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How to Choose a Successful Topic for Your Next Guest Article

You know how it is. You’ve got plenty of ideas for a guest blog article, but what if you submit something that has been covered (embarrassing) or is too elementary for the audience (insulting)? The best way to take control of the situation, in my mind, is with science. And by “science,” I mean applying the same systematic approach I would use to understand a client’s competitive landscape for a marketing strategy engagement.

Then it gets fun.

Here’s how I created a list of topics I plan to submit in the next few months for the Content Marketing Institute.

Competitive analysis

Although I rarely see fellow authors as competitors in a traditional sense, many have covered topics that might overlap with subjects I might explore. It was important to find unique angles, interesting perspectives, and gaps in the content coverage to guide my strategy. I worked with an assistant to categorize the following information about the CMI articles posted over three months:

  • Blog title.
  • Author.
  • Length.
  • Blog tag one, two, three, four, five.
  • Embedded video.
  • Custom graphics.
To be a successful guest blogger, audit the site’s titles, authors, length, tags, etc., says @SuperDeluxeMo. Click To Tweet

If you’re curious what this spreadsheet looks like, you can see it here.

The most popular topics covered recently by CMI bloggers were content creation, distribution and promotion, editorial process and teams, and general success tips.

As I weeded through this initial data, I realized the frequency of topics doesn’t consider performance. My initial reaction was to throw the baby out with the bath water since performance data is critical to choosing article topics. Then I remembered another truism: When writing for someone else, you don’t always have access to the performance data – make your choice based on whatever information is available to you. Live dangerously.

Frequency of published topics doesn’t consider performance, says @SuperDeluxeMo. Click To Tweet

Blog tag ‘content creation’ – an evaluation

With a name like Content Marketing Institute, it’s no surprise that content creation is a subject that gets top billing. Since there were so many entries in this category, I needed to get a little creative in deciding what to write. How could I create good, useful, and (most importantly) nonrepetitive content for CMI’s readers? And the answer became clear when I took a closer look at the subtopics.

Within the topic of content creation, 64% of authors focused on blogging, making it by far the most popular subtopic. Video trailed, addressed by only 21% of authors. Less frequently covered topics included conversion, optimization, and productivity.

Subtopic insight

Conversion and optimization were promising topics because they tackled an underrepresented subject in one of the most popular categories (content creation).

I thought about these areas of interest and my expertise in these categories. I’m passionate about attribution and I am well versed in website funnel optimization so these subtopics offered potential.

Competitive articles

Recent CMI articles in the content creation category included: The Easy A-to-Z Guide to Writing Great Headlines [Infographic] by Barry Feldman (741 words) and How to Write Headlines That Get Your Brand What It Wants [Checklist] by Ann Gynn (1,484 words).

These articles are actionable, guide-type articles.

Fresh ideas and format

Combining all these decision-making factors, ideas that wouldn’t overlap but would stay in the popular category include:

  • How attribution can help you optimize content
  • The easy guide to optimizing PDFs so they get found

To go in this direction, it would be best to offer something visual and practical, like an infographic process map or a guide/checklist to give marketers something they can use now.

Blog tag ‘distribution and promotion’ – an evaluation

Similar to the “when a tree falls in the woods” argument, if you carefully craft amazing content but don’t distribute it to your audience of prospects and customers, it will not make an impact (or a sound). It’s no wonder “distribution and promotion” is the second most popular topic covered on CMI.

I dug into the subtopics in this category – branded content, interactive content, SEO, and social media. At 37.5%, SEO was the winner of the “most posts” award; social media was a close second at 31.25%. It was no surprise because SEO and social media are two of the more talked-about channels in the industry. Trailing behind them were some juicy (yet underserved) topics like influencer marketing, branded content, and interactive content.

Subtopic insight

I’m presenting on content distribution for small businesses at Content Marketing World, so this topic felt like a natural connection.

An article would be a great opportunity to talk about how influencer marketing has changed since it started to be a “thing.” I could touch on my experience with influencer marketers in the consumer markets, and how an influencer can improve content distribution in conjunction with SEO.

Write guest articles on underused but relevant topics where you have expertise, advises @SuperDeluxeMo. Click To Tweet

Competitive articles

Recent articles on the subtopics included Get a Plan: How to Make the Most of Influencer Marketing by Jodi Harris (2,521 words) and Calculate Your Influencer Marketing ROI in 5 Steps by Shane Barker (1,251 words).

Fresh ideas and format

After analyzing the information, I came up with these article angles:

  • What’s new in influencer marketing and how to use it to your advantage
  • Your relationship is changing – new influencer marketing tactics

This topic lends itself to a straight blog article, punctuated by some well-formulated images to drive home the point.

A little content tag analysis goes a long way

Choosing article topics gave me deep analysis paralysis. For any writing, I like starting with a fill-in-the-blanks approach driven by a good outline – and that’s what this process let me create. By evaluating just two of the five tags, I ended up with four solid article ideas that tap into my expertise and fill a gap in CMI’s content. What’s more, the evaluation gave me a solid understanding of the appropriate length and format for each article option.

To finish up my analytical guest blogging process, the next steps include:

  • Picking one idea from the four compiled.
  • Using to fine-tune the keyword to tackle in the article.
  • Go to Answer the Public to find questions people are asking about the selected idea.
  • Create an outline.
  • Start writing.

Whether you’re looking to guest blog on a site or even looking at what to write on your site, this process can help you use your metadata to identify the frequent topics, preferred formats, and opportunities to develop a fresh idea for an article worthy of publication.

If you were a guest blogger for a site, how did you go about choosing a winning topic? I’d love to hear in the comments.

Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used). 

Attend the workshop covering content distribution for small businesses. And learn more about how to be a successful guest blogger during the main conference at Content Marketing World Sept. 3-6. Register today using code CMIBLOG100 to save $100. 

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute