Let’s rewind to when I started creating content…
…I was a fresh-faced university graduate, with the dream of creating an awesome blog, that allowed me to create content for a living.
I was young and naïve and for some stupid reason believed that people would want to hear what I wanted to say, without ever considering who those people were.
My content marketing life began as a part-time thing, with content slowly-produced at near perfect standards. I’d spend days editing and redrafting articles, with nothing but quality, flowing writing in mind.
It worked, but at a snail’s pace. My audience inched up in size, and after months of sweating over every word on the page, I was left feeling alienated and annoyed at my lack of return.
So, I shifted my focus, replicating the tactics of other blogs that produced short, lower-quality articles every day (sometimes two or three). First drafts became final drafts, short low-quality pieces of content were published.
Traffic grew, but at a cost. All of the good stats I’d gained from the small audience, were gone. More people were visiting, but fewer were returning or subscribing and they were spending less time on site.
Two things dawned on me:
- I hadn’t been focussing on my audience
- I had to produce content faster than when I started, but with more quality than when I changed my content strategy.
I analysed everything and started again. This time I would not fail.
When I started, my idea of producing amazingly well written articles was flawed, because content wins over style.
But, when I changed to a high-volume approach, the content quality dropped.
A content marketing sweet spot, that achieves both volume and quality:
In this post, I’m going to talk about how to come up with content marketing ideas that produce quality, engaging, audience-growing content, and by the end, you’re going to be all geared up to hit the sweet spot in your industry too.
I’m also going to share a whole list of tools that I use to produce content marketing ideas, but first, we need to (briefly) discuss the fundamentals.
You won’t be able to run, if you can’t stand on two feet first.
Pick a medium.
I’m a Content Director, so I have to be an expert on all of them. Einstein Marketer produces a variety of content, because it reaches wider audiences. This means towing a tight line between designers, writers and video producers.
I started out writing, but soon realised the importance of all content types.
In this guide, I will give you tons of ways to come up with content marketing ideas for any medium.
Any of these techniques can be adapted, whether you’re a blogger, Instagram creator, video producer…
…it doesn’t matter!
Dispelling a Myth
The first thing I’d like to do is eradicate an idea I see branded about all too much:
Myth: We should all spend a day creating 100’s of content marketing ideas and syphon them into a calendar.
Maybe this works for some people, but it doesn’t for me. I have a content calendar, but it’s only compiled of work I’ve already created, from my ‘bank’.
I always make sure I’m 15-25 posts ahead of where I need to be (and yes, I probably wrote this long before you read it!).
I update my content marketing calendar every time I write an article. Which means, instead of stockpiling a calendar full of future ideas, I have a calendar of content that’s ready to be published.
This keeps my mind clear and allows me to write about whichever idea takes my fancy on that day. It also gives me tons of flexibility to react to news and my audience’s wishes. I find this technique produces more quality content, because I enjoy writing these articles.
If you’re struggling to motivate yourself to create content about a topic you dreamt up three months ago, give up the traditional content calendar and give my style a shot.
I’d spend some time compiling a ‘bank’ of ready to publish content before going live with it. If you’re really committed, you can have tons of content ready in just a week!
Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve been doing this a while and it’s allowed me to find something that’s tough for people starting out, rhythm.
When it comes to content creation, RHYTHM is everything`.
I regularly read blogs about cheats, tricks and hacks, but when it comes to content, very few of those have any serious effects on workload.You need to be consistent, and not just that, consistently good. It’s the only way you’ll ever make it in content marketing.Click To Tweet
During a day at work, I have to (amongst other things) strategise content, manage the website, create and edit content, watch videos, listen to audios, communicate with designers, edit, proof read, communicate with different people every day, strategise and finally, write for you guys.
I’m able to squeeze that last little thing in because I’ve found my rhythm and that’s given our content marketing strategy the ability to grow and develop a (pretty cool) audience (and tons of leads off the back of this).You must get into such a powerful day-to-day flow that even when you’re tired, agitated, annoyed or frustrated, you can still bust out at least one piece of high-value contentClick To Tweet
The only way you’ll do this is by conditioning. Create every day. If you’re just starting out, that includes weekends. Keep it up and it’ll become second nature before you know it.
And remember, rhythm is easy to break, so don’t let it drop.
Just because I don’t have a content calendar full of ideas, it doesn’t mean I don’t have a content marketing ideas bank chock-a-block with valuable topics.
I use a sticky notes app, that’s always pinned to my home-screen to note down anything I think content worthy. I’ve got the same on my phone too.
As of right now, I have 87 content marketing ideas on these apps.
