By Arnie Kuenn published May 24, 2013

Find Content Creation Ideas: 7 Sources for a Virtually Endless Supply

content creationContent marketing poses many different challenges to businesses of all sizes, one being producing enough content. In fact, according to a Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs study, 64 percent of small businesses and 53 percent of enterprise businesses note that producing enough content is a content marketing challenge they currently face. Often businesses aren’t able to produce “enough” content because they believe they simply do not have any new ideas for their content marketing projects.

Though content creation can seem daunting, there are many easy ways to make the content marketing process easier. Not only are a variety of tools available to help inspire fresh concepts, but there are also some hassle-free methods that businesses in any industry can take advantage of — simply by tapping into the power of some of the websites you are probably already using every day.

Recently, I was presenting at the Western Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus conference on ways to research content topics that will appeal to a business’ online audience. I walked the audience through the following steps to help them come up with fresh ideas for content creation.

Get grand ideas through Google

By simply entering a keyword phrase into a search engine, businesses can gain audience insight and use it to generate new content.

For example, pull up one of the most popular websites in the world: Google. Type in a keyword phrase that is relevant to your business, and wait for the Google Suggest results to roll in. In the example below, I focused on the travel industry, and chose “visiting the Grand Canyon” as my keyword phrase. Notice how, when I started to type “visit the grand…” Google automatically offered some suggestions, based on commonly searched terms. These auto-fill terms are perfect starter recommendations for content ideas, as Google users will see very similar results when they search for information on a potential trip to the Grand Canyon.

google search

Next, take a look at the “related searches” suggestions Google offers on its search engine results pages (SERPs). In this example, the options presented can be categorized into two obvious themes. The first is visiting from nearby locations like Las Vegas or Phoenix, and the other is based on visiting in a given month of the year. Taking a cue from these results, hotels, restaurants, or other hospitality-related businesses in the Grand Canyon area might consider creating a 12-part content series that highlights the benefits of visiting the Grand Canyon during each month of the year. Because these results appear as a Suggested Search on Google, you can assume that your prospects and customers are likely searching for information like this.

google related suggestions

Use YouTube to share the industry experience you have

After discussing Google, I walked the audience through a similar content development method using YouTube. In the image below, notice the intent of the searches, and note that the resulting suggestions were different on YouTube than the ones that turned up on Google.

From this example, we can tell people are wondering about Grand Canyon tours and the skywalk. If you’re a Grand Canyon business, the easiest thing to do might be to create a piece of content that’s optimized for such searches and embed a relevant video from YouTube (assuming the video you choose wasn’t created or branded by your competitor). If you have the right resources, you could also consider creating a unique video that describes each tour in detail, or you could film interviews with some of the local guides that take tourists on these excursions.

youtube search

Yahoo Answers for content based on your customers’ questions

My third example focused on Yahoo Answers — an interest-based Q&A site. There, I searched “visit the Grand Canyon” and found more than 410 questions related to a search of this exact term.

Some of these questions were:

  • What is the best way to visit the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas?
  • What activities are there to do while visiting the Grand Canyon?
  • We have three days to visit the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas. What is the best way to do it?
  • We are visiting the Grand Canyon for two days and want to stay close but in a place that is not too touristy. What are your suggestions?

Notice the types of questions being asked? These would make great topics for your content, as they are each fairly specific and are obviously of interest to potential tourists. Local businesses in the Grand Canyon area could also consider blogging their answers, using the questions themselves as the post titles. Doing this gives your business an advantage when it comes to ranking for these long-tail searches, as well as for driving traffic to your blog.

yahoo answers

Through Yahoo Answers questions, we observe a commonality with the Google suggest searches found in the previous example. People seem to be very interested in the term, “visit the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas.” However, when I searched for that phrase on Google, there is only one piece of content directly addressing that question — and so it ranks at No. 1. If your business is related to the Grand Canyon or is located near it, why not write an article using that exact title? You might be surprised how quickly you make it to the top-ranking result.

Through these steps, I was able to convey to my conference audience that finding ideas for truly awesome content creation doesn’t have to be difficult, no matter what industry you are in. With just a few quick searches, I turned up more than 15 content ideas. Though these methods are a great starting point for your content creation efforts, there are several other tools you might find useful for inspiring ideas. Here are some more of my favorites:

Google AdWords Keyword Tool

All online research starts with keywords, which makes keyword research an essential first step in content development. The Google AdWords: Keyword Tool is one of the best free keyword research tools available, as it is tied directly to Google AdWords. Though it does use search frequency data from Google, the numbers are estimates, so it’s better to use this tool to confirm your other keyword findings than as the only research method you use.

