Millions of web content get published every day – from blog posts, videos, podcasts, image-based up to interactive content.
Standing out in the content game (in any industry) will obviously become tougher to be consistently accomplished, considering that there could be thousands of newly published content in your space each day (which will possibly grow even further in the coming years).
Although it doesn’t entirely mean that competing against brands that have already made it through this channel is not a viable option to those who are just starting.
Ad agencies may be more creative than us, and bigger brands may have bigger budget than us.
But in this age of information technology – anyone can have the power to influence, and anyone can become an amplifier.
You just have to know how to come up with great ideas and how you can execute them.
A content that can effect and challenge its readers’ actions, behaviour, opinion and perceptions is the usual types of content that can really help brands succeed in digital marketing, such as:
- Comprehensive guides or tutorials that are really useful and actionable (ex: Distilled’s guide to creating focused content).
- Educational, and entertaining at the same time (ex: Everything is a remix).
- Encyclopaedic, evergreen and/or data-driven content that are aligned with business goals and fit with your branding (ex: Builtvisible’s Messages in the deep)
Content ideation is a crucial process in content marketing, because it’s where the awesomeness starts. So in this post, I’ll share some of the techniques and resources I use to generate effective content ideas.
Learning from your competitors
Competitive intelligence is perhaps the most basic approach to content ideation.
There are several web-based tools that you can use to identify the types of content that really work in your space based on your competitors’ content campaigns, such as:
BuzzSumo allows its users to easily track and find the most popular content on different social media platforms, as well as the key influencers in any particular industry.
Notable features of the tool:
- Can help track popular content from a specific domain, topic area and publisher/author.
- Can sort and filter results by content type (article, infographic, video, guest post, etc…).
- Can also display the list of people/brands who have shared the content (which can also be exported).
- Can also be used to find influencers and key content amplifiers in a specific industry.
Ahrefs (Top Pages)
Ahrefs is a web-based link research tool that you can also use to track a site’s (preferably your competitors) most linked and socially shared pages or linkable assets.
By delving in to these data, you can easily have a grasp of what sorts of content your competitors are heavily promoting and are genuinely attracting natural mentions/links – in which you can get insights on which content ideas to pursue.
Google Keyword Planner (stealing from your competitors’ keyword group ideas).
Elisa Gabbert shared this particular tip on one of her recent posts on Wordstream. Google Keyword Planner also allows users to track and discover more keyword group ideas from other established websites, just by keying in the URL of the target site’s main landing page (or blog’s homepage).
Once you’ve identified the content assets that have worked for your competitors in the past, you can start creating a better version of those content that can be more comprehensive and can offer better UX (skyscraper method).
Elaborate and expound other people’s ideas/concepts
Creation requires influence. And that is why consistency in content marketing requires constant reading.
Getting inspiration from other publishers is what usually fuels the imagination of some of the most creative content creators on the web.
In this age of social media, it’s really important to have a list of industry influencers that you can religiously follow, particularly their works – as this will enable you to consistently get new perspectives and insights about your industry.
Jot down the ideas they’re sharing. Understand and look for gaps in which you feel your brand can complement and add more value on.
Whether you’re supporting or opposing the ideas that you get from other publishers, what’s important is to ensure that you can add your own personal inputs/opinions about the subject, such as:
- Providing more actionable pointers based on your own experience.
- Giving more actual samples.
- Offering more proof to support the idea through your own data.
And sometimes, the best ideas come from combining other people’s ideas (I highly recommend watching the Everything is a remix series).
Curation is a proven effective approach in content marketing, because it makes web content consumption easier for a lot of people, given that readers get to find all the necessary information they would normally look for in one place.
As for content creators, the key to really succeed in content curation is the ability to string various ideas and making them appear to complement with each other.
For instance, this curated list of link building strategies by Robbie Richards did really well in getting a lot of social shares and links to the post. Although, the blog post is just a collection of ideas from different publishers (and was published on a newly launched domain) – it still worked.
This proves that anyone has the capability to compete, even in this very content-rich industry.
Learning from other industries
Checking out what sorts of content thrive on other industries wouldn’t hurt as well.
As you can probably get more content/campaign ideas from other industry-specific communities that might haven’t been implemented in your space yet.
For instance, MozCast is a widely used interactive content-based site that many online marketers use (and certainly an asset that Moz, as a brand, can get to take advantage of).
This is an asset that can also be applied by other industries, if they’ll just think of the types of information that frequently change in their industry (that people may also search for on a regular basis) – like the World Bank’s linked data.
There are so many places on the web that can help you execute on this kind of ideation process on a larger scale.
Or just by understanding how other industries make use of data to come up with better, hard-to-replicate and linkworthy content on Reddit’s DataIsBeautiful:
Learning from what people really need
The main essence and goal of content marketing is to really understand your target audience on a deeper level and for the brand to have the ability to communicate with its audience on a consistent basis.
Developing personas and being able to classify different audience segments/archetypes in the initial process of any content campaign is very crucial, because this process allows the eventual efforts of the campaign to become more targeted and efficient.
Make a list of the people on each of your target segment.
- Amplifiers – these could be industry thought-leaders, bloggers, or book authors who have large following on social media.
- Publishers – high-traffic websites that are focused on publishing content about your industry.
- Practitioners – both your direct and indirect business competitors.
- Customers – individuals and businesses who use and are interested in your product/service
Follow the stories and types of content that they mostly read and/or share on the social web.
Learn how to create the content that these people genuinely read and share.
Forums and other active online communities (like Quora, Facebook or Linkedin Groups) are also great places to start to really get a better picture of the kinds of information that people normally search for in your space.
Conceptualize content based on other successful publications’ audience
Create and design content as if you’re writing for the audience that other popular sites/publications in your space are targeting. Analyse the top publications in your industry, and assess each site’s content focus. For instance:
- Moz – focuses on advanced and technical tutorials about anything under the inbound marketing realm and has a strong and active community.
- Search Engine Land – focuses on news stories that technical SEOs care about.
- Quicksprout – focuses on providing comprehensive guides/tutorials targeted to non-technical practitioners, newbies and business owners.
This approach to content development will not just help you steal their audience, but also in getting their (influencers) attention – which can add more value to your relationship building efforts.
The process of analysing and understanding the content focus of these authoritative websites can also help you build your own theme for your brand’s content campaigns (same as to how I’ve somehow managed to build a theme for my blog based on the topic areas and target audience that they haven’t focused on that much – which is continuously providing actionable, evergreen, inexpensive and easy-to-implement online marketing strategies).
And having a theme that you can strictly follow for your content development efforts can extremely help make a brand standout in a shorter period of time, especially when the theme you’ve decided to focus on ties with your business’ objectives and branding.
Building and proving your expertise on one particular topic area in your industry can help shape your brand’s unique voice and selling point.
And expanding on the other topics that your brand should also be attached to and getting other people to believe that you’re truly an expert will be a lot easier once you’ve already proven that your brand is a definitive source for one or two topic areas in your space.