According to Hubspot’s State of Inbound 2018 report, “55% of marketers say blog content creation is their top inbound marketing priority”. With content playing such an imperative role in digital marketing, (check out our top 12 reasons why content marketing is an important part of your marketing mix) there’s a constant challenge for marketers, and content marketers, in particular, for how to come up with content ideas.
With “75% of marketers increasing their budgets for content marketing” (Curata) the need for new, creative, innovative content ideas, that elevate you above others in your vertical, is going to continue to grow.
As an agency that offers content marketing services (click here to find out more), we know the struggle all too well ourselves. Our approach, when we are developing ideas for clients, is to initially determine a topic to focus our research around. By deciding on a specific topic, it helps to narrow the scope and focus ideas. We’ve put together an extensive list of our favourite ways of stimulating and inspiring new content ideas to help you generate your next great content marketing idea.
The rise of content marketing has seen the emergence of a number of new content tools, designed to help kick-start your ideation process. These content idea generators can be a great starting point but there are plenty of other tools out there that were not initially designed for content purposes that can be great sources of inspiration.
Content Ideation Tools
1. Answer The Public
Answer The Public is probably the leading content ideation tool out there and is certainly a favourite of our team. Answer The Public requires you to enter a topic, subject or keyphrase and then utilises Google’s auto-suggest results, that you often see as you type a query into Google, to generate a list of searches related to the term initially entered.
It conveniently separates results into easy to digest visuals that are organised by questions, prepositions, comparisons or simply arranged alphabetically by associated words. The broader your initial term or subject the more results it will likely generate.
The idea behind the tool is to help marketers get a better idea of how they can “answer the public’s” questions and informational needs by knowing what it is they are searching for around a specific topic.
2. Portent Title Maker
Portent’s Title Maker is a content idea generation tool is aimed more towards helping you come up with a title for a content piece than broader content ideas. Simply enter a subject you need an idea for and the tool will generate a title relating to that subject.
Titles can be a hit and miss but you can click the refresh button over and over to keep generating new title ideas really quickly. Titles tend to be less formal in style and often rely on clickbait type phrasing but they can come up with the perfect idea from time to time.
3. Hubspot Blog Ideas Generator
Another idea generation tool is Hubspot’s Blog Ideas Generator. Similar to the two previous tools, you need to enter a topic or keyphrase (specified as a noun) and this tool allows you to add up to five at a time. The tool gives you five ideas initially but if you’re willing to register your details, they deliver you 250 additional ideas that can be downloaded as a convenient CSV file.
Again, suggestions can be a hit and miss and can be over-reliant on Buzzfeed listicle style titles, but for some industry verticals, this might well be the perfect fit. With tools like these, you’ve got to approach them with the mindset of they are sources of ideas rather than a quick and simple way of giving you the perfect content title.
4. Google Ads – Longtail Keyphrase Research
Anyone working in SEO will be familiar with using Google Ads Keyword Planner tool for keyphrase research. When conducting keyphrase research you’re often looking for head terms that can be used to optimise category, service or product pages but it can be a great source of inspiration for content ideas too.
Whilst the search volumes Google provides should be taken with a pinch of salt, if you’re a furniture supplier for example, knowing that there’s a reasonable enough level of searches for the phrase ‘funky dining room chairs’ for Google to assign it a search volume value is an indicator that there’s a user search need you can satisfy.
Whilst it’s highly unlikely you’d create a category page for chairs of this characteristic, you could easily create a content piece showcasing some of your funkier designs.
Ubersuggest is a tool that’s been used by SEO’s and marketers to assist with keyphrase research pretty much since the birth of SEO. Back in early 2017, Ubersuggest was actually purchased by well known digital marketeer Neil Patel, and despite the redesign, it still works in the same way.
Enter a topic or search term and it uses Google Ads and Google Suggest data to return a huge list of phrases that contain your original search term. These are organised alphabetically to make it easy to review as the list of terms can often be extremely lengthy (a search for ‘content marketing’ returned 962 related terms).
