We’ve all been there: tapping our fingers on our desks, wondering how we’ll fill our content calendar for the month. The simple solution may be to source ideas from competitors or plug a few topics into a keyword research tool and see what comes up.
This is by no means a bad process, and sourcing ideas from competitors can be an efficient and effective strategy. However, other methods exist that are often underrated.
In this article, I’ll explore creative strategies to source new content ideas that will grab your audience’s attention.
Note: This article includes comments shared in my #SEOchat on Twitter about content for search. To join the fun, follow #SEOchat each Thursday 1-2pm EST.
Forums like Reddit and Quora are awesome places to find topics your audience is interested in. Threads give you insight into the top questions people are asking. Plus, the comments can be a gold mine to understand the language and sentiment around these topics.
Search “[forum] [topic]” to find relevant threads. On Reddit, you can sort comments by Best, New, Controversial and more. Sift through the rocks to find some gold.
2. Customer feedback
Your own customers are one of the best places to source content ideas. I mean really, who better to ask?
Ask your audience what topics they’re interested in, and what they want to see more of from you. You can do this in 1-1 interviews, group brainstorms or send polls to gather feedback. One of my favorite tactics: use social media to source content directly from your followers.
3. Sales/customer support teams
If you don’t have personal relationships with your customers, no problem.
Internal teams that work with customers can be an equally helpful resource! This can include customer support, sales, market research and more. Set up a call or start an internal chat to discuss FAQs, common pain points and other feedback. Get ready to take some serious notes.
A1 We often use Basecamp to brainstorm since we are all remote. Having a diverse group, with different interests and different backgrounds working together can mean a cross-pollination of ideas, which can help interesting ideas and content grow. #SEOChat
— Bill Slawski ⚓ (@bill_slawski) June 24, 2021
Tip: Send over an agenda beforehand to give your team an idea of what you’ll be asking. This gives them a chance to brainstorm and can get the ball rolling a bit faster in the meeting.
4. Trending topics
One exciting tactic to write content that performs is to simply be the first to market.
Using trends to source content ideas can help you identify up-and-coming topics that your competitors may not even be aware of yet. A few places you can source these ideas:
Tip: Your competitors have access to the same tools as you do, so don’t rely on trend tools alone to source these ideas.
With your team, brainstorm topics that might be trending based on world events, pop culture, etc. During the pandemic, we helped our client write successful content about virtual doctor’s appointments. This idea came from a good old-fashioned brainstorm.
5. Review top-performing content
Time to head to the ultimate treasure trove: your own data. Review your top-performing content from the past 3-6-12 months. Find commonalities in the content that’s been working to see if there’s an opportunity to create more.
Is there a common topic that you haven’t fully covered, or a successful format you can scale?
For example, looking back at my client’s top performers quickly revealed a popular format: quotes posts. We researched “quote” topics we hadn’t covered yet that were relevant to our audience and got to work.
In the past couple of years of creating and updating this content, we’ve seen a nice increase in traffic to our “quotes” articles:
Proof that sometimes, creativity doesn’t have to mean reinventing the wheel. The trick is finding new ways to stay the course.
6. Article comments
A1: I actually just created a whole FAQ/Q&A section on a site using blog comment questions/clarifications from supporting topic blog posts. I don’t know why its taken me this long to figure that out…. #seochat
— Carrie Hill 🗺️🎙️ (@CarrieHill) June 24, 2021
Y’all. COMMENTS. People are more willing than ever to share their thoughts and opinions. Fantastic content ideas may be hiding in the depths of articles you have already written.
Review comments on your own articles and on your competitors’. You can use crawling tools like Screaming Frog and Sitebulb to quickly find articles with the most comments, so you can get an idea of where to start.
And let me tell you, this effort is worth it. A few months back, I was sifting through comments on my client’s article about get well soon cards and found this gem:
Virtual get well cards – genius!
In addition to finding content ideas from comments, you can also use comments to improve your content after publishing. I call this tactic feedback optimization, using your reader’s comments to improve your content.
(Just by implementing popular suggestions in the comments, organic traffic to our top article increased +21% in one month. The whole thing took like, twenty minutes).
7. Social listening
A1: I get lots and lots of ideas from social listening. You can use specific SL tools, or just be involved on social as much as you can. Also, FB groups are popular for people to ask questions and are great for finding content inspiration.
— Crystal Ortiz 🐉 (She/Her) (@Crystal3Ortiz) June 24, 2021
Social listening is a tried-and-true means to discover fresh content ideas. Reading what your audience is saying online can reveal what they care about and how they talk about it.
You can use social listening tools to automate the process, or you can do research manually by looking up hashtags or keywords. Pay special attention to posts that generate a lot of buzz, or display a strong emotion (whether positive or negative).
For example, a search for #cooking on Twitter sparks an interesting content idea right away:
A quick Google search shows hordes of opportunities around this topic:
Your content calendar could be set for the month with these wildcard content ideas alone. This type of content lets you reuse one outline, so you can spend more time writing and less time planning.
8. Google’s search features
Google’s own search features provide an efficient way to draw inspiration from related searches. A quick Google search can provide dozens of fresh content ideas!
- Autocomplete – Type your topic into Google and click before and after the text to see what other queries pop up. Try these search operators to help you expand the ideas from autocomplete.
- Related Searches – Review similar searches listed underneath the search results.
- People Also Ask – These related questions can provide a slew of brand new content ideas.
Last but certainly not least, reviews are littered with nuggets of wisdom to improve or promote your product or service. Head to Google My Business, Amazon, Facebook (or any customer review site) to spy on your own reviews and your competitors’.
Oh I just found some great ones in my competitors 1star reviews too! So many places for great content ideas!
— It’s Jess! (@jgirardi_) June 24, 2021
Tip: Pay special attention to the 1-star reviews. Learn what is not working for your audience so you can address those issues. For instance, if a reviewer says a product is too expensive, you could write content around how to make it more cost-effective or why it’s worth the extra money.
Of course, you can flip the script and check out the 5-star reviews to see what’s going right. If a reviewer loves that your product is pet-safe, that could be something you play up in your product names, descriptions or articles.
If you try even a few of these ideas, you are sure to walk away with content ideas. Just make sure to document your research so no Eureka moment gets left behind. And with that, have fun diving in!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
About The Author
Abby Reimer is a senior SEO analyst at Uproer, where she develops SEO and content strategies for e-commerce and technology clients. By day, Abby’s passions include content strategy, competitive analysis and client training. Outside the office, cooking, yoga and reading a good book take over. Her career dream is to make SEO more accessible for marketers of all experience levels. She believes wholeheartedly that better search results are better for everyone.