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7 Ways to Generate Content Ideas People Actually Care About

One thing you can count on hearing at any conference even remotely tied to marketing is that content is king. And whether you think content is king, queen or court jester—and what’s up with our industry’s need for all the personification by the way—we can all agree that it has some level of importance.

Content_King [1]

But what’s a marketer to do after finishing regular due diligence?

Let’s say you’ve already taken the time to understand your audience and develop user personas, performed all of the usual keyword research, and then built out some killer content silos. You came out of the gate guns blazing and are firing on all cylinders. Then you ran into a little problem – what do you write about now?

Identifying “Hot Topics” in Your Industry

There’s no one right answer to that last question, but one tactic I’ve been using to help my clients come up with fresh content ideas on a regular basis is online conversation mining. Similar to social media monitoring and a cousin to the more notorious newsjacking, OCM (might as well plant a flag on the acronym now) as a concept is simple: find out what people are talking about and create content based on that.

 Online_Conversation_Mining [2]

One problem for marketers when doing traditional keyword research is determining context. A quick trip to the Google Keyword Planner can tell you how many times a keyword was searched for, and it can even give you additional related keywords, but it can’t tell you the context in which that query was made. OCM helps us bridge that gap.

So, without further ado, here are seven ways to generate content ideas people actually care about.

1) Use Twitter Advanced Search

Twitter has changed the way millions of people across the globe consume real-time information. It has become a figurative water cooler and the go-to resource for monitoring everything from momentous events like the Olympics to the more trivial (but all too often occurring!) Netflix outage. This makes it an invaluable resource for content generation and one quick way to take a peek at this treasure trove is through Twitter Search.

Begin by heading directly to Twitter’s Advanced Search [3]  function. Enter a few base keywords into the “Any of these words” data field, select the question mark box in the “Other” section, and then click the “Search” button.

Using the keywords keyboard and mouse, I saw these Tweets within the first dozen or so displayed in the search results.

Twitter_Search-1 [4]

Twitter_Search-2 [5]

 Twitter_Search-3 [6]

Just based off those Tweets we have an informational topic about the history of the keyboard, a product specific article geared toward purchase intent, and a fun article idea about the top, underutilized emoticons.

Bonus Tip: Discover content topics to help build authority using the hashtags search parameter. Enter your keywords in the “Any of these words” data field and include the query #help in the “These hashtags” data field to get results like these.

 Twitter_Search-4 [7]

2) Browse Google+ Communities

Believe it or not, Google+ is not a complete ghost town. I wouldn’t exactly call it a thriving mainstream social network (ask me about the true purpose of Google+) but there are pockets of heavily active users and communities that can provide a wealth of content ideas.

Start off by inputting your keyword into the search bar and clicking the search button. Then refine the results to show only “Communities” and look for one with a decent following and number of posts. Fortunately, Google makes this easy for us by listing the number of members and posts right underneath the community name in the results page. A quick scan of recent activity can offer up all sorts of ideas, as these two recent posts did in a Parenting Community.

 G+_Community-1 [8]

G+_Community-2 [9]

Looks like articles about creative alternatives for tooth fairy money and a how to clean the house with kids are in order!

3) Learn to Love Quora

Quora is straight up telling us to use it to generate content ideas.

Quora_SERP [10]

The best part is it’s insanely easy to do so. All you have to do is actually use Quora! Take a look at these results for the search query insurance.

 Quora_Search [11]

Pure gold!

Bonus Tip: If you want to export this info into a table easily, start by downloading the Scraper Chrome Extension [12] . Input your search query like before, click search and then scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the “More” button. Continue to scroll down and click the “More” button a few more times until you’ve loaded a decent number of results. Then highlight the title of a search result, right-click and select “Scrape Similar” from the dialogue box. You’ll get a pop up that looks like this:

 Quora_Scraper [13]

From there you can export the data into Excel or Google Docs for a clean list of content ideas to add to your editorial calendar. Scrapers FTW!