Lists can be exported to make it easier to review and pull a list of topics and ideas together for you to explore and mull over.
6. ‘People Also Search For’ Results
Google has always shown ‘Searches related to’ results at the foot of search results pages but back in February 2018, Google launched a new look for ‘people also ask’ results. These results are shown on the search results pages underneath organic listings or once you’d clicked into a result and then come back to the original search results page.
This information is coming directly from Google and shows searches related to your original one that other users have made. This gives a really strong indication as to the type of information users are looking for around a topic and can be a great way of discovering multiple, interconnected ideas you can build into your content marketing plan.
7. Google Analytics Site Search
If you have a search function built into your site, you can easily set up tracking to record the search terms your visitors are using in their searches if you haven’t already. In your admin settings, navigate to your primary view and then under ‘Site Search Settings’ toggle this on.
You will also need to know the query parameter. If you don’t know this, simply conduct a search using the search function on your site and the parameter is the element of the resulting URL that sits between the question mark and the equals sign. For example, on the anicca.co.uk website, our query parameter is the letter ‘s’ as highlighted below.
Whilst a lot of the search terms are likely to be very broad, you can occasionally find nuggets of gold in here from users who are trying to satisfy an informational need but are struggling to find that information on your site.
8. Google Trends
Google Trends is another handy Google tool that often gets forgotten about and doesn’t get the publicity it deserves. It can be utilised in your content idea generation process in a number of ways. You can search Google Trends by entering a topic and this will give you data about the trends around this topic and related searches around your chosen topic.
You can also use it to identify topics that are currently trending and seeing a large volume of searches around at that particular time. For a lot of businesses, this information may not be relevant but understanding search trends can give you an idea of current hot search topics or topics and searches where user interest is beginning to wane away.
Websites For Content Idea Inspiration
HARO stands for Help a Reporter Out and gives content marketers a direct connection with journalists who are looking for sources to feature within their stories. Understanding what it is journalists may be writing about in your sector can give you a strong indication as to the subjects they feel are of interest to their audience. If they need a source, why not create the content to satisfy that need or update and amend an existing content piece to meet their requirements.
This way, not only can HARO be a source of inspiration for your own content ideas but it can also become a valuable distribution channel for your content and earn both links and referral traffic for the content you have created.
In their own words Medium “taps into the brains of the world’s most insightful writers, thinkers, and storytellers to bring you the smartest takes on topics that matter”.
Medium hosts thousands of content pieces across a huge range of subject matters and has been adopted as a publishing platform by some highly influential people. It’s a wonderful source of both learning and inspiration for your own content.
Simply search by topic or keyphrase to identify stories in your niche and as with many publishing platforms, there’s an appreciation measurement, measured here in Claps, as well as a comment section for each piece to allow you to get involved in a discussion.
Buzzfeed somewhat divides opinion. To many, it is seen as very soft, clickbait style content that is overly reliant on listicle style articles. And whilst that has been true in the past, it is starting to become a more trusted news site and publishing platform.
However, the short form content pieces that they produce can give you an idea for a longer form piece on the subject or a better way of presenting that subject to your audience. Just be careful not to fall into the Buzzfeed mentality of going too heavy on the listicle format and be sure to ensure your piece has the depth that Buzzfeed can sometimes lack.
Buzzsumo serves two primary purposes. First, it can analyse what content performs best for any topic and secondly help you find influencers to pitch to share your content with. From an idea generation standpoint, it starts once again with searching for the topic you’re writing about. This will then return a list of the content related to that has the most shares on social media.
This can give you an idea about the content that has most resonated with your target audience. However, it is worth remembering that correlation doesn’t equal causation and there are a lot more factors at play that could have resulted in the high number of shares and that replicating that same piece will not automatically deliver the same results for you.
*Disclaimer – the next two tools are very much for those in the digital marketing and content marketing sector.
