Success in content marketing depends on creating lots of content—and not just any content. You need good content, that people want to read/watch/listen to, and you need to keep things fresh enough that they keep coming back for more. That’s a lot of pressure to come up with new ideas and new applications, and unless you’re some meta-human idea-generating machine, eventually, you’ll run into writer’s block, unable to come up with something new, cool, and exciting.
That’s why I’ve compiled this massive list of 101 content marketing ideas you can use to keep your website and/or blog running.
Without further ado, here are 101 content ideas for your website or blog:
Ah, listicles, the marriage of ‘articles’ and ‘lists.’ Where was content marketing before the age of listicles? The premise here is simple; take a concept and turn it into a numbered list. Being able to call out a number in your headline makes the piece instantly more attention-grabbing; it implies a degree of conciseness and skimmability that’s appealing to modern web users, plus serves as a tease that piques user interest. There’s no limit to what you can apply the listicle format to; you can create “top 10” lists for items or concepts in your industry, or go the Buzzfeed route and find any excuse to throw a number in your headline.
(Image Source: Buzzfeed)
Checklists are pretty straightforward too, though they tend to have a more practical side than listicles. Here, you’ll create a rundown of requirements for a given task or event, which users can adopt for their own personal purposes. For example, if you’re a travel company or a hotel, you might include a checklist of commonly forgotten items while traveling. If you’re an SEO agency, you might include a checklist of all the tasks you need to complete for on-site optimization. If you can make the checklist interactive by including actual check-able boxes, this is even better. It’s smart to make them printer-friendly, too. Interactivity makes any content better.
How-to posts instruct users how to complete something, and that something can be almost anything. For example, you can walk users through the steps of changing a flat tire, how to cook a frittata, or how to tell when a sales strategy isn’t working. Here, make sure your title explains what you’re instructing clearly, and try to choose a topic that’s as specific as possible; most general how-to’s (like the three examples I gave) have been done to death. For bonus points here, make sure you include images and videos of the process. If you can’t get real photography, rely on sketches.
“Tips and tricks” articles are all about providing helpful tidbits about a given subject, process, or task to readers in an effort to make their lives easier. The line here can be blurry with other forms of content; for example, you could have a listicle of tips and tricks, or a how-to post with a section of tips and tricks at the end. The point is to give your users bite-sized pieces of useful information. This whole concept, when applied to general life, has evolved to become known as “life hacks,” so feel free to use the “hack” terminology to catch some extra attention in your title.
You may also want to publish a post of best practices, which outline some bigger-picture concepts and procedures to follow for a given subject. For example, best practices for running may include keeping proper form, staying hydrated, and eating properly before and after a run. The usual problem with this type of content is that it’s general, so if you can, try to make your topic more specific to a niche audience, or drill down into one specific section of the topic you’re covering.
Buying guides have a handful of advantages as a content type, and they come in a variety of different forms. The general purpose is to help users make an educated decision when buying a certain product; in the example below from MacRumors, the buying guide compares and contrasts different categories of Apple products to help unfamiliar users decide precisely what they need. Be sure to cover general descriptions of the products you’re covering, but also delve into top considerations; let users know what factors are most important in making a good decision here. This is especially advantageous if you’re listing products you sell on your site.
(Image Source: MacRumors)
Opinion pieces are some of the most open-ended pieces of content you can produce. All you have to do is find a topic that matters to your audience, formulate an opinion on it, and write about that opinion. For example, you might come out in favor of a new technology that’s shaking up your industry, or you might list the drawbacks and consequences of a popular business strategy that isn’t frequently criticized. There are a few keys to being successful here—your opinion should be strong, well-researched, and at least somewhat debatable.
Prediction pieces are similar to opinion pieces, but with a specific focus; here, you’ll attempt to make a prediction (or multiple predictions) about your industry, or a topic that’s important to your users. For example, if you’re in the automotive industry, you might predict that a certain model of car will be discontinued by a certain date, or if you’re in the culinary industry, you might predict the rise of a certain trend revolving around a specific ingredient. These tend to capture user interest because they appeal to the imagination and are future-focused.
Once your prediction piece is written, you can actually capitalize on it for another powerful piece of content; the prediction follow-up. As the name suggests, this is a way to reflect on the predictions you initially made and determine whether they proved true or false—as well as why. Moz has been known to do this annually, making predictions about the coming year in SEO and evaluating the past year’s predictions, complete with a numerical ranking system. You don’t have to go that in-depth, but revisiting your predictions shows your commitment and could rejuvenate interest in your previous work.
(Image Source: Moz)
“Why” pieces are exactly what they sound like; they’re your chance to explain the mechanics behind something specific in your industry. You have a wide diversity of potential angles to explore here; for example, you could explain “why” from a functional perspective, taking a look at what makes a product work or why a strategy is effective, or from an historical perspective, evaluating how this product evolved or how this strategy came to be what it is today. The “why” question is an especially interesting one—and a satisfying one if you’re in-depth enough with it.
Tutorials may seem like just another term for “how-to” posts, but while the two share a common goal—instructing a user how to do something—tutorials tend to take a more in-depth, step-by-step, “showing” approach. In a written tutorial, you’ll have some difficulty establishing this level of immersion. Depending on the subject matter you’re covering, you’ll need to go into special detail to make sure your message is understood; for example, merely describing what the inside of a clock looks like won’t be nearly as effective as demonstrating a visual. Be sure to include photos and illustrations, or change forms to a video tutorial instead.
Video tutorials are a bit more difficult to produce, just because they require some camera work and editing, but they’re generally more powerful forms of instruction, since users can see exactly what you’re doing. Throughout the video, make sure you keep the camera focused on the action, but don’t just go through the steps—take your time narrating everything you’re doing, and clearly so that users can understand. In fact, it might be a good idea to include both a video and written version of your tutorial to help audiences with preferences for either one. Punished Props has built a successful Youtube brand around video tutorials on how to make realistic-looking costumes, weapons, and armor.
“What not to do” posts can be fun to write. They function as a practical opposite to “best practice posts,” outlining some of the worst choices or strategies you can follow in a given subject. For example, in the realm of link building, you might focus on black hat tactics like sneaking links into forum comments or participating in link exchanges and other schemes. Depending on the severity of the consequences in your particular field, you could turn this into a cautionary tale, or make it humorous. Either one can be made more powerful with the inclusion of specific examples.
Mistake analysis posts are similar to “what not to do,” except rather than outlining general “worst practices,” they delve into one specific error in an attempt to figure out what went wrong. For example, if you’re a marketing agency, you might have a client whose ROI plummeted before they met you; your mistake analysis post could explain how you went about figuring out the root cause, as well as the steps you took to correct it. In this way, mistake analysis posts can serve as both “what not to do” pieces and helpful tutorials.
There are myths, misconceptions, and false assumptions surrounding practically every industry. Being in the SEO industry, I’ve been exposed to quite a few of these myself, such as people still believing that link building is a dangerous strategy or following keyword-stuffing strategies that haven’t been relevant since 2011. Talk to your customers and see what your competitors are posting about—odds are, sooner or later, you’ll come across some persistent myths about how your industry works. Gather them up and work on dispelling them in a single post; just make sure you back up your claims with specific examples or hard evidence.
Quizzes are a fun, interactive way to engage your users, and they offer more user participation than most of the other entries on this list. If you need more users participating on your site, this is a good bet to see higher rates. When you think of content quizzes, your mind might turn to popular “which [fictional franchise] character are you?” quizzes on Facebook; and while you can use these, you can also go a more customer-focused route, such as exploring a topic like, “are you saving enough for retirement?” or “is it time to update the design of your website?” Make the quiz short and easy to take, and if you can, leave users with some call to action.
Calculators are like simplified, numerically-based versions of quizzes. Here, you’ll ask users for a selection of information regarding a subject, and you’ll produce an answer that gives them meaningful data to move forward with. In the example below, users can enter their projected home costs and interest rates to calculate how much they’ll pay per month in a mortgage, but you can design a calculator for almost anything. You can even embed a calculator in one of your other blog posts to make it more functional or more immediately practical for your readers; there are many WordPress plugins that allow you to do this.
(Image Source: Bankrate)
Through the process of gamification, you can turn almost anything into a game, or create a game for your users. You can make this purely fun, such as making a game out of a task associated with your business; if you’re a retail store, you could post about a scavenger hunt your shoppers can play in your store. You could also make it more instructional, such as presenting a complex strategy in a game format to help users understand it on a more instinctual, conceptual level. As usual, this can be as casual or as in-depth as you’re willing to make it.
This is a beneficial approach because it allows you to generate multiple posts on a conceptual level simultaneously; it’s also powerful for your audience because it gives them something consistent and relatively predictable to look forward to. As you consistently execute your work, your readers will become more and more invested, leaving you with higher rates of engagement and, eventually, returns. Take the series approach to some of your other post ideas; for example, you could find a mistake to analyze every week as part of your “this week’s biggest blunder” series or explore a different use for your core product every week with your “how to use ____” series.
Though your tutorials and “why” posts might briefly explore the inner workings of your core products (or other items related to your industry), it’s more powerful to see it outlined visually. Include detailed schematics outlining what your product of choice is made out of, and offer written explanations for why it is the way it is. It’s a good way to circulate more information about how your products actually work, and will certainly appeal to any engineers in your crowd.
Flow charts are interactive visual creations that help guide users through some kind of process, usually related to a decision. Each node on the chart provides a user with a branched set of options, followed by more nodes which lead the user further down the chart. You can use a chart like this to help guide them through a buying decision, such as deciding which model to go with, or have more fun with it. For example, you can use a flow chart to lead a user into a punchline or poke fun at the complexities of your industry.
(Image Source: Mental Floss)
With templates, your job is to provide a basic outline or representative set of content that users can then leverage for their own purposes. For example, if you’re helping your clients develop a social media strategy, you might provide them with a sample outline of a strategy that they can modify for their own needs. Depending on the nature of your template and what your customers actually need, you can provide these in a few different ways. Most notably, you can offer them as downloadable PDFs, which users can then print, savable documents and spreadsheets, which are editable on local devices, or embed the template directly into your post.
Worksheets are similar to templates, but they serve a more specific purpose, and allow the user to work through some kind of problem. For example, a template for a social media strategy might give the user starting points for outlining their goals and objectives, but a worksheet would allow a user to work through the brainstorming and planning process that leads them to those conclusions. Worksheets often feature questions that force a user to think through a specific problem, such as “how many customers do you currently have?” and may also include quiz or calculator elements. Again, you can make this printable with a PDF or editable with a digital file.
