By Irina Weber published March 9, 2016

Out of Ideas? 13+ Tools to Spark Content Creation

tools-content-creation-cover

At one point, my ideas didn’t do the trick in terms of producing new, engaging, and relevant content. I’m sure you can relate.

It dawned on me that I needed to change my strategy and fully embrace this sentiment from Kevin Roberts: “Ideas are the currency of the future.”

Great ideas are based on logic, data, and emotions. To hit those marks, I use different tools and surveys as well as logic-focused tricks. Here are some that will help you find great content ideas to which your audience will respond.

Follow your industry

The first tactic is straightforward. Research and analyze websites that you already visit or should visit to stay updated or learn more about your enterprise’s niche. Create a spreadsheet to track each of those sites.

When scrolling these websites, leverage the ideas, research tidbits, or data-supported points to infuse your own unique content.

Use an aggregator

Blog aggregators like Alltop, BizSugar, and Blog Engage mine useful content and products that are relevant to your field.

For example, I select 10 great articles, extract interesting and useful data, and create phenomenal content from my point of view using the original source. Linking to the original source is essential, not only to credit the original authoritative source but also to allow your readers to trust your content more.

Although each aggregator operates slightly differently, you usually can conduct one-off searches or register to monitor certain subjects on an ongoing basis.

Blog-aggregator-Alltop

Take their pressure

Consumer Barometer with Google is a tool that helps understand how people use the Internet across the world. It uses data from the Consumer Barometer questionnaire and the Connected Consumer Study, which weights the barometer results across the total population.

View its interface for geographic-, product-, or insight-specific information about consumers. Use this data to inspire custom ideas and stories for your own target audience.

consumer-barometer

Get to the forum

Forums are another fountain of idea generation. You may be surprised how many great ideas and experiences people share. As a marketing industry writer, I really love the Warrior forum, as its members are really responsive, open-minded, and willing to share their tricks.

Quora is another valuable community where real people ask real questions and discuss the content they’re interested in and issues they care about. This is a powerful way to find out the needs of your target audience. You first must create a profile (don’t forget to mention your brand and include your owned media links in it). Then you can:

  • Create topics for discussion.
  • Set up notifications so that you’re alerted when your pre-designated topics, blogs, or experts pop up in conversations.
  • Test your ideas – ask the question, pose your possible solution.
  • Check out the popularity of topic-related threads through the up-votes and conversations to find a particular angle to make a great blog post.
  • Review the headlines by typing your keywords and seeing what questions (headlines) people are asking about those topics. The most popular questions and up-votes can be a good guarantee about the value of the things mentioned and help you with content creation.

Other valuable communities for trend monitoring include:

Look at your competitors

You also should analyze your competitors’ content and user engagement to find angles where your brand could offer a different way of thinking or an alternative view on a topic. Your competitors’ content also can allow you to find sources for your content and to leave relevant comments to their posts and mention your brand.

I use Ahrefs to monitor the activities and content of competitors:

  • Ahrefs is an amazing content analysis tool that allows you to view what is performing best based on keywords. You can easily track the most popular content of any domain and search for interesting trends.

ahrefs

ahrefs-search-trends

Seek your own data

If you don’t have partners that can provide the data on relevant topics and you have a small budget, you can use Google Consumer Surveys. (You pay a fee for each completed survey.)

You choose the target audience:

Google-consumer-survey

At this point, Google shows you how much it could cost. It usually charges 10 cents for a single-question survey and $1.10 to $3.50 for longer surveys. You can ask up to 10 questions.

The next step is to write questions that will be perfect for content creation. You can use the most relevant format, such as a rating system, multiple choice, side-by-side images, and open ended. Pick the one that best serves your planned content creation.

Google-consumer-survey-results

Results are available within 24 hours.

Gather together

I want to give you a priceless tip that I have discovered over time that always works well for me in creating content – roundup articles always fly off the shelf.

You can survey experts to share their opinions on a recent relevant news event, trend, or question. I’ve created this kind of content a few times and the articles get shared like crazy. It also is a great chance to build good relationships with well-respected leaders in your niche.

