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What Should I Write About?

21 min read

This isn’t a guide about brainstorming blog topics. And it’s not about conducting keyword research using the typical keyword difficulty and search volume matrix.

Instead this approach is about creating content plans driven by personalized domain metrics, along with competitive and topical analysis. Existing pages are a wonderful starting point to updating and creating content because it’s not always about building something new. Sometimes they can even be a great starting point for creating new content.

In this guide we look at different ways of slicing and dicing your current content to find those opportunities that can make a big difference. The personalized metrics mentioned here are unique to MarketMuse and you’ll find links to additional content to help you set up the platform.

Let’s get started!

Your Top Pages

High-performing pages need to be regularly maintained so that they continue operating at their peak. If you’re at #1 in the search results, you’ll be playing defense to ensure you maintain that top spot. If you’re somewhere else on the first page of Google, you’ll be taking offensive measures to improve your position in search.

That doesn’t mean you’ll just be updating pages though. There’s ample opportunity to create new content around topics which these top pages cover inadequately. It’s the ideal situation for creating supporting content as it stands a good chance of performing well in search.

However, there are two issues to consider – how you define high performance and how you determine what action(s) to take.

Although traffic is a common measure of performance, it’s not the only one and certainly not the best in all cases. Other ways of gauging success are:

  • Value
  • Site Value (%)
  • Site Traffic (%)
  • Page Authority
  • Topic Authority

Value

Value is a way to determine the success of pages targeting bottom-of-funnel search queries. You see, certain traffic is worth more than others. For example, someone arriving at your site using a high purchase intent term is more valuable than someone using one that’s top-of-funnel. That’s why value (cost-per-click) is a better indicator of the true worth of a visit – it represents the cost of acquiring that traffic if you had to pay for it. Bottom-of-funnel terms generally have low traffic but higher cost-per-click (CPC).

Site Value

Similar to value, site value looks at the contribution of a page to the overall site value as a percentage. The advantage here is that it provides context to an otherwise abstract value of a page. Knowing a page contributes 10% to the value of a site has a different connotation than saying it’s worth $1,000.

Site Traffic

By the same token, understanding that a page contributes 10% of site traffic means a lot more than saying it gets 10,000 monthly visitors.

Page Authority

In MarketMuse, Page Authority is a combined measurement of traffic and ranking relative to all the other pages on your site. So pages that perform well in terms of ranking and traffic have more authority than those that don’t.

Topic Authority

Topic authority is a measurement of how well your site performs for a specific topic. It’s used in conjunction with Difficulty (how hard it is for anyone to rank) and Personalized Difficulty (how hard it is for you to rank) and represents your competitive advantage.

Take Action

Once you’ve identified your top pages, whether that’s by traffic, value, or authority, what do you do with them? There are essentially three options:

  • Update the existing page
  • Update supporting content
  • Create net new content.

Updating the existing page is the most obvious choice. Run a competitive analysis (using MarketMuse) to determine which topics are missing and what you could cover to differentiate your content. Don’t forget internal linking as your site may contain additional related content that can support this particular page.

MarketMuse Compete application with heat map showing topic distribution across the top 20 results in Google for a search term.
MarketMuse competitive analysis shows what topics you need to cover to differentiate your content.

Learn More

Read How to Conduct Competitive Content Analysis Using MarketMuse. Discover how the MarketMuse heat map reveals many essential aspects of topical distribution within the SERP.


Most marketers stop at this point. I think that mistake is rooted in a focus on the page level –  forgetting that one page often isn’t enough, especially when trying to rank for highly competitive keywords. Look at the internal links to identify supporting content and conduct a competitive analysis on these pages too. Improving these pages will help boost the performance of your cluster and the top page in question.

Identifying top pages isn’t just for updating existing content. Take a look and you’ll find there are lots of opportunities for creating new content as well.

MarketMuse page detail showing ranking topics for a page.

Your top pages typically rank for many different search terms, some better than others. One approach is to update the page to better target those lower ranking terms. Sometimes that works but other times it’s just not editorially appropriate. You may mention a topic (and rank for it) but it’s just not what the page is about. So in that case creating a new piece of content and linking it together with the existing page is a better approach.

The reason?

You’ve got some existing authority already, which is a bonus. Plus, a new page focused solely on that topic allows you to cover it in greater detail than would be possible when updating existing content.



Pages That Are At Risk

There are many forms of risk and it’s a good idea to be proactive in addressing these risk factors. Here we look at three – thin content, low topic authority, and competition that can affect your page’s ability to compete in search.