Infographics exploded in popularity when they first started gaining momentum as a content medium a few years ago, and it’s no mystery why. Infographics visually represent data, which makes them aesthetically appealing, informative, interesting, and best of all—easy to share (as long as they’re executed correctly). They were once powerhouses for generating links and shares, but because they became so popular so fast, users began to grow tired of seeing the same infographic tropes over and over again. If you’re going to do an infographic, make sure it’s a topic really worth exploring, and present it in an original, interesting way. Check out this infographic-based infographic for a quick rundown on how you can do it:
(Image Source: Dash Burst)
Comics are extremely easy or extremely hard to make, depending on who you ask and what kind of mood they’re in. If you want to get involved, paneled, illustrated storytelling can be a deep and immersive way to present a complex idea or present a sophisticated idea of humor. But if you’re looking for something to create quickly, you can also make something simple using rudimentary stick-figure skills. The goal is to present something in both a written and visual format, and preferably in a way that users can either engage with directly or share. Humor’s a big win for comics—but they don’t have to be humorous to be effective. WaitButWhy.com’s Tim Urban is a master of using comics within his content. You can see one of my favorites in this post.
Memes are even easier to generate. Now, the actual definition of a meme is an idea that evolves and distributes itself, much like a gene in the evolutionary sense. But since its coinage by Internet dwellers, it has since evolved (ironically) to refer to any image macros, colloquial phrases, or in-jokes that circulate virally, usually due to some kind of humorous element. Oftentimes, this includes placing text over a person’s image, but it doesn’t have to; you can hijack an existing meme or create one of your own to add a bit of flair to your post. If you need help, you can seek out a meme generator online.
(Image source: Memegenerator.net)
It’s hard to take sketches or illustrations and make them standalone pieces of content in their own right, but they serve as excellent ways to complement a piece that already exists. For example, if you’re working on a written tutorial and you don’t have any photos, you can use illustrations to better communicate your intentions and descriptions. You could also use sketches to present ideas before they’re fully baked, as a way of teasing your audience regarding your final design. Remember, it’s helpful to have a skilled professional designer working on these, but it’s not necessary.
Photography is another visual medium you can use to gain visibility for your content marketing campaign, and there are a few different ways to harness its potential. If you have a professional photographer, or a standout image that says something significant about your brand or your audience, you can use it as a standalone piece –perhaps with a thoughtful caption. If they’re of a lesser quality, or if they don’t have that much impact, you can use them to supplement an existing piece. Again, these pair excellently with how-to articles and tutorials, but don’t be afraid to show off with just photos and some accompanying captions.
If you don’t feel like doing any writing, or producing any new images on your own, you can offer a kind of compilation of images you’ve collected previously. The best part is, they can come from any of the image-based categories I briefly recapped over the past few entries. For example, you can create a post about your “10 favorite infographics” from the industry, or highlight some of the “best photography” from a recent tradeshow or industry-related event.
In the same way you aggregate images, you can also aggregate videos—even some of your own. For example, you can create a kind of YouTube playlist of some of the most influential videos in your industry, or you can embed your most popular videos in one collective post. It’s still a good idea to annotate them in some way, for SEO purposes as well as giving users a preview of what they’re about to see.
Simple monologue videos can be effective, especially if you’re explaining a complex topic or having a conversation with your audience (more on that in subsequent entries). However, you can take it to the next level of aesthetic appeal and interactivity by including some illustrated elements. For example, you can use a whiteboard to make doodles that represent what you’re talking about, or you can make sketches in advance and use them at key points during your talk. For a good example of how this can be done in a fun, engaging, and branded way, check out Minute Physics’s video series about physics-related concepts. This doesn’t have to be exceptionally complex or involved to be effective.
Video graphics are essentially the animated versions of infographics. Rather than hosting a stagnant collection of visual data bits, you’ll have the freedom to animate them; for example, you can have your bar charts grow into life, or gradually reveal a list of top entries, one by one. This format is far more original and engaging, and there will be less competition clamoring for attention here. However, the flip side is that it takes more time and expertise to develop. Unless you have a basic concept and mode of execution, you’ll need a video specialist or at least a graphic designer to help you execute this work.
Much like your written post series, you can have a regular video series as well, and the sky’s the limit when it comes to topic potential. Releasing a new video on a regular interval will help you earn more YouTube subscribers, and generate more ongoing attention for your brand. You can even create a specific channel (or sub-channel) dedicated exclusively to that series. Have the same personal brand hosting the video every week, and you’ll have an instant recipe for greater reader loyalty. Consider exploring the pros and cons of a given tactic or topic every week, or visually showcasing something about your business.
You could also use the video marketing approach to show off the products and/or services that you want your customers to buy in the first place. You’ll have to be careful here, because there’s a fine line between this type of content marketing and straight-up advertising, and if you cross that line, you’ll fail to build an audience. Remember, your goal in content marketing is to give your users something valuable, so make sure the potential customers can walk away from your demo videos with some new information or a fun experience—even if they don’t end up buying from you. If you have fun products, like toys, this is easy; otherwise, you’ll have to get creative.
If your business hosts regular events, or if you plan on attending events in the future, hosting an updating calendar on your site is a great way to generate more content and keep your users informed. Try to include a brief description of each entry on your calendar, both to inform your users and to optimize for search engines; you can even use a Schema markup to increase the chances of getting featured in a Knowledge Graph entry. If you don’t have a calendar on your site, you can do a month-by-month entry in your blog.
(Image Source: Grog Shop)
You can also use timelines as an interactive, visual way to project the history of your company (or of your industry). This is especially effective if you’ve been around for a while, such as manufacturers that have been around for decades. Show off the major events that helped shape your industry and your business into what it is today. The unfortunate thing about timelines is that you can’t rely on them for an ongoing series; once you cover most of the major events of the past, you’ve already tapped them, and you’ll have to move on. However, you can also have timelines projecting into the future, charting out your company (or industry) goals, vision, and predictions.
Charts and graphs are ideal ways to help your users visualize otherwise hard-to-approach data points; you may have already included some in your infographics and video graphics. Make sure you’re including these in an image format, so your users can share and cite them (and include a watermark to ensure you get credit for your work). It’s best if you use these charts and graphs to represent original data you’ve researched yourself, but you can use them for outside sources of data, or you can use them to illustrate general concepts. This post at WaitButWhy.com is chock-full of charts and graphs, and is an excellent example of how to illustrate the points being made.
If you want to become known as an industry authority, you need to post your thoughts and opinions about the latest news in the industry. Start by subscribing to influential blogs and forums, and networking with other influencers in the industry. When you see a story that piques your interest, news-jack it by presenting the facts of the story (in your own words, of course), followed up with your own reactions and opinions. Doing so will build your reputation, and provide you with easy material for ongoing content work. Even if your industry isn’t one that updates or changes often, it’s unlikely you’ll run out of material anytime soon here.
Industry news stories aren’t the only ones you can news-jack for your own purposes, especially if you’re pursuing a local SEO campaign. But even if you don’t consider yourself a “local” business, there are some real advantages to noting, sharing, and repurposing local news stories; you’ll gain more relevance in your chosen area, and you’ll connect on a deeper level to the population there. You may even learn of new opportunities for promotion, such as finding local events that need new speakers or discussion leaders.
Taking things one level further, you can also capitalize on national and international news stories for your news-jacking efforts. This is especially powerful if you select topics that are at least marginally relevant to your industry or your customers; for example, with the launch of a new technology, you could post about the possibilities it holds for your industry.
You’re probably already aware of the benefits that influencers have when promoting and distributing your content, but don’t underestimate the power they have when collaborating with you on a shared piece. One of the best ways to collaborate is in an interview format; you can ask your chosen influencer a series of questions about your industry and their opinions on it, and the two of you can mutually benefit from the exposure. Chances are, your interviewee will be just as likely to share the published piece (especially if it’s available in different formats). Beyond that, you can even reuse some of your initial questions in future interviews, saving you work on similar content in the future.
Interviews are powerful forms of content, but they don’t have to be exclusive to industry influencers. You can also look inside your organization to find people to interview, such as your CEO, or heads of various departments in your business. Ask them about their positions, including what they do for the organization, as well as their thoughts on the industry and where they see the business going from here. Your focus should be on providing valuable insights for your audience, but this is also a good chance to show off the personalities and talent that make up your business.
You can use your blog as a platform for debate in a number of different ways. For starters, you can use it as a way to list the pros and cons of each side of an argument, much in the same way that ProCon.org does for major and controversial political issues (see my example below). If you’re feeling a little bolder, or if you already have a strong stance on a given issue, you can post your side of the debate and invite commenters and audience members to debate you on the issue. In yet another application, you can pit two industry influencers against each other by giving them the opportunity to hash it out on your blog.
(Image Source: ProCon.org)
Roundtable discussions are a bit like a debate, and a bit like an interview. In them, you’ll invite a number of different influencers in your industry to openly discuss a series of topics, especially if they have a bearing on your future development. There are a few different ways to host this, but one of the best is to collect them all in the same room and ask them group and individual questions, making sure everyone gets equal time to make points and share their sides. This is especially useful for exploring a topic thoroughly, and usually does a good job of generating discussion afterward.
Don’t forget that you can use your blog (or perhaps a news section) to announce major points of company news; these are excellent opportunities to write up and syndicate press releases, so why shouldn’t you also host that information on your site? It’s a good way to let your audience know what you’ve been up to (as well as where you plan to go from here). Just make sure what you’re posting about is truly relevant, such as moves, rebranding efforts, new products, or major changes to your offerings.
You can also collect a series of common customer or user questions and answer them, one by one. This is especially powerful if you answer questions that were posed by actual users, either in the comments sections of previous posts or from social media followers. Whenever you hear an interesting question, flag it and write it down—that way, you can draw up a collective post with all of them at a later date. As a side note, this is an excellent strategy for optimizing for long-tail keywords.
Pay close attention to what your users are saying in your comments sections, as well as how they’re responding on social media. As you saw in the last content idea, this is an excellent way to mine for user questions that you can subsequently answer, but you can also use other comments as jumping-off points for new posts. For example, let’s say you wrote an article about SEO and a user told a brief story about his/her bad experience with an inexperienced SEO agency; you can reach out to this user to get permission, then use that story as the basis for a new post.
Comments, social media, and user surveys are excellent ways to figure out what your followers and fans want to read next. You can ask them directly what types of content and topics they’d like to see in the future, and they’ll probably tell you. Some will probably come to you with topics without even being prompted. These are golden opportunities for development, handed to you on a silver platter. Don’t pass them up; you know your users want to see it, so give it to them.
The “whiteboard” trend is one that’s caught on with a ton of businesses, who usually sport regular whiteboard sessions to brainstorm something, explore a complex topic, or otherwise illustrate something that isn’t easily articulated with words alone. The whiteboard comes into play as a simple and convenient way to make illustrations, recap points, and hold users’ attentions. One of the most popular examples of this is Moz’s Whiteboard Friday series, hosted by Rand Fishkin as he explores some significant topic in the SEO world. There’s no right or wrong way to host a whiteboard session, so tap your creativity.