You don’t need to know the experts to collect unique insights. I recommend MyBlogU to gather ideas and opinions from knowledgeable people. Its group-interview feature is the most exciting one on this platform – you ask, the experts answer.

MyBlogU

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Grab a pen or whiteboard

Now that you have a volume of idea-generation resources at hand, the biggest challenge is not jumping right into content creation. To be truly effective, you should tie together the ideas to ensure that they complement each other to produce an amazing and fresh perspective.

I know using a whiteboard or sticky notes sounds silly, but it’s a great way to get everything out and filter through all of the thoughts before moving on to a first draft.

I wonder if Rand Fishkin’s Whiteboard Friday series starts with his original presentation or is adapted after each article is written. Either way, he illustrates how to connect a topic particularly well.

Rand-Fishkin's-Whiteboard-Friday

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In the long run

When is this writing battle over? Unfortunately, there are no specific and quick rules that discover how to make your content phenomenal. Only hard work and experience can help you continually improve the process.

Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Irina Weber

Irina Weber is a blogger and marketing manager of SE Ranking. She creates and develops new marketing campaigns, writes articles about online marketing, social media, conversion optimization on popular websites like Jeff Bullas, WordTracker, Onblastblog and other authoritative websites. If you have any questions, you can reach her on Twitter.

Other posts by Irina Weber

  • http://www.highertrustmarketing.com/blog/ Jeff smith

    Another area I use for content ideas as well as product ideas is YouTube. Specifically, I like to look for long-form content around my niche markets (30+ minute talks, interviews, seminars, etc…) which cover lots of angles lightly – often there are nuggets for spin-off or elaboration that can make great content pieces

    • http://seranking.com/ Irina Weber

      I agree that YouTube is a great source to generate content ideas. Thanks, Jeff, for awesome addition!

  • http://blogeomics.com Pankaj Dhawan

    This is awesome! Thanks

    The question and answer stuff is great place to look out for content creation ideas. Also, what do you think about forums?

    • http://seranking.com/ Irina Weber

      Thanks, Pankaj! Forums also contain a bunch of content ideas. I love using forums in search of awesome ideas for writing case studies and infographics. Sure, there are much useless information out there, but some threads can be a good foundation for top notch post.

  • Mat Fidge

    NKOTB and potential game changer is Ozcontent which is well worth checking out for intelligent ideation.

    • http://seranking.com/ Irina Weber

      Thanks for great ideas! I will check it out soon.

  • http://myblogguest.com/blog/ Ann Smarty

    Wow, thanks for including MyBlogU.com on the list, Irina! So happy to have you as member of our community!

    • http://seranking.com/ Irina Weber

      Myblogu is one of favourite places to get new ideas. Thanks for your reading the post!

  • Mohammad Farooq

    The BlogU approach sounds great.

    Nice post there mate!

    • http://seranking.com/ Irina Weber

      Thanks for reading the post!

  • http://seranking.com/ Irina Weber

    Thanks, Partha! I will definitely check out EpicBeat for content analysis and trend monitoring. Look great!

  • Philippe Ingels

    I have a habit of collecting stuff I come across and like and these all go into a central location and whenever I’m looking for ideas I go there first. It’s an intense experience because … well, I like it all.

    • http://seranking.com/ Irina Weber

      Nice to hear that!

  • rogercparker

    Thank you for introducing me to Rand Fishkin’s “Whiteboard Friday” series, as well as other resources I haven’t fully explored.

    • http://seranking.com/ Irina Weber

      Thanks for reading the post!

  • Selena

    Thanks for this wonderfully inspirational article, Irina. I appreciate your aspiration to motivate marketers and content creators to develop their professional skills.
    I use https://ahrefs.com/ for competitor analysis, this tool is truly fantastic, but afterwards, I usually check my content here https://unplag.com/ to prevent accidental plagiarism.

  • Noha Abdel-Tawab

    LOVED it! Thanks a million for the great effort!