning your content with popular questions will improve the odds that your content shows up as a result.
3. What questions do customers often ask?
Much like answering your prospect’s questions, answering customer questions will help improve the odds your blog post shows up in search results.
The difference is that, by answering questions current customers have instead of those of prospects, you’ll be speaking more directly to people who are likely more familiar with similar products or services, allowing you to answer questions to people who may need different information to guide them through the buyer’s journey, a three-step process that an individual follows to become aware of, evaluate, and purchase a new product or service. This is also helpful for upselling or cross-selling current customers.
There are a number of ways to find out what customers are asking. The most straightforward is to ask your sales and customer service teams what they are being asked, as well as monitoring questions that come through on social media. If you want to get more detailed, you can try running a survey or focus group.
4. How do people who aren't familiar with your product describe the type of solution they need?
This question is especially important for getting in front of people who are very early on in the buyer’s journey: they know they have a problem and are beginning to look for solutions, but they lack enough familiarity to use proper terminology.
By using the same language that these people use, you are more likely to get in front of them in search engines.
Back to our example about customizable machinery: while you call your product an “industrial manipulator,” a person who doesn’t know much about this product type might call it an “assembly line machine.” If you don’t speak to your audience’s terminology, they’ll never get an opportunity to learn yours.
5. What differentiates your product or service from similar ones?
Chances are, you have competitors. That’s why differentiation is crucial.
Think about how each of your products or services stands out from others. What benefit do they provide that others don’t?
It can be tempting to slip into sales language when writing about differentiators. To avoid this, discuss how the product differentiator is beneficial for the user. For example, if your differentiator is that your company provides fully-customizable machinery, don’t focus on the fact that this is rare in your industry. Instead, focus on how customizing your machinery benefits the end user.
6. What does your company have more experience with or knowledge of than your competitors?
Another way to stand out amongst the pack is to highlight experience or knowledge that your organization has that is above and beyond the norm.
In this case, we’re talking specifically about your organization, not your product. For example, has your organization been building machinery for organizations across the globe? Discuss the lessons you’ve learned that seem to hold true across the world. Has your organization been around since the inception of your particular industry? Share how you’ve seen things change from the beginning to now.
7. How do you often explain what your company does to people who have no knowledge of your product or industry?
This takes the idea of our third tip about finding out how people lacking intimate knowledge of your product or industry describe your offerings and flips it: when you initiate a conversation about your product or service to a person who knows nothing about it, what language do you choose to use?
You can think of this as your most basic-elevator pitch. How can you explain what it is you do so that anyone can understand? This is especially effective when your product is complex, as you can help your prospect feel more confident that they understand how a product like yours works.
8. What's one myth or piece of misinformation about your service/industry that won’t seem to die?
If you feel like you’re constantly starting sentences with “That’s actually not true,” you’re a great candidate for a myth-busting blog post.
If you are frequently hearing a certain piece of misinformation, chances are that people are frequently searching for it, as well. Writing about why it isn’t true will help educate visitors, establishing your authority. When people are researching the statement in question and see a counter-point amongst a sea of other articles that are in agreement with the false statement, you’ll stand out.
9. What's an unintended or underappreciated benefit of your product, service or industry?
The direct benefits of your product or service should already be really clear to your audience (if not, you may want to update your marketing collateral to better speak to this).
What about any unintended or less-publicized benefits, though? For example: everyone may know that your customizable machinery will help speed up production on your assembly line, but does everyone know that it can also help reduce employee injuries? These unintended benefits may not be your primary selling point, but they may be what pushes a reader to contact you to learn more about your product.
10. Who is a good fit for your product – and who isn’t?
There are times when it doesn’t make sense for a person to purchase your product. This could be for a variety of reasons, including budget, company size, experience level or a host of other conditions.
Think about what qualifying conditions a lead should meet in order for them to become a client. By writing about who should – or shouldn’t – use a product or service like the one you offer, you’ll help people either identify with the solution you offer, or reduce the number of unqualified leads reaching out to you.
A blog such as, “Should my company invest in custom assembly line machines?” will help readers determine if they’re considering the right solution for their problem and what action they should take next.
After you’ve gone through each question, you should have plenty of inspiration to kick off your blogging. What’s next? Follow our 5 step process for developing engaging content, try to sound like a human in your blog post, and be sure to avoid falling into the over editing trap.