4) Monitor Google Trends

Traditional keyword research is great and an absolute must for any website. But what if you want to know what is being searched for right now? I don’t mean data that is aggregated for the past month, I mean literally RIGHT NOW. Google Trends meet marketers, marketers meet Google Trends.

 Google_Trends-1 [14]

Google Trends breaks down current hot searches and updates throughout the day. It also breaks down the data by certain industries/groupings, so depending on what niche you are in the information you desire may be formatted perfectly already. If not, you can search by individual keywords and see facts like search activity over time, news stories that coincided with peaks, top related searches, and top rising searches.

Let’s say I’m in the clothing industry and I’m looking for topics to blog about. Looking at the Fashion Brands index in Google Trends I can see that the same companies have been in there forever with very little fluctuation, except for one query.

 Google_Trends-2 [15] Google_Trends-3 [16]


Perhaps it’s time to build out a Tom Ford section?

5) Don’t Forget About Forums

Much to my continual surprise, forums are not dead. You would think the rise of Web 2.0 and social networks would have put the final nail in their coffin, yet certain niches still have thriving forums with, in some cases, amazingly little spam. The easiest way to monitor these conversations is through listening tools (Radian6, Brandwatch, Sysomos, etc.) but you can find relevant forums to parse through manually with simple web searches.

For example, go to Google or Bing and input [keyword] forums as your search query, or if you are on Google just enter your keyword and search using the “Discussions” filter.

 Forums-1 [17]

Think there are any content ideas in these threads below?

 Forums-2 [18]

6) Get Familiar with Reddit

From my experience there seems to be two camps when it comes to Reddit; people who love it and people who don’t understand how to use it. If you’re not in the former camp it’s time to dig in and get dirty.

As a platform Reddit is fascinating for marketers because it serves as a barometer for what’s popular in any given moment. While it’s important to keep in mind that the audience isn’t a perfect sample (or even an ideal one) of the internet at large, by targeting the right keywords and subreddits you can find some excellent content ideas.

This time let’s assume my company sold health supplements. A quick search for the keyword within the Reddit ecosystem gave me real content ideas from real people that have been posted within the past couple of days.

Reddit-1 [19]

Bonus Tip: Further refine your search by limiting the results to those from a specific subreddit. In the case of my search for health supplements, I limited my search to /r/AskReddit and got another round of ideas.

 Reddit-2 [20]

7) News Searches (Extra, Extra Read All About It)

Anyone familiar with the concept of the aforementioned newsjacking will be familiar with this tactic. Essentially, this is a way to look for topics related to a specific industry or keyword that can be tied back into a brand via timely content. This can be references to the brand itself—for instance commenting on a product review or latest stock prices—or commentary about a hot topic or emerging trend in the space as a whole. One way to find out what’s happening at a glance is to take advantage of Google and Bing’s News search function.

Bing_News (3) [21]

Maybe a pet goods brand wouldn’t report the news angle of a pet food recall, but don’t you think a piece of content titled What to do if your Pet Ate Recalled Food would get it a lot of traffic and shares?

Just the Beginning of OCM

Keep in mind this is but a short list of places to look for fresh content ideas. Some of the other places I look to for inspiration include LinkedIn Groups, the Popular on YouTube section, Trendsmap and Webstagram. Analyzing other platforms and industry specific sites, as well as incorporating paid tools, can really take your OCM program to a whole other level.

What about you, though? Let us know how you generate content ideas people actually care about in the comments below or connect with me directly on Twitter @davidcarrillo [22].


About David Carrillo

David Carrillo is an Earned Media Manager at The Search Agency where he assists clients executing holistic SEO and Inbound Marketing strategies that include audits and recommendations spanning content, promotions, architecture, social and analytics. Outside of the wonderful world of Inbound Marketing, David’s interests include technology, gadgets, gaming, sports, naps and general debauchery.

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