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How to Spy on Your Customers to Get Blog Ideas

Forums, comments, and communities like Quora or are veritable goldmines for blog ideas. Here's how to scrape their info.


The number one challenge that marketers had in 2017 was generating enough traffic and leads.

This probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has ever worked on the agency side, or for a boss that gave them goals, or as a business owner who wants to buy their lunch … as a matter of a fact, leads and traffic matter to everyone!

So if it’s our job to identify content that meets our audience’s demands, and we are living and breathing that every day, why is it so difficult for 63 percent of marketers?

The answer is that the tools we have been using, and the way in which we use them, are imperfect.

For example, using a keyword planner on its own on only tells you one piece of the story. Keyword planners can tell you traffic and competition, but they don’t tell you why someone searched that keyword in the first place or how best to help them find a solution that’s relevant to them.

The characteristics that make up your audience and drive their goals and pain points are hidden in the context of their questions.

At the same time, all of the demographic research in the world won’t tell you the quantitative data on how many people actually sit down and search “forum research” every month (10-100) as opposed to “blog ideas” (1K-10K).

Context and technical search factors together are essential for taking content from ho-hum to spectacularly relevant.

Get Content Context Through Forums

Forums, comments, and communities like Quora or are veritable goldmines for content marketers.

Instead of being limited to the confines of a baseline keyword, marketers are given context through full sentence questions, paragraphs of supporting information, and upvoted answers from peers and experts.

Forums are one way to provide a kaleidoscope of color to an otherwise blank coloring book of ideas.

But that can be easier said than done.

If it’s your job to create five, 10, or 100 pieces of content per week, who has time to manually sift through historical questions and answers across hundreds of internet pages?

There’s a tool for that! Several in fact.

The Best Tools for Gleaning Blog Ideas from Forums

There quite a few tools that do a great job of collecting disparate contextual information from across the web and condensing it into bite-size chunks of information that marketers can use to supplement their keyword research.

Some are paid, and some are free, and they all offer their own benefits and drawbacks.

Here are a few of my favorite tools:

Answer the Public

This was one of the original long-tail research tools, and it’s entirely free!

One of the really cool things about this tool is the data visualization that it produces around your keyword.

The suggested content is broken out into who, what, why, etc. format questions about your keyword.

You can then dig into the data more deeply and dig through an alphabetized list of supplementary keywords.


BuzzSumo’s Question Analyzer

BuzzSumo’s aptly named question analyzer tool (originally launched with the name “Bloomberry”) takes this question research process to the next level because it also provides the answers.

It was available for free for a while when it first launched, and then they scaled it back to a limited amount of free searches per month. It now requires a subscription to BuzzSumo, but you can try it out for yourself with a free trial.

As you can see below, Keyword Analyzer provides you with a word cloud of related terms as well as a list of relevant questions by category.

You can even click on these questions and dig into the original source, the answers that were provided, and how people reacted to those answers (a research lover could quickly get lost!).


SEMRush’s Topic Research

SEMRush is the newest player in the topic research tool space.

True to their SEO roots, SEMrush organizes the content slightly differently. Instead of sorting information by frequency or popularity like the others, the information is displayed in the order of the content that has received the most backlinks.

They also list out the questions and most common search terms that are related to your topic. However, while you can click on the headlines of high-scoring blog posts, you cannot click on the questions themselves at this time.

Another feature that I like on this one is the ability to save a topic to favorites so you can remember your search later when you actually sit down to write. Like BuzzSumo’s tool, this feature is available with a subscription to SEMRush’s tool suite.


So We Have Some Tools … Now What?

If you’re a stickler for keywords and optimizing your content for search (which you should be), these tools can only get you through part of the content battle.

It’s important to do the research around keyword competitiveness, distribution strategies, and personas and buyer’s journey.

Forum topic tools, however, offer incredible supplemental information to your content strategy and can easily provide you with a year’s worth of blog posts, video snippets, and social content ideas!

In my opinion, it doesn’t matter if you begin with a strong keyword or start with the question and find a keyword to match it. Most content marketing strategic planning periods include an intensive keyword research period. So if you’ve completed that effectively, you’re probably reciting relevant keywords in your sleep.

Once you have a keyword and a question, it’s time to create some epic content that answers that question for your client. As with any good piece of content, write for your persona, solve for their needs, and drive to a relevant call to action.


This style of content marketing is going to be all the more important in 2018 as voice search devices become a common household fixture. People naturally ask voice searches in a question format (who, what, why, when, where) when speaking to an AI. So if you do your job right, you just may rank for a featured snippet in the SERPs.

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Image Credits

Screenshots taken by Katy Katz, December 2017

Katy Katz Director of Account Strategy at Marketing Refresh

Katy has interactive marketing experience spanning across the higher education, healthcare, technology, and small business communities. She has spoken at ...

How to Spy on Your Customers to Get Blog Ideas

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