The risk with low word count, and any of these issues for that matter, is that competitors can come along and create better content than you, negatively impacting your position in the search results.

Thin Content

Pages with thin content are easy to identify due to their low word count, keeping in mind that “low” is a relative term. If you only have a few pages to deal with, the process for finding these pages is simple. Otherwise, you may want to include criteria like traffic, value, Page Authority and Average Topic Authority. Using these metrics can help in reducing the size of the list and prioritizing your efforts. Here’s some more about finding and fixing thing content at the site level.

Low Topic Authority & Competitive (Dis)advantage

You can have low Topic Authority yet still do well if a page has sufficient Page Authority. In situations like this, performance is being driven by off-page factors rather than the content itself. This risk here, just as with thin content, is that a competitor comes along and creates content that’s better than yours.

Since competitive advantage is closely tied to Topic Authority, let’s include it here as well. Topic Authority is the difference between Difficulty (how hard it is for anyone to rank) and Personalized Difficulty (how hard it is for you to rank).

Comparison of difficulty and personalized difficulty showing the difference in the form of a candlestick.
Topic Authority is your competitive advantage, representing the difference between Topic (Keyword) Difficulty and Personalized Difficulty.

So if it’s easier for you to rank than the average person, you have a competitive advantage. On the other hand, if it’s harder you’re at a disadvantage.

Take Action

The best course of action for pages at risk is to update the content. The exception to this is a situation where the topic is no longer relevant or important to the site. Since there is no value to updating the page in a case like this, deleting it is an option.

Once again, it pays to look beyond the page to include updating related content as well as internal linking. Consider creating new supporting content as well, either with the help of topic modeling (expanding on related topics) or keyword research to find appropriate variants.

MarketMuse Research application showing keyword plus related topics and suggested distribution of terms.
Topic modelling can also be used to find topics for additional pages of supporting content.


Creating New Content

There are a number of approaches you can take to creating new content including:

  • Determining what hasn’t been covered
  • Finding what’s ranking but doesn’t match intent
  • Looking at what can give you the biggest potential ROI
  • Aiming for Quick wins
  • Searching for topics with the most traffic

Determine what hasn’t been covered

Addressing topics that haven’t been covered is an obvious choice when it comes to creating new content. In MarketMuse you can add topics from keyword research you’ve done using other tools or as a result of exploring a topic within the platform. Topics where you actually don’t rank, or the rank is greater than 100, are labeled as NR (not ranking).

Adding topics in this way can serve as an idea bank which you can call up anytime you wish to create new content. You’ll notice that the authority for these topics is negligible and in some cases even negative. Which is why you may want to consider looking first at topics that are ranking but where there’s an intent mismatch.

Finding what’s ranking but doesn’t match intent

Intent mismatches offer a treasure trove of possibilities for content creation. The big advantage is that you already rank for these terms (even if it’s not great) and have some degree of authority. It’s a common occurrence for powerful pages that are topically comprehensive.

Here’s how this can happen.

You create a topically comprehensive post on “content strategy”, for example. In it you mention “different content types” because it’s related to the conversation. You don’t go deep into that topic because, after all, it’s a post about content strategy and not different content types.

Updating that post with more information on content types is an option, but there’s only so much you can do before it changes the nature of the post. A better approach is to create a new piece of content specifically targeting that topic in detail.

You can find these in either of two ways – at the topic or the page level. When looking at topics, check for those with really poor ranks. Not the quick win stuff, but rather rankings of 30+ as they work quite well.

Check that there’s no other page ranking higher which, if you’re using MarketMuse, is easy to do using Saved Views.

Biggest ROI

If return on investment is a major criteria for creating new content, then look at topics in terms of their potential value. You’ll want to take into account Personalized Difficulty and Topic Authority when prioritizing your efforts. No matter how much a topic may be worth, now may not be the time to write about it if ranking is too difficult and you have no competitive advantage, especially if there are more favorable things to write about.

Quick Wins

What’s known in SEO as quick wins aren’t always that quick. A good way to prioritize your approach here is to factor in Personalized Difficulty (how hard it is for you to rank) along with Topic Authority, which is effectively your competitive advantage. Quick win candidates where you have significant competitive advantage are almost always the better choice.

