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Choosing Wisely: How to Pick Your Next Topic

For nearly all content publishers, there is a constant struggle of deciding what to write about. Gone are the days of writing short columns on any given topic and just expecting people to read it. Remember Bill Gates’ words? “Content is King.” And boy, is he right. There is simply (dare I say) too much content out there.

What it means is you will either sink or swim in the mass sea of internet content. What it also means is your content needs to stand out. Knowing what “works” isn’t easy. There’s no formula.

Topics that drive traffic depend on a myriad of factors. What you think is a “hot topic” might get you a mere number of clicks. But without getting too deep into the backend of content publishing (data points, Google ratings, ads, etc.), we’re going to focus on tangible ways to choose your next topic.

First Things First: Establish Authority

There are tons of ways to source content ideas that will give you a competitive edge. But first things first, it’s important to note that, in general, Google prioritizes comprehensive, valuable, and authoritative content. And it’s not just Google; your audience wants the same thing.

Vintage photo of a content writer

Photo by George Marks / Getty Images

It’s essential, as a goal, to establish your expertise and authority through your site(s)’ content. Do your research, report everything there is to know on a given topic and make it a rule of thumb. Eventually, you’ll get more traffic as you’ll (most likely) rank higher in search results.

Check Out Your Readers

One way to source content topics is to see what your readers are reading. Check your posts’ comments section, your site’s Facebook page, Twitter, etc. Content is user-driven, so their input will prove hugely helpful when it comes to choosing topics that they’re likely to read.

Look at Your Competitors and Industry Leaders

One of the most common ways to source content ideas is to see what other similar sites are posting. Looking at other websites, blogs, and social media channels that are similar to yours will be one of the best ways to see what topics people are engaging with.

On the same note, looking into what industry leaders are doing can also be a great indicator. Whichever content niche you’re in, identify the leaders in the same industry and make it a point to follow them and their content. You can sign up for their newsletters or read their blogs. It’s safe to say that those at the top of their game know what their readers want.

Search Suggestions Reveal a Lot

The blank slate on Google’s search, where you can type in anything – that little white bar can be a significant help. Since Google automatically fills in the rest of your sentence or question with the most common related searches, it can give you a good idea of what people are searching for. And so, you’ll see what people want to read about.

What Are the Forums Saying?

Forums provide a great perspective into what people are really into. Quora and Reddit, for example, are popular sites where anything can be discussed. Not only can content topics be sourced from sites like these, but specific questions and points will direct you right to the juicy stuff.

Let the Data Do the Talking

If you’ve been getting traffic to your site(s) already, using Google Analytics can be helpful. The reports Google generates for you can give you a look into the back end of your sites to see which pages of your site(s) are driving traffic.

You can identify which content topics, writers, formats, SEO, visuals and videos are working better than others. If, for instance, you find that your videos are performing above the rest, it’s worth doubling your efforts in that area.

Look Back Occasionally

Let’s not ignore previous posts. Online publishing involves constantly producing content, but that doesn’t mean that once it’s posted, it’s no longer relevant. The truth is “evergreen” content (content that is forever relevant) is an excellent direction to steer toward. Posting articles that will still be interesting a year or two down the road means you will continue to drive traffic.

writer thinking about her next article

Photo by Paul Bradbury / Getty Images

So, if you’re struggling to generate new ideas, you can always revisit past posts. Try renewing an older article that performed well – add a new twist, an update, or some new images. There’s almost always something new that can be added to an old article, especially if it’s something important and engaging to readers.

Standing Above the Rest

Finding what people want to read about is really just one factor involved in making content that creates traffic. On the one hand, a trendy, exciting topic is an advantage and raises the chances of getting readers. But on the other hand, if you’re just regurgitating what your competitors are saying, what makes you stand out?

This goes back to establishing authority. The goal is to make your content different, particularly more valuable. See what your competition is lacking and try to add that extra oomph. If you dive deep and give your readers a different perspective, a new twist, or a fresh look into the content they’re into, chances are people will not just read your articles but keep coming back.