7 Tips to Make Content Ideation Easy!
Coming up with great ideas to write about is hard… I should know, I am writing about how hard it is right now! While spinning my wheels trying to come up with a compelling blog topic I came to a simple, yet profound conclusion: there has to be better ways to generate great ideas! My former method was basically sitting at my desk staring at a blank screen hoping for divine inspiration to strike me like lightning. NEWS FLASH, this rarely happens…
And so my investigation began—where do great content ideas come from? I was part way through my investigation and then it struck me (not the lightning, the realization). It all begins with strong research!
Read respected blogs, articles, list-icles, infographics, newspapers (okay not newspapers), and any other credible information source that you can find. This is a great way to spark ideas and to find out what is already being talked about within your discipline. You may not find the exact topic you are looking for, but reading through articles can trigger an idea, or an off-shoot of a point that stuck out in your mind. Expand on things that deserve a deeper look, or take a different approach to the same idea. This is definitely one of my preferred methods of content ideation.
Go Against The Grain
Answer questions that no one in your industry is willing to answer. Your audience will appreciate your candour and honesty, and they will reward you with engagement and shares. These topics can be difficult to find, and/or are risky to tackle. Such topics may even be considered controversial, but if you are willing (and able) to start a debate you know you are on the track to good thought provoking content.
This is what it’s all about! Most people write content that is passive, or complacent—this doesn’t push the conversion or the collective awareness of anything. If you have the chance to change that through a well written (respectful) article that generates debate on a topic that is ‘hot’, go for it!
- Find something that you don’t agree with that is actually generally agreed upon. Be very well versed on the topic and then write your perspective making sure to illustrate how your view is different right from the start.
- Play the devil’s advocate. Try to poke holes in the arguments or positions of others.
- Rant! Rant away about what bothers you and invite others to give feedback/do the same.
Predict the Future
As an expert in your industry, it is only natural to have thoughts and opinions on where things are “going”. Look at new technology that is coming into the field and extrapolate, follow trend lines, and look further out on a longer timeline. Everyone has gut feelings about what is going to happen next and what the impact is going to be. So write it down and see if people agree, or disagree!
This will demonstrate your knowledge while still being speculative. These pieces are fun to write, but always back it up with facts and stats from the past to add credibility. Look at the innovation over the last several years and point to examples that support your ideas.
Keep a List
As simple as it sounds, the list is still is a powerful tool. Anytime you have an idea or a question that you think is interesting, jot it down somewhere. I use evernote to record random thoughts as they come to me. Many will not amount to anything, but there are always a few gems.
As a side point, it is interesting to look at that list over time and examine the collection of your thoughts. This provides insight into what has been on your mind over a certain time period, particular trends or topics that are coming up over again, and how several of them tie together. Looking at these disparate ideas all on one page has sparked a great article idea for me more then once!
Now that I have covered a few fluffier ways to generate content ideas, I want to provide you with a few technical tips and tools to help with your endeavour. Being strategic with content topics can do a lot more for SEO rankings then just writing content for the sake of writing. Below are a few ways to think more strategically about ideation.
Google Keyword Planner
The Google Keyword Planner has SO many uses! When you have an idea for a content piece, but you’re not sure where to take it, plug the core phrases into this tool. It will give you an idea of what people are actually searching for in relation to your key phrases. This not only optimizes your content/headlines, it can unveil more options on where to take your article.
Pay attention to the long-tail keywords that the planner serves up. If you can link your content to a reader’s intent, it’s going to resonate much more with them. This requires that you know your audience, its size, and the reach that your piece of content will have.
Similar to writing about the future, using a tool like Google Trends will give you insight into what topics are picking up steam. If a story is already making headlines, or is already being blogged about, then it may be a more mature and engaging topic to write about. If a particular meme, celebrity, or news event has already captured the world’s attention, then it might be an easy way to capitalize on a rising star.
One caveat to this approach is your content piece might be drowned out by all of the other news outlets and bloggers jumping on the bandwagon. If you can catch a trend as it is just starting to grow, that is the best time to write about it.
Google Webmaster Tools
Google Webmaster Tools provide insight into what keywords are driving most of the traffic to your website. This is another great way to map out content! There are two ways to use this data:
- See where you have weaknesses and then use the content to fill in gaps.
- Or, continue to strengthen an area where you already have results to help ensure that your website is protected (rankings wise).
The real takeaway here is that your content should ultimately serve your business objectives. Webmaster is a great way to properly align your content.
These are just a couple of tips and tricks that I have found to be very helpful. They aren’t hard to employ, they don’t require new accounts on different websites and, perhaps best of all, they are all free resources! Give them a go and let me know if you have any other great tips or tools that you use!