No intro, take me straight to the seven tips
How do you arrive at new content ideas for your blog or website? There’s a finite amount of time, but unlimited subject matter. In your vertical alone, you compete with thousands of other bloggers, who, like you, are creating new content ideas every day. They’re probably writing one right now.
Knowing you have to publish to compete, you settle on your topic, do your research and plan out your structure. It’s all coming together nicely. You’ve got a striking headline, killer intro, some alluring calls to action, maybe even some gentle wordplay. You’ve cracked it. Nothing can stand in your way. You hit publish and then… nothing. No traffic, no organic rankings, and one Facebook like from the office intern. It’s frustrating, right?
Fear not, because:
A) We’ve all been there
B) We have some ready-made, evidential and data-driven solutions for you in this blog
It’s easy to get lost in subjectivity when creating new content topics. Some ideas feel great when they’re first conceived, then fail to perform. Other times, coming up with new content ideas involves painful – and valuable – hours spent in meetings scribbling thoughts into a notepad, never to be seen again. The common denominator among most content creation processes is that they’re often rooted entirely in subjective opinion, without recruiting the powerful impact that evidence and data can have on crafting new content ideas.
Sadly, 99 times of a hundred you’re not writing content simply for the joy of it. You’re writing on behalf of your clients, with goals and deliverables in mind. You want a healthy pipeline of fresh and engaged traffic driven to your website, and once they’re on site, you want them to stay, to browse, and ultimately to act.
The amount of traffic to your blog is usually determined by a few factors, some of which are hard to change in the immediate term without investing budget, like the size of your social media audience.
But there are a number of ways you can use free and easy-to-access tools to find data-driven insights that will help you create an excellent new blog and content ideas, and ultimately drive record breaking blog traffic, because the subject matter will be highly relevant.
Free Google tools
1. Refined web searches (AKA Google search commands)
So many users are in the habit of quickly tapping away search queries in Google when seeking inspiration for new content ideas. It might even be as simple as searching for “new content ideas” or “new ideas for my blog”, but did you know there are so many more types of searches you can perform in Google, using refined web searches?
You might want to quickly find out what other websites are saying about your brand, client, latest product or campaign. But when you search for your brand name, you mostly see stuff you already know about, like your homepage, social media pages, Wikipedia, pages on review sites, and so on.
To solve this, simply add a minus symbol before your own URL to exclude results from your own website from showing up. If your brand name contains two or more words, add quotation marks before and after – “brand name” – to only find uses of that phrase, rather than the individual words.
Still not happy with the results and seeing stuff you already know about? Click “Tools” and then adjust the date range to find only results from the previous 24 hours, week, month, or any custom date range you enter. Great for finding out the very latest things other websites are saying about your brand while excluding your own website’s results from showing up.
For content creation, performing this search regularly might show results that you can use to build great new case studies, develop new products to publicize and write content about, or potentially even drive leads. You might discover a great review about your company where the author says “Brand Name is great, but I wish they had a super-cool post bulk post importing feature”. Wait… you DO have a super-cool bulk import feature, maybe you should write some great new content about it?
If you want to level up, once you’ve written your great, new content, leave a comment on the review that inspired it and turn it into a winning customer service moment. However, don’t get into the habit of adding links to your website in blog comments or review replies, as Google and other search engines can see this as a spammy way of trying to build your link profile and they can potentially penalize you.
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2. Google’s Keyword Planner
If you’re reading this blog, odds are that you’re looking for new ideas. You’re not the only one. The graph below shows the average number of monthly searches performed Worldwide in Google simply for the word “ideas” and related terms:
In short, more than 15.65 million people in January 2017 alone, and 183,994,960 people (roughly) in the whole of 2016.
Google’s free keyword planner tool is a can’t-miss resource when generating new content ideas. Simply enter a vague attempt at your blog’s title and Google will helpfully show you:
- How many users a month are searching for your exact suggested blog title in their search engine.
- Related searches and the number of average monthly searches they receive, great for SEO optimization and helping you settle on your title based on what users are specifically looking for.
- How many monthly searches are performed over time; is your blog topic increasing in search popularity? Or, as in the example of Thanksgiving social media ideas, are there (predictable) peaks in interest at certain times of year:
You can refine your searches by location, by mobile vs. desktop devices, by excluding particular words that you’re not interested in, simply by clicking the various icons placed on the screen.
This is all great stuff for creating new content angles, as it’ll show you what’s popular, when, and where; if you only sell products in the US, there’s no point targeting topics that are only of interest in Asia and the Pacific. Or if you’re going to run a limited time discount, why not find out what time of year users are likeliest to search for your promo.
3. Google Trends
Built on a similar premise to Google’s keyword planner is Google trends. This tool produces similar results, but is more efficient for assessing the changing popularity of keywords over time, and the relative search interest between different words and phrases, again based on user searches performed in Google.
Looking at Google trends globally for the phrase Independence Day yields some interesting results, with two big spikes in 2014 and 2016, and three noticeable jumps in 2015.
