Creativity is emotionally exhausting. It’s hard to constantly think of new ideas all the time, content ideas included.
That’s a shame, because the nature of search engines means that you have to put out fresh content on a regular basis for months or years to have any chance of gaining any traction at all.
Being a content marketer means having to generate fresh ideas on a regular basis and at scale. But how do you come up with content ideas consistently and sustainably without running out, or having your content go stale?
Good ideas can come from all sorts of places! You can find them by asking what your audience wants or needs, or analyzing your competition. You can even use free marketing and seo tools to analyze other sites or use idea generators to jump-start your thinking, inspiration can come to you in different ways.
Generating enough content ideas for a month, or even a year, is simple enough if you know how to make the most out of the information available to you.
Here are some ways to easily brainstorm content ideas without ever running out.
1. Conduct Keyword Research
This should usually be the first thing you do whenever you sit down to brainstorm content ideas.
Remember, you are not writing for yourself, you are writing for an audience. For your content to have the desired effect, you need to see from the perspective of your target audience and anticipate their wants and needs.
When your audience wants to learn about you, one of the first things they’re likely to do is search for you on Google. People use Google when they want information on a topic, usually to answer a question or solve a problem.
So think to yourself: what problems are people in my audience having? What questions are they asking to solve those problems? What keywords are they typing into Google to solve those problems?
Tools like Google Keyword Planner, Ubersuggest, CanIRank, and Answer the Public exist to help you research keywords – what words your audience is typing into Google to find products or services like yours – as well as how many people search for those keywords and how competitive they are.
Make a list of 10-15 keywords or phrases that your audience would feasibly use to find your website. Find out which one of those gets at least a few hundred visits a month and has low competition scores. See what similar terms they use. Rinse and repeat.
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Here’s a little hack you may not have known about. If you install Keywords Everywhere, Keyword Surfer, or Ubbersuggest Chrome extensions, you can see the monthly search volume, competition scores and CPC for each keyword on their list as well as their permutations (why + “keyword”, how + “keyword” etc.) This can give you potentially dozens of content ideas from a single keyword!
2. Ask Your Audience
Once again: you aren’t writing for everybody, you are writing for a specific audience. A group of people with a specific set of interests, careers, and demographic backgrounds.
So if you don’t know what problems your audience is having, what do you do? Simple: just ask them!
After all, your content is addressed to them. Try sending out emails to the people on your newsletter, and ask them about the situations they deal with that are related to your niche.
You could even switch up your audience to broaden the scope of your content.
Say your business is a startup making a social media tool like Juicer.io or Hootsuite.
Your tool might be made for two groups of people, SaaS Founders or social media managers. One day, you publish a post about “Top 10 Things Every Social Media Manager Needs to Know about Facebook Groups” that gets some traction. You could try replicating that success by writing similar content for your other audience group, e.g. “10 Things Every Startup Founder Needs to Know about Twitter Lists.”
3. Perform Competitor Analysis
It’s worth noting that something like 90% of all online content is basically people ripping off each other’s ideas.
Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. It’s more accurate to say that rather than constantly think of original content, many content creators choose to take other people’s ideas and build on them. Expand them. Improve upon them.
You’re not alone in your industry. There’s a good chance that there are at least five other companies offering the same exact product or service you are.
These are your competitors. They probably have their own content strategy. A good way to come up with ideas consistently is to scope them out, see what content they have that’s performed well on search engines and social media, and reverse-engineer their strategies.
Ask yourself: what content have your competitors made that has performed well? Gotten lots of shares on social media, or preferential ranking-positions on Google?
You can use a tool like Buzzsumo to find out which of your competitor’s content has gotten the most social shares, or organic sessions on Google.
4. Mine Blog and YouTube Comments
You know how Hollywood movie directors use Norse and Grecco-Roman mythology as a free idea bucket for stories?
Content marketers have their own version of that. It’s called the comments section.
Buried within the comments section of popular blog articles and YouTube videos in your niche are people – very likely in your audience – who are discussing their issues, their concerns, their interests, and whatever else is on their mind. A good way to strike a chord with them is listen to what they’re saying, then make content about it.
Quora is another good place to look. Do a search for your niche, and see what questions your audience are asking, and what the potential answers are.
Forums in your industry are another good place to look. Type “keyword” + forum into Google and find popular threads with high engagement, and see if you can get some good ideas from there.
5. Use Idea Generators
If the idea well is running dry and you’re drawing a blank, you can always turn to the arbitrary nature of the universe to come up with new content! In other words, use tools to come up with plausible content ideas at random.
Idea generators like the HubSpot Blog Topic Generator once you feed it some relevant nouns.
Say you give the Topic Generator nouns like “startup,” “marketing,” “content,” “ROI,” and “social media.” HubSpot will give you ideas like “The Next Big Thing in Social Media,” “Marketing explained in Fewer than 140 Characters,” and “This Week’s Stop Stories About Startups.”
You can take the ideas HubSpot spits out at you and workshop them to suit their needs. If nothing else, it should at least help get the creative juices flowing.
Another way to go about it is to think of the headline first, then flesh out the details. You can also use Headline Analyzer to evaluate your headlines, and get a sense of how much power and emotional value they have.
6. Repurpose Old Content
Content can take on many forms. It’s not all just blog posts.
Do you have a piece of content that you think was good, but that’s collecting dust in your repository?
Now might be a good chance to turn that content into a different format, and see how your audience responds!
Here are some different ways you can repurpose your content:
- Slide deck
- Podcast episode
- Series of images accompanied by text (also known as a Carousel)
7. Follow Industry News
Things happen at a million miles a minute on the internet. Everybody is talking about everything, all the time, and it all happens faster than most people can keep track of.
It’s your job as a content creator to pay attention to what people are talking about online, then use that information to give yourself a platform.
Try following your favorite industry blogs on Twitter. You can also add them to your RSS feed, if you have one.
Get a sense for what topics are trending right now. Is there an angle on a trending topic that people are missing? Maybe you have some perspective to add, that not many other people have thought about?
It might be worth making some content based on that!
8. Change the Scope/Time Frame
Many content creators think of terms of making “evergreen content” – content that’s not tied to a specific event or trend, making it timeless.
While that’s certainly not a bad way to create valuable content, sometimes you can make content work for you by narrowing it down to a certain timeframe, say within the last month or year. You can get more mileage out of your content simply by changing its scope – going from broad to granular, and vice-versa.
For example, you can narrow the scope of content about “Here Are the Essential Things Every Small Business Owner Needs to Know About SEO” to: “The 5 Biggest Things to Happen in Small Business SEO This Month.”
Coming up with new ideas for content isn’t easy. But if you have strategies, tools, and techniques in place, you will be able to come up with quality content week after week, and month after month.
Some of those are:
- Keyword Research
- Ask Your Audience
- Competitor Analysis
- Mine Blog and YouTube Comments
- Idea Generator
- Repurpose Old Content
- Industry News
- Change the Scope/Time Frame
- 101 Ways to Source Content Ideas – NeilPatel.com
- How To Come Up With 50 Content Ideas in 30 Minutes or Les – Kim Garts
- The Top 15 Ways to Come up with New Content Ideas – Quick Sprout
Author: Matt Bently is the marketing lead at Snip.ly, a social media conversion tool that adds custom CTA buttons to any webpage you share on social media. Snip.ly is owned by SaaS.Group, a portfolio company.