Ideation is an important part of any content creation plan, but deciding what topics to create content for can be tricky.
You can’t just churn out content; it needs to be purposeful and strategic. Taking time to develop your ideas for creating content will ensure that your content is targeted and will achieve your goals, for your business and your audience.
Whether you’re creating internal content, brochures, newsletters, web copy, or content for social channels, here are 5 ways you can generate ideas for creating meaningful and effective content:
1. Ask your audience
Rather than trying to guess what your audience wants, go straight to the source and ask them. Remember, audiences are bombarded with content every day, and consume an average of 11.4 pieces of content before making a purchasing decision, according to Forrester. So, your content needs to address customer pain points, desires, and needs. It’s important to move from knowing your audience to understanding your audience. Here are a few ways you can understand your audience’s needs:
- Ask your sales and customer service teams. Pick your sales and customer service teams’ brains for customer pain points and needs. What questions are they asking? What are they interested in? Identify what comes up time and time again. This can be an invaluable way to really get an understanding of your customers. As well as driving ideas for content creation, this insight may also influence more strategic content work around onboarding, user experience, and product or service improvements. Win-win.
- Create surveys. Create a survey, thinking about what topics your customers need answering. Use social media to create polls, use something like SurveyMonkey to send a survey by email, or ask questions in webinars. Make questions simple, keep it short, and perhaps include a small prize draw for feedback to increase engagement.
- Social listening. Social media is an undervalued tool for finding content ideas. You should be monitoring your social media channels frequently. There might be direct mentions of your brand, industry trends, keywords people are using, complaints and praise. Dig into the data and use it to inform your content strategy; try some of these tools to help.
The feedback you yield from these sources will help you to know what direction you should be aiming your content in. Another bonus of asking your audience is that it gives you the opportunity to build customer relationships and show that you are listening to their needs. Every relationship should be two ways, so don’t just broadcast to your audience.
2. Audit your existing content
Content audits are an important part of the content creation process, and shouldn’t be overlooked. For online content, use a tool that will allow you to dig into the analytics and engagement side of your content and use it to identify gaps and spot areas of opportunity. Look at what content has a return on investment for your business and what content is serving a useful purpose for the organisation. Think about:
- What’s working well. You can learn a lot from what’s working well. Narrow down your top performing content and see if you can use it as a springboard for new content. In terms of search engine optimisation (SEO), what keywords are you ranking well for? Is there an area that you could expand on?
- What’s not working. It’s tough to look at sometimes, but you can also learn a lot from your mistakes. In the same way as above, look at your worst performing pieces of content. Ask yourself why it didn’t work well. Was it targeted enough? Did it cover pain points? Should that content be archived or can you make changes and improvements?
- Repurpose content. Although content needs to be fresh, and some content is seasonal, there’s also ‘evergreen’ content which is content that never goes out of date. Look at what you can tweak and repurpose – it might be that you can turn a webinar into a blog post (or transcript for accessibility), or pull quotes from a case study to share on social media.
3. Look at industry reports and trends
You want to be a thought-leader in your area, so it’s important to create content with current perspectives. Keep up with industry publications to see if there is anything worth digging into. Look out for studies and stats that might give you clues to what your audience is struggling with. Or try a tool like Buzzsumo to find new, top-performing content to get some ideas for creating your own content.
4. Do keyword research for online content
For solid SEO, you need to start off with keyword research. Start off by brainstorming some basic topics, and try these tools to help:
- Answer the public. This is a visual keyword research tool that pulls data from Google’s autocorrect search function (which is constantly changing to reflect what people are searching). This is an underdog for content creation ideas, as it allows you to look at the bigger picture really easily and pick out things like questions and ‘how-tos’ that people are searching for.
- Ahrefs. There are many free and paid versions of SEO tools, but we like Ahrefs because it’s a great all-rounder with plenty of cool features. You can search keywords for the difficulty to rank, and search volume, as well as monitoring your content effectively.
Here’s an example of a visualisation from AnswerThePublic.com which suggests content ideas based on questions asked around the term, ‘content strategy’.
Create a long list of keywords you can use and rank for easily. Keyword research is about getting a balance between difficulty and search volume. Also, try to go for ‘long tail’ keywords (longer phrases) as you’ll have more chance of ranking and they are more specific to your business needs and customer search queries. It’s also important to avoid keyword stuffing; focus on creating well-written, natural, high-quality content.
5. Check out what your competitors are doing
It’s always a good idea to keep tabs on what your competitors are doing, and you can definitely use their content to inform yours. Check out your competitor’s websites; again, you can use something like Buzzsumo for this. Try:
- The skyscraper technique. Or as Moz calls it, ‘10x content.’ You want to be creating similar content to your competitors but make it better. The skyscraper technique is all about building on what your competitors are already doing, and making your own content ten times better than your theirs So, have a good nosey at your competitor’s content, then try to beat it!
- Content gap analysis. Some tools, like Ahrefs, allow you to search a content gap analysis on your competitors. This allows you to see what keywords they are ranking for in comparison to you, and you can see if you can do better.
Pablo Picasso is widely quoted as saying “good artists borrow, great artists, steal.” Whether or not he actually said this is a different matter, but this is applicable to content writers too.
Always be useful, usable, and purposeful
The ultimate failure of content usually happens at the start of the process. If you’re unsure of objectives, confused about what it is your audience wants or rush the ideation process, these things can affect the quality of the final output, meaning your content doesn’t achieve what it needs to. It can also be frustrating for content creators if there’s no brief or it’s unclear what you’re writing, why, and who it’s for.
Whatever topics you end up committing to, make sure they’re relevant and useful for your audience and business. Remember, content is an asset. It should never be a case of churning out ill-considered content. It has to be useful, informative and educational. With the amount of content we consume every day, your customers are likely to go elsewhere for information if they don’t get what they need from you. So, be genuinely interested in what they want, and always put yourself in their shoes when coming up with ideas for creating content.