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Blogger or Mind-Reader? Six Ways to Give Your Audience Exactly What It Wants

Keeping You Posted by Skellie.Skellie is a regular writer for ProBlogger. Get more unique blogging tips at her blog, Skelliewag, or subscribe to her feed.

ProBlogger readers are absolutely spoilt when it comes to great articles about coming up with post ideas. But what about thinking up the post topics your audience has been craving?

In this post I’ll be outlining six strategies you can use to determine exactly what kind of posts your audience wants to see on your blog.

1. Listen to comments

One thing you might have noticed is that commenters will sometimes ask you to expand on a section of your post. Either they wanted more information on a specific point, a more thorough exploration of one of your ideas or a clear explanation of something that’s confused them. Instead of answering in comment form, you can turn your answer in a post (and use the answer to drive more traffic back to your original article.)

2. Listen to emails

Part of being a blogger is receiving and answering reader questions by email. These questions can be a great source of ideas for posts your audience is craving.

After receiving the tenth or so email on how I find and use great Flickr images in posts on my own blog, I decided to write a complete guide to the process after sensing it was something a lot of readers were interested in. The resulting post went on to become one of the most popular articles I’ve ever written!

Listening to reader emails can result in some fantastic post ideas.

3. Ask them

A fairly obvious option, but one I don’t see many bloggers explore. Ask your readers to submit ideas for posts they’d like to see on your blog. Do this every couple of months and you’ll have a list of ideas you can turn to when your well of inspiration runs dry. If you notice several ideas on the same topic or area you can bet that it’s something quite a few of your readers would like to see more of.

4. Turn wants and needs into post-topics

Grab a notebook, open to a new page and put a pen in one hand. Write down all the possible niche-related wants and needs of your target audience.

If your target audience is interested in debt elimination, for example, their wants and needs cloud might look like this:

  • To develop a workable budget and stick to it.
  • To spend less without sacrificing quality of life.
  • To find cheaper versions of the things they need.
  • To find new ways to make a bit of extra money.
  • To avoid getting into future debt.
  • To become debt-free as soon as possible.
  • To eliminate unnecessary expenses.

If we give each want/need its own space on the page, we can start to branch out post ideas from each one. Because each of these post ideas is based on something our target audience wants, we can almost guarantee that it will be useful to them.

Two people in silhouette.
Photo by nattu

5. What do you want?

You’d be hard pressed to find a baseball blogger who’s not into baseball, a copywriting blogger who’s not into copywriting, a travel blogger who doesn’t like travel, and so on. You are part of your target audience. The things you’d like to see someone else in your niche write may just be what your target audience is also searching for.

Expanding on this premise, you can use your own niche experiences, problems and triumphs as fodder for blog posts. If you struggle with something related to your niche on a daily basis, maybe your readers are struggling with it too? If you’re worked out a solution to a problem related to your niche — something you were experiencing — maybe your readers would find the solution truly useful themselves?

If there’s a skill you’ve always wanted to learn, a problem you’ve always wanted to solve or a resource list you’ve always hoped to see, stop waiting for someone else to use your good idea, execute it yourself and turn the result into a truly useful blog post.

6. Reverse engineer what worked

Look at your blog’s top ten most popular post. They’re examples of posts that your target audience truly wanted to read. You can build on their success by adapting the same format to new content.

Let’s say one of your most popular posts was a list of ways to make money with eBay. You could capitalize on the success of the first article by creating an updated version (25 More Ways to Make Money With eBay), or invert the format by taking the opposite tack (25 Ways to Guarantee You’ll Lose Money With eBay) and outlining don’ts rather than dos.

Another effective strategy is to apply the same post format and headline formula to a new subject. Your list of 10 Insane Firefox Extensions for Web Designers could be followed by a list of 10 Insane Firefox Extensions for Entrepreneurs, or Journalists, or anything/anyone you can imagine (as long as it’s of interest to your target audience).

The crux of this strategy lies in combining what has worked well previously with something fresh, new and interesting.

Points to review:

  • Find ideas in comments.
  • Find ideas in emails.
  • Ask your readers what they want.
  • Use your audience’s wants and needs as a springboard for post topics.
  • Find inspiration in your own wants and needs.
  • Transfer the best qualities of your most popular posts into something new.