You can also create PowerPoint or slide presentations to share with your audience; this is especially cost-efficient if you created these decks for a real-life presentation opportunity and get to reuse them as collateral for your content marketing campaign. Be careful how you present these, though; it’s wise to offer some means of interaction, allowing users to click through your slides on your site, but you’ll also want to offer a downloadable version in PPT or PDF format.
Podcasts are seeing a resurgence in popularity, though they never really fell out of style. Done in an audio format, it’s typical for brands and hosts to produce content on a weekly, or at least a predictably regular basis. However, one-off productions aren’t uncommon either. Your podcast can include discussions, interviews, or even just extended monologues, but you’ll need to get creative if you want to hold listeners’ attention spans for an extended period of time with just your voice. If you want to build an audience of loyal listeners, make sure you’re using a powerful voice, consistent each time, with decent recording equipment.
People are often curious about the origins of the products, services, and even trends. Content that explains the origins of these objects of fascination, then, are powerful opportunities to gain public favor. Take a moment to explain how your founder came up with the idea for the business, or how your top-selling product evolved from just the spark of an idea to the form it exists in today. You can even examine a current trend in your target audience, and trace it back to its main point of origin. You’ll need to do your research here, but it’s worth the extra effort.
Case studies can sometimes border on that line between content marketing and advertising (or maybe sales in this case), so if you want to use them as strong features for your content campaign, make sure they’re focused on practical takeaways for your users. There are a few different kinds of case studies you can develop, the most common being one developed around a customer or client you did work for, examining where they were before you got involved, what you did, and where they are today. But you could also do a case study on a separately existing enterprise, such as a case study on why the Coca-Cola brand continues to be so successful.
Hypothetical studies are similar to case studies, but they don’t need to be grounded in reality. One of the strongest selling points of the case study is that it’s based on real-world events, so if you’re going to go the hypothetical route, you better have a good point to make. The ideal scenario here is to frame your work in the context of a narrative; introduce a fictional brand or fictional person, and go into detail describing the events this character runs into. Take advantage of a branching narrative here; since you aren’t grounded in actual events, you can take the story in multiple directions at once.
If you’ve been in business for longer than a few months and you have some clients under your belt, it shouldn’t be too hard to ask for testimonials. However, turning testimonials into a full-fledged blog post presents a couple of challenges. You could ask for a super long testimonial from a user, essentially having them write a post on your behalf, but that’s intrusive, and they may not write what you want them to write. You could also aggregate multiple testimonials into one post, but that can come across as annoyingly self-promotional. Use your best judgment here, and as always, focus on what your audience would like to see, not what will make you look good.
Of course, if you’re looking for someone else to do some of the work for you, you could always open your website to guest posts. There are millions of active bloggers out there, and many of them are interested in guest posting opportunities. Chances are, all it will take is a post on social media or your website asking for submissions from new guest authors, and you’ll start to receive queries and submissions. It will still take some work to get what you’re actually looking for; you can do this by asking for very specific types of content from specific types of people, or by sorting through the posts yourself, and revising them to fit your brand.
People love a good quote. A powerful quote can inspire you or motivate you in your daily work, show you an alternative perspective, or simply teach you something in a concise, immediate way. If you’re looking for a way to resonate with your audience and demonstrate your authority in the industry, work on collecting quotes from various influencers in your niche and assemble them into a single post on a topic. Be sure to credit your influencers and thank them for their participation, too.
(Image Source: Entrepreneur)
If you don’t feel like going the influencer route, it may be easier and more generally relevant to seek notable quotes from authors, celebrities, politicians, and other notable personalities that happen to fit a certain topic within your industry. For example, if you’re writing about what it takes to run your own business, you might draw from entrepreneurs, or if you’re writing about how to better communicate with clients, you can draw quotes from people talking about the power of conversation. BrainyQuote is a great resource here.
Book reviews are always a good excuse to read a book; I always encourage other entrepreneurs and professionals to read as much as possible. No matter what you read, the activity will improve your vocabulary and expand your perspective, so you have a lot to gain by reading regularly. After you finish a good book your audience might like, post a short review about it. This doesn’t have to be a critical essay; just post a short summary of the book and what you thought of it. You’ll improve your brand reputation by showing you’re well-read, you’ll do your audience a favor, and you might even win some favor from the authors you choose to read.
As another type of review, you can review products you use in your daily life—so long as it’s relevant for your brand. Some bloggers have established their entire reputation by writing up reviews on products in a specific category, such as tech devices or types of food. You don’t have to change your niche to take advantage of this; just keep your reviews to products that you use in the industry, or ones that may be especially important to your audience. However, make sure you disclose any compensation you may have gotten to write the review.
Comparison reviews are a kind of hybrid between product reviews and buyer’s guides (which I covered earlier in this list). Here, your job will still be to review products, but this time you’ll be reviewing multiple products in the same category as they relate to one another. For example, you might list all the benefits of one product because they compensate for the disadvantages of another. It’s best to pursue this in a side-by-side format that allows readers to make judgments and comparisons at a glance, such as in a grid that highlights the main features of each, relating to subcategories.
Extended metaphors are awesome opportunities for businesses that are hard to understand, or businesses that are less “fun” than others. For example, the manufacturing industry tends to be, for lack of a better word, boring, and certain tech subjects tend to be confusing and jargon-y for users. Metaphors allow you to bypass the conventional ways of talking about these things and present them in a new context—one that’s more playful and easier to understand. For example, instead of talking about two systems connecting via an integration point, you can liken them to two people having a conversation. Get creative here, but try not to mix too many metaphors together.