SparkToro is a new tool on the block from Rand Fishkin, the former CEO and Co-founder of Moz. Since leaving Moz in February 2018, Rand has been working on a new project called SparkToro and the Trending Tool is the first free tool they’ve released.
The tool is designed for web marketers and uses Twitter accounts that users have connected with the tool, to create a trending list of what digital folk are talking about. This is an example of a very specific tool for a certain industry and whilst it may be one of the first of it’s kind out there and not your industry, keep an eye out for similar tools targeting other industries that may come out as a result.
Zest is another example of an industry specific tool. In this case, the tool is designed for content marketers, as a channel for promoting their content to a wider audience. They use a team of real humans to review submitted content so that only the best of the best is added to their curated feed.
Once subscribed your feed is displayed every time you open a new Chrome tab, which to be honest can be a little distracting if you’re in the middle of working on something, but it does ensure you’re served fresh new content on a regular basis. For content marketers this can be a goldmine for new content ideas and, as with SparkToro, you may see similar tools sprouting up for other industry sectors in the future.
15. News Aggregators – Flipboard/Feedly
A great way to stimulate ideas and cut down on research time is to utilise sites like Feedly and Flipboard, that allows you to subscribe to RSS feeds from a wide range of sources and then aggregate them into a single news stream for you.
Both Feedly and Flipboard are ideal for this purpose so it’s really a matter of preference as to which you choose to use and both have IOS and Android apps for researching on the go. Search for news sources and RSS feeds from within your industry (think industry publications, competitors, associations etc) and simply subscribe. This then delivers a steady stream of content relating to your industry into your feed and is a great place to start your idea research from.
The more niche your sector, the fewer feeds or sources that will likely be available but both sites do a great job of recommending new related sources for your feed.
Other Online Sources
16. Q&A Sites
Sites like Quora and Stack Exchange are just two popular examples of Q&A sites out there where users are seeking guidance as they haven’t been able to find a definitive answer elsewhere on the web or simply want to bypass the search process altogether.
These sites can be a great source of content inspiration as you get a clear idea of the problems your audience need help to resolve or information they are struggling to find. The process of finding your inspiration is far more manual than with some of the tools mentioned but it can certainly be worth your time.
If you do already have content that satisfies these users needs then be wary of being overly self-promotional. Also, don’t forget that this is an opportunity not just to find new content ideas but also to strike up a dialogue with your target audience so don’t be afraid of getting involved in the conversations whilst you’re there.
17. Industry Publications
Industry publications are probably something you’re consuming already, be it in print or digital format. Often these publications are leading the conversation around your industry and so can be the source of new content ideas for you. Even something as simple as an interesting data point, such as those used at the start of this piece, can spark an idea for a new content piece or a whole campaign.
Industry news pieces can often initially be short form, awareness style pieces that lack real depth as the news is time sensitive and publications want to make sure their content is out whilst the subject is newsworthy. This opens an opportunity for you to develop a more in-depth analysis of the news in question to be published at a later date. A simple but effective source of highly relevant content for an audience you know have already been primed.
Irrespective of your industry or your niche, there’s almost certainly a relevant forum out there that can give you direct access to your target audience. Forums are where your audience are choosing to spend their time and a resource they likely return to as they become part of an online community.
Use Google to search for forums in your sector or relating to the topic you are researching. Quite often industry publications will have a forum you can join. Spend some time browsing these relevant forums to understand the subjects and topics the members are discussing and to identify the information they are seeking out that they can’t find elsewhere.
Build yourself a list of ideas, develop your content and then remember to come back and share it with this audience. But as with sites like Quora, be sparing with your self-promotion or face the risk of being banned.
Think of a subject, any subject at all and you can be almost certain there’s a subreddit for it. The self-proclaimed “front page of the internet“, Reddit describes itself as “a social news aggregation, web content rating, and discussion website“. This makes it a blend of a news site, a content curation platform and a forum, all rolled into one.
