One of the biggest challenges for content marketers is idea generation. Content marketing relies on quality and volume; you can’t sacrifice one for the other.
Generating good quality content alone doesn’t get the job done. A robust content marketing campaign needs a steady stream of publication-ready ideas that resonate with your customers.
If you’re feeling like you’re about to run out of ideas, it’s time to look at some tools on the market. Here are 9 different strategies for writers and content marketers to quickly discover, develop, and test content ideas.
But first, if you’re still wondering how to get started with your content strategy, refer to How to Build Your First Content Marketing Strategy and How to Create a Content Strategy for a B2B Business
1. Google Keyword Planner
Google’s Keyword Planner is a highly effective tool for writers struggling with content development. If you’ve already got a topic in mind, you can use the Keyword Planner to research keywords and concepts related to your core idea.
For example, if you know you want to write a blog post on mobile marketing, you can do a quick search using the Keyword Planner. Google will generate a list several pages long of keyword ideas such as mobile apps, text marketing, mobile ads, etc., and provide you with additional data, such as how many people are searching for that term on a monthly basis, and the level of competition for each keyword.
You can use the data you uncover from Google Keyword Planner to help brainstorm titles for upcoming pieces and optimize your content for search. Good old-fashioned keyword research provides you with a seed list of terms.
Pay special attention to long-tail keyword terms (for example, instead of “semantic indexing” you might look for “what is semantic indexing” or “how to apply semantic indexing to my blog”) to give you more fully fleshed ideas that reveal searcher intent. If you can link your content to your reader’s intent, it’s likely to make a stronger connection.
Question and answer sites like Quora can give you immediate insight into your audience’s most pressing problems. This tool lets you review popular questions related to topics you’re interested in.
To get started, simply create an account, select categories of interest, and choose subtopics under your preferred categories.
Q&A sites are great because they connect you to intent: users cared enough about solving this problem or finding this data to go and seek expert help. If there’s a reasonable volume of questions and answers, you might have a hot niche on your hands.
If you’ve never used Quora, let’s assume that you’re an entrepreneur who’s interested in SEO. You start by choosing “marketing” as a main category of interest, and then Quora will give you the option to choose from a range of subtopics such as search engine optimization and web marketing.
Once you’ve selected your categories and subcategories, you will then be directed to a page where you can review thousands of questions and answers about topics of interest, as well as recent blog posts from other Quora users.
Q&A sites give you a good sense of what people are interested in reading and learning about that’s related to your field. It gives you an inside look at the way that they describe their problems, how these issues impact their lives, and the overall emotions behind the desire to solve the issue. All these factors will help you develop long lists of content ideas, and infuse what you write with insight and ideas that connect with readers.
3. Google Trends
Are you writing content that isn’t resonating with your audience because it’s not topical enough? Finding a news hook for your pieces could be the solution. If you want to grab your audience’s attention and get them talking, take a look at trending topics online to see what people are talking about right now.
Google Trends is a helpful tool that lets you see what current events, celebrity names, and cultural memes have captured the world’s attention. You can search for a particular keyword or term, or simply select a category that’s interesting to you. Users can also track what’s trending in a particular region or what was hot during a specific time period.
For instance, maybe you’d like to know which topics were trending in business and industry over the past seven days. To do this, you’d select region, time frame, and category from the drop down lists provided. Google Trends then comes up with a graph illustrating search interest over time, as well as a list of topics that are popular search terms.
If you’re interested shaking things up a little to get out of your writing rut, looking at what’s trending could help you find a timely angle to position your posts.
One of the easiest ways to map out a plan for your writing is to check out which keywords are driving the most traffic to your website and use that data to develop your content strategy.
You can also use Google Webmaster Tools to find out what content is resonating the most with your audience, and help you create more of the same.
If you need a little inspiration to help you come up with topics, sign up for Delicious. Content marketers turn to this tool to find fresh ideas for new posts. To get started, sign up with your Facebook, Twitter, or email account.
Once you’ve confirmed your subscription, simply log in and click on the ‘Discover’ button on the left-hand menu. This brings up a full list of recent news that’s got people on the web talking. Take a look through and see if anything piques your interest.
If you’re an active Twitter user, Delicious lets you link up your Twitter account to create a customized discovery based on your interests. Or you can do a simple keyword search to find articles related to a certain topic or industry.
As a giant repository for interesting links from around the web that’s curated by real people, Delicious can help if you’re having a hard time coming up with topics.
If you sometimes have great ideas and then forget them or wish you had a better organization to track inspiration from various sources, try Evernote. Similar to Delicious, the Evernote app lets you organize and save web content that’s interesting to you. But instead of just saving a link, this tool lets you save an entire article, including all text, photos, videos, etc.
So let’s say you’re reading your favorite industry publication online and an article grabs your attention. You find yourself completely fascinated by the infographic included in the piece; you can easily capture both and save them for later with Evernote’s web clipper tool. You can also make notes about everything you save so that your information stays organized and it’s easy to recall why you saved the article or photo in the first place. Everything is tagged, so later when you’re writing an article on a specific topic, simply search for your key terms and sift through your collected information.
If you want to get started with Evernote’s web clipper, simply visit their website and click to download it as an add-on for your browser. You can also download the mobile app to sync up everything you save on your laptop with your tablet or smartphone. This is a handy tool that can help take some of the pain out of the content development process.
Content curation is another important strategy for any content expert or marketer that wants to build trust and become a go-to source for great information in your space. Luckily for marketers, content curation just got a little easier thanks to Trapit.
Rather than spending hours searching around the web for the perfect content to share with your followers and friends on social media, Trapit lets you choose a subject that’s relevant for your audience, browse through related articles and “trap” the ones that strike a chord with you. You can then choose to share your trapped content via your social networks or in an upcoming email newsletter.
Once shared, the Trapit system analyzes how a particular piece performs with your audience. It narrows down which topics are most interesting and relevant to your audience.
Trapit also features an extensive database of publications, which helps cut down on the chances that you’ll be sharing what others in your industry have already shared countless times.
Whether your goal is to discover new content or test how the things you share are resonating with your customers, Trapit is worth a look.
Sometimes the problem in your content process isn’t idea generation, but it’s the approval and fleshing out of processes that come with developing each ideas.
If content development is a team effort at your company, check out Trello. It’s a helpful project management tool that lets you do everything from organize your ideas for upcoming pieces, create an editorial calendar with deliverables, and track your progress over time.
You can then choose to share project information with your team. Trello is useful for keeping track of who’s working on what when you have multiple writers maintaining blogs or social media accounts. It cuts down on the administrative headache for your writing team and helps keep things running smoothly with the content development process.
Look at your content development process end to end, and focus on how approval and brainstorming can clear roadblocks and speed up your idea generation process.
If your primary goal is more traffic to your site, InboundWriter is a tool worth considering. This tool is valuable for a few reasons:
- It helps you create SEO-friendly content. As you’re developing a piece in InboundWriter, the tool actually provides keyword suggestions and rates how well your writing is optimized for search.
- The platform keeps all your content organized in one place.
- It lets you analyze how your content performed with your readers.
Creating a content strategy and sticking to it can be a challenge for any business owner or marketer. You’re inevitably going to run into a case of writer’s block, get bored with your writing, or simply fall into a rut.
The key is being willing to experiment with how you find inspiration, craft content, and explore different workflows and optimization strategies. If you’re feeling stuck and creating content has become a chore, try some of these suggestions. These nine tools take some of the pain out of the process.