Most Traffic

If search volume and keyword difficulty are your favorite criteria, you can improve that approach by adding Potential Traffic, Personalized Difficulty, and Topic Authority into the mix. Unlike search volume, which shows how many people are searching using the term, Potential Traffic is a reflection of how much traffic you can expect to get based on your position in the SERP, assuming you’ve updated your content. Unlike keyword difficulty, which applies to everyone, Personalized Difficulty is an indication of how hard it is for you to rank well. Topic Authority indicates your competitive advantage or how easier it is for you to rank versus the norm.

Learn More

Read this article on determining what new content to create using Saved Views in MarketMuse.

Optimizing Existing Content

As a site grows, you may find yourself spending more time updating existing content than creating new pages. Content marketers often look to optimize pages that:

  • Are at risk
  • Offer the quickest wins
  • Have the biggest ROI

Risk

In this day and age, quality content is critical. The risk with poor content is that someone else can come along and create a page or even a cluster of content that’s far better than what you offer. Finding pages with word low count (thin content) is one way to address this risk.

Another way is to look at Page Authority vs Topic Authority. If you rank well for a specific topic, have high Page Authority yet low topic Authority, that’s an indication that off-page factors are driving your success in search – it’s not your content.

Quickest Wins

Quick wins are always a favorite of those looking to optimize their existing content. But beyond just rank, you may want to consider traffic (both current and potential) as well as Personalized Difficulty and Topic Authority. Including these metrics will help you identify the quickest of the quick wins. For large sites with many rankings on the first three pages of the SERP, this is a good way to prioritize.

ROI

Another approach when determining what content to optimize is focusing on what offers the biggest return on investment. Here you’re looking at current and potential values to determine ROI. But the only good ROI is the one that you’re able to realize. So it’s a good idea to incorporate Personalized Difficulty and Topic Authority in your evaluation. Focusing on situations where it’s easier for you to rank with a significant competitive advantage puts the odds of success in your favor.

Learn More

Read this article on determining what content to optimize using Saved Views in MarketMuse.

Clusters

Back in the day, often one page was all it took to rank for virtually any search term. But that’s not the case anymore. These days you need to think about topic clusters and where individual pages fit within those collections. Let’s look at clusters through the lens of:

  • ROI
  • Risk
  • Performance
  • Authority
  • Potential

Current and Potential ROI

In terms of ROI, we can look at clusters in two ways with respect to their current value and potential. For current value, calculating cost-per-click times traffic for each topic in the cluster gives us an idea of what it would cost to buy that traffic using paid search. Knowing your most valuable clusters, you can make decisions as to where to update existing pages or create new supporting content. You may want to do this as a defensive measure to protect what you already have or expand its value.

When looking at the potential ROI of a cluster we obviously want to take into consideration the most important metrics, potential value and potential traffic. But let’s not forget about Topic Authority and Personalized Difficulty. To get a return on investment, you need to be able to realize it. Topic Authority (competitive advantage) and Personalized Difficulty (how easy it is for you to rank) are two ways of determining your chance of success. Ideally you create or update content where you have a significant competitive advantage (high Topic Authority) and it’s easy to rank (low Personalized Difficulty).

Risk

One way of identifying risk is by comparing Page Authority and Topic Authority. If you’re ranking well and have strong Page Authority but weak Topic Authority, that’s an indication that off-page factors are responsible for your success – it’s definitely not your content! Anyone can come along and create a better cluster of content, taking away the success you’ve achieved.

But not all risk is equal. A low-value cluster of content that’s at risk will be of less concern than one that is worth significantly more. So you’ll want to work in a value calculation as well – typically that’s cost-per-click times traffic.

Performance

The ultimate cluster is one where every page ranks in first place for all its topics. An aspirational goal for sure, but a situation in which all the potential has been realized. The further away you get from that ideal situation the more it’s underperforming. But at the same time it has greater potential – a glass half-full, half-empty situation if you will.

You can find those clusters by looking at Potential Traffic and Potential Value. However, once again we want to keep in mind Personalized Difficulty and Topic Authority so that we focus our efforts on the potential that we can realistically realize.

Authority

Clusters with high Topic Authority are prime candidates for building out new supporting content. That authority gives you a head start, compared to creating something unrelated to the cluster.

So why not take advantage of the free ride?

Including Personalized Difficulty in this analysis provides an extra level of insight and helps with prioritizing. Let’s say you have two options, both with the same level of Topic Authority. But option ‘A’ has a very low Personalized Difficulty while option ‘B’ is much higher. In this case option ‘A’ is the better choice as you’ll have less difficulty ranking.

Potential

Evaluating the potential of a cluster requires looking at prospects for both its value and traffic. Creating new content or updating existing pages only makes sense when the future reward is worthwhile. However, it’s a good idea to factor Personalized Difficulty into your decision making. In virtually every case, a smaller potential that is most likely to be realized outweighs any high potential that’s unlikely to succeed.

