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How to Find Content Topics for SEO

Phrases with good search volume and relatively low keyword difficulty scores have the potential to drive lots of organic search traffic. These phrases can be an excellent source of content marketing ideas.

Content marketing and search engine optimization work hand-in-glove to provide useful, informative, or entertaining content that performs well in search.

Think of it this way. SEO and content marketing are together filling an information gap. Potential customers are querying Google or another search engine because they need something — perhaps a tutorial, information, or a product. And the content marketer is responding to that need.

Volume, Difficulty

There are many ways to generate content topic ideas. A good content marketer will use several. One such approach is to employ SEO tools to identify keyphrases with search potential — i.e., sufficient query volume to make the topic worthwhile and not so much that ranking is unlikely.

Thus:

  • Discover key phrases used by thousands or tens of thousands of searchers each month.
  • Next, narrow the potential topics by keyword difficulty as identified by the SEO tool.

Ahrefs

Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer tool is a table-like interface that makes it easy to sort content ideas that deliver organic search traffic.

Let’s look at topics related to coconut oil, sorting in Keyword Explorer by volume and difficulty.

Screenshot of Ahrefs' Keyword ExplorereScreenshot of Ahrefs' Keyword Explorere

Ahrefs Keyword Explorer is a table-like interface that makes it easy to sort topic ideas. This “coconut oil” example is sorted by keyword difficulty (KD) and Volume.

Keyword Explorer has a few options for generating ideas.

  • “Matching terms” will contain the phrase entered into the tool, e.g., “coconut oil.”
  • “Related terms” will show ideas similar to the phrase.
  • “Search suggestions” provide ideas that might appear in Google’s autocomplete.
Screenshot of Ahrefs' for types of keyword ideasScreenshot of Ahrefs' for types of keyword ideas

Ahrefs lets you decide the type of topic or keyphrase: Matching terms, Related terms, Search suggestions.

You can also consider all suggestions or just questions only, and adjust the match type:

  • “Terms match” includes all of the words in the phrase, but in any order.
  • “Phrase match” consists of all of the words in the phrase in precise order.
Screenshot of "Matching terms" in Ahrefs.Screenshot of "Matching terms" in Ahrefs.

You can also adjust the match type and decide whether to focus on questions, which make for good topic ideas when answered.

I’ll use the keyword difficulty and volume filters to narrow the potential topics to phrases with a good chance of ranking on a Google search.

In Ahrefs, keyword difficulty is a non-linear, 100-point scale that estimates the likelihood of ranking in the top 10.

Setting the maximum keyword difficulty to 50 limits potential topic ideas to phrases where the top-ranking pages on Google’s SERPs probably have 80 – 90 referring (linking) domains.

I’ve set the volume filter to 5,000 searches per month, but it could be higher or lower depending on traffic goals.

With Ahrefs, you can also include ideas for Google’s SERP features. This can add interesting options but might require considering lower search volumes or more difficult phrases.

Screenshot of Ahrefs "SERP features"Screenshot of Ahrefs "SERP features"

Ahrefs allows including Google’s SERP features in the list of topic ideas. Semrush and Ubersuggest offer the same.

Semrush

Semrush’s Topic Research tool includes similar benefits.

Screenshot of Semrush's Topic Research tool.Screenshot of Semrush's Topic Research tool.

Semrush has a very developed Topic Research tool. In “Card” view, users can sort results.

Here, I will view the topic ideas related to coconut oil in the “Card” view and set the priority to “Topic Efficiency.” This will sort the ideas by volume and difficulty.

Screenshot of Semrush's Topic Efficiency dropdown menu pageScreenshot of Semrush's Topic Efficiency dropdown menu page

In Semrush, Topic Efficiency is the balance of search volume and keyword difficulty.

With Semrush, identifying content topics with search potential is a drill-down process. Click a Card and get additional ideas, many in question format. You will also see the idea’s volume and difficulty estimate.

Screenshot of Semrush's Topic Research toolScreenshot of Semrush's Topic Research tool

Drilling down in Semrush’s Topic Research tool reveals additional topic ideas.

Ubersuggest

For my third example of identifying promising content topics, consider Ubersuggest. It is focused on keyword research for organic search. And like Ahrefs and Semrush, its keyword ideas are potential content marketing topics.

Screenshot of Ubersuggest home pageScreenshot of Ubersuggest home page

Ubersuggest is focused on SEO keyword research. Its keyword ideas are potential content marketing topics.

Once you enter a starting or seed term, such as “coconut oil,” head to the “Keyword Ideas” section.

Then filter topic ideas by monthly “Volume” and “SEO Difficulty.” Ubersuggest doesn’t describe how it measures difficulty. Nonetheless, it’s a good indicator of how much work is needed to rank.

"Keyword Ideas" page in Ubersuggest"Keyword Ideas" page in Ubersuggest

Ubersuggest lets you set ranges for monthly “Volume” and “SEO Difficulty.”

When clicking on a topic idea, Ubersuggest estimates the number of backlinks you might need to break into the top 10.

Ubersuggest estimates 407 backlinks are necessary to rank for “coconut oil for teeth.”

Just the Start

Ahrefs, Semrush, and Ubersuggest make it easy to identify content marketing topics that could drive traffic to your site.

Identifying these topics is just the start. Generate a list, check and verify each idea, and decide if the topic is relevant to your business and useful to potential customers.

13 Platforms for Blogging

Writing a blog is one of the best ways to establish expertise within an industry and drive traffic to your website. There are a variety of platforms available to launch and manage a blog at little or no expense.

Here is a list of platforms to launch a blog. There are content management systems to create a blog and full-featured website. There are also minimalist blogging tools to publish a clean, modern blog. Nearly all of these applications have free plans.

WordPress

Screenshot of WordPress.orgScreenshot of WordPress.org

WordPress.org

WordPress is a free and open-source content management system (CMS). WordPress is the internet’s most popular application – 43% of the web uses it. With nearly 60,000 plugins available to extend and customize your site, build a blog with an ecommerce store, forum, gallery, mailing list, analytics, and more. Price: Free.