A search for something as dull as “insoles” returned hundreds of posts across dozens of related subreddits that could stimulate new ideas for an insole manufacturer or supplier (or the poor content marketing person working at an agency on their behalf). As with Medium, there’s a comments section on each post to enable further discussion and an ‘upvote’ system to ensure the most appreciated content is given greater exposure.
20. Blog Comments Sections
Blog comments used to be a source of free and easy links, but since the Penguin algorithm update, that has very much died out. Nowadays blog comments sections can be ripe with new content idea sparks. Simply find industry related blogs and spend some time browsing posts to find those that generate high numbers of comments and heated discussion.
Immediately you know you’ve identified a subject of interest to your target audience as well as potentially a good source of supporting material to support your content idea. And again, don’t be afraid to get involved in the discussion whilst you’re there and come back to share your content with that audience in the future. You’ll probably not get any link value but you could drive some referral traffic.
Much like the news aggregator tools, signing up to industry newsletters is a great way to have inspiration delivered to you, rather than having to seek it out for yourself. Most industry related websites, industry bodies and even writes/bloggers in your vertical will have an email list you can sign up to.
With GDPR in full force now, email marketing lists are more valuable than ever before and keeping people from unsubscribing became just as important as driving new subscribers. I would expect to see an improvement in not only the quality of the emails but the quality of the content they deliver to subscribers too in order to keep users engaged and subscribed.
22. Facebook Groups
If there are Facebook groups where your target audience spends their time, then it is well worth joining these and utilising the conversations within them as a source for new content ideas. Not every industry will find success with this source, those in the B2B sector may find it more difficult to find relevant groups.
As with forums, Facebook groups are a place where your audience is choosing to spend their time interacting with other people with similar interests so why wouldn’t you want be involved in that discussion and creating content that helps answer their questions or resolves their needs.
23. LinkedIn Groups
Similar to the Facebook groups but for a more B2B audience. Again, it can be difficult to find relevant groups for some industry sectors but if there’s not a good one out there for your industry or specialism, why not set it up yourself and invite relevant connections to join. This involves a little more in terms of community management as you may need to be the one driving the conversation and building the audience but in the long run, it could be incredibly beneficial for your content.
And don’t forget, your content doesn’t have to be published on your own site. You can publish content directly to LinkedIn and promote them on their platform as with most other social media sites.
24. G+ Communities
Okay, this one is perhaps a source that is dying out and may not be applicable that much longer but, there are still some really active Google+ Communities despite the lack of innovation and publicity Google puts behind their own attempts at building a social media platform.
For example, a search for ‘rock climbing’ returns dozens and dozens of Google+ Communities, with the top one consisting of over 90,000 members, with plenty sharing personal stories, pictures, achievements and more importantly, content pieces. For a content marketer in this sector, this is like an inspiration board that’s been cultivated over many years.
25. Ask Twitter Followers
If you’ve got a strong following on Twitter then why not poll your existing captive audience about what they would like to see more of from you? If you want your content to be enticing, impactful and actually consumed and acted upon, then there’s no better way of coming up with ideas than directly asking the target audience for their input.
Put out a tweet asking for suggestions, run a Twitter Poll, or strike up a conversation with some of your audience who are more actively engaging with you and ask them what they need help with or would like to see from you. This can also be a great way to get feedback on the content you are producing if you do have good online relationships with your following.
26. Twitter #Hashtags
Try browsing some hashtags related to your products, services or industry as a whole. In the digital community, brands like SEMrush use Twitter to ‘host’ conversations and pose questions to their audience and allow everyone involved to contribute their own answers to the questions. And all of this is done under the hashtag of #semrushchat.
Now, much like Facebook and LinkedIn groups, there may not be anything like this set up for your sector but that gives you the opportunity to lead if you think Twitter is somewhere where your audience spends their time.
27. Twitter Lists
Twitter lists are an undervalued function of Twitter in my opinion. They are so easy to create and help segment your main feed into individual streams based on the lists you create and the followers you add to each. Instead of trawling through a feed cluttered with all the accounts you’re following, separate those who consistently share great content off into their own list.
