Ideation inspiration: 5 ways to brainstorm great ideas for blog content
Does it seem that your creative well has run dry? Columnist Megan Krause shares tips and tools to help get the wheels turning and generate fresh ideas for your blog content.
Even the most seasoned content marketer among us runs out of ideas for blog content from time to time. And that’s OK.
What’s not OK: filling those gaps in inspiration with brand-centric content. When we don’t know what to write about, many of us tend to write about ourselves — our brand, our products, our services. Instead of creating content that answers the questions our target audience is searching for, we showcase how awesome we are. We sell. And guess what?
No one wants to hear it.
Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute proposed the 80/20 rule of content way back in 2010. It’s based on the Pareto Principle and looks like this:
- 80 percent of the content you create should be helpful information that solves your customers’ problems.
- 20 percent should be sales content focused on your products and features.
When the idea well runs dry, resist the urge to write about yourself. The following tips and tools will help you come up with blog content your audience actually wants to read.
1. Use keyword tools
Keyword tools generate relevant long-tail keywords and related keywords for any topic, giving insight into what people are searching for and how they’re searching for it. A few we use around our office:
- Keyword Tool
- Google Keyword Planner
- Answer the Public
Start by plugging a keyword or two into one of these tools, and then begin poking around. Check out the keyword suggestions, the long-tail terms and the related questions people are asking. Then start brainstorming content ideas based on what you find.
Pro tip complaint: Keyword tools help you identify trends, but you can’t trust the search volume on these tools. For example, I plugged the search term “content marketing” into two of the above tools at the exact same time; one of them put the monthly search volume at 14.8K, and the other put it at 2.9K. (One day I will likely write a post about this disparity.)
2. Consult Google Suggest
You’re already familiar with Google Suggest (also known as the autocomplete function), but you might not be using it as part of your ideation process. It works great for that, too.
You know how when you start typing a search, Google anticipates what it thinks you mean? Those suggestions are based on what people are searching for, and many times, they make for good blog post subjects.
For example, when you type “financial planning for” in Google, it suggests:
If you’re a financial planner, you just got five blog post ideas (although be careful with “financial planning for dummies,” of course — that exact phrase is copyrighted).
3. Check out the ‘People Also Ask’ box
Here’s another Google function that you’re probably already familiar with but might not be using for ideation.
When you search something, Google sometimes returns a “People Also Ask” box about halfway down the page. Google is suggesting related topics you might find useful, based on — you guessed it — what people are searching for. Check it out — I searched “how to choose a college” and got the following People Also Ask box:
The People Also Ask boxes don’t appear for every query, however. It appears they get returned with broad subject areas (but who knows… because Google).
4. Delve into social media, forums, comment threads and more.
Go to the places where people are asking and answering each other’s questions. Quora, Reddit, LinkedIn Groups, Yahoo Answers — the social nature of these platforms makes them a good place to get ideas because they tell you what real people are struggling to understand.
Comb through their questions and comments in areas related to your industry to see if you could create a blog post that answers it.
5. Talk to people
Here’s a novel idea: Have a conversation. With real live people.
Talk to your salespeople and customer service reps. What questions do they hear most often? What are people struggling with? What piece of content do they wish they had that would help them do their job? What’s missing from the company FAQ?
Talk to your customers and stakeholders. What are their problems? What would make their lives easier? What interests them? What do they value? How can your company help?
Use these conversations to come up with blog posts that address these issues.
When all else fails, spy
Ha ha! Spy! I mean, of course, perform competitive content analysis.
Every great writer claims to read other writers for inspiration; musicians and artists say the same. When you’re stuck, check out what the competition is doing.