Medium

Screenshot of Medium home pageScreenshot of Medium home page

Medium

Medium is a publishing platform where experts and undiscovered writers publish and share content. Individual writers publish from profile pages. Collaborate with others or post under a brand name. Use Medium’s story submission system and expressive customization options. Add a custom domain name to your space to help visitors find, share, and return to it. Join the Partner Program to earn money by making your stories part of member-only content, or allow free access to anyone. Price: Free. Partner Program is $5 per month.

Ghost

Screenshot of Ghost home pageScreenshot of Ghost home page

Ghost

Ghost was founded in April 2013 after a successful Kickstarter campaign to create a new platform for professional publishing. Ghost comes with modern tools to build a website, publish content, send newsletters, and offer paid subscriptions to members. The platform includes a marketplace for free and premium themes, custom integrations, and help from experts. Use native signup forms that turn anonymous views into logged-in members. Get detailed engagement analytics. Connect your Stripe account and deliver premium content to your audience. Price: Free. Hosting plans start at $25 per month.

LinkedIn

Screenshot of LinkedInScreenshot of LinkedIn

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network. It’s also a great place to generate a blog. Demonstrate your expertise, and develop content to keep your profile fresh. To create a blog on LinkedIn, click the icon “Write an article” on your front page. Add your text and images, then publish and promote. Price: Free. Premium accounts start at $29.99 per month.

Squarespace

Screenshot of Squarespace.comScreenshot of Squarespace.com

Squarespace

Squarespace is an all-in-one platform for building a flexible website for a blog and more. Access image-rich, award-winning designer templates and integrations with Getty Images, Unsplash, and Google Amp. Increase traffic to your blog with Squarespace Email Campaigns and connected social media accounts. Enable commenting through Squarespace or Disqus. Price: Plans start at $14 per month.

Wix

Screenshot of Wix.comScreenshot of Wix.com

Wix

Wix is a website builder to quickly launch a site with 500+ customizable website templates to meet your business needs. Choose from 200+ blog templates, or use a blank canvas to create your own. Use advanced SEO tools, set up automatic emails, promote on social media, and invite your followers to become members and start discussions. Monetize with subscriptions, display ads, paid events, and ecommerce features. Price: Free. Premium plans start at $16 per month.

CMS Hub

Screenshot of CMS HubScreenshot of CMS Hub

CMS Hub

CMS Hub is HubSpot’s content platform for launching a blog. Use one of HubSpot’s pre-built website themes with the option for custom development. An SEO recommendations home screen allows you to improve your site and take action, all in one place. Track every visitor to your site and create personalized digital experiences leveraging CRM data. With adaptive testing, choose up to five page variations, and HubSpot will monitor and serve up the best-performing option. Price: Plans start at $23 per month.

Craft CMS

Screenshot of Craft CMS home pageScreenshot of Craft CMS home page

Craft CMS

Craft CMS is a flexible, user-friendly CMS for creating custom digital experiences. Choose from a large variety of built-in and plugin-supplied field types. Manage multiple sites from a single installation. Update content easily with Craft’s built-in management features, including an image editor, collaboration tools, and a localization feature. Easily integrate with popular payment gateways, CRMs, and fulfillment services. Price: Free. Pro is $299 per project.

Weebly

Screenshot of Weebly home pageScreenshot of Weebly home page

Weebly

Weebly is an easy-to-use website builder to create and manage your blog. Create posts with drag and drop, manage comments and schedule future content. Instantly respond to blog comments and form entries, reply to customer inquiries and stay connected to followers from anywhere. Drive traffic with integrated social media marketing, SEO tools, and AdWords credit. Price: Free. Premium plans start at $6 per month.

Write.as

Screenshot of Write.asScreenshot of Write.as

Write.as

Write.as is a modern, simple and clean platform for blogging. The editor only gives you what you need to write and auto­ma­ti­cally saves while you type. There are no comments, spam, likes, or dis­trac­tions — just your words in your own digital space. Write.as does not collect personal data, so you can write freely. Publish anonymously or under any name you choose. Price: Free. Pro plans start at $6 per month.

Blogger

Screenshot of Blogger.comScreenshot of Blogger.com

Blogger

Blogger is Google’s content management system. Choose from a selection of customizable templates with background images, or design something new. Get a blogspot.com domain or buy a custom domain. Connect directly to Google Analytics. Use AdSense to display relevant, targeted ads to get paid. Price: Free.

Tumblr

Screenshot of Tumblr.comScreenshot of Tumblr.com

Tumblr

Tumblr is a micro-blogging platform for media content. Tell stories through text, photos, GIFs, videos, live streams, and audio. Tumblr features free custom domains and hundreds of free and premium themes. Price: Free.

Contently

Screenshot of a web page from ContentlyScreenshot of a web page from Contently

Contently

Contently is an enterprise content marketing platform. Contently provides expert content strategies to tell you the content topics, formats, channels, and voice and tone your audience craves. It can make intelligent content recommendations, align your teams, and create better content faster. Access its talent network of 160,000+ writers, filmmakers, designers, and editors from Wired, The New York Times, Popular Science, and more. Contently’s high cost puts it out of the reach of most small businesses, but it may be an ideal solution for brands with larger budgets in need of editorial support. Contact for pricing.

5 Content Marketing Ideas for June 2022

Six-point list articles, 50th anniversaries, podcasts, Flag Day, and Father’s Day can help online sellers attract, retain, and engage shoppers in June 2022 and beyond.

Content marketing creates and distributes valuable, interesting, or entertaining content to acquire customers and make sales. Content marketers must understand their customers and seek to serve them.

The content created in a marketing campaign intends to build relationships with customers so they can ultimately learn about and appreciate the seller.

Here are five content marketing ideas your business can use for June 2022.

Lists of Six

June is the sixth month in the Julian calendar, so why not use that number and publish one or several six-item list articles or listicles.

Listverse is an example of a publisher that focuses specifically on the listicle format. Your company can use this same attention-grabbing format for content marketing.

Screenshot from the Listverse site.Screenshot from the Listverse site.

Listverse publishes content in listicle format.