Then, next time you’re in need of content inspiration, you have a nicely curated feed from some of the best people you follow. A quick scroll through is bound to give you a few ideas for your next campaign and give you the start of your outreach list to share your content with.
Idea Generation Tricks and Techniques
28. Competitor Research
We all do even if it no one really likes to admit that they may look to their competitors for inspiration. But if your competitors are investing time and resource into their content marketing, don’t you want to know what they are doing and whether you think you could take an idea of theirs and make it better?
Competitor research is also very useful for helping to identify gaps in your own content. If you can see your competitors have content that satisfies a user need and you don’t have content on that same subject, it’s perhaps a good idea to develop your own.
30. Featured Snippet Research
Featured snippets are a new battleground for content marketers. The Featured Snippet has been dubbed ‘ranking position zero’ by some as the direct answer to the user’s query that Google chooses to serve is displayed prominently above the rest of the organic results.
There are tools out there that will help you identify search terms that result in a Featured Snippet being displayed and if you have an Ahrefs account, there’s a great technique that they created a guide for, for working out Featured Snippets your competitors may hold and how to go about stealing them.
Try conducting some searches on questions your audience may be searching for around the topic you are researching. Identify those that generate a featured snippet and then create content that offers more depth, more value and a better answer to that question.
31. Live Chat
A live chat function on your site can be a wonderful place to start your content research. With people increasingly choosing to use live chat for quick communications with companies, you can often find a huge list of questions and queries that they’ve been posing to your operators.
If they are choosing to start an online chat, then that’s a strong indicator that they haven’t been able to find the information they needed from the site and this is an opportunity to build this into your content strategy. Most live chat tools will store conversations but it can be a time-consuming process trying to find the diamonds in the rough.
32. Ask Sales and Customer Service Staff
If you don’t have a live chat function on your site, then it’s highly likely that you’ll have a team of sales or customer service staff answering emails and calls. As with the live chat operators, these conversations and interactions with customers are a sign that they perhaps didn’t have their informational needs satisfied with their visit to your website.
Ask the teams what questions they find themselves repeatedly answering and develop content to satisfy those user needs. Simple, quick and effective content ideas that your audience will appreciate.
33. Survey Customers
As a business, you’ll likely have a solid customer base that you could survey for content ideas. Much like with the polling your Twitter audience, you’re asking your existing audience that perhaps return to your site on a regular basis, what it is that they would like to see more of or what it is they struggle to find out from your website.
You could do this via an email campaign or onsite pop up messaging but it may take a while to return a reasonable amount of responses.
34. What Issues are you Googling to Find a Solution to?
I’ll let you into a little secret, in the digital marketing sector, we Google a hell of a lot of stuff as there’s simply no way anyone can have all the answers and solutions in their head. Almost every time we do this, that’s a content idea waiting to be delivered.
Be conscious of the things you’re searching for during your working day that relate to your sector or the topics you are building a content campaign around. We use a Trello board to keep track of these ideas as we go and that means when we’re looking for ideas or trying to identify content gaps, we have a list that has been built by various members of the team to reflect back on.
35. Look at Associated Industries
Let’s say you work for a shoe retailer and you’re looking for content inspiration. As well as looking at what’s being done in your specific sector, broaden your horizons and do some research on clothes retailers for example. Are they producing content that you could borrow from and make it more relateable specifically to shoes?
And don’t just look for content ideas, look at how they present their content, the format they use, the placement on the site. If you’re a smaller fish in your sector, it is highly likely that bigger organisations have larger teams and ability to test more, so if they have moved to primarily using video for their content, then it strongly suggests that they’ve found that works better for their audience.
36. Reformat Existing Pieces into a New Format
Content doesn’t always have to be a brand new idea, just an old idea repackaged in a new way. With the explosion in video content and the changing habits of audiences, taking a written blog piece and converting it into a short punchy video piece is a great way of doubling the value of the time spent researching the original written piece.
