(NOTE: This article walks through a prospecting approach that includes mass-scraping auto-complete suggestions using a tool that we have not made public. It’s useful for prospectors even if you don’t have the tool, but just wanted to warn you before hand.)
Also, here’s a webinar on the same topic:
OK so let’s say you want to find 1000s of parenting blogs using only Google. What queries would you type in?
I suspect most folks would start out running queries like these:
- parenting blog
- mom blog
- parenting advice blog
- parenting tips inurl:blog
- list of parenting blogs
Maybe you get fancier and set the time delimiter to the past year – or even month – so you’re only seeing pages that are new or have been recently updated. Smart! You’re probably kicking up hundreds if not thousands of ops if you pull from the top 20 to 50 results.
So your team works through your lists for a couple months but then you need more prospects because it turns out this particular batch of publishers is getting pretty link savvy… Everyone’s asking for money. So where to next?
Here’s what we do.
Conduct topic research on target sites, use the topic findings to scrape auto-complete suggestions and THEN use these suggestions to build queries that address real audience concerns, questions and objectives.
Here’s what I mean.
1) Audience Research: Content Title Analysis
Visit a blog or three that targets an audience you’d like to get in front of.
Now, visit each site and copy/paste 2-3 of their most recent article titles into a text pad. Then go to the next site until you have several titles.
Why – what’s in the titles?
Everything. All the clues and signals that clearly indicate the facets and aspects of the key experiences of the audience you care about. Titles – in particular how-to or non-news titles – provide us with deep prospecting insights for every vertical served productively by content.
The title functions as a utility signal for the audience – they indicate to the reader what’s inside, who it’s for and how the info could be useful within the scope of their domain of practice. And these signals seem to have repeatable patterns, at least based on our observations so far.
Elements of a Title: The Starting Point for Parsing
So from the titles of these parenting articles you’re reviewing (title sample below for those following along) you’ll notice the following functionality-specific title elements we’ve defined, and that will help you really expand on your prospecting:
- practitioner type (eg: parent, mom, dad, grandparent) – usually a fairly static and limited set
- practitioner conditions (eg: busy, depressed, harried, new parent) – large, practically unlimited potential set
- entity of practice (eg: “child” is the entity of the practice of parenting) – again, like the practitioner, fairly static, limited
- entity of practice conditions (eg: child has sensory processing disorder, is 5 year old, hitting siblings) – large, unlimited potential set
- theatre of practice (eg: at school, in the car, at the beach, during a thunderstorm) – usually a large, unlimited potential array of locations or circumstances
- practitioner’s objectives – often but not always these are objectives for the entity of practice: (eg: potty train, stop eating boogers [haha jk]). In some cases the objectives can be self-reflexive: (eg: be well so you can be a better parent, etc…) – large, unlimited potential set
We submit that the above categories reflect the key facets publishers use to signal the utility of a collection of advice (aka an article) to the practitioner (audience).
Yikes, Garrett. Are you even sure what you’re talking about?
OK well sort of – this is fairly new to me too and we’re still figuring out how far we can push with this framework. Let’s dig in though and see where this takes us by parsing a title we found in the parenting blog space.
Article Title: “5 Dos and Don’ts of Shared Custody”
- Practitioner type (assumptions I made): parent, mom, dad
- Practitioner condition: single, joint custody, step
- Entity of practice: child
- Entity of practice conditions: step, shared custody, emotional distress
- Theatre of practice: not apparent from title
- Practitioner’s objectives: raise a resilient, awesome child, avoid unnecessary conflicts
So as you go through this title parsing exercise you’re building out a bank – I usually do it in a text pad – of who the title’s signaling as its target audience (or in our terms the practitioner type), who or what they care for and other conditions and objectives. These elements become the seeds for the auto-complete scraping we’re about to do and from the auto-complete scrapes we can start to see the broader audience informational needscape.
So after looking over that parsed title with my seasoned prospector’s eye I think it’s worthwhile auto-complete scraping the following “practitioner and entity labels”:
- Single parent
- Single mom
- Single dad
- Step dad
- Step mom
- Step child
- Step son
- Step daughter
If you’re eager to jump right into prospecting (I am too) you could select 1 of the above terms alone and start hunting for nouns that indicate what’s being sought by the searcher. Alternately you can jump right in and combine them with the following terms coming AFTER your selected practitioner label:
- Help with
- How to
- Keeps on
- Won’t stop
Put your big batch of terms in a new text file or in the same one your call.