The listicle is an effective way to grab a reader’s attention and earn a click in the content marketing realm. Listicles organize information, making it easier to read and understand, giving the reader ideas or describing facts.

Some publishers use the format almost exclusively. Ranker is another example.

Consider building listicles in a few categories for your business’ June 2022 content marketing.

  • How-to listicles. An online store selling kitchen supplies, for example, might publish “How to Deep Fry Oyster Mushrooms in Six Easy Steps.”
  • Best of listicles. A fishing gear outfitter could produce “The Six Best Fishing Spots on the North Umpqua River.”
  • Predictive listicles. A shop selling science kits could publish “Six Ways Biotechnology Will Change Humanity.”
  • Motivational listicles. A workout gear company could publish “Six Guaranteed Ways to Lose Weight This Month.”

June 1972

Celebrate 50th anniversaries. For the mathematically challenged, anything that occurred in June 1972 will celebrate 50 years of existence in June 2022.

These semi-century events can make good subjects for content marketing. Businesses could publish profiles of products, films, inventions, occurrences, or albums introduced in June 1972 (or just 1972).

Albums released in June 1972, for example, include:

  • David Bowie, “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.”
  • Eagles, “Eagles.”
  • John Lennon & Yoko Ono, “Some Time in New York City.”
  • The Carpenters, “A Song for You.”
  • Aretha Franklin, “Amazing Grace.”
Image of David Bowie dresses as Ziggy Stardust.Image of David Bowie dresses as Ziggy Stardust.

David Bowie dressed as Ziggy Stardust. Online stores that feature used vinyl albums might create content around the Ziggy Stardust album’s 50th.

Find products, events, or media celebrating the 50th anniversary and write about them for your business. Aim to connect that topic to the products your company sells.

Audio + Video Podcasts

In June, borrow a play from the creator playbook and start to broadcast (live stream) or at least publish video versions of audio podcasts.

The creator economy is full of examples of audio podcasters who also produce and distribute a video version or video clip. The best-known example is probably the Joe Rogan Experience podcast.

Screenshot from Joe Rogan's home page.Screenshot from Joe Rogan's home page.

The Joe Rogan Experience

Joe Rogan’s podcast is available in audio and video forms and can be used to create a virtuous cycle of audience engagement.

The idea is to have both the video and audio versions promote each other and some form of deeper engagement, such as subscribing to an email list.

There are plenty of tools in the market to help podcasts simultaneously create video and audio podcasts, such as Riverside.

Screenshot of the Riverside home page.Screenshot of the Riverside home page.

Riverside lets users record podcasts and videos in studio quality from anywhere.

The audio/video podcast does not need to be entertainment like Rogan’s experience. It can be helpful or informative content too.

Flag Day, June 14

For businesses that trade, if you will, on patriotic themes, Flag Day in the United States can be an opportunity to connect with like-minded shoppers and celebrate feelings of patriotic gratitude.

Celebrating Flag Day in content makes sense for companies like Black Rifle Coffee Company, a brand with American patriotism at its core.

Screenshot of the Black Rifle Coffee Company home page.Screenshot of the Black Rifle Coffee Company home page.

American patriotism is the core value of Black Rifle Coffee Company.

Although it was not until 1916 that Flag Day became an official American holiday, its origin goes back to the American Revolutionary War.

The American colonists had many military leaders and flags based on region or affiliation when the war started.

The Founding Fathers wanted to present a unified military front, so in June 1775, they gathered in Philadelphia at the Second Continental Congress to create a unified Continental Army. This army would march under a single flag — the first American flag.

Image of the American flag.Image of the American flag.

Flag Day has its origin in the American Revolution.

Articles and videos about Flag Day might fall into a few categories, including history, entertainment, or how-tos.

Flag Day made this list of suggested content marketing ideas back in 2014. At that time, we presented some possible article or video titles that can still work in 2022.

  • 5 Ways to Celebrate Flag Day with Your Kids
  • Plan the Perfect Flag Day Party
  • 7 Things Artists Can Learn from Flag Day
  • Flag Day Fashion Faux Pas
  • 3 D.I.Y. Projects for Flag Day

Father’s Day, June 19

In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers and establishing Father’s Day as the third Sunday of June.

However, Father’s Day did not become a permanent holiday in the United States until June 1972. A full six years after Johnson’s initial proclamation.

Image of President Lyndon B. JohnsonImage of President Lyndon B. Johnson

President Johnson made the initial proclamation celebrating Father’s Day, but it took six years to become permanent.

Lawmakers at the time were concerned that the holiday would be commercialized. They wanted a way to honor the vital roles fathers play in our lives without transforming that celebration into a sales pitch.

So for this Father’s Day, let’s tread lightly with our content marketing. Focus on celebrating dads and endearing customers to your brand rather than only promoting products. This focus might take the form of a heartfelt Father’s Day article, user-generated Father’s Day stories, or sharing personal stories about the company founders.

5 Content Marketing Ideas for May 2022

Content marketing is a powerful tool to attract and engage potential customers. The right content is helpful, informative, and entertaining.

In May 2022, businesses can target competitors, produce reports, cover local events, profile products, and share a little brotherly love.

Here are five content marketing ideas to try in May 2022.

Build on Competitors

William Slim, a British military commander in the last century, famously said, “When you cannot make up your mind which of two evenly balanced courses of action you should take — choose the bolder.”

In May, borrow some inspiration from Slim and go after your company’s closest competitor. Identify the competitor’s top-producing content in terms of site traffic, and then produce something better.

For example, if it sold camping supplies, your retail company might compete head-to-head with REI. Using a tool such as Ahrefs or Semrush, you learn that REI’s “Camping Checklist” drives about 36,000 visits a month. The article is part of an introduction to a camping content series.

Go after it. Produce a topic cluster that provides 10 times the value of REI’s. Make it the best introduction-to-camping resource on the internet.

Screenshot of REI Camping Checklist article.Screenshot of REI Camping Checklist article.

If you compete with REI, why not try to produce better content?

‘State of’ Reports

The state of any topic or industry is a staple of B2B content marketing and can generate engagement for just about any company.