Storytelling has become a buzzword in the content marketing community, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less effective as a device to appeal to customers. Stories are natural and powerful constructs for human beings; we pay more attention and retain more information when facts or ideas are presented to us in a story format, which is why books, movies, and TV shows make up the majority of our pop culture. Almost anything can be told in the form of a story with a beginning, middle, and end, and a central character (even if that character is an inanimate object). You can tell stories on their own, or weave them into a metaphor, or even use them as one-off examples to prove a point in a different context.
Surveys are great ways to collect meaningful information on an audience, or about an industry. Use a platform like Typeform to come up with some quantitative and qualitative questions and submit them to your influencers, customers, or vendors (depending on your intentions). After getting your desired level of participation, you can collect and aggregate the results to form meaningful conclusions—such as about the future of the industry, the zeitgeist of your target demographics, or even popular opinions on a given subject. Present both the raw data and your personal conclusions for your audience.
One of the most powerful forms of content you can make is the presentation of original research; you can guarantee nobody else has done it before, and you’ll present valuable information that your audience wants to see. This combination makes it a perfect way to attract shares and likes, ultimately boosting your domain authority and brand reputation. Depending on how intensive your efforts were, I recommend using charts, graphs, and maybe even infographics to depict your results, but you’ll also want to treat it like a scientific experiment; present your method, explain your results, and discuss the potential for the future.
(Image Source: Moz)
People like other people more than they like other brands, so don’t be afraid to get personal with your audience; they’ll appreciate your sincerity, and will be more likely to trust your brand as a result. Tell a personal anecdote as a lead-in to a point, or simply tell it because you think your audience will like it. For example, you might recall seeing something interesting on the highway on your drive into work, and explain how it gave you a revelation about your business. Funny stories work well here, as well as anything that’s surprising or entertaining.
Original research is ideal, but it takes lots of time and resources to execute, and people still love statistics. So instead of conducting your own research every time, consider creating a kind of “statistics round-up,” where you collect important bits of information and takeaways from other research studies and present them in a more convenient, bite-sized way. It’s a perfect opportunity to get social shares, and you can even use it for your own purposes depending on the nature of the stats. Pew Research Center is a fantastic resource here—just be sure to cite whoever’s statistics you borrowed properly.
No matter what industry you’re in, there are some tools your audience should be using to help them make better purchasing decisions, or just live their lives easier. You can collect a list of different tools for this purpose, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of each and personally recommending some of your favorites. For example, you might recommend some online calculators, management and efficiency tools, or other types of software.
Strikingly similar to the tool lists you’ve generated, you can create resource lists to help connect your readers to the assets, guides, and establishments that can help them in their endeavors. For example, if you cater to entrepreneurs, you might connect them to networking events, resource centers, or startup incubators. Don’t be afraid to look for offline resources as well as online ones.
No matter how good your content marketing strategy is, there are probably dozens of authors and influencers doing a better job than you are. This is a reality of the content marketing industry, but it isn’t anything to be intimidated by. Instead, you can capitalize on their abilities to boost your own on-site posts. Similar to how you collected tools and resources for your audience, you can collect a pool of influencers and authors they should be following; not only will your audience appreciate this, you’ll also earn the favor of the influencers you include in your list.
If your business develops new products or refines its services regularly, you can use it as an opportunity to give your readers a sneak peek of your new material. This is effective because it shows your readers that you’re working on new things and simultaneously rewards them for following you close enough to notice. The key to effectiveness here is to actually tease your audience—give them just enough information to pique their interest, but not so much that it spoils any surprises. For example, you could announce that you’re coming out with a new update to your software that introduces an intuitive new interface, but don’t reveal exactly what that interface will look like. When you fully release the feature, you can do a more in-depth review of it.
I already mentioned the possibility of creating timelines for your industry and company, but you can also delve deeper into the development of your industry as an in-depth feature. Rather than focusing on the surface-level highlights, you’ll take a dive into the motivating factors and influencers that helped shape your industry into the state it’s in today. For example, you could talk about rises and falls at significant points in time, and possibly even project how the industry is going to grow from here, taking some influence from “prediction” posts I mentioned way back at the beginning.
(Image Source: Internet Society)
You don’t actually have to reveal any secrets to reveal industry “secrets” to your audience. The goal here is to find facts about your industry that your audience doesn’t know—or misunderstands. For example, you could reveal that the majority of products are actually assembled from components manufactured off-site, or you could explain that most content marketers are flying by the seats of their pants, building a strategy as they go rather than knowing exactly what they’re doing from the beginning. You can use this to produce an attention grabbing headline like “X secrets the industry doesn’t want you to know”—just try not to verge too far into clickbait territory.
This option is best reserved for startups, and businesses that are undergoing heavy development. The idea here is to make periodic updates about the status of your development for your readers to follow. For example, if you’re developing a piece of software, you can announce when you’ve completed development on each of your key features, explain when you’ve started testing and how those tests go, and keep updating your audience about a potential release. This is especially powerful for businesses currently running a crowdfunding campaign, or other businesses that rely on readers and followers for ongoing support.
I’ll say it again; people love to see other people, far more than they want to see corporate brands. Consider putting the spotlight on some of the individual team members who make up your company, especially if you’re a small business. You can stage it as an interview format, but take it in a more personal direction than you would with an industry influencer or a leader within your organization. Let your team members explain who they are, what their area of expertise is, and why they’ve chosen to work for your brand. It will showcase your brand’s personality and attract better, more personable clients.
