Every year since 2011 the word creative has ranked in the top 10 of buzzwords used in professional LinkedIn profiles.  It is a skill that everyone wants to have. But what does it truly mean to be creative?

Creative is defined as being marked by the ability or power to create and since everyone has the capacity to create; this must mean that deep down everyone has the ability to be creative.  

But what if you can’t quantify when an idea you’ve created is excellent or only a bit average?

I’m a firm believer in the need for data to back up what you do. If you’re selling a new content idea to a client, or even just internally to the rest of your team, it’s difficult to argue against data driven theories so I like to use some methods that take the subjectivity out and to build a quantifiable case that the idea will be a success. 

When I first was discussing writing for Econsultancy I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to write about, how do you narrow down all the areas of digital marketing you’re interested in to a concise blog title?

How do you know other people are interested in the same things? My immediate response was to treat it the same way I would any client’s content I produced, start by thinking about what it is people actually want to read.

The key to producing content that people are interested in? Find out the questions people are asking and make sure that your content answers them. 

Step one: forums and Q&A sites

In order to determine the questions people are asking, a natural place to look is forums and Q&A sites. It takes a couple of minutes to type a question and post on a forum anonymously so there is less of a filter for people worried about asking silly questions or risk of people censoring themselves. 

Pick forum sites that are relevant to the customers you are targeting, the more sites you look at the more insight you will be able to gain from the data. 

For me, looking for a topic to write about in terms of Econsultancy I chose to look at the articles and Q&As on the following sites: 

  • seroundtable.com/ 
  • forums.seochat.com
  • webmasterworld.com/google

These are all forums or sites which are regularly updated; this has resulted in them becoming respected resources for members of the Digital Marketing community.

This means that they are the most likely point to discover some interesting questions regarding SEO.  

2: seed terms and advanced query operators

To start the search process it is important to have a list of seed terms around the area you want to write about. I have always found the use of reputation management in the SERP and Named Entity Recognition to be a really interesting topic so I decided to base my seed terms list on this:

Seed Terms- reputation management, brand reputation management, brand serp, named entity recognition, reputation management SEO, SEO.

Combinations of these seed terms, the forums and different advanced query operators can then be used in order to gain relevant and concise search results. 

For example: 

This search looks in the “google” folder of webmasterworld.com for the exact phrase “reputation management” and the term SEO as well to appear on the page.

The search below looks for the same as above across the whole of the seoroundtable.com site:

The use of the allinurl advanced query operator looks for the phrase brand reputation management in the URL of forums.seochat.com. For a forum like this, this type of search works well as the urls are generated by the questions asked:

3: Extract the information

Once you have a set of search results displaying the relevant pages to the content you are considering producing you can easily create a single database of all of these by mining the titles and urls of each page.

There’s a really helpful Chrome Extension called Data Miner which you can use to do this. Once installed all you have to do is right click on the search results and “Get Similar”.  

This will provide you with a downloadable list of every Title and URL on that page. 

All you have to do is repeat this process across the different search results pages to compile one list of the major questions that are asked in these topics:

4: Analyse common themes

Next, simply pick out the common themes in the data. 

Read through the page titles and associated webpages in order to determine the most common themes, strip any noise words and irrelevant posts and come up with a clear idea of the most frequently posted question topics. 

The main questions that came up during this data mine were: 

  • How do I remove negative entries in the SERP?
  • Why doesn’t Google seem to recognise my company? 
  • Why are my social profiles on page 2, 3 or not even ranking? 

5: Content mechanics, create and publish

With the main point, or points, of the content agreed all that’s needed is that extra detail of how to approach the topic.

It was Mark Twain that said there is no such thing as a new idea, so this is the chance to take the ideas and questions that people are asking already and answer them with your content idea.

This method of using data and research to tackle a creative strategy is perfect for those of us that claim to be fresh out of ideas, adding a new depth to inspiration and make informed content choices. 

To determine the best delivery mechanism for your content, start by finding the other content available to answer the question. Critically evaluate the existing resources- what has worked well? What could be improved?

If you can determine the levels of engagement on the content through comments or social interactions, then you can determine the types of content the audience respond best to. If your audience is a group of top-level business executives, then keep it brief; bullet point lists, and initial summaries work well for those short of time.

If your readership is more into the design and feel of the information then think about the best visual content you can produce, be this infographic, presentation or video. 

The most important element in this part of the ideation process is to find the point of originality for your content. Whilst it’s a common question you’re tackling, and much of the information may be covered on different sources online, your content needs to offer something new to the audience.

Whether it’s the way it is presented in an easy-to-share graphic or the added depth and unique knowledge your organisation is able to provide, or hopefully a combination of both, you need to demonstrate the difference.

Each piece of content you produce to answer these common questions must be considered a valuable resource. It is an opportunity not only to help provide information, but also to reiterate your brand values and demonstrate yourselves to be thought leaders in your industry so take the time to make it unique and of value to any one that reads it. 

Data- Mining in Practice

After completing the data mining process for popular questions around brand reputation and SEO, it’s led me to conclude that there is a definite place for some further content to be produced on this topic.

So, my next post for Econsultancy will be all about the importance of owning your brand SERP and some methods to do this.

The audience that reads Econsultancy is a little trickier. It’s huge for a start and very varied.

From digital marketing managers to agencies to business directors, the post that I’ll be writing will be for anyone that has an interest in strengthening their brand in organic search.

If you read any popular posts in this type of area, it is clear that how-tos and the step by step guides work well as they give distinct next steps for those who want to carry out the advice.

As a result you should look out for “How to Own your Brand SERPS in 10 Easy Steps” soon!