Six Places Content Marketers Can Go for Ideas and Inspiration

Dana  Larson

September 02, 2014

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The great thing about keeping a content calendar is that you'll never have to worry about what topic you're going to write about today. The catch is that you have to come up with enough ideas to fill out a content calendar. So what does an overworked content strategist do when she gets calendar choke (the content strategist's equivalent of writer's block)? Luckily, there's at least a half dozen different places I can go to for content inspiration and ideas. Check 'em out and see if inspiration comes to you, too.

1.      Web Analytics Data

I find that analyzing the organic search terms in Google Analytics is an excellent way of discovering topics that are of interest to my audience. After all, this insight into what a user is interested in is about as direct as you're going to get apart from doing primary user research. Plus, if you limit your analysis to recent inquiries, it has the added benefit of being a great source of timely content ideas.

Below, I've shared a few of the organic keywords that drive traffic to our website (I can't give away all of our secrets!)

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Just as with your Web analytics data, there can be some good content gems to unearth in your social analytics. Because your social analytics includes an audience that is tangential to your core audience, you may find a broader set of topics here. The way I recommend mining social analytics for ideas is to see which posts garner the best reach and then see if there's a topic there that can be turned into a story. For example, the last post about sketchnoting in the Facebook Insights reporting snapshot below shows excellent reach, so sketchnoting might be a topic I’d want to write about further.

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2.      Google Trends

If you're looking for content that is topical and current, Google Trends can be a great source.  Google Trends analyzes Google search terms to track what is popular on a given day. Google Trends doesn't report on every possible term, but if you happen to be in an industry that aligns with their top charts you'll have an added source for content ideas. For example, if you're in the pharmaceutical industry, you can see what medications are trending in search at a high level (e.g., Antibiotics) and then explore deeper to see related searches (e.g., uti, uti antibiotics). If you find that you're consistently uncovering relevant topics from Google Trends, you can subscribe and receive regular updates from Google, saving you the trouble of having to go look for them.

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3.      Google Keyword Planner

It should be no surprise that Google offers a wealth of data, and I've got one last Google source for you-the Google Keyword Planner. Built around the primary purpose of suggesting keywords for PPC ads, the Keyword Planner is an excellent source for researching keywords and concepts related to a topic. Let's say for example that you want to write something about Obamacare but you're not sure what angle to take. The Keyword Planner will suggest any and every term that is related to Obamacare.  Below we see 394 different terms that are currently being tracked in relation to Obamacare. You can also gauge the relatively popularity of your content based on the number of average monthly searches, competition and the suggested bid (the higher each of these is, the more popular the term is).

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4.      Quora

Scanning and searching Q&A sites like Quora can be an excellent way of finding obscure topic ideas and possibly even a bit of supporting content that you can utilize in your writing. For example, just searching on the terms "pharmacy" and "oncologist" on Quora produces some interesting lines of questioning as shown below. A blog post on the shared personality traits of oncologists could make for a pretty nice little lifestyle piece, but what are the chances that you'd come up with that idea on your own?

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6.      Call for Questions

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Sometimes there's just no substitute for asking your users what they want to see from you in the future. You can make the request (on your website and social channels) for what people want to know about by asking them to submit questions or topic ideas via Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter (depending on which social platform is best for your business). In addition to getting valuable information you can use, your users are likely to appreciate the opportunity to provide the input, especially your loyal visitors. But take a page from Hypebeast's attention-grabbing example and make sure that your request is something that will catch their eye in the first place. Then be sure to be specific about any pertinent parameters you require -such as timeframe for submitting requests, expectations about when they might (or might not) see their idea live, and any information about incentives (if applicable).

Still Stumped? Time for Professional Help

Coming up with content ideas week after week, month after month is no easy task.  And while we hope these ideas will inspire you, we know that content concepting and creation is incredibly time-consuming, and sometimes just finding the time can be the biggest challenge you face. We're here to help if you should need it. At Extractable, we're passionate about all things content, and we're ready to put our experienced content team to work for you. Contact me at dlarson@extractable.com to learn more about how we can make content work harder for you.