Can you convert it into a podcast, a visual led piece or even take presentations you may have created and convert those into written content instead? Reformatting content can be a wonderful way of getting the same message across to audiences that like to consume their media in different ways.
37. Rewrite or Amalgamate Existing Pieces
Taking existing content and reformatting it isn’t the only way of extracting more value from content you’ve already created. Revisiting older pieces, updating them and restyling them can often see very positive results, especially if the content initially saw positive levels of engagement. This is often done as part of a content pruning process.
Equally, taking a couple of less in-depth pieces that relate to the same subject and amalgamating them into a single, more in-depth piece can be a quick way of supplementing your content marketing campaign. It’s always worthwhile taking stock of your current assets before ploughing ahead with a new campaign.
38. Reviews and Roundups
Reviews and roundups can be a simple way of developing new ideas. Creating a weekly round-up of interesting industry content you’ve consumed can be a consistent way of delivering content and is very simple to do. If your industry has conferences and events, then writing reviews and roundups from these can be a great source of content. Just be aware that as more and more people cotton on to this, the better your content will need to be and the quicker you’ll need to publish it.
If your sector is regularly featured in the mainstream news then collating and commenting on stories from some trusted sources and offering your opinion on these can be really engaging for readers. You could even set up some Google Alerts to notify you of news in your sector so you can react to these more quickly.
In the digital age books often get overlooked as everyone wants their information right here and right now. But books can be a great source of ideas. They are usually well structured with clearly defined chapters covering different aspects of a topic. It’s unlikely they would have been written if there was an audience for them and if someone is willing to part with money to learn something from a book, there’s a good chance they’d be interested in content if it were freely available online.
Amazon is a great place to start for this as books are easily filtered by subject and include written reviews and star ratings so you know which ones the potential audience really connect with.
40. Data – First Party and Third Party
Data can be a great starting point for content ideas. Just scroll back up to the start of this post to find a couple of data points that inspired this very article. People love data and statistics and with Google, there’s a wealth of it at your fingertips. Industry data and publicly available statics can be found for free from various sources but you also have your own data available to use.
Say you sell industrial matting, not exactly the most exciting of subjects. But if you can take some of your sales data for example and multiply the number of mats sold by the total area a mat covers, all of sudden you’ve created your own data point. Apply that to a real-life setting and you can now boast you’ve sold enough mats to cover a city, a county, or even a country and now you’ve got something interesting and engaging. Think about how you can take your own data and use it in conjunction with third-party data to create some truly memorable content.
Brainstorming Content Ideas
Sometimes, when you’re looking to develop a content marketing strategy, there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned brainstorming session. But you have to have a set a structure for brainstorming sessions otherwise they have a habit of disappearing off on tangents or not quite delivering on the objective.
We have a particular brainstorming technique we’ve found that really helps to keep participants focused and on track and deliver great ideas at the end.
41. 6-3-5 Brainwriting
Take six people, ask them to write down three content ideas and give them five minutes to so. Repeat this process six times and in half an hour you should have generated 108 ideas.
Of course, not everyone has six people available or capable of being involved in a session like this, so you can adjust based on the number of participants but the idea is that by giving them a target, a time limit and repeating the process numerous times, you are pushing them to think beyond the initially obvious ideas.
There are pros and cons to the 6-3-5 Brainwriting technique but a structure like this is easy to implement and quick to learn. The initial batch of ideas can then be discussed, explored and the best can be included in your content marketing plan.
There’s clearly a huge number of tools, websites, techniques and sources to help you develop new content marketing ideas. Over the coming months we’ll no doubt remember other useful ways to help get the creative juices flowing so check back to see how this list evolves or let us know a great technique, tool or site we’re missing!
If you are in need of help with your content marketing then Anicca Digital does have a highly skilled and creative team who love nothing more than creating effective content strategies and deliver campaigns that drive awareness, engagement and conversions. Give us a call or drop us an email and we’d be happy to discuss your content needs.