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5 Tricks to Generate Content Ideas

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Coming up with great content ideas is one of the most important—and yet one of the hardest—parts of any content marketing strategy. Your topics serve as the foundation for the rest of your building; if you build a strong foundation, there’s nothing stopping you from finishing a sturdy, beautiful piece, but if your foundation is shaky, no amount of care or effort can salvage the build.

The difference between great topics and unstable topics will make the difference between a successful and unsuccessful campaign, regardless of how well you try to cover up your poor topics with great writing. Unfortunately, there’s no surefire recipe for successful topic generation, and even the most experienced content marketers sometimes struggle to come up with meaningful, reliable, impactful topics for their campaigns.

First, understand the key elements of a successful topic:

  • It must be directly related to your niche; otherwise it could alienate your users or diminish the power of your brand.
  • It must be catchy or interesting enough to get people to click on a link.
  • It needs to be original, putting a unique spin on an existing topic or offering one that’s completely new.
  • It must be valuable, telling users exactly how it will help them.
  • It must be desirable, making it highly likely to show up in popular searches.

Once you understand these fundamentals, you can use these five tricks to generate the best possible topics for your campaign:

1. Scope Out Your Competitors.

articleimage1100 Scope Out Your Competitors

Your first line of help in generating new content ideas is an unlikely source—your competitors. While in ordinary circumstances you should be distancing yourself from your competitors, perusing their blogs and social media feeds can actually turn up a wealth of new material to use in your own content strategy.

The key is to remember that you aren’t going to be copying your competitor’s strategy. Instead, you’re going to be learning from it. What types of topics have they posted that have found success? Which ones have fallen flat? How can you take the successful topics and reimagine them as your own—can you frame them in a new perspective? Can you add new information or retarget them to your niche audience?

2. Use Question and Answer Sites.

articleimage1100 Use Question and Answer Sites

These types of sites are gold mines for content ideas, because you can go directly to the source—your target audience. For example, the question-and-answer style site Quora exists to help people find quick answers to pressing questions. You can browse through the questions related to your industry and uncover what types of problems are faced by your most important customers.

Once you know what types of questions are currently being asked by your target audience, you can start brainstorming ideal topics to answer those questions. Chances are, people will search for answers to these inquiries using Google, and if your site answers them succinctly and accurately, you’ll have a much higher chance at earning a top rank for those queries.

3. Spot Trends on Social Media.

articleimage1100 Spot Trends on Social Media

Instead of relying on your own wits to generate topic ideas, let the crowds on social media do it for you. Navigate through trending topics to see what news stories and topics are most popular—if you can incorporate one of these into a post, then do it, and publish it right away to gain the most attention.

You can also use social research and social discovery tools to dive into real-time conversations around the web. The more you learn about what people are talking about, the better chance you’ll have at coming up with a topic that excites your audience.

4. Leverage Google’s Free Tools.

articleimage1100 Leverage Google’s Free Tools

Google offers a number of free tools for businesses and researchers that you can use to fuel your own content topic brainstorming sessions. With Google Trends, you can monitor the relative popularity of various keywords and topics over time, and plan to post on topics related to the most popular current trends. With Google’s Keyword Planner, you can monitor the search volume for specific queries and discover new related queries that you can use as a jumping-off point to write new topics. Finally, with Google Analytics, you can take a close look at current traffic patterns coming to your site and analyze which types of topics have generated the most visibility for your brand in the past.

5. Play Word Association Games.

articleimage1100 Play Word Association Games

This is a method of topic generation for the creative types out there. Rather than doing research online or trying to sort through existing topics, you’ll be digging up gems from your own mind.

Start with a specific word, preferably one related to your industry, and write that word on a sheet of paper. From that word, draw several extending lines, and at the end of each of those lines, write a word related to the original word. Repeat this ad infinitum until you’ve got a large network of interconnected words—from there, you should be able to pluck out a handful of topics at a simple glance.

If you work these five topic generation strategies into the ongoing processes of your campaign, you should have no trouble facilitating an ongoing stream of new topic ideas. Over time, you’ll develop an almost intuitive sense for which topics will work and which ones won’t, and you’ll find it easier to find the diamonds in the rough. Keep your standards high, keep your work consistent, and there will be nothing stopping you from achieving content marketing success.

Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.

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Samuel Edwards

In his 4+ years as a digital marketing specialist, Sam has learned the ins and outs of online marketing. Additionally, he has worked with countless local businesses as well as enterprise Fortune 500 companies and organizations including: NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Washington, DC based law firm Price Benowitz LLP, and human rights organization Amnesty International. Today he continues to work with and establish SEO, PPC and SEM campaigns.

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