Following these lines, you could also showcase what a day in your office is like, or factory, or any other physical location that’s important to your business. For example, you could use photo and video to show off your production equipment and how your products are made, or you could give your patrons an inside look at what your kitchen looks like, where you prepare their food. Just make sure you have everything clean and in order before you start giving potential clients an impression on what your place actually looks like. Elon Musk’s tour of SpaceX is a great example of how to do this.
You have tons of options when it comes to eBooks. Essentially, they’re just longer versions of blog posts you might be making anyway; for example, if a traditional post would cover tips and tricks for developing a sales strategy, the eBook version would be a comprehensive guide on building a strategy from start to finish. There’s no rule when it comes to length or format, but generally, you should aim for 10,000 words or more, in a PDF format with plenty of graphics to make it easy to read and follow. Once created, you have many options with eBooks; you can use them as an exchange for users’ personal information with a dedicated landing page, offer them as free resources for your site visitors, or even sell them outright to make a bit of revenue on the side.
Audio books are a straightforward concept, and in most cases are just a way to transform the medium of an existing book; for example, once you’ve created your eBook and started distributing it, you can record a member of your team reading the book aloud and use that audio file as an additional piece of content to offer your readers. Like with podcasts, make sure you’re using high-quality recording equipment and speaking strongly and clearly.
Whitepapers have a broad definition, so don’t feel pressured into using them in any one specific way. They’re generally longer than blog posts, but shorter and less involved than eBooks, and they tend to cover one specific topic in significant detail. Oftentimes, marketers use whitepapers to publish the results of their original research or experiments, as a traditional blog post doesn’t always offer enough room for suitable exploration. It’s generally a best practice to offer whitepapers as downloadable PDFs, though you can host them for online perusal as well for the SEO benefits.
Polls can be used as small-time surveys; you’ll pose a question (or series of questions) to your readers as a main post, and allow them to vote on their preference. You can do something serious with this, such as allowing your readers to choose your next eBook topic, or have more fun with it, such as asking them how they feel about a recent news story and providing ridiculous possible answers. After voting, you can show your users the results of the poll and encourage a discussion about the results.
Contests are an excellent way to drive visibility of and engagement with your brand; offering some kind of reward for participation naturally incentivizes people to take action, and because contests often involve a social element, it’s natural for your participants to quickly spread the word about your campaign. Even if your contests are primarily occurring on social media, it’s a good idea to write up a content post about your contest, going over the full rules and what users can expect, as well as clearing up any potential points of misunderstanding and explaining your motivation for hosting the contest in the first place.
Webinars are an entire content medium, so you can use them however you want, but most webinars are used as teaching tools. Generally, a webinar host will lead a discussion on a given topic, giving a slide presentation and speaking audibly, or opting for full-on video. Generally, the format involves a “teaching” segment, like a monologue, with audience members sitting quietly, followed by a “Q and A” segment, where the host makes him/herself available to answer questions from participants. If you end up doing a webinar, make sure you announce it a few weeks in advance, with regular reminders to sign up, and do a dry run before going live with your presentation. You’ll also want to make the webinar available to view or download after you’re done with the live version.
Speaking of live versions, streaming video has rocketed in popularity in recent months, thanks in part to platforms like Facebook attempting to push Facebook Live to users. Attend a local event, or an industry event, and live stream a speaker or significant event there; live video is popular because it allows users to feel like they’re experiencing something by proxy, and your broadcast of the event will give your audience eyes and ears at the event.
If you want to take advantage of the live streaming video trend but you don’t have an upcoming event, you can also simply live stream a monologue or your thoughts about a recent development. Even better, you can turn it into an interactive event by getting your followers and participants to ask you questions during your session. Periscope offers a good way to this. Pay attention to what people are asking, and try to keep the conversational flow moving. This is difficult to practice, but over time, you’ll get better at it.
Thought experiments are like hypothetical scenarios, which I mentioned earlier, but they’re distinct because of their prerequisites. With hypothetical scenarios, you’ll use a fictional story or sequence of events to illustrate a concept, such as imagining a narrative that demonstrates how one of your strategies might play out. With thought experiments, you’ll be testing the validity of a certain idea; this is best reserved for service-based industries or ones with more conceptual forms of work, but it can be a powerful way to prove or disprove the feasibility of an idea.
Similar to how you used live streaming video to engage with your users, you could also host a user chat for a given period of time. If your website has a forum that allows user participation, sign yourself up as a user and lead a discussion during this time period. Invite any and all questions and comments as they come in, and try to facilitate discussions between users as much as you engage with users directly. This will help foster a community around your brand, and will only have positive effects for your overall brand loyalty.
Before and after posts are ideal if you’re working with clients looking for some kind of transformation; for example, if you’re in the branding and web design industry, you can post (with permission) images and screenshots from a client’s current setup, then follow up with your finished work some time later. This is obviously most effective when done side-by-side, but there’s also an advantage in posting the “before” status in real time, making users anticipate what comes next. It also serves as a veiled case study, showing off your expertise and capabilities.
(Image Source: KissMetrics)
Most industries operate on basic “theories” that dictate how things operate on a conceptual level. For example, in photography the “rule of thirds” is a popular way to frame photos to be more aesthetically pleasing. You can write up a post exploring one or more of these theories, analyzing why they exist, how they can be improved, and if they’ll ever be replaced. If there are multiple competing theories on a single topic or principle, this is a good opportunity to compare and contrast them.