Consulting firms may have originated this genre and still use these reports to position the business as an authority. An example is McKinsey & Company’s “State of Fashion 2022: an uneven recovery and new frontiers.”

Screenshot of McKinsey & Company's article.Screenshot of McKinsey & Company's article.

Create a “state of” report, such as this example from McKinsey, that journalists and bloggers will want to quote and reference.

The formula for “state of” reports goes like this:

  • Identify a suitable industry trend.
  • Survey a significant number of respondents — likely more than 500.
  • Analyze the responses.
  • Compose a report.
  • Publish and promote it, including releasing it on newswires.

Local Content

Although ecommerce companies can sell products to anyone anywhere, it is often best to focus on niches or locales.

For example, it is less expensive to provide fast shipping to nearby customers than second-day shipping to those far away.

With this in mind, online companies may want to target prospects near shipping facilities. Businesses could produce articles, videos, or podcast episodes that feature local events, organizations, and relevant topics.

Thus an online sporting goods shop could cover high school sports in areas nearest its shipping facilities.

Photo of a volleyball team celebrating. Photo of a volleyball team celebrating.

Consider paying extra marketing attention to the regions your business can serve best. Image: Vince Fleming.

Product Profile

The items a business sells can spur compelling stories about innovations, achievements, and human perseverance.

Try profiling your products in May 2022. Discuss the intersection of products and people. Create articles, videos, or podcasts that tell their exceptional stories.

Here are three examples from the shoe business.

First, there is Mr. Porter’s “Behind Every Iconic Sneaker Is An Even Better Story,” which states, “The sneaker market thrives on performance and storytelling. The former ages about as well as milk. But given time, the latter is more like fine wine. As the years go by, a shoe’s story often gets richer and fuller, adding to its prestige and increasing its value both in a literal and a cultural sense.” This excerpt hints at how “sneakerheads” are attracted to a particular shoe’s history.

Next, read this article in the Orlando Sentinel about Hush Puppies becoming a cultural icon. Malcolm Gladwell, the author of “The Tipping Point,” a bestselling book, discusses the shoe’s rise in popularity.

“The brand had been all but dead until that point. Sales were down to 30,000 pairs a year, mostly to backwoods outlets and small-town family stores. Wolverine, the company that makes Hush Puppies, thought of phasing out the shoes that made it famous. But then something strange happened,” Gladwell wrote.

The article goes on to propose that fads and fashions move like epidemics.

Third, look at the history of Tony Lama boots. Unbeknownst to most consumers, Tony Lama was an Italian immigrant.

In each of these articles, the product (shoes or boots) offers a way to tell a meaningful story.

Screenshot of Tony Lama web page, The Story of Tony Lama.Screenshot of Tony Lama web page, The Story of Tony Lama.

Tony Lama, who helped popularize the cowboy boot, was from Italy. He moved to the United States as a young boy.

National Brother’s Day

May 24, 2022, is National Brother’s Day. Similar to Mother’s Day (May 8) or Father’s Day (June 19), the occasion honors one of the most important human relationships.

National Brother’s Day may be an opportunity to profile brothers who impacted the industry your business serves.

For example, an online store selling movie memorabilia or licensed products might feature the Warner brothers, Harry, Albert, Sam, and Jack.

Picture of the four Warner Brothers.Picture of the four Warner Brothers.

Consider recognizing the brothers who contributed to the industry your business serves in honor of National Brother’s Day.

The four men created what is now Warner Bros. Entertainment and were pioneers in early filmmaking. The article might tell about the brothers, how their family immigrated to the United States from Poland, and how they started making films. It might also discuss some of the studio’s best early films.

For your company’s content marketing, identify brothers who contributed to your industry.

5 Content Marketing Ideas for April 2022

In April 2022, content marketers might publish seasonal listicles, act as creators, discuss sustainability, profile customers in action, or focus on music appreciation.

Content marketing is the act of creating, publishing, and promoting articles, videos, podcasts, and similar to attract, engage, and retain customers. In some ways, it is the ultimate form of inbound marketing.

It is not, however, easy. Content creation requires an almost unending fount of ideas. So to help, here are five content marketing ideas you can use in April 2022.

An April Listicle

A listicle is an article in list form. It is one of the most popular formats for writing online. Ranker, Listverse, and Buzzfeed are examples of websites devoted to listicles. This article is a listicle.

Home page of ListverseHome page of Listverse

Listverse is an example of a website almost entirely devoted to listicles.

As a form of writing, listicles are very good at connecting or enumerating related items or ideas. Businesses can use the format to compare products, services, or similar. Listicles also effectively explain otherwise complex topics in ways that a reader might skim.

Consider creating listicles specific to the activities or interests of your company’s customers.

Here are a few example titles businesses could use this April.

  • Workwear shop: “Top 15 Wet Weather Jackets for Construction Workers.”
  • Garden supply store: “19 Veggies to Start Growing in April.”
  • Luggage merchant: “The 15 New Travel Restrictions Hitting Travelers in April.”
  • Cleaning solutions brand: “The 10 Dirtiest Things in Your House, and How to Clean Them.”

Launch a Creator Series

The next phase of content marketing could be creator marketing.

Creators are the folks who make and share content online, often as individuals or as small companies. Top creators include Pat Flynn, James Clear, Phillip McKernan, Dorie Clark, and Paul Davids. Their business is the content they produce.

James Clear, for example, is the best-selling author of “Atomic Habits,” but a popular email newsletter drove the book’s success. Paul Davids is a musician, but his online tutorials and lessons have millions of views.

Screenshot of Paul Davids YouTube channelScreenshot of Paul Davids YouTube channel

Paul Davids is a musician who helps guitar players improve their skills. His content is personal, useful, and entertaining.

At least a few folks — such as Scott Belsky, chief product officer at Adobe — have suggested that businesses start creating content similar to creators’.

In April, consider getting your company’s creator series started with several articles, a newsletter, or a video channel that emulates creator content.

Keep America Beautiful Month

April 2022 is Keep America Beautiful Month. It is an opportunity to encourage Americans to keep their community clean, green, and beautiful.

From a content marketer’s perspective, it may also be a chance to describe how your business is reducing waste or promoting sustainability.

For example, REI has started releasing an annual sustainability and stewardship report. It describes what the company is doing to reduce negative environmental impacts.

Screenshot of REI's "Product Imact Standards" descriptionScreenshot of REI's "Product Imact Standards" description

REI publishes on its website a stewardship report and touts its environmental efforts.

Action Profiles of Customers

Companies presumably love their customers, the source of success and profit.

In April 2022, consider celebrating your customers as they do the things they love. You might call this your customer-in-action profile. Imagine a video interview wherein the customer is doing (or at least describing) what she loves.

For inspiration, check out this video profile of photographer Ben Baker.

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Music Appreciation

April is a musical month. It is International Guitar Month and Jazz Appreciation Month.

April 3 is National Film Score Day.

April 11 is both National Barbershop Quartet Day and National Eight Track Tape Day.

Music could make sense for some companies’ content marketing in at least three ways:

  • Playlists and song lists,
  • Musician profiles,
  • Music as it relates to products.

A company that sells, say, kitchen and dining supplies could produce content in each of the above categories.

For a playlist, the company could publish something similar to Bon Appétit magazine’s “We Made You 6 Perfect Dinner Party Playlists, You’re Welcome.” The article describes several playlists and embeds a Spotify player.

Screenshot of Bon Appetit's article "We Made You 6 Perfect Dinner Party Playlists, You're Welcome"Screenshot of Bon Appetit's article "We Made You 6 Perfect Dinner Party Playlists, You're Welcome"

Bon Appétit produced a series of dinner-related musical playlists.

The store’s content team could profile musicians known for their love of food. For example, the foul-mouthed rapper Action Bronson (Ariyan Arslani) is renowned for his love of food. A secondary option could be a conversation about food with an emerging musician.

Finally, it may be possible to talk about music in the context of products the store sells. An article titled “Jimi Hendrix’s 5 Favorite Dishes and How to Prepare Them” could include spaghetti and red sauce, strawberry shortcake, and several others. The article could also have a list of tools and appliances the store sells.

Outbound Marketing In an Inbound World

Search engine optimization, content marketing, and the whole of inbound marketing are important for promoting a business. But let’s not forget about advertising.

I recently attended a marketing event where an inbound marketer responsible for search engine optimization and content for a multi-million dollar company complained that her site traffic has dropped because of poor advertising performance.

It was odd to hear her complain about advertising results and yet admit a dependency on them.

Aren’t inbound tactics supposed to replace ads?

Inbound vs. Outbound

For years, some marketers have argued that outbound (traditional) marketing was dead, dying, or less important.

As HubSpot puts it, “Inbound marketing is a business methodology that attracts customers by creating valuable content and experiences tailored to them. While outbound marketing interrupts your audience with content they don’t always want, inbound marketing forms connections they are looking for and solves problems they already have.”

Screenshot of HubSpot page describing inbound marketingScreenshot of HubSpot page describing inbound marketing

HubSpot pits inbound marketing against outbound.

Take a marketing course from the Digital Marketing Institute, and you’ll hear an instructor, Philippe Polman, say, “In today’s business world, inbound marketing is the most important aspect of digital marketing.”

But is that always true? What if outbound marketing is essential? And why can’t inbound and outbound coexist?

A few facts demonstrate that advertising (outbound marketing) is growing, and the growth is likely an indication of value.

Amazon Ads

Amazon’s advertising services generated $31.6 billion in 2021, according to the company’s 10-K filing (PDF) with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Some $9.7 billion of that revenue came in just the last three months of the year. Year-over-year, Amazon’s ad revenue was up 32%.

This result puts Amazon well behind Google Ads ($205.9 billion in 2021) and Facebook ($115 billion in 2021), but ahead of YouTube ($28.8 billion in 2021) and TikTok ($4 billion in 2021).

Amazon is a major player in digital advertising. And it continues to rapidly grow despite being restrictive. The company controls most of the content, keeps a close watch on the audience, and has even been accused of stealing product ideas from its advertisers (marketplace sellers).

The growth implies advertising on Amazon — perhaps due to its rich first-party targeting data and purchase environment — is valuable to advertisers and thus effective.

Google Ads

Amazon is not the only ad platform growing.

Google’s advertising revenue rose 42.6% from $146.9 billion in 2020 to the aforementioned $205.9 billion in 2021.

Google acknowledges that its success is contingent on happy advertisers. “We generated more than 80% of total revenues from the display of ads online in 2021. Many of our advertisers…can terminate their contracts with us at any time,” the company reported in its 10-K.

“Failing to provide superior value or deliver advertisements effectively and competitively could harm our reputation, financial condition, and operating results.”

Google almost certainly understands that the quality of its search engine results is a key factor in advertising success. But it would not be surprising if the company found ways to optimize both: the search experience and ad value.

Consider position zero. Google often tries to answer the user’s query on the search results page.

Searching “inbound marketing definition” on Google can return a snippet that includes an answer to the query, leaving no need to click elsewhere.

Screenshot of Googe search result showing top snippet from SalesforceScreenshot of Googe search result showing top snippet from Salesforce

Searching on Google for “inbound marketing definition” produces a position-zero snippet from a Salesforce article.

A search engine optimizer might argue that position one is a big win for the company. But gaining and holding it is an SEO challenge.

Google presumably wants to answer queries quickly and keep users on its properties. As this trend continues, competition for organic keywords could become fierce. At the same time, an ad could trump even position zero.

Facebook Grew, Too

Not too long along Facebook took out full-page newspaper ads claiming that Apple iOS 14’s opt-in requirement would significantly harm small businesses (and Facebook’s ad revenue).

“We’re standing up to Apple for small businesses everywhere,” the ad’s headline read. “Without personalized ads, Facebook data shows that the average small business advertiser stands to see a cut of over 60% of their sales for every dollar they spend….these changes will be devastating to small businesses.”

Let’s put aside the irony of making a case for personalized digital ads in a newspaper and recognize that Apple’s policy changes certainly impacted ad targeting. However, small businesses, in general, have not been devastated.

What’s more, predictions that iOS 14 could send advertisers to inbound marketing have not yet come to fruition.

Apple’s iOS 14 update was a meaningful, significant change to advertising, but still something of a nonevent for the industry.

This is especially true when you consider that Facebook’s advertising revenue rose 36% in 2021, up from $84.8 billion in 2020. Facebook saw average revenue per ad and total overall ad revenue increase.

Even in the face of adverse effects, outbound marketing on Facebook is still booming.

Balanced Approach

None of this implies that advertising is somehow superior to other marketing forms. I’ve cited Amazon, Google, and Facebook to point out that outbound marketing remains valid and should be part of a balanced approach that includes SEO and content.

5 Content Marketing Ideas for March 2022

In March 2022, content marketers could produce evergreen workshops, craft tutorials, entertaining videos, St. Patrick’s Day ideas, or pay homage to family-owned businesses.

No matter the topic, content marketing should help companies attract, engage, and retain customers. Doing that requires creating, publishing, and promoting content.

To help fill your editorial backlog, here are five content marketing ideas for March 2022.

1. Evergreen Workshops

Popular culture has made the color green seemingly inseparable from the month of March. It’s Irish heritage month in several nations. And it contains St. Patrick’s Day, which, in the United States at least, often includes consuming green beer. There are other green celebrations, too — the city of Chicago dyes the river green, for example.

So why not apply the green theme and launch one or more “evergreen” workshops?

A workshop differs from a standalone video or article in that it often includes interaction, typically requiring participants to turn-in work.

The “evergreen” part describes a workshop that’s available at any time. Email automation directs participants through the workshop, pointing to videos, forums, and activities.

Here is an example. Imagine an online music store that creates an evergreen workshop for beginning guitar. The workshop might include:

  • Several video lessons,
  • PDF sheet music,
  • A forum,
  • A website for submitting homework,
  • Email automation to guide participants.
Photo of two hands playing a guitarPhoto of two hands playing a guitar

An evergreen workshop launched in March 2022 could encourage signups year around. Photo: Oleg Ivanov.

The concept could work for all sorts of online businesses.

  • Luggage retailer: “Travel to Asia” workshop.
  • Kitchen supply store: “Sustainable Cooking” workshop.
  • Legal document supplier: “Employment Tax Filings” workshop.

2. National Craft Month

How-to content is among the most effective. Anything that helps consumers achieve a goal is truly useful and encourages a sense of reciprocity.

So why not recognize National Craft Month with one or more how-to articles or videos?

Here are a few examples on YouTube:

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Don’t be afraid to expand the meaning of the word “craft” to include just about any how-to topic, such as:

3. Entertain Your Audience

Rapid growth in the so-called creator economy is expanding ecommerce and blurring distinctions between business and entertainment.

In March 2022, try to create content that entertains your audience. It could engage prospects and retain customers.

A good example is Guitar Salon International. This Santa Monica, Calif.-based retailer sells classical and flamenco guitars. Its YouTube channel contains superb mini-concerts.

This video below features George Sakellariou playing “La Falda Bailante” by Lawrence Long. The guitar in the video and linked from Guitar Salon’s YouTube channel is a 2021 Henner Hagenlocher SP/CSAR priced at $11,000.

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Guitar Salon’s content entertains consumers, but it also helps sell products.

Screenshot of a product page at Guitar Salon for a 2021 Henner Hagenlocher SP/CSARScreenshot of a product page at Guitar Salon for a 2021 Henner Hagenlocher SP/CSAR

Guitar Salon International connects entertaining content to the products it sells.

4. St. Patrick’s Day Celebration Ideas

It’s near impossible to put together a list of content marketing ideas for March and not include St. Patrick’s Day, occurring every year on the 17th.

Photo of a 4-leaf cloverPhoto of a 4-leaf clover

No list of March content marketing ideas would be complete without St. Patrick’s Day. Photo: Amy Reed.

An apparel store might create an article for dressing like a leprechaun or a fun party outfit. Other examples include:

5. National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day

The term “mom and pop business” can describe just about any small, privately-owned company, including many ecommerce operations.

Photo of sign reading, "We can't thank you enough for supporting our small business."Photo of sign reading, "We can't thank you enough for supporting our small business."

Profile your own “mom and pop business” or a business that inspired you. Photo: Tim Mossholder.

So why not be a little self-serving during March 2022? Create content that celebrates your own small business or those that inspired it.

Treat this content like a profile. Describe what sparked the business. Include its ups and downs and plans for the future.

Advertisers Can Find Power in the Dark

Sales decline when businesses stop advertising. But there are benefits to going dark for the right reasons.

To be clear, halting advertising for long periods destroys revenue. A June 2021 article in the Journal of Advertising Research suggested that a year without advertising could drop sales by 16%.

A short break from advertising, however, might be healthy if a business is having trouble measuring performance or if it is overusing ads to produce vanity metrics.

Measurement

Some businesses struggle to attribute sales to advertising.

For example, a business-to-business or software-as-a-service company might use content marketing to attract customers. Sometimes the company buys ads to boost traffic to that content, but it doesn’t have a way to track how those ads contribute to sales.

Imagine a SaaS company spending $100,000 per month on advertising. The company has three large campaigns: branding, “mid-funnel” supporting content marketing, and direct response to drive immediate sales. Each campaign receives an equal share of the total spend.

The company uses last-touch attribution, crediting an ad with a sale if the customer purchases within 24 hours of clicking and does not interact with any other form of promotion such as email or a search engine link.

Using this model, the company attributes 100 sales a month to advertising — about $1,000 to acquire a customer. If the lifetime value of those customers is anything less than $1,000, the ads would appear to be failing.

In this fictional example, the customer acquisition cost using total spend against last-touch attribution ignores any impact from the branding and mid-funnel campaigns.

The company might believe all three campaigns contribute to sales, but without a better attribution model, it doesn’t have the data to prove it.

While the best approach might be to develop a more comprehensive model, it is possible to learn something about advertising’s impact with a pulse test: Turn ads off for a week or even a month and watch what happens.