Now combine your seed terms with these but put them BEFORE your seed terms:
- Help for
- Advice for
- How to for
So you’ve basically finished the hard part of parsing and you now have a huge list of 108 terms that you could run through an auto-complete suggest scraper and then count occurrences. You can also pick one or two just to poke around. Suggest scrapers are all over the place.
We built a suggest scraper that you can input 100s of seeds or “starts” into and I love it. Most folks – especially if you’re just starting out – can get by with running a few seeds through a suggest scraper. If you’re serious though, and already a user of the Link Prospector, let me know and I’ll see if we can find a seat for you. It’s an internal tool for now but helps give you really quick snapshots of how information demand gets grouped and categorized by your target practitioners.
Here’s a selection of 9 from the top 50 or so most-frequent results of the 1500 we got:
- what to do when your mom and step dad are fighting (12 occurrences in the set – most frequently-occurring query of the set)
- how to get adoption papers for step dad (9 occurrences)
- help for single parent with special needs child (8 occurrences)
- best advice for dating a single mom (8 occurrences)
- how easy is it for a father to get shared custody (8)
- 10 tips on how to be a stepdad (7)
- what to do if your step dad hits your mom (7)
- how to deal with empty nest syndrome as a single parent (6)
- how to explain step mom to child (6)
I love these. We could add an inurl:blog to each of these and head over to Google right now for a large collection of publishers who write for a distinct segment of our target audience. But if you parse these query suggestions in the same way you analyzed titles you instantly acquire a much broader, diversified vision for this particular domain of practice.
You can observe – from the first, second and sixth queries – that the children themselves are often seeking guidance. While this article is written as a prospecting exercise perhaps you’re seeing here how it serves as an approach to content or audience-discovery research as well. If you’re writing into this space have you written extensively for the kids who are most certainly actively researching with objectives of their own?
And I love item 8 – dealing with empty nest syndrome as a single parent. It’s forehead-slapping obvious but I’d never thought of it. Again – great content direction and a useful query to run with an inurl:blog because it’s likely going to find those publishers who are off the well-beaten path and who perhaps haven’t gotten quite so many guest placement inquiries.
Some limitations… I did have to remove sweet and kind but ultimately false starts like:
- how to draw something for your mom step by step
There were multiple suggests like this, and further down the list we get into hyper- or regionally-specific queries that I don’t think would prove to be useful for prospecting:
- how to calculate child support in ontario with shared custody
- how to calculate child support for shared custody bc
- how to calculate child support in pa when custody is shared
So it’s not all keywords and roses, and we still do hand-qualify any and all huge sets of suggest scrapes so that when we prospect we return pages from sites that are more likely to target our audience or topic area.
So we’re done with 1 of the titles. PHEW that was lots of work but we’ve barely dented the array of practitioner and entity conditions + practitioner objectives for their entities that drive everyone to search in the first place. So I’d advise you try parsing through some of these titles and building out your auto-suggest seed sets…
- How to Respond When Your Child Acts Out in Public
- How to Say Sorry: Teaching Children to Apologize
- When My Child Hurts Yours
- My Child Was A Picky Eater So Here’s What I Did
- Does your own childhood affect your parenting?
- SIBLING JEALOUSY BETWEEN YOUR OLDER CHILD AND BABY STRESSING YOU OUT? READ THIS.
- CHILD A SORE LOSER? TRY THESE 4 TIPS TO TEACH YOUR CHILD TO LOSE GRACEFULLY.
- Gardening with Toddlers – Activities that are fun and easy to do together
Titles pulled from:
Heck let’s unpack that first one up there just so you can get a better feel for title parsing. It’s kind of fun anyways to see what comes back at scale from auto-complete.
Article Title: How to Respond When Your Child Acts Out in Public
- Practitioner name: parent, mom, dad, grandparent
- Practitioner condition: anxious, angry, stressed, concerned with censure and judgemental assumptions by others of capacity for parenting
- Entity of Practice: child, son, daughter
- Entity Condition: age, has an unspoken or unknown need, or a need that can’t be attended to immediately
- Theatre of Practice: in a social setting, usually around strangers, WITH parent present though
- Practitioner Objectives: get that kid to act right GD-it.
I’m not sure there will be quite as many obvious starts as the previous title we parsed.
So let’s single out some practitioner and entity labels and conditions that are likely to bring us back some great auto-complete suggestions…
- my child|son|daughter|toddler
- my grandchild|son|daughter
- we neglected for this exercise: my step son|daughter
And then we need some behavior-oriented starts that will help us fish well in the auto-suggest:
- won’t stop
- acts up
- disrespects me
- is disrespectful
- won’t listen
In this instance it might be productive to sandwich our entities in this way…:
- help to
- how to
- make my <entity>
…and close with…
- be respectful
Once we combine everything (into 105 starts) and run them through our auto-complete tool we’re likely to see results that take us far outside of the scope of the initial title we started from. Again, that’s because we isolated and extracted the title’s key elements and used them to help find more of the common circumstances, conditions and labels facing those in charge of caring for unruly children.
Here are some of the most-frequent results we got from adding those 105 starts to our suggest scraper:
- how do i make my son listen to me (7)
- how do i make my daughter listen to me (7)
- my boyfriend disrespects me in front of his son (6)
- how do i make my child listen to me (6)
- why does my child only misbehaves at home (5)
- what should i do when my child misbehaves in front of others (5)
- my mother disrespects me in front of my child (5)
- my 4 year old child won’t listen to me (5)
- my child misbehaves in public (5)
And yeah – though there are few surprises in the top results we have branched out into some rich content directions. Again – I would have never thought to write for the mother whose boyfriend is being disrespectful in front of his son. Ouch. But WOW. And the one about the mother/grandmother being disrespectful. Where does that take us in terms of queries for discovering publishers? It takes us far and away from simply searching for parenting blogs I’ll tell you that. Parenting, and every other domain of practice that we participate in or write into, contain far deeper avenues than most of us have ever appreciated.
As a side note – I also assumed that auto-complete would help flesh out tons of common public locations where kids are misbehaving – grocery stores, church, at the park etc. Well it turns out there were no concrete locations that came back other than “at school,” “with me,” or “in public.” So not much of the solution-seeking is location-specific at least according to the auto-complete suggestions.
Now it’s time to use our results for prospecting…
2) Build Queries Using Your Suggested Topics and Audience Info-Needs
We’re use the Link Prospector for mass-querying but lots of folks like Scrape Box. Not me. Suit yourself though.
Take all of the auto-completed queries you’ve harvested and combine them with [inurl:blog] – just be sure to remove those brackets: . If you have more time for qualifying you could also add simply the word [blog]. Between those two you’ll be relatively sure that the top 20 results or so will be swarming with useful publishers who help your target practitioners with content… and they’re less likely to be publishers you or other content marketers have seen before.
Here are some sample queries to run based on the above extracted suggestions.
- what to do when your mom and step dad are fighting inurl:blog
- how to get adoption papers for step dad inurl:blog
- help for single parent with special needs child inurl:blog
- best advice for dating a single mom inurl:blog
- how easy is it for a father to get shared custody inurl:blog
- 10 tips on how to be a stepdad inurl:blog
- what to do if your step dad hits your mom inurl:blog
- how to deal with empty nest syndrome as a single parent inurl:blog
- how to explain step mom to child inurl:blog
- how do i make my son listen to me inurl:blog
- how do i make my daughter listen to me inurl:blog
- my boyfriend disrespects me in front of his son inurl:blog
- how do i make my child listen to me inurl:blog
- why does my child only misbehaves at home inurl:blog
- what should i do when my child misbehaves in front of others inurl:blog
- my mother disrespects me in front of my child inurl:blog
- my 4 year old child won’t listen to me inurl:blog
- my child misbehaves in public inurl:blog
One last test I’ve neglected – is it better to just search for “step parenting inurl:blog” than to use something like [how to explain step mom to child inurl:blog]? Another way of asking that – how similar or diverse are those two different queries and is it worth doing both of them? At a glance I notice several similar domains on both queries… but I think they’re different enough to justify running both of them. And if you have a strong qualifying process in place you’ll be fine.
Oh I also noticed the term Blended Family which I neglected previously in my work – definitely need to unpack that one in a suggest scraper too… and we haven’t even begun to fully map out all the aspects and angles of parenting here folks.
If you’ve been wondering where to go next for blog prospecting and idea generation then you’re now well situated to dig back in to the spaces you thought were so familiar to you with new, finely granulated queries that align with information demand and your previously-unknown facets of this demand. Again, if you’re interested in poking around with our mass auto-complete scraper AND you’re a user or the Link Prospector let me know.
2 thoughts on “Prospecting for Blogs Using Auto-Complete Suggestions”
Ok I’ll bite! A new tool? I hope so this sounds awesome need any beta testers and future evangelists. Dave and I would love to have ya bro! ;-)
Great stuff, Garrett! Very nice methodical approach to drilling down on opportunities for links (or topical guestblogging, if someone’s into that sort of thing).