Over 20 years ago, Bill Gates announced that “CONTENT IS KING”! And so the ultimate age of content has started to rule of the interwebs!
(Also, Bill Gates borrowed this saying from Sumner Redstone, who said it before about broadcasting, but this is not what we discuss here)
This is, however, a saying that has spread through digital marketers like a virus! In 1996, Gates published an essay titled Content is King, in which he claims that content will be the thing that will earn the most revenue from the internet, much like the broadcasting.
And he was right! Cash is king, and it makes the world go round, and content is a new king in the interweb world, where money isn’t direct! Success online is achieved through content in one way or another, producing content can bring fame (think YouTube’rs), while creating a platform for content distribution can bring power (think FaceBook).
Unfortunately, too often we forget about producing good content, rather than keyword associated content and forget all about the quality of the stuff we produce.
My biggest problem is that once you have created all of the cornerstone articles that are ranking or the long-tail keywords, once you answered all of the top-level questions about your product or your industry, what is there to write about? This is particularly problematic when you think about niche products, where virality isn’t really possible in the same way it can be in retail or similar commerce industries.
To help all who are stuck between the rock and the hard place when it comes to content ideas. This will help to find more places to gather content ideas, and where some of you get your best inspiration from too!
Note: we are not going to mention classic keyword research in this article. Because creating content ideas from keyword research with Google Adwords, Moz, SEMrush or Ahrefs, deserves its own article!
Jumping straight into it, we obviously need to start with the classics – audience research!
- Customer Journey
Customer journey can always give you clues as to what your audience might be interested in. Andrew Dipper, Head of Content and Search Marketing at Frank Recruitment Group suggests to think back to your customer journey; “Who are your customers, what do they care about, and how can you create content that will help them at each stage of the funnel? Forums like Reddit are great for this kind of research as you can really get under the bonnet and find out what issues your customers are facing.”
- Content reviews
When it comes to content, find out what works, and abuse it! – everyone on the internet
So look at your own content that has worked in the past. Revamp, update and maybe find something that didn’t perform very well and improve it.
Another variation of this is if you ever produced whitepapers, infographics or any other formant content, you can re-work it to something else. Whitepapers into blog posts, infographics to videos and so on.
- Data Investigation
Another great way to think about new content is to see if you can collect or find any data about your industry that has a wider appeal and if you can turn that into an article format.
You can look for data on Global Web Index and other similar sites, that collect industry and consumer data, and see if you can use any of that data to produce content. Similarly, you can look into your own data (of course, nothing that is sensitive!) and see if you can see any trends and make something out of this.
As suggested by Salt and Chilli PR you can also look at any potential seasonal/topical ideas. Perhaps dig some trending pages on Twitter or Google. Also “look at your existing content and see if you can give it a new twist with a seasonal slant or weave a topical debate in the news into your content or give a new perspective with your opinion.”
Another great way to find content ideas is to use automated tools! We all love a good automated tool in our marketing toolbox! I use a couple of content research and keyword suggestion tools to help idea generation.
There are many tools similar to these, but these are just the ones I use, and they do have free versions available, so you can try all of them.
Great tool for content research. They have recently expanded their offering when you take out a pro license, but their core tools are great for looking into trends within certain topics.
If you are looking for certain trends or ideas that are floating in your particular niche, like marketing, and you are looking to deep-dive into the subject, Buzzsumo is a great tool to start. It gives you tables for what is popular within your keyword, article length, type of article and certain words that are often found in those articles. So a great way to start idea clouds!
This tool is great to run for inspiration and to find your ground on the subject matter as if you get to more complex and regional topics the research can get quite thin and not very useful. Another downside is that Buzzsumo can get quite pricey as the basic price plan is $99 a month, they do have a free-ish version, and a free 7-day trial.
If you haven’t seen one of the keyword circles from AnswerThePublic yet, you must have been living under a rock!
To summarise, AnswerThePublic gives you the auto-suggest results provided by Google & Bing. It is an absolute GOLDMINE of insight into any industry, topic or market! It is perfect to look for questions, motivations, and emotions behind your keywords.
The best part about this tool? It’s freaking FREE! (Only English, UK based results are free, if you need multiple languages, in various countries, there is a Pro version available).
The third great way of finding topics that you can attract a large audience is to turn to academia. And I don’t literally mean go get a degree in whatever you want to write about. But there are a couple of ways you can utilise what is talked about in the industry by looking at their books, journals, and other periodicals!
If you can find a couple of books on the topics you want to write about, for example, if you look for books on marketing, you will find a number of different titles to begin with. !IMPORTANT! Do not copy the titles or the content of these books. Not only that doing so, you are claiming someone else’s work, but you will also going to do yourself a disservice as that might have a negative impact on your rankings (duplicate content and so on). Use it as your guide to what is trending or perhaps a point of discussion in the industry you are going to write about.
Further, on Google Books, and Amazon, you can find the tables of contents of these books, where you will find the overarching titles of wide and important topics of this industry, which you can also use to guide your research and inspire your content by.
- Periodicals/Academic Journals
If you are working in a more complex industry that deals with fast-changing business rules and unpredictable environment, you are better off turning to the academic journals and newer material for topics of debate.
Not only that these are good to read if you are looking to build your knowledge on the subject matter, but that you will be able to find some great ideas to write about. While these topics are quite a niche, so the search volume itself isn’t great, but those who are reading into the topic are interested in it, and you are more likely to get a good CTR, and you can take it from there to turn it into conversions.
There is no way you can say that you looked for content ideas if you haven’t looked on social!
And let’s ignore some of the classic social platforms, and look at some that might not be your first choice
YouTube is now a second biggest search platform, so when looking for content ideas, utilise YouTube the same way you would utilise Google search. Look for influencers, the topics they cover and some trends.
- Quora/Yahoo questions
This must be a public secret now, that in order to look for content ideas, that people are looking for and nobody has written about yet, you have to turn to Quora and Yahoo questions.
These platforms provide answers to those who couldn’t find it anywhere else, which means that you get a great opportunity to write about them, and rank very well on the topic!
Somewhat similar to Quora and Yahoo questions, Reddit provides a platform and a community for those who didn’t find it anywhere else, which means most of the topics that are covered under your keywords haven’t been covered yet.
Additionally, Reddit can add an angle to a strong and knowledgeable community. The perfect example is SEO community on Reddit. It can take months for bigger companies to try out what small SEO are trying on a small level.
Team Idea Generation
Two heads are better than one, right? Wrong!!!
From my experience working in an agency, idea generation can be difficult in teams as well, and unfortunately, many of my followers agreed! So if you are stuck for new ideas in your meeting, and just need some extra inspiration to make them more efficient, here are some thoughts:
- Creative Spaces
“Brainstorming ideas in an office, typically open-plan, can be counterproductive to creativity. For example, other tasks can come up, colleagues may ask questions, or music can sometimes be distracting,” says Tom Chapman from CandidSky. “As a result, at CandidSky, we have a variety of breakout spaces where employees can go for a change of pace. Consisting of sofas, beanbags, and other places where individuals can work, they are quiet areas which are also frequently used for meditation. The aim is to have a change of scene with a focus on simplicity. If there are few distractions for someone to focus on, their creativity is aimed solely at the objective. This frequently helps when failing to think of ideas. Sometimes all you need is a new location.”
- Create vs Consume
If you are faced with a writer’s block, or just can’t think of anything else. It can be valuable to temporarily reset your create vs consume ratio, look around for inspiration and come back refreshed. Another great suggestion about changing your environment from Tom at CandidSky is to emerge yourself into some other activity “It is for this reason that we also have Lego kits in the office. Having a few minutes just to build something fun breaks counter-productive thought patterns, resets the brain, and encourages rethinking a problem.”
- Divide and Conquer! (653 Method)
Andrew Dipper, Head of Content and Search Marketing at Frank Recruitment Group , uses a technique that I found very impressing!
“In my experience, collaboration always gets the creative juices flowing. One technique that I find works particularly well for my team is the 635 Method. Each person has five minutes to write down three ideas around a topic—this lasts for six rounds (30 minutes in total) until you have a list of 108 content ideas. You’re not going to have 108 brilliant ideas of course, but even if you only use a quarter of these, it’s a solid foundation for your content plan.”
Big thanks to everyone who responded to my request on twitter! And while I couldn’t include everyone in all of the outreach, I wanted to give thanks to everyone here too:
@Laurajohnson from Answer the Public