Inspiration Goldmine: Guide to Creating Effective Content Ideas

Business.com / Marketing Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

A great idea could take your content to the next level, but a lackluster idea could ruin it. So how do you make sure your idea is on point?

Assume you’re doing content marketing for a plumbing client and you’re tasked 5 blog articles. I know what you’re thinking: Awesome opportunity!

Not what you’re thinking?

More than likely you’re thinking: “What the heck am I going to write about?”

You probably aren’t an expert plumber, so a tutorial on bathtub spout diverters (had to look that up) is out of the question. So how do you create a compelling article?

It starts with the idea!

Disclaimer: Good ideas are completely subjective. I don’t claim to be the definitive judge of good ideas (trust me on that). 

Related Article: Walking the Walk: Content Marketing Do's & Don'ts

Phase 1: Start with objectives and research

Many people will suggest starting the creative process with a plethora of random ideas. This is a flawed strategy that could lead to wasted time, unqualified topics and confirmation bias. Instead, create a list of objectives and relevant resources first. Then, your ideas will be better targeted, tested and more valuable.

  • Answer the why: Discover the objective and reasoning for the content to be created in the first place. By understanding the “why” you can tailor your idea and content to perpetuate a favorable action, thus adding a strategy to the content.
  • Assess your competition:  Familiarize yourself with the industry’s competitive environment to avoid aimlessly creating ideas and writing redundant content. What topics are your competitors covering and are there unique vantage points?
  • Use tools to discover trending topics: Take advantage of resources like Ahrefs Content Explorer and Buzzsumo to uncover trending topics in your vertical. These themes can be arranged based on popularity, thus revealing topics your target audience finds most valuable. Keep these relevant trends in mind as you begin ideating. 
  • Find Interesting Data and Resources: Scour externally to find data and interesting information that can further the topics you’ve found. Also, look internally at the company’s research or case studies and try to uncover thought-provoking data points to ideate around.

Use tools to discover trending topics: Take advantage of resources like Ahrefs Content Explorer and Buzzsumo to uncover trending topics in your vertical.

Tip: Organize the objectives, topics, trends and data sets so that you can access it during the ideation stages of phase 2.

Related Article: Content Marketing Without This Extra Step Is Useless

Phase 2: Brainstorm strategically

The second phase of the ideation process is more conducive to creative freedom. With that said, you should still use the information collected initially to build a framework for your brainstorming. These parameters will provide structure to move your ideation forward.

  • Create an Idea List: Spend 10-15 minutes writing as many topics and ideas down, keeping in mind the popular trends and internal objectives.

Example:

  • Plumbing mistakes
  • Leaky sinks or faucets
  • Common plumbing issues
  • Find Emotional Appeal: Take your favorite topics from the list and connect with applicable emotions. Emotional appeal engages the audience and perpetuates actionionable behavior.

Example:

  • Plumbing mistakes: Fear, Curiosity, Interest
  • Headline Purge: With your narrowed ideas and targeted emotions in mind, it’s time to create headlines. The headline is arguably the most important selling-point for content. In fact, 80% of people will read headline copy but only 20% will read the subsequent content.  Write 1-3 headlines for each idea and emotion.

Example: Plumbing mistakes + Fear

  • "7 Everyday Activities That Are Destroying Your Plumbing"
  • "Are Your Kids Causing Plumbing Problems?"
  • "The Real Dangers of Do-It-Yourself Plumbing"
  • Narrow to Five Headlines: Select your five favorite headlines from the entire list.
  • Take time then iterate: After you select the top five headlines, spend a minimum of 30 minutes away from the project. Afterwards, modify the headlines to make them more directive and actionable.

Example: “The Real Dangers of Do-It-Yourself Plumbing”

  • "Do-It-Yourself Plumbing Costing You More Than You Realize?"
  • "Telltale Signs That it’s Time to Call a Professional Plumber"

Related Article: If Content Marketing Actually Worked, It Would Look Like This

Phase 3: Pick the Best and Start Writing!

With your five favorite headlines fully researched and iterated, it’s time to select the first article to create. Remember to frequently leverage the resources collected in phase one to support ideas and arguments throughout the content.

Most creatives will admit the coming up with an interesting and unique idea is one of the most difficult stages of the creative process. However, a strong idea can take your content to the next level, while a lackluster idea can be detrimental to the lifecycle of your content. Regardless of whether you’re an industry expert or an arms-length marketer, taking the ideation steps above can severely increase the likelihood of generating a successful piece of content.

What steps do you take when creating ideas for your content?

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