The bazillion dollar question – what do people want to read about?
Or, what you really want to know – what do people who might want to buy your products want to read about?
When we first start out writing, unless we already have an audience, we just have to use our best guesses and sort of take a scatter approach. But as you start working with more people, and as more and more people start reading your articles, you will gradually figure out what topics your audience wants.
The other day, I was explaining to a client how having multiple lead magnets can help them determine what their readers want more of. She told me that even after a couple of years of writing, she still didn’t know if the topic she was writing about would be something her niche would want to know.
We ended up in a long discussion on how to read clues to figure out what her group wanted to read. I thought I’d share a few quick points we touched on.
3 key places for data around what your audience wants
The first thing you’re going to need to do to gain traction is to pick an audience to serve. There are many experts with information on how to select a niche, and I will probably write a bit about it myself. I know that I’ve struggled with this myself.
What I’ve discovered is that your niche will evolve and change over time as your own skills and knowledge grow. And you have to grow and work to further refine your niche. The catch is, you do really have to start with some idea of a niche or an ideal customer. My best advice is to pick something, get started, and then work through the experts’ niche selection information to narrow and refine.
So, for your niche, or for whatever audience you pick to get started, you need to do some research to understand that group a little better.
You can do some spying in forums and Facebook groups that serve the same audience – read back in the history to see what questions keep coming up. In some groups, you can ask your own questions too. But do pay attention to group rules. Topics and questions that repeat over and over make great topics to write about. If you don’t know about the subject yourself, learn or invite a guest poster to share some knowledge.
See if you can take some clients out for lunch or coffee. If you don’t have many clients, invite people who are like the clients you want. Listen to them talk about their business. You can also have Skype chats or phone calls too.
Ask about problems and ask about what excites them. Ask what their goals and hopes for the business are. Don’t do a rapid-fire interrogation – an actual discussion will give you more good information. This shouldn’t be a pitch for your services – keep this all about them.
You can pay for surveys that target audiences like your target niche. Google Surveys is one service that can help you get answers quickly. This can be super helpful if you have a budget.
If you don’t have a budget, you can survey your own email list. You can ask them questions in a get-to-know-you welcome email. This can be a friendly way to gather information that feels like a conversation. You can also send out a survey campaign to your email list and ask a multiple choice question or two.
But, if you’re just starting out, and don’t have a budget or a list, you can search in Facebook groups for polls that ask similar questions and see how respondents answer. It’s not going to be as accurate for you and your audience, but it’s a place to start.
After you’ve been writing for a little while, you can use analytics software to figure out which articles are getting the most interest. I’m talking about Google Analytics, Oribe, and Kissmetrics that collect and compile data about your website visitors.
Take a look at the blog posts that have the most visits. Do you see a pattern of topics? Also find which blog posts have the least number of visits. Again, is there a subject or two that no one seems to find interesting? Hint: if so, stop writing about it, or come at that subject from a different angle!
Now, compare those numbers with how long users stay on each blog article page.
- Your big winners will have a lot of visits and an long on-page time.
- If a post gets lots of visits, but they’re all super short, then it’s likely the title hooked them, but the actual article didn’t interest them much. You have to be careful to deliver what your title promises.
- If a post doesn’t get a whole lot of visits and the time on-page is also short, then that topic is not one you want to continue with. Or, at least you want to adjust how you write about it.
- If a post doesn’t get a whole lot of visits, but those that do spend a long time on the page, you could have a topic that is pretty interesting to people who take the time to dig in. It may be that if you re-write some headlines, you can get more engagement with that post.
Lead Magnets Downloaded
I firmly believe that lead magnets are tiny products that aren’t free. So, when a reader buys your lead magnet with her email address, I consider that a very strong indicator of interest in that topic.
If you create multiple lead magnets, one for each main topic you’re writing about, you can use the lead magnet statistics to gauge interest. If you have a couple of lead magnets that get more downloads than others, that’s a great sign those topics are what your audience wants more of.
You do have to be careful and look at your opt-in offers, their frequency, and placement to be sure that it’s topic rather than exposure that is causing the spike in interest.
But, if a site visitor is willing to pay for a lead magnet with their email address, they absolutely know you’re planning to market to them. They’re telling you they want more information and solutions around that lead magnet topic.
You’d better have a way to track this information. You can have separate delivery pages and use your analytics tool to see how many people land on each delivery page. You can tag users in your CRM if your software allows and sort your list by tags. I don’t recommend this, but if necessary, you could create a different email list for each lead magnet. However it happens, this information should be something you track and pay attention to.
Benefits of knowing your audience’s reading preferences
Help Your Audience More
Clearly, the more you learn, the more you can write about topics that will really help your audience. And it might sound a bit Pollyanna, but isn’t this one of the main things driving you and what you do? It is for me.
Back when I worked in the corporate world, I almost never saw how I was helping anyone, and it wasn’t very satisfying. Now, I live for the moments when someone tells me how much I’ve helped.
Save Your Own Time
Once you know what captures your niche’s attention, you can stop writing articles or producing content that they don’t care about. Your time can be better spent creating more content that’s relevant to the people you want hanging around you. Each post your write will have more value because you can direct it to the specific needs of people who might want to hire you.
Know what types of products and services to put in front of your audience
When the readers of your bakery blog visit your cake decorating posts and stay on the page for minutes rather than seconds, and then they download your guide on how to avoid crumbs all over your cake frosting, it’s safe to bet they want more about putting frosting on cakes.
It makes sense then, that you don’t show them your Perfect Drop Cookie course first, but instead show them your Ultimate Cake Decorating Video course. It’s possible they’re interested in both of course, but those readers are really into cake decorating at that very moment, so that’s what you should lead with.
And if you can use this information to position different products to different list segments, you can increase your sales and have a much happier audience.
Gain traction and become known for helping with a topic
If you write about multiple subjects and never settle down on a focus or a niche, you won’t become the “go-to” person for anything. If you’re looking to gain some traction and save time by having leads come directly to you, you have to specialize. Knowing what your readers want can focus your writing efforts around a core few topics. The more you write about what they want to know, the more they come back to for that same subject. And the more they refer their colleagues!
Go out there and do some research on your target audience. Start thinking about what they would want to hear about. As you write more and build up more of an audience, focus on what they’re reading and what lead magnets they’re downloading. Any surprises?
You're a business-owning mom, so you use this guide to prioritize your tasks in 2 minutes, and have 41 minutes left to knock out a task.