Inspiration posts are simply meant to inspire or motivate your audience. While effective, these posts aren’t practical for all industries and businesses. For example, if you sell culinary ingredients, you can post recipes and concoctions that inspire chefs, or if you sell art supplies, you can post artistic ideas, or if you own a gym, you can post workout routines and success stories. This is open-ended, and not for everyone, but it is a possibility worth considering.
“Ask me anything” (AMA) is a mode of online conversation and engagement popularized by Reddit. In the mode, a user—typically someone of interest like a celebrity, or someone who has done something extraordinary—fields questions from online forum users in an effort to increase knowledge (and possibly entertain). This is best done with a strong personal brand within your organization, such as your founder, your CEO, or a leader of one of your main departments.
Help content deviates a bit from the norm of “traditional” content marketing, in that it helps users who have already become customers navigate your products and services. For example, if you sell time management software as a service, your traditional content strategy might focus on productivity tips and helping workers improve their efficiency, but your help content might help users understand how to better use your platform. This is a good way to improve user retention (not to mention easing the burden on your customer service department), and you’ll get some amazing SEO benefits too.
A frequently asked questions (FAQ) section of your website can also serve as an excellent opportunity for content development. It can be used by your existing customers, much like your help content, or be consulted by visitors who are almost ready to buy from you. The more thorough you are here, the more potential customers you’ll be able to please; try to make it as easy to navigate as possible, including a search function to get users exactly what they’re looking for faster.
Not everybody is on the same level of familiarity with your industry, your brand, or your products and services. Even though you might understand your target market well and focus on visitors who are at least partially informed, you’ll still have a share of your audience who is completely unfamiliar with your core topics. For those users, it’s advisable to write up “101” guides, which formally introduce these concepts on a ground level. Strip away all the jargon, all the advanced tips and angles, and speak to people as if they’re finding out about this for the first time—because they just might be.
Your ability to make an awards content post depends on your current level of authority. If you’re just emerging on the scene, or if you’re a startup, it may not be a good idea to hand out awards to influencers and other sites you think are doing a good job. However, if you have a few years under your belt, you can create whatever awards you want (keeping it relevant to your brand, of course). For example, if you’re a graphic design firm, you can list businesses who achieved some kind of graphic design excellence in the past year—much like influencer quotes and author lists, this is a good way to please your users and connect with influencers at the same time.
If you’re feeling cheeky, or if your brand is playful enough to get away with it, you can also write parody pieces. These might be Onion-style articles poking fun at new developments in your industry, or straight-up humor pieces that serve as satire for the public, such as this open letter to local directory sites. If you can make your audience laugh, you’ll probably win them over (and earn some extra shares and links in the process); just try not to go overboard or deliver incorrect information that may be taken as truth.
Parodies aren’t the only ways to inject humor into your blog or website. You can also write more directly relatable and funny pieces, such as “X times your SEO strategy will make you want to punch a wall.” If you’re looking for inspiration, peruse your friends’ and family members shared posts on social media. Find a piece there you think is funny, and brainstorm a way you can adapt it to fit your industry, or find a similar yet original angle to take that your customers might appreciate.
Original content is important, and you should be creating new content regularly, but occasionally, it’s both permissible and beneficial to look back and recap some of the work you’ve already done. For example, you can collect up some of the best posts you’ve written over the course of the past month (in terms of comments, shares, traffic, or the metric of your choice) and assemble them into a “top 10” list. This will help rejuvenate attention for these pieces and show off how popular your content campaign has gotten, giving you a boost in authority.
It’s easy to forget that there’s a physical side to content marketing in addition to a digital one. If you’re looking for a way to get more exposure for your brand and make new connections, consider signing up for a speaking event in your area. There are many ways to find these opportunities, and most of them will be happy to have you as a presenter. As an added bonus, when you’re done, you can take your slide presentation (or any other collateral you created for the presentation) and make it available to your audience.
To some, newsletters are a basic component of a content marketing strategy, but they’re also a critical opportunity to get new content to your subscribers and followers. Generally, you’ll use newsletters to distribute your top posts of the week (or month) or provide exclusive content to your subscribers to reward them for subscribing. However, you can also add some meta commentary, discussing some of the major wins you experienced and where you hope to go with your content campaign in the future. Give your readers the sense that you’re speaking to them directly, and they’ll be more likely to engage with you.
You can also turn some of your content into full-fledged coursework, provided you have enough material to truly educate someone. For example, you could organize some of your top posts into a linear, step-by-step system that walks users through the basics (such as with your “101” posts) and gradually more advanced topics. You could also include worksheets, quizzes, and other exercises for your users to complete, and offer a certificate of completion to give them an incentive to finish your program. If you’re successful here, you can expand your resources and potentially even charge for the opportunity eventually.
(Image Source: Codecademy)
“Ultimate” resource guides are like eBooks—highly detailed and lengthy—but they’re also more interactive. They feature shorter sections, links out to other articles, and lists of outside tools and resources designed to complement the instructions and outlines they provide. The goal is to give a user a complete rundown on a given topic, providing not just the information they need to understand it, but also the motivation and the resources they need to pursue it.
Hopefully, these content ideas give you inspiration, direction, and even some practical tips to create a more diverse selection of content for your brand. With a list this long, you shouldn’t have any excuse not to have that editorial calendar filled up. Find a new regular staple, or be adventurous and try something new—no matter how you choose to use this list, do so with your users in mind. As long as you continue to provide them with informative, entertaining, and relevant content, your strategy will become a success.
If you want more in-depth resources on content marketing, be sure to check out these guides from Jayson DeMers: