Latest posts by Janice Kersh (see all)
- This is How to Never Run Out of Useful Content Ideas - November 14, 2016
Being a freelance writer for the last two decades, I’ve watched this industry evolve.
As the professional world around me has changed, I’ve experienced evolution as a writer, and my tactics are honed to a nearly exact science.
Topic idea generation for web content is my second nature.
And that is something I am going to share with you further.
If you apply my process to your topic generation plan, you will save years of trial and error.
So, learn what methods and tools have worked in the past, what continues to work today, and how this can help you never run out of ideas for new content.
Here’s my six-step recipe for churning out valuable content topics time and time again.
- Most importantly, I follow a routine. This is key for anyone working in a creative field.
- I find useful ways to spark inspiration when it’s lacking, and be creative.
- Even specific topics that have already been written about by others need innovation – I know how to find it.
- An understanding of modern SEO and trending topics gives me an edge when brainstorming topic ideas.
- There’s a fine line between clickbait and clickability, so I make sure to be relevant.
- When needed, I leverage online tools to help me come up with ideal topics.
Content marketing generates about 300% more leads than traditional marketing and costs 62% less. It’s critical for you to create web content when trying to promote anything. Where blogging is concerned, continually publishing new posts is key. Running out of topics for your blog, on the other hand, is detrimental.
Let me further explain the above-mentioned avenues in the following paragraphs.
This is how I prepare myself for writing
Every writer needs a routine.
My writing routine isn’t all word processing and responding to emails.
After years of taking the same actions, my brain is preparing to write when I’m at my desk, coffee or tea in-hand – depends on what time of day it is – and my solfeggio music is playing (here’s a link to what I am currently listening to).
When seated, I ask myself, ‘What can I do now to feel accomplished later?’
Every time I write, the preparation is the same.
A writing routine helps the subconscious mind get into the proper mode and adds to productivity.
While you don’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) have the same routine that I do, getting yourself into a writing routine, leveraged each time you are ready to generate new topics, will send a signal to your brain that you’re ready. Topic generation will become more habit than a hassle.
Where does my creativity come from?
Most of the time, I can come up with inspired ideas for nearly any topic.
These ideas don’t just manifest from the ethers – they’re are created on purpose. You have to put useful information into your mind to watch creative ideas flow out.
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot,” said Stephen King, in his book, On Writing.
King also said that your television should be the first thing to go – that you shouldn’t watch television at all. I agree with the first part, but not with the second.
When listening to music, I hear the writer’s lyrics. When watching television and film, I see the writer’s screenplay. Call me a workaholic, but I think of my work when I’m enjoying entertainment. As a blogger, I could say that reading other blogs is crucial, but books, television shows, films, and social media should not be ignored either.
Topic ideas are everywhere; I just have to keep feeding my brain.
Find what motivates you, and make time for it – if it feels like fun, it can still be productive.
what if I have to write on a specific topic?
As a blogger or writer, I’m sure you must have come across a situation wherein you need to write about a specific topic.
In this case, don’t just robot your way through it. Instead, give it a valuable edge, written from a unique perspective.
Sometimes, a client comes to me with a specific topic, asking me to write about something like why a B2B strategy needs to include a blog. When this happens, the first thing I do is check out the recent research. A google search for ‘B2B blogging statistics’ could yield an enough information to get me started. If not, I find a business journal or move my search over to Google Scholar, a search engine that returns only peer-reviewed articles.
Once my research is complete, I know how to integrate recent data into the body of the article, and I create a headline. The headline for a specific topic isn’t going to be exactly what the client asked for. I have to make it clickable and find an angle. The angle depends on the data I compile. After that comes the outline, writing, and editing.
Even when a topic is assigned, you should be able to make your work stand out.
The importance of SEO in blogging and how search is evolving
Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most important elements of writing nowadays.
This has evolved light years – for the better – since I first started writing online articles.
It used to be that I could stuff the word “shoes” into my article – even place variants of the word under the article or in the meta description (<shoes, sneakers, tennis shoes, athletic shoes, basketball shoes>) and rank in the top three results for a search on shoes.
Now, search engines are intelligent.
They know what people want.