So, when it came to writing a blog (today), I scrolled through the list and decided to create this one. I already had the key points in my notes (in the form of short-hand bullet-points), and now, here I am writing it.
But, that’s not the important thing. The crux of this content marketing ideas guide, (now we’ve got the housekeeping out of the way), is to show you how to come up with ideas in a never-ending stream…
…so, just like me, you’ve always got a whole host of content marketing ideas to choose from.
That sub-head (above) is the reason I don’t like pre-planned content calendars.
If you’ve got rhythm when inspiration strikes, you’ll be able to produce high-quality content in short spaces of time.
I act immediately on inspiration. And because I know how to find it, I regularly gain success from content.
If you want to find it too, here is a short list of places to look:
It’s no secret that stories absolutely kill it. Audiences love them, giving you busloads of sweet content marketing metrics…
…and they can be found in the tiniest moments.
When something happens in my life that can be applied to a marketing theory, guess what I do?
I write about it!
This type of content gets tons of shares and traffic stats, because they draw audiences through content from start-to-finish, open loops and are relatable.
Here are a few examples from our blog (but remember, stories can fit into any content medium!):
- Our Facebook post engagement dropped, but we changed strategy and increased it to more than it was to begin with! This gave me the content to create The 1 Tactic That Increased Our Facebook Engagement Rate by 400%!
- I received a FREE bunch of grapes from my local fruit and veg man, and created The Theory of Reciprocation: Get Back Big, By Giving Small First
- A suspect-looking Instagram influencer wanted to write a guest post on our blog, inspiring Are You Being Followed By Robots? And Should You Buy Followers? Instagram Bots, The Complete Guide
- I read a newspaper article about a mass suicide, did a bit of research and applied it to our blog, How to Create a Cult Brand And Following Around Your Business
These little moments can create really amazing content, so make sure you’re always on the lookout, and never be afraid to link two completely different subjects together.
This blog is a perfect example…
…I create content every day and this article explains how I do it.
Content creation, management and strategy are day-to-day tasks that I regularly use for inspiration.
People always want to know how to up their game and I’m no different. When I see content (specifically articles, guides or blogs) from other people who do similar tasks, I always check them out because it might improve my performance.
BTW: ‘How’ is the most searched for word on the internet. Think about ‘how’ you do your everyday tasks and create content around this!
Your audience are the same. The majority will already be in your industry and will want to discover new ways to better themselves.
Even if you think a simple task is menial, somebody else might find HUGE value in it.
This positively affects my content production and quality almost every day.
To explain what it is, I’m going to use ‘granular focus’ as an example.
Let’s pretend I want to create new content about finding awesome content marketing ideas and within that I talk about Inspiration, and within that heading, I reveal a trick I use called Granular Focus.
Now, let’s suppose that as well as summarising it within that blog, I actually write an entire blog about Granular Focus.
If the penny still hasn’t dropped, it’s all about taking one idea (or topic) from a piece of content and creating a whole new piece of content about that one idea.The content you've already created is packed with LOADS more content ideas!Click To Tweet
This super-simple inspiration technique is regularly used by content marketers and guarantees to supply you with loads of ideas.
Angle vs Topic
If I write an in-depth article about Facebook advertising, does that mean it’s finished forever?
I consider every new topic (I create content about), to be a toe-dip. That doesn’t mean I create short, meaningless content that doesn’t hold any value. It’s quite the opposite.
The new topic is actually a test to see if my audience likes, engages and responds to it. If they don’t, it’s no problem because I’ve got plenty more content that I know they’ll like (from previous topic tests)…
…and if they do, jackpot. I can use that topic to create loads of new ideas, by using a variety of angles.
This beautiful term allows content marketers all over the world to stay sane. It means we don’t constantly have to find new topics to create content about.
For every different topic, there are 1,000,000’s of angles. So, if you create something that your audience loves, use a new angle on the topic and go again.
For example, I know that Facebook ads are particular popular with our audience (and we have tons of knowledge about them), as a result, I have created countless pieces of content about optimising them and even created a huge Facebook Ads Resource page with our most valuable FB ads articles!
What topic do you specialise in? And how many angles can you use?
Update and Repurpose
You don’t always have to come up with new content marketing ideas. You can update and repurpose old content and blend this in with your new ideas.
Social media feeds are highly competitive places, a lot of your content will only be seen once by your audience (if at all).
This doesn’t mean that you should update and repurpose old content every week.
My content update and repurposing schedule consists of a once-a-month session (it’s set on ‘repeat alert every month’ in my digital calendar) in which I analyse the performance of old content.
This has a variety of stages, including measuring the performance of content over time, analysing current trends (within our audience) and the historical engagement of the content.
