Content marketing ideation: Where do good ideas come from?

It’s not easy to keep coming up with new ideas for content. Columnist Rachel Lindteigen reveals steps you can take to help with the process.

It’s hard to believe, but we’re already in 2017 … wow. The start of a new year is a great time to review your current content marketing program and see how you’re doing. Is it time to change things up a bit for the new year or are you A-OK just cruising along as is? Let me give you a hint: it’s the former, not the latter in most instances. When you just cruise along, your results normally reflect the level of effort.

Anyway, one of the most common questions I hear is, “How do you keep coming up with new ideas for content topics?” Let’s be honest — this can be a tough one. Have you ever had an assignment due and no clue what you were going to write about? Yeah, me, too.

If we’re being honest, we’ve probably all been there before. It’s normal. Being creative can be tough, and sometimes you’re just not in the right mindset to come up with a great idea. But there are steps you can take that can help.

I recommend taking a bulk content ideation approach. Rather than focusing on coming up with just one great idea, I try to focus on an area and generate multiple ideas during a brainstorming session.

If I have other people to work with, great! I love collaboration. But sometimes you’re stuck working alone, and you still need to figure out what to write about.

Think about your customer

When I’m starting the content ideation process for myself or a client, I always start by thinking about the audience first. What information does the audience care about? What questions do they have? If you think about them and their questions, you’ll often find that topic ideas will emerge pretty easily.

Once I’ve come up with a list of questions I think should be answered, I reach out to others who might know my audience. If you have an active social media following, this would be a great time to ask what questions they have or take a look at what they’ve asked about in recent months.

Answer customer questions

If your website has internal search capabilities, you can go through the data to see if there are relevant questions you could answer. If you have a customer service team, they should be your new BFF during the content ideation process, because they talk to customers every day and know what they get asked all the time.

If you can create content your customers need, they’re going to engage with you.

From there, I compile my list and start looking for trends. If I have six questions that all center around a certain topic, there’s a good chance that’s a piece of content I should write.

See what Google suggests

Maybe I’ve found the right topic, or maybe it’s just a good starting point, and I want to keep digging. I’ll take that topic and go to Google to see what Google Suggest gives me using my seed idea.

So for today’s post, I started with Content Marketing, then went to Content Marketing Ideas, and as you can see, Google suggested the following topics:

screen-shot-2016-12-30-at-12-30-23-pm…which led me to write this column on content marketing ideation.

Another great tool you can use for topic ideation is Answer The Public. This site lets you enter your keyword ideas and provides you with a list of questions about that topic. Answer the Public is free to use and can definitely help your content ideation process.

Once I have a list of potential topics, I go through and determine which ones I want to focus on first and start writing.

Help answer the public’s questions

If you want to have a successful marketing program, it’s important to spend time on the research and ideation phase before jumping into content development. If you’re currently not spending time on the research and ideation phase, I strongly encourage you to change your approach and be a bit more strategic as we move into 2017.

When you provide answers to questions your customers have, they’re more likely to engage with your site. When they engage with your site, Google sees you as a resource for those topics and, in turn, often ranks you higher — because, like you, Google wants to provide its customers with the best, most relevant content every time they search.

So, an easy-to-follow content ideation plan:

  • Think about your customer.
  • Answer their questions.
  • See what Google suggests.
  • Help answer the public’s questions.

Focus on providing great content that’s useful, and you’ll start seeing the results. Good luck in 2017!

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