Search engines rank a page based on bounce rate, page views, shares, backlinks, and more. So, I need my articles to be engaging and the topics to be rankable. “Shoes” is too generalized for a search term, and definitely won’t work for a topic. Instead, it’s best to find a long tail keyword (these can be seen at the bottom of a google landing page for any search term).
Where to source topics for a targeted audience?
Keyword Planner from Google AdWords is a great tool to choose keywords for a website or blog. Many people look up their main keyword and enter the website of the top result for their main search term on google.
I have another strategy, which produces better results, in my experience.
Instead, I find a forum where my target audience congregates, and source my keywords from high-traffic pages.
So, if I were writing on shoes today, I would first determine who my audience is. For example, If the client is Jordan athletic shoes, the generalized audience is probably interacting with one another in a basketball forum. Exploring one of these forums is how I can find out what language they’re using.
I can either enter the URL “http://www.basketballforum.com/” (Basketball Forum shows up first in Google’s results for the search “basketball forum”) into the Keyword Planner tool and see what search terms the tool relays, or I can read the forum myself, and generate my own topic ideas, based on what the members are discussing.
A quality topic for a shoe blog isn’t going to be “Cheap Nike Shoes for Sale” (this might work for a sales page). Instead, something like, “How Many More Assists Does Steph Curry Need to Be the All Time Greatest?” might be better.
If I’m writing for a shoe company, why would Steph Curry’s career stats be a good topic?
Well, because when people first arrive at my blog, they’re not ready to buy a product. They might be ready to join my mailing list or share my article with their friends. Social shares are ultimately going to impact a website’s ranking more than a number of shoes I sell.
In the long run, a higher pagerank will help me sell more shoes.
What are the current trends?
Sometimes, I’ll write on trending topics in a specific niche.
This means that everyone else is already writing about this, so it’s saturated. It also means that many people are searching for it. It’s November 2016 and the US election is a hot topic. I could write about the scandals of Clinton and Trump, like everyone else, or I could spin this and leverage it for my niche.
Am I still trying to sell shoes?
Why don’t I take a look inside the closets of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton instead?
“Which of These Jordans Would Donald Trump Wear to a Street Ball Game?”
The answer would probably end up being that he would create his own custom shoes, pay whatever it costs to remove the logo and replace it with his own, jack up the price and market himself as a sports lover to sell them. I would build up to that, though.
Here’s where I go to find out what’s trending (depending on the blog’s marketing strategy):
- Google Trends
- What’s Trending
- Buzzfeed Trending (clickbait)
- Facebook Trends
- Twitter Trends
- Popular on Pinterest
Clickability vs Clickbait – how I stay relevant?
Clickbait has a provocative nature.
It is a topic headline wherein the sole purpose is to draw people into a website.
Unless the client I’m working with specifically asks for clickbait, I avoid it. It still works well for sites like Buzzfeed, for now. Facebook is one of the first social media sites to crack down on the amount of clickbait that shows up in people’s newsfeeds, and the rest are likely to follow suit. Clickbait is noisy and irrelevant.
Instead, I shoot for a clickable topic headline.
There are words and headline formats that actually help improve clickability, making readers want to read more. Listicles and how-tos, for example, seem to work well for generating traffic. I try to take the guesswork out of blog topic headlines by using CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer to grade the titles that I come up with.
Tools for generating topic ideas
When all else fails, or when I’m in a hurry, I have some go-to tools that generate topics for me.
Of course, each of these requires a bit of alteration before headlines are perfect, but they definitely come in handy.
- Hubspot’s Topic Generator gives me a list of blog post topics for a week, based on keywords I want to use.
- Portent’s Title Maker comes up with ideas for post titles and gives advice for making them grammatically relevant.
- Conversation Starters, though more general in nature – not designed specifically for blogging – can come up with hundreds of questions to help me think of topic ideas.
- Buy Essay – just create a request, and their team will generate a ton of topic ideas for you.
Coming up with topics for your blog doesn’t have to be difficult.
Get into a routine, understand exactly what it is you’re trying to accomplish, and feed your mind with large doses of inspiration.
When you can’t come up with a useful content idea on your own, leverage the tools that are here for you.
Now that you’ve read my process, you can take at least one of the tools or tactics above and apply to your strategy next time you’re struggling for ideas.
Do you have any topic idea generation strategies that I didn’t mention here?