When I have identified content that can be updated, repurposed and republished, I add it to my content marketing ideas bank (not my publishing schedule).If I’m having a day when I’m short on time, low on inspiration (this happens sometimes) or need to fill up my calendar quickly (because of future work) I update and repurpose old content.Click To Tweet
It’s important to remember that this type of content must stand-alone from the original. You have to do something to make it better, more relevant and increase its value.
I’ve saved the most important inspiration source until last.If you aren’t listening to your audience, you’re losing them.Click To Tweet
Forget the content, knowledge, research, design and website, your audience are your most important asset by a million miles.
So, if they ask for something, give it to them. Throw all your other content marketing ideas to the back of the queue and push theirs straight to the front.
Look at content marketing like a shop: Your content is the product and your audience are the customers. If they all come in and say they’d buy something that you don’t have, what will they do if you don’t supply it?
Do you think they’d go elsewhere?
It’s absolutely crucial that every action you make is based around your audience.
A really effective tactic is to occasionally ask them what they’d like. You can do this by running polls/surveys on social media platforms, asking them for feedback, or emailing them (if you have a responsive list).
Just remember not to ask too much of them. Instead of engaging them, it will irritate them and you’ll lose your audience forever.
Content Marketing Tools: Inspiration from Machines
The above content marketing inspiration sources should give you a constant stream of new ideas without even breaking your usual routine…
…but, in order to improve your content quality and bulk out your ideas bank, I’ve compiled a list of amazing tools.
Before we start, do not expect these tools to do all the hard-work for you. They can supplement your ongoing efforts and deliver content marketing ideas that enrich your community, but not much else!
Use them as they were designed to be used. That doesn’t mean copying or replicating opinions. Form your own from your experience, knowledge and the interests of your audience.
Buzzsumo is a freemium website, that runs up to 5 searches a day for FREE.
The website’s search algorithm hunts down the most shared articles on social for specific keywords and presents users with the top ten most shared content on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Reddit.
Here’s an example search:
The broad topic search above demonstrates the most shared content created for my chosen search, ‘Content Marketing’…
…using this broad search, I am able to discover the most popular angles about the subject and can either use granular focus to hone in on one particular element of it or create a completely new piece of content that covers a similar angle about ‘content marketing’.
In this example, I can see that people interested in content marketing have shared an article with a large number in the title (acting as social proof). I can also see that it is research, which tells me that this audience want to develop their understanding on the topic.
I suggest using the FREE 5 searches per day on broad subjects, and ‘chunking down’ as your knowledge expands.
Social engagement is a great indicator of success, making BuzzSumo a handy content marketing idea generation tool, but…
…it shouldn’t be used as anything else. Use the most shared content as inspiration, not replication.
Quora is the world’s biggest Q and A website offers content marketers a great opportunity to listen to their target audience.
The site was created with one clear goal, provide answers to questions that Google cannot answer…
…and it’s doing pretty well. At the time of writing this post, the site received 507.4 million visits in the previous month (Sep.2019):
It allows users to search for specific topics, giving us the chance to peer inside our target audiences minds.
When we know what an audience wants, we can easily create a plan to provide them with it. This comes in the shape of researched, proven and valuable content.
The Quora search also allows us to sort results according to our needs. We can view the Q & A’s by ‘Read’, ‘Answer’ and ‘Topic FAQ’.
I’ve found that all three of these options provide valuable insights, but if you’re just getting started with the platform, visit ‘Topic FAQ’ first.
This section will show you the most asked questions, potentially giving you the resources to fill your ‘idea bank’.
Answer The Public
If you prefer to fill up your content calendar with a ton of ideas in one hit, Answer the Public is the thing for you.
Visually, this tool looks amazing, but it’s the value of the content that makes it such a necessary side-arm for anybody serious about making it in content marketing.
Answer the Public allows us to LISTEN to our target reader again, giving an insight into the things they’ve been searching for. By gaining this information we can understand their motivations and emotions…
…and most importantly, their pain points and information gaps.
When I’ve found a topic that my audience LOVE, I always search for it on Answer the Public. This gives me inspiration for new angles on well-covered subjects and means I can target my content at my audience.
Google Trends is no big secret, but it’s certainly underused, due to its wide-ranging applications.I love using Google Trends for content ideas. As well as giving me insights into up and coming interests, it also gives me tons of new angles for winning content topics.Click To Tweet
Before searching for trends around my topic, I visit the homepage and scroll down to the Recently Trending stats. These search terms keep me up-to-date with what’s popular and often inspires new posts (as long as I can find an angle that’s relevant to my audience).
When I’m done with that section, I get down to the search. Google Trends allows you unlimited searches, so don’t be afraid to ‘chunk-down’ into really particular keywords.
