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[GUIDE] How to Mine Quora for Content Ideas

Date published: April 25, 2013
Last updated: April 25, 2013

People have literally asked millions of questions over the past few years on Quora, the social network that aggregates questions and answers for just about any topic you can imagine. Quora is a massive trove of information that can be used in many different ways by both individuals and businesses.

For marketers, Quora represents a unique lens for us to see what types of questions people are asking in a given industry – whether we’re researching blog ideas for our own company or putting together a content strategy for a client.

But exploring a hierarchy of more than 250,000 topics can be intimidating if we’re not sure how to proceed. This post will provide some pointers on how to mine Quora for content ideas.

Inside the Answer Machine

Quora was released in public beta in 2010, founded by former Facebook employees Adam D’Angelo and Charlie Cheever. The network recently rolled out full-text search capabilities and a blogging platform that allows marketers to publish content beyond just questions and answers.

Here’s how Quora works: You can ask and/or answer questions that are arranged within an overall topic ontology. Topics typically include a list of Parent Topics, Child Topics, and Related Topics. For example, here is part of the ontology for the topic “Marketing”:

  • Parent Topics: Business; Business Development; Communication
  • Child Topics: Digital Marketing; Direct Mail; Product Marketing; Interactive Marketing; Social Media Marketing; Referral Marketing; Blogger Outreach (42 more)
  • Related Topics: Startups; Business; Small Business; Email Marketing; Retail (15 more)

Within each of these topics, you can browse questions, ask your own questions, answer questions and follow topics or questions that interest you. You can mine Quora questions manually with an Excel spreadsheet or (if you’re more daring) with a site scrape. Once you’ve completed your questions research, you can create targeted content that provides helpful answers for your audience and helps people solve problems.

Spreadsheet wizard, there’s got to be a twist

If you’re going the manual route, create a list of Quora topics by clicking on the “About” tab of your Parent Topic. Then sort your list by the number of people following each Child's Topic. (You can quickly view the number of followers by hovering over each Child Topic listed on the right-hand side of the “About” page.)

Here’s an abbreviated list of Marketing Child Topics that are sorted by followers.

Topic Followers
Social Media Marketing 119,495
Digital Marketing 89,450
Product Marketing 5,289
Referral Marketing 262
Direct Mail 137
Interactive Marketing 105
Blogger Outreach 103

So now you’ve got an idea of the amount of Quora interest in each of these Marketing Child Topics. (Keep in mind that topics with a small number of followers might simply be newer topics.)

Once you’ve identified some popular Child Topics, go a step deeper by looking at questions within the Child Topics. Let’s look at Social Media Marketing since it has nearly 120,000 followers. When we visit the Social Media Marketing page, we see a heading for Frequently Asked Questions that we’ll want to browse. The first question is “How will marketers use Google+?”

We then see numerous indicators that this question has a major interest (shown by the level of engagement). Check out these Question Stats:

  • 1,257 people have viewed the question
  • 37 people are following this question
  • 8 people have answered this question (and most of the answers have comments or votes)

Suffice it to say that this is a hot topic, as is the other Frequently Asked Question, “What are the best Twitter clients?” Put these two questions in a “Frequently Asked” tab of your research spreadsheet and record the engagement metrics. You can also browse the Related Questions located on the right of each question page.

Next, click on the “Trending” tab to see Quora’s list of Trending Questions for Social Media Marketing. List these questions in a “Trending” tab of your spreadsheet as you go through them, filtering the spreadsheet by a metric like the number of answers or the number of followers. (These two metrics show a higher degree of engagement/interest than a metric like a page view.)

When you’re done browsing the “Trending” tab, click on the “Questions” tab and create a corresponding tab on your spreadsheet. Then list the questions with a higher number of answers or followers. Also, take a look at the “Best Questions” listed on the right of this tab.

As an alternative option, you can scrape Quora to create your spreadsheet of categories, topics, and questions. Just make sure you’re comfortable with Quora’s terms of service if you decide to scrape.

So, what have been your experiences with Quora? Do you see it as a valuable site for coming up with content ideas, analyzing your competitors, or discussing your brand? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this popular question-and-answer community.

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