If the fictional SaaS company goes dark for a month and only forgoes the 100 new customers it usually attributes to ads, the other campaigns — branding and mid-funnel — may not have had an impact. But, if the company adds 500 fewer customers, it knows that ads had more impact than otherwise measured.

This pulse test will not tell the business the precise quantitative impact of the advertising, but it will clarify the measurement problem.

Overuse

Content marketing and digital advertising often work together. But companies sometimes overuse ads that promote content.

Content marketing is the act of creating, publishing, and promoting articles, podcasts, videos, and similar to attract, engage, and retain customers. Content alone should generate traffic.

But at least some content marketing campaigns depend almost entirely on ad traffic. In a sense, ads inflate performance and vanity metrics.

In the example below, 95.7% of traffic to the company’s YouTube channel comes from ads. The business could be overusing ads if they support content meant to attract new prospects.

Screenshow of a YouTube analytics page showing ad spendScreenshow of a YouTube analytics page showing ad spend

In this example, 95.7% of traffic to the company’s YouTube channel comes from ads, implying overuse.

Moreover, overspending on ads means the marketer doesn’t necessarily learn what content resonates with consumers. Going dark can shed some light on content performance.

Sometimes ads are used (or overused) to boost brand awareness, which is slippery. It is difficult to define and, therefore, track and measure. A company might be significantly overspending on brand awareness ads that have no real value.

Here turning off ads temporarily may help identify that impact.

Alternatives

Going dark does not mean turning off all ads. Instead, it may be possible to use “hold outs.”

Imagine a wholesaler selling into several large designated market areas. Assuming the DMAs had similar characteristics, the company could hold out one, ceasing advertising in that single market.

The approach would help discover some of advertising’s unseen effects without the risk of decimating revenue.

A similar approach could help learn how advertising and content marketing work together. The hold-out group would be any advertising aimed at content promotion.

An ecommerce company, for example, could still run direct response ads to drive immediate sales but stop promoting its content for a short period.

5 Content Marketing Ideas for February 2022

In February 2022, content marketers will find no shortage of article or video ideas, from politics and music to health and helpful information.

Content marketing is the act of creating, publishing, and distributing content such as articles, podcasts, or videos to attract, engage, and retain customers. Content marketing is a keystone for search engine optimization and inbound marketing.

What follows are five content marketing ideas any business could use in February 2022.

1. National Freedom Day, February 1

Photo of Abraham LincolnPhoto of Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, signed a joint resolution of Congress abolishing slavery on February 1, 1865.

National Freedom Day is an American holiday to commemorate President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of a joint resolution abolishing slavery in the United States. That resolution was later ratified and became the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. President Harry Truman created National Freedom Day to commemorate the signing.

National Freedom Day should promote harmony, goodwill, and equal opportunity for everyone. This makes it a good day to celebrate with content.

Articles, videos, and podcasts made for National Freedom Day could:

  • Focus on history,
  • Kick-off Black History Month,
  • Profile important contributors,
  • List important freedoms,
  • Celebrate new opportunities.

2. Bob Marley’s Birthday, February 6

Photo of Bob Marley singingPhoto of Bob Marley singing

Bob Marley performed live in concert on July 6, 1980. Photo: Eddie Mallin.

Robert (Bob) Nesta Marley was born on February 6, 1945. Marley helped establish reggae as a musical style in the 1960s and 70s. He also served as a key representative of Rastafarianism and a proponent of marijuana legalization.

Businesses related to the music or cannabis industry — and companies looking to celebrate Black History Month — may want to profile Marley.

Articles about Marley could include discussions of his influence on music, religion, culture, and politics.

For inspiration, here are a few Marley-related articles.

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3. American Heart Month

For the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and other health organizations, February is American Heart Month, a time to think about cardiovascular health.

For the ecommerce content marketer, American Heart Month is an opportunity to encourage customers and prospects to be more healthy while also promoting products when appropriate.

Photo of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries in a heart-shaped bowlPhoto of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries in a heart-shaped bowl

February is a time to focus on heart health. Photo by Jamie Street.

For example, last year, the U.S. Surgeon General used American Heart Month to focus on high blood pressure (hypertension). The aim was to:

  • Increase awareness of the risks associated with hypertension,
  • Ensure the places that folks live, learn, and work are equipped to help fight hypertension, and
  • Improve patient care related to hypertension.

Companies could use this theme in articles. Here are some potential titles for several kinds of online businesses.

  • Kitchen supply store: “10 Heart-healthy Recipes to Lower Blood Pressure,”
  • Online shoe store: “5 Ways Walking or Running Improves Heart Health,”
  • Office supply retailer: “How Stand-up Desks Fight Hypertension,”
  • Supplement seller: “14 Supplements to Lower Your Blood Pressure,”
  • Power tool retailer: “5 Subtle Changes to Lower Job Stress and Your Blood Pressure.”

4. February Events Calendar

Photo of a card reading "February" with a pen beside itPhoto of a card reading "February" with a pen beside it

A simple monthly events calendar can be helpful content. Photo: Madeleine Ragsdale.

February may only have 28 days in 2022, but it is packed with holidays and events. Content marketers can publish industry-specific or customer-focused event calendars.

An industry calendar could include important trade shows, conferences, and meetings. For example, a store selling electrical and plumbing supplies to contractors could feature events, such as:

  • The National Electrical Manufacturers Representatives Association. February 3-5, 2022.
  • The National Electrical Contractors Association “How to Work with OSHA” workshop on February 3, 2022.
  • The National Association of Home Builders Show, February 8-10, 2022.
  • The National Association of Electrical Distributors Conference, February 22-24, 2022.

A customer calendar might include several events across multiple topics. For example, an online retailer selling products to new mothers could create an event calendar aimed at that demographic. It could feature:

  • Creative Romance Month,
  • National Women and Girls in Sports Day,
  • International Day of Women and Girls in Science Day,
  • Valentine’s Day,
  • World Day of Social Justice.

Content marketers could briefly describe each event and resource to learn more.

5. Publish a Glossary

Every business and industry has a set of terms that may not always be familiar to customers. For February 2022, publish a glossary defining every word or phrase that could be unfamiliar.

Photo of a pair of leather dress bootsPhoto of a pair of leather dress boots

A glossary of terms is helpful to readers and powerful for search engine optimization. Photo: Zac Wolff.

An online shoe shop might publish a glossary of footwear construction terms, as in:

  • Aglet (aiglet): A slender sheath usually made of plastic or metal wrapped over the end of a shoelace to make it easier to lace and more durable.
  • Bellows tongue: A wide, folding tongue attached to the uppers on three sides to make a boot or shoe water-resistant or waterproof.
  • Welt: Material sewn to the edge of a shoe upper and attached to the sole.
  • Goodyear welt: A welt stitched through the midsole and outsole to better secure the sole to the upper and allow complete sole replacement.

The glossary could also link to specific products, and the descriptions of those products could, in turn, reference the aforementioned terms.

5 Content Marketing Ideas for January 2022

Content connects a business to consumers not just for selling but also for sharing information, humor, and skills. But generating content ideas can be challenging.

Remember that content marketing is the act of creating, publishing, and promoting articles, podcasts, and similar that attract, engage, and retain an audience of customers.

What follows are five content marketing ideas almost any business can use in January 2022.

1. Start a Podcast

Podcasting has moved from a fringe medium to a common way to share ideas.

In the U.S., there are approximately 120 million podcast listeners, according to Statista. If all of those are adults, something like 45% of Americans older than 18 listen to podcasts.

So podcasts are popular. They are also versatile.

A podcast can cover any topic. At the time of writing, Privycast, an entertainment show about toilets and bathrooms, had 42 episodes on Apple Podcasts.

Screenshot of Privycast page on Apple PodcastsScreenshot of Privycast page on Apple Podcasts

Privycast is an entertainment podcast about bathrooms.

If a podcast about the restroom can exist and even attract an audience, so can a podcast about fashion, tools, do-it-yourself products, fitness, and so on. Every business can find an opportunity to start and maintain a podcast. Make it a New Year’s Resolution.

2. Public Domain Day: January 1

In the United States, January 1 marks when creative works such as music, films, and books can enter the public domain. This means that the works’ U.S. copyright protections have expired.

Drawing of Winnie the Pooh by a fire from artist E. H. ShepardDrawing of Winnie the Pooh by a fire from artist E. H. Shepard

First published in 1926, the book “Winnie the Pooh” will enter the public domain in the United States in 2022. This illustration by artist E. H. Shepard comes from the 1926 version.

Creative works enter the public domain in America after one of three timeframes:

  • 70 years after the death of the author,
  • 120 or 95 years after creation or publication of a work with multiple authors,
  • 95 years after publication for works created from 1923 to 1977.

All of these groups were given an extension in U.S. copyright protection in 1998 with the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA). The bill was nicknamed the “Mickey Mouse Protection Act” since the famous character was first seen in 1928 and, therefore, Mickey’s copyright was extended by 20 years with this legislation.

Another interesting fact about the CTEA is that Representative Sonny Bono sponsored the bill. Bono was an entertainer before he was a politician and is the first member of the U.S. Congress with a number one pop single.

Public Domain Day gives businesses a few opportunities for content creation. The most obvious is with booksellers, music-related companies, and art merchants, but many companies will find ways to connect with great works of the past.

For example, a seller of used books could publish a series of reviews. Each would feature a book entering the public domain in 2022. The series might start with Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises.” Next up could be A. A. Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh.”

3. Walk Your Dog Month

Photo of a female walking a dog by a parkPhoto of a female walking a dog by a park

Get out and walk your dog in January as part of Walk Your Dog Month. Photo: The Creative Exchange.

January is National Walk Your Dog Month in a few Northern Hemisphere nations. This event encourages folks to get outside despite the weather.

Content marketers at pet supply or pet food companies could have the best results with this topic, but Walk Your Dog Month might also appeal to outdoor lifestyle brands.

The idea could also be well suited for a listicle. Here are some example titles.

  • “21 Reasons to Celebrate Walk Your Dog Month,”
  • “15 Ingenious Ways to Walk Your Dog,”
  • “9 Health Benefits Associated with Dog Walking,”
  • “10 Mood-boosting Benefits of Walking Your Dog,”
  • “8 Ways Dogs Are Good for Your Health.”

4. King Tut Discovered: January 3

On January 3, 1924, archeologist and Egyptologist Howard Carter and his team found a large stone containing a solid gold coffin and the mummified Pharaoh Tutankhamen.

Photo of gold statue of King TutPhoto of gold statue of King Tut

Tutankhamun’s golden mask is one of the most recognizable Egyptian artifacts. Photo: Roland Unger.

Cater had been working in Egypt since at least 1907 and had discovered Tutankhamen’s tomb in November 1922. But it took two more years to find the remains of King Tut himself.

King Tut was not a well-known pharaoh in Carter’s era. But because of the wealth of the tomb and several Western museum tours, Tutankhamen is now, perhaps, among the most recognizable Egyptian pharaohs.

The anniversary of King Tut’s discovery (recovery) is a content opportunity for many businesses, including any apparel, furniture, or home decor retailer with Egyptian or Eastern-themed products.

5. Tweetstorm a Listicle

The term “tweetstorm” can have a negative connotation, but in this context, it describes a long-form Twitter post extended as a thread.

Start with a catchy post. Then fill out the topic by replying to your own post.

The tweetstorm format is a good way to promote a listicle. Imagine you have a 10-item list. Write a “title tweet” that pitches the concept. Then reply five times where each is one of the items from the listicle. Then post a link to the full article.

Here is an example from the “Phil from 4 Day Week” Twitter feed.

The title tweet reads, “I started publishing SEO blog posts at the start of the year. Now ~200 people visit my site organically each day.”

Phil follows this up with eight replies to make the thread. The first five are listicle points:

  1. Identify topics to write about,
  2. Write an outline,
  3. Outsource the writing,
  4. Refactor,
  5. Wait patiently.

Phil also links to an article on his site.

One of the replies in the tweetstorm thread should link to the listicle you want to promote.

For your January 2022 content marketing, find several of your company’s top listicles and promote them with a tweetstorm thread.