Given the amount of time it can take to write a blog post, there is little more disheartening than one of your posts having few or no views months after it was published.
In many ways, the business blogging game is won or lost before you even start writing. Whether a post will gain traction or not depends a lot on the topic that you choose to write about.
A blog topic should have enough interest from your audience to merit writing about it. If no one is searching for the questions that your blog answers, very few people are going to end up reading it.
On the flip side, if you write a topic that has been covered hundreds of times by much bigger sites, your post will never rank, and few people are going to be able to find it once you have given the post its initial push to your email list and social media channels.
Fortunately there is a quick, free method to validate whether a blog topic is worth pouring your time into. All it takes is a bit of tinkering around with Google in order to utilise its search data.
Here is how you do it.
Use Google’s autocomplete feature to assess interest in your topic
When you go onto Google’s homepage (Google.com and its local variants) Google gives you a search bar to type your search into.
When you type a broad keyword into that search bar, Google will begin to try and anticipate your search based on what other people have been recently searching.
This is your best source of current keyword and search data. Even the best keyword tools, including paid ones, are based on inaccurate data.
To check whether there is enough interest in a topic to merit writing a post about it, slowly type the first couple of words of your proposed topic or title into Google’s search bar.
As you do this, Google will begin to anticipate what you are searching. If it anticipates your proposed topic, then there is a good chance that it is currently being searched with a decent amount of frequency (note that this works best if your topic or title is 5 words or longer).
The earlier that Google anticipates the search, the more commonly it is being searched. You can combine this with a dose of common sense to see if your blog topic has sufficient interest to merit writing this.
This trick can also be used to generate topic ideas. Simply put a broad keyword into Google and see what it anticipates.
To illustrate this, let’s say that you own a dental practice, and you want to write a blog post about dental implants. Given that many blog posts take the form of questions, your “seed keyword” might be: “why dental implants...”. This is what happens if you type that search into Google:
From this, we can see that there would be sufficient interest in a blog post comparing the virtues of dental implants to bridges, an explanation post on why dental implants fail, or an article about what the costs are that go into an implant procedure.
Again, this is the most accurate way of judging searcher interest in a topic, better than the most expensive keyword tools.
Look at the types of posts that are ranking to discover “searcher intent”
The job of a search engine is to give searchers the best type of content to whatever it is they are searching.
Not every type of search is suitable for an information led blog post. Sometimes people are looking for service or product pages, or even homepages of businesses.
Google is smart enough to roughly work out the purpose of a page, be it inform, sell or present a business, and therefore will only rank informational pages highly for informational searches.
You should therefore only blog about topics where an informational article is the most appropriate way to answer the question you are writing about.
In many cases “searcher intent” is obvious: someone searching “buy a handbag” is looking for sales pages of handbags. Someone searching “chiropractor in London” is looking for the home or contact page of a business.
However in some instances, searcher intent is not so obvious. Take the question: “where to buy a car”. Is the searcher looking for an informational piece on the best car dealerships, or do they just want to buy a search.
If we search this question on Google, this is what it gives us on the first page of results:
Although it is a combination of informational pieces and sales pages of car dealerships, it is predominantly the latter.
This means that Google believes that people who search this term are most likely to be looking to buy a car, rather than read an article about where to buy cars. Therefore it is not a great topic to blog about.
Again, in most cases “searcher intent” is obvious, but if you aren’t sure, a Google search is a very quick way to avoid wasting hours on a blog post that has little chance of success.
Use Google’s results to analyse the competition for your chosen topic
A big determining factor in how well a blog post of yours will rank in Google is down to the competition for places in the search engine results page for your proposed title.
Google favours ranking large, established websites with lots of traffic, links and mentions over the websites of smaller businesses.
Therefore if you write about an exact topic that has been covered hundreds of times by the websites of big companies and media outlets, your chances of ranking are tiny.
Googling your topic, and seeing the types of sites that are on the first page can more or less tell you if this is the case.
If all you see are household names in the results page, you will need to narrow your topic down. There is still a lot of “space” out there on the web, but you need to be specific. Once you find a topic which is dominated by websites of local companies and personal blogs, you can start writing with the knowledge that you have a chance of getting eyes on your content.
There is one exception to this however. If you can create a post that is significantly better than everything else that is out there, say you have some new data or exclusive insights on a topic, then you still stand a chance against huge authority websites.
You need to be honest with yourself about this. In most cases, specific topics will fare better than broad ones. Just remember to use the autocomplete test with every new topic to make sure that there is sufficient interest in it to begin with.
Oli Graham is the Marketing Manager copywriting agency RightlyWritten.