I’m going to stick with the ‘content marketing’ search I’ve used in all my examples so far and explain exactly how I use it.
The first thing I check is popularity. I make the search specific to ‘WORLDWIDE’, ‘UNITED KINGDOM’ and finally ‘UNITED STATES’ (the UK and USA are where most of my audience are based).
When I know that my topic is popular or rising (at least), I scroll down the page to RELATED TOPICS and RELATED QUERIES. This is where the ideas are…
Within these lists, I am able to see the TOP search queries for my chosen keyword and the TOP related topic.
This is really useful if you haven’t used Google Trends for content generation before, but I use it all the time, and I know those TOP search queries and related topics rarely change…
….so, I change the filter from TOP to RISING.
By doing this, I am able to see the growing popularity of new SEARCH QUERIES, and use these as angles, or new content topics to test.
If you don’t use Google Trends regularly, you are really missing a trick. You must keep your finger on your industry’s pulse, Trends is the perfect place to do this.
When you have this plugged in and activated (by clicking on the icon) it automatically scans and analyses any webpage or search results page for keyword relevance, page insights and summary.
When used correctly, this tool is an awesome source of content marketing ideas. If I’m ever short on ideas, I make a Google search around my topic and dive into the Wordtracker Scout extension.
When clicked on, Wordtracker Scout presents a ‘cloud’ of keywords that are relevant to your Google search. Within this cloud, there are tons of topic angle ideas to pick and choose from.
Again, this might be a keyword tool, but that doesn’t mean it’s only relevant to content writers. It can be used for video, audio and images as well.
Reddit is a super-simple platform that has grown a loyal, engaged and very responsive audience. At the time of writing this blog, they had just received 1.3 Billion visits in a month.
So, no matter how niche your industry, it’s certain that you’ll be able to find your target audience in there somewhere.
If you don’t know what Reddit is, it’s basically a discussion and comment website that shares all sorts of content, which can be up or downvoted by users.
This is really valuable to content marketers because it’s another route into our target audiences’ minds.
To get the best out of it for content marketing ideas, search for your keyword at the top of the homepage:
The results page automatically shows the most relevant posts from ALL-TIME. This kicks back plenty of useful information, and you might immediately stumble on an idea.
I like to judge popularity by the up and down votes on the left-hand side. (The longer a post has been on Reddit, the more engagement it is likely to have, but, don’t count old posts out!)
When I’m done reading the posts and comments (with the highest engagement), I return to the results page and click the Communities and Users tab.
From here, I select the most relevant communities with the largest audiences. This will (almost always) mean more than one community, which will give us more results.
I enter the community (by clicking on it, no secret handshakes required), and SORT the results to the TOP POSTS in the last month, week and 24 hours.
There is such a variety of content on REDDIT, that it’s an absolute must for content ideas. Users feel free to express their opinions, make comments and be brutally honest.
Make sure you check relevant communities and HOT TOPICS at least once a week. It’s a goldmine.
Hubspot Idea Generator
HubSpot Idea Generator is my least favoured inspiration source (because there’s no thought involved), but that’s not to say it can’t work for you.
I prefer to work on content I know about, have experience in and can add value to, HubSpot’s idea generator lists 5 content ideas based on 1-3 nouns, meaning it will suggest random topics, that will probably end up being low-quality.
The key thing to remember is, don’t sacrifice quality for quantity.
Some of these ideas might sound amazing, but it’s not worth creating something for the sake of it.
Focus on your audience. If there is an idea in there that’ll work for you, cool…
…if not, spend a little more time on one of the other tools I’ve suggested.
If you’re feeling lazy (and lucky), the idea generator might be the place for you, but I’d recommend only using this as a last resort.
People who write a lot tend to read a lot too. I’m no different.
I try to get through a book at least every 2-4 weeks (depending on length). There is loads of untold information in long copy, that you just cannot find in blogs and articles.
Try to fit reading into your schedule, maybe you could read at lunch? On your commute? In bed? Just half an hour a day will do. It will improve your writing skills and contribute tons of useable ideas.
I prefer to test the tactics and strategies I learn from this source before I write about them (not everything is transferrable), because long copy gives you so much more detail.
Reading might sound really straightforward, but it’s a source that is often overlooked and forgotten.
Don’t forget it!
I’ve had to trim this article down because I could (seriously) go on all day about content marketing idea generation.
The tools I’ve listed should be used regularly, but not relied upon. Your main focus must always be your audience. Base everything you do around them.
You must understand your audience’s needs. When you know what your audience wants, you can create content they’ll love.
Content marketing isn’t about you, it’s about them. Don’t ever lose sight of that.