One of the most common problems that businesses and marketing teams encounter when entering the content marketing game is often not what you think it may be.
The main quandary is not always mastering the art of crafting perfect prose (although it can be).
And it’s not choosing a content management system (CMS) to publish content either.
Most of the time, the main bug bear is figuring out how to generate creative content ideas that get clicks, eyeballs and engagement.
With content cramming our social feeds daily, it’s easy to get content fatigue. How many more cat videos must we be subject to?
When will the internet stop blogging about jade eggs?
How many more productivity hacks could there be?
A clarion call for fresh, relevant and interesting blog content
I’m not the first to compile a how-to post on generating blog ideas, and I won’t be the last either. And some may stumble across this blog and close their browser within a few seconds, already bored with my words as they return to Google or Facebook in search of greater meaning.
But I’ll tell you one thing: I strive to create fresh, relevant and interest content for my readers. And while it may not appeal to all, it appeals to some.
On top of that, I strive to add value by walking you through my own process, step-by-step.
So with that, I’m going to take you through the very process that I use to create a honeypot of content ideas that work, by figuring out what people want to read and will engage with.
An important note: The aim of this blog post covers the first part of content idea generation: creating a swipe file to refer back to for content idea inspiration. You can use this swipe file to inspire your own ideas, which is something I cover in my SEO workshops. For more information on this, see the end of this post.
Step One: Mine your communities
When I first launched my freelancing writing career, I joined several Facebook groups. Not only was it a great way of feeling like I was a member of a group as I sat alone at home, it also gave me access to a collective of women who resembled my ideal audience. By joining Facebook groups filled with members who fit your persona perspective, you’re able to more easily understand what you audience is looking for when they seek content.
Which is why you need to be asking them genuine questions with the desire to assist, rather than straight selling.
I’m a fan of Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine, although it’s not moderated and posts can get out of hand. I’ve also been a member of the Dream Big collective, Secret Blogger’s Business, Business Chicks and a few other industry-related groups. Join those Facebook groups that are most active, pay attention to the rules, and go in with the aim to share rather than sell.
Step Two: Find what’s trending
There are a few ways to discover what topics and themes are trending. If you’re a fashion business, you might find more value in exploring trending hashtags on Instagram. Of course, hashtags can be quite broad and people do tend to use them haphazardly.
However, when used creatively, they can pack a powerful punch.
For example, The Bachelorette is a popular program that people love to watch and love to hate. By capitalising on a Bachelor-themed hashtag, using it in a creative blog post title, you could very easy create a piece of content that gets a lot of eyeballs.
For example, if I were to write a blog post about bad clichés to avoid, I could write a post titled, ’10 bad copywriting cliches I learned from The Bachelor’.
If Game of Thrones were still airing, I’d be predisposed to write a post titled, ‘How to write an elevator pitch to rival Khaleesi’s boss bitch soliloquay.’
Or, if you were a fashion business, you could look to recent award shows and create a post titled, ‘X style tips we learned from x at the Golden Globes’, with links to your own products if applicable.
If you own fashion or beauty business, I’d be looking to seasonal trends and events that will have a great impact on what your customer’s are searching for. Is it festival season? Are the spring races on? Could these be themes to incorporate into your blog post?
Step Three: Find what's getting shared
One way to tell if a content idea is a win is to see how many other people are sharing it, or linking back to it. When you have influential blogs and news websites linking to a particular article, that’s when you know that particular blog post is valuable.
One free and fabulous tool that I’m a big fan of is Open Site Explorer. Owned by Moz (who I am NOT an affiliate for, but just a huge fan), this smart tool helps you spy on your competition by allowing you to see who is linking back to their website, and what articles have the most links.
For example, if you owned a skin care e-boutique with a customer base of women aged 25+, you might look to goop.com for content ideas. Let’s keep in mind that people often link to goop.com in order to debunk medical claims made by writers who haven’t done their research. But for the purpose of this exercise, we’re looking at content that gets linked to frequently, whether it’s because the writer finds it valuable or contentious.
Let’s plug in their URL and see what content performs best.
As we can see in the example above, the controversy around jade eggs (otherwise known as yoni eggs) is getting picked up a bit by op-ed authors.
You can also type in the URL of individual blog posts. For example, this post on wearable stickers has led to a lot of opinion pieces.
Step Four: Discover what people are actually searching for
I’ve written lots of posts on how to perform keyword research (like this one here for The Cool Wow Collective), so I won’t outline every step involved in this post. But I will reiterate that it’s ideal you use a few keyword research tools to really give you an accurate insight as to what people are searching for.
My favourites are:
- Google Keyword Planner
Step Five: Search by topic on Medium
Did you know that Medium is much more than a platform for male-centric start-ups to share productivity hacks? Yes, Medium is actually one of the most powerful content platforms out there because of its built-in audience. As of today, it attracts over 60 million readers every month, making it worth over US$600 million.
I don’t currently post to Medium as I keep all of my content on my own domain to improve my SEO ranking, but I do consume a lot of content on Medium.
Many people choose Medium as their blogging platform as it allows you to publish content and make it insanely searchable and shareable. You can do this by adding tags, submitting to other Medium blogs, and networking with other writers.
How I use Medium:
As part of my content marketing service, I have a client in the design industry who seeks to publish content that positions them as a design authority. I regularly turn to Medium for inspiration, discovering articles that discuss design news, innovation and opinions on a range of different design-related topics.
I also use it to search for articles on love psychology and relationships for my other business.
So how do I discover these articles? Sometimes they’re on the first page of Medium, so I don’t have to go far at all.
But how does Medium know what I want before I even tell it?
The beauty of Medium lies within its ability to curate content based on what I'm interested in, and other articles I've recently read. When you create an account, you select topics that are of interest to you, and Medium creates a front page that is completely tailored to your interests.
But if I want to explore further, I begin by searching for a keyword, like ‘design thinking’, and then look at which posts get the most attention.
Just like Facebook and Instagram have Likes, Medium has claps, which are virtual kudos and votes of approval. In the example above, that particular post has over 9000 claps.
Those top posts then end up on my list of potential topics, or added to my swipe file.
Step Six: Curate your ideas
Once you have a list of content ideas you like, it's up to you how to curate or store them. I like using an excel spreadsheet, but you might like using Pinterest or a Trello board organised with different labels, and different topics under each label.
But Camilla…isn’t this stealing?
I’m not suggesting you copy all of these content topics and claim them as your own. What the purpose of this exercise is not to get you re-writing, or worse, copying and pasting every point within the articles you’ve chosen for your swipe file. The idea is to create your own unique take on these topics, by finding common problems that your readers have, and then creating your own unique solution.
These are just a few of the ways I come up with my own content ideas. In fact, it's how I came up with the idea for this very blog post.