Focus Targets

Sometimes you just want to know where to focus your efforts. Maybe you’re looking to get the biggest traffic lift. Or maybe it’s better results, rankings or ROI.

Traffic Lift

If your focus is on traffic, then Potential Traffic is an important metric to consider. While knowing your current traffic is valuable, understanding what traffic you can expect in the future is even more critical. Personalized Difficulty and Topic Authority are also significant metrics to consider as once again they help prioritize efforts towards situations where it’s easier for you to rank and you have a significant competitive advantage.

Results, Rankings, and ROI

Looking to get the best ROI from your content investment? Need quick results? Want to improve your rankings?

Answering these questions can be accomplished by looking at your content primarily through the lens of topics, Potential Traffic, Topic Authority, and Personalized Difficulty. For example, if you’re looking for quick results, most people typically focus on topics ranking on the second page or down low on the first page of Google.

But combine that with Potential Traffic and you’ve got a list of quick wins with the best ROI. Add Personalized Difficulty to the mix and then your list becomes one of quick wins with the best ROI that are most likely to see improved rankings.

Take Action

What do you do with a list like this? Improve those pages so they rank even better. Update supporting content to help lift the entire cluster or create new content for the same reason.

Quickest Wins

Let’s dive deeper into quick wins. Not the ordinary type mind you, but those based on authority, traffic, and potential.

A list of quick wins with high Topic Authority adds another dimension into the mix. Topic Authority represents your competitive advantage or how much easier it is for you to rank as opposed to everyone else. The higher your authority the greater your advantage. So it’s a nice way to separate a list of contenders, especially when that list gets pretty long. Include Personalized Difficulty and that list changes into one where you know it will be easy for you to rank.

If getting traffic is a priority, include a traffic metric to refine that list based on the number of monthly visits. Consider filtering on traffic to get a list of quick wins with either high or low traffic, depending on how you construct your filter.

MarketMuse topic inventory filter showing setup to find topics ranking greater than 5 and less than or equal to 30 with traffic greater 250.
You can stack simple filters to create complex filtering logic.

Organic Traffic Est. is what the traffic we estimate you’re currently receiving. But if you want to look ahead, consider using Potential Traffic – an estimate of the traffic we think you could get after a round of optimization. Some content marketers find this a helpful way to filter and prioritize their list.

Take Action

Content marketers usually use a list of quick wins to update existing pages so they can rank better. However, you should consider updating related content with that cluster as well. Taking it a step further, you can also create new content to support those quick wins. Apply topic modeling to the pages on the list and you’ll have a host of new possibilities that tie in nicely with your content theme.

Movement

Additional content opportunities can be found by looking at topics and pages that have seen significant movement over the past month. Some content marketers refer to this as ‘content decay’ because traffic or rank is declining. When creating a shortlist based on traffic decline it can be helpful to include the metrics Potential Traffic and Share of Site Traffic. The former can help with prioritization while the latter provides additional context to evaluate the impact.

While it’s customary to focus on traffic decline because you naturally want to stop it, there’s something to be said for creating a list where the opposite is true. Besides making you feel good, this type of list can alert you to opportunities to create additional related content to ride on the coattails of your success.

What applies to traffic is also relevant to value, which is something that you don’t want to overlook. Bottom-of-the-funnel topics often have low search volume but a high cost-per-click due to their high purchase intent and can get missed if you’re only tracking traffic.

Looking for changes in traffic can apply both to topics and pages. Use both approaches to give you a complete view of your situation.

Take Action

When dealing with traffic declines, it’s natural to look to a specific page in an attempt to solve the problem. If updating the content doesn’t create the impact you expect and you’re sure there isn’t a technical problem, you may need to look beyond that one page. Consider updating related pages and creating new content in order to restore your position in the SERP.

Takeaway

The next time you’re wondering what to write about, look to your existing content as a starting point. You’re sure to find something that needs refreshing. Not to mention all the opportunities to create new content in support of your existing pages, expanding out your existing topic clusters and providing entry points to new ones.

What you should do now

When you’re ready… here are 3 ways we can help you publish better content, faster:

  1. Book time with MarketMuse Schedule a live demo with one of our strategists to see how MarketMuse can help your team reach their content goals.
  2. If you’d like to learn how to create better content faster, visit our blog. It’s full of resources to help scale content.
  3. If you know another marketer who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.
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