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Comments

  1. Dan Cole says:

    Yep, the best way to give them what they want is to listen to what their asking for. But for new bloggers this can be hard because visitors are unwilling to comment and share ideas about what they really want… or the visitors are just not their. I guess if you don’t have your own comments giving ideas, you could go see what people are asking for on other sites in your niche.

  2. BW says:

    My comments have just recently started to increase (which must be a good thing) and I have based a post on some comment feedback. So your point on using comments did work for me.

    I have also based posts on answering questions that I see come up regularly in the forums that I participate in. I find that this is a good source of ideas, as the same questions come up a lot.

    and of course I write about things that I am interested in doing also.

  3. Also allow some of the good commenters to be recognized and rewarded.

    And establish a bond with the commenters by reacting to them individually and not as a faceless mass

    Interesting that some blogs have an optional ‘membership’ that allows readers to upload avatars and become part of a social network. For those who want to comment anonymously, that option is also available

  4. Banyú says:

    Using Skribit is not a bad idea…

  5. Frugal Dad says:

    #5 ties in with something Darren has mentioned several times, “Think like a blogger.” Inspiration comes in so many different ways, but I find myself frequently saying, “Hey, that would be a great experience to write about.”

    Great post, Skellie!

  6. CurlyBrace says:

    Nice tip about using the top 10 posts and taking the opposite tack, I never actually thought about it! I’ll give that a try :)

  7. My suggestion: keep an eye on your Google search strings. Quite often people have found us searching for something that we haven’t quite covered: give them what they want!

  8. I think commenters want to feel they can comment on a blog and not necessarily agree with its author; as long as they comment respectfully. Sometimes you’ll see comment strings with nothing but praise after praise after praise and for the publisher or the publisher’s posts. Sometimes it is these comments and these comments only that are published. Other blogs show differing opinions.

  9. Nez says:

    Wow, you’re everywhere, Skellie.

    Thanks for the awesome tips — they’ll come in handy as this is the first time I’ve been writing on a (almost) daily basis, and my own well is beginning to dry up.

  10. Great tips. I especially like 4. I have pen in hand now and am going to really get some needs down.

  11. Dave Origano says:

    That’s a great set of tips.

    For reviewing myself I always use Google Analytics and other tools like Hitwise, that allow me to see what generated more visitors – what acted good as linkbait and such.

    It’s the old wise lesson of Sun Tzu: know yourself, know the enemy, know the battlefield.

    Researching what works best for other bloggers in your market is also a great way to get ideas. Watch out for their design, type of posts, amount of comments they receive and even spikes in Alexa trends.

    -Dave

  12. #6 is clever. I must try it.

  13. Curtis Gray says:

    As Dan Cole said above, it is a little hard for beginners to get feedback. Any feedback. But that is the perfect time and place for truly unique ideas and experimentation in and on your blog.
    I personally am a new blogger(5 months). What helps me with finding ideas for posts is thinking about what isn’t always covered. For instance, how one might blog while cut off from the internet. Or “The dangers of the internet- spammers, hackers, and splogs.”
    As #5 and Darren have said, inspiration is everywhere…

  14. Comments and emails are always sources of ideas for my reviews. It flatters my readers to know they were responsible for a post topic, and they give me precious traffic in return. Not to mention more comment love. Sound advice.

    The Necro Files

  15. Mike King says:

    One advantage of using content from your readers is to reference them directly in your post and single them out by mention in the suggested post to show some appreciation. This can develop a lot of respect and loyalty from your readers (especially those noted) which will only help to expand your blog and readership.

  16. Thanks for the great tips Skellie. My traffic has increased 700% this month, just by putting some of your tips into practise so I’m willing to try out anything you recommend.

    And I do struggle sometimes to come up topics that people will be interested in.

    What I find most difficult sometimes is trying to write things that are not too basic for readers who already own a business, but at the same time – providing good advice to those who are just starting out.

  17. neon says:

    Thanks for the awesome tips — they’ll come in handy as this is the first time…

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  1. [...] Pretty much anything by Darren on ProBlogger is a winner. My favorites so far have been “13 Questions to Ask Before Publishing a Post On Your Blog“, “My Search for the Perfect Cafe“, and a guest-post by Skellie-”Blogger or Mind-Reader? Six Ways to Give Your Audience Exactly What It Wants“ [...]

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