Over 2 million blog posts are published each day. No wonder many marketers struggle with inventing fresh content ideas to fuel their marketing efforts.
Yet, 99% marketers agree that a constant supply of inventive ideas is critical to marketing success, according to research conducted by content marketing expert Jean Spencer.
So, here are seven tactics to help you overcome your idea-generation hurdles.
1. Create a content 'product'
Overtly promotional content is passé. More than 200 million Americans have ad blockers installed and so are likely just as averse to advertorial-style content.
Your audience has millions of content pieces vying for their attention, and you must stand out to connect with them. Content isn't only a medium anymore, it is a product in its own right.
So, before you create your content, ask yourself what content is so valuable that your audience might pay for it. That can help you establish what your audience truly values.
When Michelin was built in 1900, there were only 2,500 drivers in France. The company had to grow its own market, and it did—with content marketing. It created the Guide Michelin, and filled 90% of it with drivers' stories and experiences, and left a measly 10% for direct, sales-y copy.
Ask yourself what content your audience will pay for, as if it were a product, and you will find powerful content ideas for marketing and branding.
2. Look at what's trending
Avoid resorting to newsjacking solely to gain search benefits, or you may disappoint your loyal readers and fans. However, if the news is relevant to your industry and niche, you need to have an opinion about it. You could simply report the news and suggest ideas on how your fans can deal with the changes it brings, but an absent opinion is a missed opportunity for establishing thought leadership.
When Pokémon Go activity peaked between June and August 2016, marketers from various industries published posts using the search trend:
If you were to publish a blog post about the augmented reality game now, however, you wouldn't see much traction. And track not only when search trends are peaking but also how keyword combinations are doing. Notice, for instance, that "content marketing" and "content strategy" are not on par as search trends:
Some combinations of keywords (longtail keywords) may be more effective for your company than others.
You should ideally also consider location-based trends when planning your content.
3. Answer important questions
The dearth of ideas is eliminated when you listen to your peers and your target market. Active forums and discussions are full of questions waiting to be answered and important tactics yet to be explored in depth.
You can create a bucketload of questions that people in your niche are asking and the topics that they are discussing, so you can draw from them when creating content.
McDonald's Canada has a webpage dedicated to collecting customer questions, titled "Our Food Your Questions." If that approach isn't a great fit for your business, you could scour communities like Quora and Reddit for important questions to answer. You can also use the comments sections of top blogs in your industry or Twitter chats for content inspiration.
4. Conduct competitive and other research
Many people consider business competitors when benchmarking content. Why not industry experts? Top blogs? With respect to content, they constitute your competition. In fact, companies that don't compete product-wise, but cater to the same audience, can also be great references for content ideas.
Subscribe to the top newsletters about your industry and follow the owners' accounts on social media. You could qualify the best newsletters to subscribe to by checking the Alexa ranks of the corresponding websites (Alexa ranks factor in traffic, which can give you a sense of popularity/success).
5. Think laterally
Source: Mark Johnstone
When you are in a rut, it helps to return to the beginning. You could begin with your original keywords and list possible ways to talk about it. Build your own mind maps. You can create clusters of synonymous themes, including different viewpoints and angles.
For instance, if you write about olive oil, you can branch out into the different cuisines and countries that use it, and its history and discovery in each country and cuisine. You can also include famous recipes, health benefits, and different grades of the oil. Broad Google searches can help you find ideas. You simply need to identify the right elements (that resonate with your audience) to include in your content and ensure that they are relevant to your own product.
6. Crowdsource content
According to a Harvard Business Review write-up, diverse perspectives enable innovation.
Instead of banking solely on your marketing team's ideas, you could get all employees involved. Some employee advocacy platforms let employees suggest content so that you can build a reservoir of ideas.
You can also get the C-suite involved by providing executives with rough drafts that they can hone in their voice and push out as powerful posts. In 2016, CEO credibility grew the most among the top trusted sources online.
You can also create contests that require content creation or activate fans to produce content.
7. Use the right tools
It can be tough to stay on top of all the content marketing trends by relying solely on manual processes. As an alternative, you can use tools to sift through and put up ideas to work with:
- Google Suggest: With an incognito browser window, you can use Google's search autocomplete function to find interesting ideas.
- Google AdWords: Remove keyword filters and try different keyword combinations on AdWords to get content ideas.
- HubSpot Blog Topic Generator: This tool's suggestions can spark interesting ideas.
- DrumUp: Curate content from top sources based on keywords that you set. The app's suggestions can be great for content research and ideation.
- GrowthBot: This tool can fetch the top articles from a website or niche in your Slack channels. You can use the top stories to identify trending patterns for your content.
- Talkwalker Alerts: You can use this tool to set keyword alerts for your industry to stay updated on the latest content.
- TweetChat: You can search for relevant Twitter chats and conversations on TweetChat and use the questions/discussions there as references for your content.
With accounts set up on a few tools, you should easily find content marketing ideas when you need them.