Despite what you might expect, the three biggest spikes on the whole graph each occurred in the middle of August, not in July. Scrolling down, we can see the top locations searching for the phrase Independence Day, which would lead one to correctly assume that Indian Independence Day occurs on the 15th August. The second highest spikes each year represented American Independence Day each July 4, while 2015’s third highest peak was caused by the release of the trailer for the anticipated sequel to the Independence Day film.
There are two ways you can quickly investigate particular jumps in your Google trends keyword(s).
1) Scroll down to see the related queries section at the bottom right, and it sometimes becomes clear what has caused a spike. For example, with our 2015 spike above, the title of the Independence Day film is top of the related queries:
2) Using the advice from earlier in this blog, search for your keyword in Google, then click “Tools” and set a custom date range to focus only on that time period.
4. Google Analytics
You might already be familiar with several ways Google Analytics can help you generate new content ideas. In addition to some of the typical places you can look, such as:
- The content or blogs you have currently driving the highest levels of traffic and engagement (average time on site, pages per session, etc.)
- Your referral traffic (Acquisition > All traffic > Referrals) to see which websites are linking to your content currently, and what subject matter they involved, as a launch for fresh inspiration
There are deeper areas of insight available in Google Analytics.
Demographics and interests
You can access insightful information about your user demographics, and their browsing habits, in the “Audience” section under the “Demographics” and “Interests” tabs, all in Analytics’ left hand menu.
For example – and perhaps unsurprisingly – the most commonly held interest of Sendible browsers relate to technology and social media, as taken from the “Interests – Overview”:
Clicking “Demographics – Overview” will also give you a steer on the age brackets and gender divide of your users, and to further analyze this, make sure you click on the “Key Metrics” tab above the age split graph to find out which age groups make up your new visitors, or those bouncing from your website.
When you’re crafting your next blog or content idea, take all these factors into account and ask yourself: does your current content appeal to your target market, or should you be doing something differently?
Site search keywords and phrases
If you have a search box on your website and your Google Analytics is correctly configured to capture the information, you can see the entries and questions that users are entering into the search box.
This gives you a useful angle for new content generation, based on the sorts of queries you see. Users might be searching for content that you haven’t already written, in which case you have a great, data-driven suggestion for your next blog or website page.
If you already have content on this subject, it could just be that it’s hard for your users to find and you should make it more prominent, to save them from having to search. Furthermore, the results on your site search page is also great information for considering new answers to add to your frequently asked questions, re-wording or re-ordering your existing FAQs.
To find out whether your Analytics is set up to track this, and see what your users are searching for on your site, visit Behavior > Site Search.
Social media tools
5. Social media insights and analytics
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, in particular, provide a good level of access to insights about your followers. A quick browse to Facebook’s Insights or Twitter’s Analytics sections will give you a great overview of your user demographics, and it’s interesting to compare the demographics of your social media followers with your website visitors as a starting point.
Digging deeper, on Facebook click “Insights” in the top menu, then “People” in the left hand menu, to uncover the age, gender and location of those who like your Facebook page. You can also click through the other tabs to see demographics on the people you’re reaching with your content and those who are engaging with your Facebook content.
The analytics available in Twitter go a little further than Facebook’s Insights, telling you about what your users are interested in. Login to Twitter and click your profile icon, then Analytics, and you’re presented with an overview of your top tweet, mention, follower, among other things.
Within Twitter Analytics, the ”Audiences” tab is a treasure trove for finding out the similar interests of your users, their income, occupation, consumer buying styles, and more.
You’ve taken some great insights about your social media followers – and those who are actually engaging – from both Facebook and Twitter, so now it’s simply a case of thinking about what content your demographic would be interested to read.
6. Influencers, competitors and industry feeds
When you’ve thought about new content ideas in the past, it’s likely you’ve already thought to check out what your competitors and other important industry figures are creating content about. It’s a logical place to go, but is your check as simple as scanning through their blog and Twitter feed? You can turn this ad hoc process into something far more efficient and routine by deploying Twitter lists.
Instead of having to scroll through the multiple Twitter presences of your competitors and related industry parties, make your life simple and efficient by creating a list and capturing it all in one timeline.
Setting up a list is the work of two minutes, adding in your competitors’ @handles. Bear in mind that you can make lists private, which you should do if you’re using Twitter to monitor your competitors.
To start your first list, simply click your profile icon on Twitter, then click “Lists” and you’re on the road to generating great new content ideas based on what other people in your industry and writing about.
If you only want to focus on the impact competitors or industry specialists are having in certain countries, or only see tweets with positive or negative sentiment, you can do so by performing an “advanced search” on Twitter.
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Once you’ve started your trial, click the “Content” link and you’ll discover great ways of finding new content, to share, engage with or replicate yourself. The content topics that show are currently trending and tailored to your business and its needs based on the keywords you select, while you can also add other companies’ RSS feeds to compile content in one place. The content suggestion tool also lets you filter by influencers rather than topic, so you can see what’s being shared by the leading minds in your industry.
With your carefully selected keyword topics, you can then log in each day to see new content topics and ideas split out by categories, allowing you to very quickly find the latest news and opinion relating to your keywords. If you’re an agency managing multiple clients, or you want to split out your keyword searches into two or more groups, you can do so by setting up different profiles allowing you to keep things clean and separate.