The Google AdWords tool can tell you which keywords are searched more (or less) than others based on broad, exact, or phrase-match volumes, contingent on the settings you set. Also, you can choose to see either local (U.S.) or global data, which is crucial for geo-specific businesses.

Quora

Quora is a Q&A site that is similar to Yahoo Answers. Though it hasn’t been around as long as Yahoo’s platform, it is growing more popular at a rapid rate, and already has a very engaged community. The site also features more in-depth questions than other Q&A sites, and the quality of the answers provided seems higher, as well. These benefits make it an excellent resource for researching useful content topics, based on the questions being discussed that are relevant to your industry.

LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn is best known as a professional social media site where people can connect with colleagues, share content, and even look for employment opportunities. Additionally, users can participate in group discussions, sharing information and ideas about their industry, personal interests, and more. All of these engaging conversations make LinkedIn groups a gold mine for content development research.

These group discussions display industry insight that may not be available elsewhere. By reading these discussions in industry groups, you’ll be able to gather frequently asked questions, uncover industry trends, and even identify sentiment toward specific products or services — information that is invaluable for content creators who are looking for content ideas that will serve their customers’ needs.

Your customers

Speaking of customers, if you aren’t already asking yours what they would like to learn from your company or know about your business, start doing so now. Interview them to learn what they think of the content you provide. What content topics and formats do they prefer? Where do they hang out online? Get their opinions on the areas they think you’ve covered well in your content, as well as the areas where they think you are falling short. Consider sending out surveys like this every few months to keep your content development ideas on track.

This is where your content can truly shine. By providing content that your current customers would like to consume, you can assume prospective customers will get something out of the content, as well. Also, once you know what types of content customers enjoy (blog posts, images, videos, infographics, etc.), you can be sure you are presenting your content in the most compelling and engaging ways.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many resources available to help you think of new ideas for your content marketing projects. Whether you decide to start with the Google or YouTube suggest method, Yahoo Answers or any of the other tools listed here, you will end up with a plethora of content concepts. Whatever you do, you can be sure a lack of ideas won’t be the reason you aren’t producing enough content.

What is your favorite content development research method or tool? How have you used it to create compelling content? Let me know in the comments section below.

For more inspiration and ideas that can help you meet your content creation challenges, check out CMI’s Ultimate eBook: 100 Content Marketing Examples. 

Cover image via Bigstock.

Author: Arnie Kuenn

Arnie Kuenn is the CEO of Vertical Measures, a content marketing agency with an SEO foundation, focused on helping their clients get more traffic, more leads, and more business. Arnie has held executive positions in the world of new technologies and marketing for more than 25 years. He is a frequent speaker and author of Content Marketing Works. In 2014, Arnie was honored as the Interactive Person of the Year in Arizona. You can find Arnie on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and LinkedIn.

Other posts by Arnie Kuenn

  • Jeff Barrington

    Hi Arnie – This is excellent advice, especially for tourism-related operations, as you point out. I’ve had success using Google News searches to find articles and Trip Advisor for reviews and queries that can be referenced and commented on. I appreciate learning about these other ways to generate fresh content. Thanks for all the great tips.

    • Arnie Kuenn

      You bet – glad you liked them Jeff.

  • Sarah Bauer

    These tips are great because every resource suggested provides is rooted in the present- what questions are being asked right now, what topics are at the forefront of users’ minds? Makes for some very agile, very relevant content!
    Cheers
    Sarah Bauer

    • Arnie Kuenn

      Thanks Sarah.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/donnanneman Don Nanneman

    Great examples Arnie. I imagine tracking topics on twitter (e.g. #Topsy) could produce additional ideas. And all you’ve suggested are free tools!

    • Arnie Kuenn

      Hi Don- yes there are many great tools for idea generation. Twitter and Topsy are both good ones.

  • http://cashwithatrueconscience.com/rbblog Ryan Biddulph

    Hi Arnie,

    Asking customers or even competitors questions provides you with all the content creation ideas you could ever need. Also, simply reading blog posts daily can spark a content creation flame too.

    Loving these tips. Thanks for sharing!

    Ryan

    • Arnie Kuenn

      Hi Ryan – I agree – often just talking to your accounting dept, sales team, front desk, delivery people, etc. can provide more ideas than most companies can create in a year.

  • http://www.StartupBros.com/ Will Mitchell

    Awesome examples Arnie! It seems most businesses stick to just one or two once they get them working, bu that could be fatal! Thanks for giving me some options to keep trying new things :)