Empty Google docs. Empty editorial calendars. Empty WordPress posts.
Sometimes content marketers have to deal with a lot of emptiness, and turn all that blank space into content that attracts, and engages, and converts.Do business with 5,000 people
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How do you keep the ideas and creativity flowing constantly to ensure consistent traffic, leads, and conversions?
It’s a little different for everyone. I usually get most of my blog post ideas while reading other posts. My coworkers write about their own experiences more frequently.
But to create great content week after week after week, you need a lot of ways to come up with new content topics.
Eventually, one method won’t bring you the ideas you need that day. And the more alternative methods you have to turn to, the better shape you (and your content marketing strategy) will be in.
You’ll never be intimidated by an empty editorial calendar again with all these ways to come up with blog post ideas.Get content ideas from your community
Of course, the simplest method is to go straight to the source. Or the next best thing. That means just asking your target readers what they want.
Of course, asking “what do you want me to write about?” is a lot of pressure. So you need to be a little sneakier than that. Instead, you ask things that clue you into what they’re interested in.
Here’s a few ways to go about that.1. Ask customers what they need help with
You want your content to solve problems, right? To help your audience? Then obviously you need to know what they need help with.
It’s stupidly simple.
Just ask them. Whenever you interact with customers – in emails, on social media, through blog comments, etc.
For example, Kasey Bayne at Kashoo Cloud Accounting likes to ask customers “what’s keeping you up at night?”2. Ask your sales team what prospects need to know
Remember that your marketing department should support sales and make it easier for them to make money and close deals for your business. That means your content should almost act as a stand-in for a sales rep.
But to really accomplish that, your content needs to address the stuff an actual sales rep would. So talk to your sales team to see what questions they’re always getting, what prospects want to know about your business, and stuff like that.
Guillaume Decugis, co-founder and CEO at Scoop.it, told me how they’ve organized their processes to make it easy for sales to give marketing content ideas:
“Content marketing is about answering questions your potential and existing customers have. So we do regular sessions with our sales team to constantly research new questions or iterate existing answers we’ve published to their previous questions. We even have a Slack channel where our sales and customer success team post new questions they’ve heard prospects or customers ask.”3. Ask your support team what trips up customers
Talking to your sales team gives you insight into what information your content should serve up to prospects. But what about existing customers? You can’t forget about them! So your content should also address things for readers who have already converted into sales.
Talking to your customer support team members can tell you what current customers what to know.
For example, a few months ago our support reps asked me if we had a post explaining our sentiment analysis features. We didn’t, so I wrote one that they can now use and reference when helping people.4. Ask what readers’ favorite posts are
Another way to see what kind of content readers will like in the future is to see what their favorite posts in the past were.
It tells you what topics they like, the kind of voice they respond to, and the content format they prefer.
Send a simple email, message, or tweet to some of your readers asking what blog posts, videos, etc. they’ve seen and really liked lately. See what they all have in common and boom – you know what qualities your own content needs.5. Find out what people are working on
Another way to make sure your blog posts are super relevant is by finding out what your audience is doing right now.
Creating content that people need now ensures they read it now, instead of trying to save the post for later. I don’t know about other content marketers, but my Pocket account and Feedly favorites are basically a black hole. I’ve saved so many posts to read later that later will last forever.
Write something they can’t procrastinate reading.
Grow and Convert gets even more specific by asking readers what they’re current marketing challenge is. Co-founder Benji Hyam told us:
“We ask our readers what’s their number one marketing challenge. This question does two things:
1. Helps us get insight into what challenges marketers have in their businesses.
2. Helps us form an open dialogue with our readers.”
Ah, yes. The good old expert round-up. They’re everywhere – from small blogs to big publications like Inc. (via contributor Chirag Kulkarni) – for a reason, just like most popular content marketing tactics.
Collecting tips, advice, and recommendation from influencers serves everyone well.The influencers get some promotion, a backlink, maybe some social media mentions. You get a bunch of content written for you and to piggyback off the name recognition of influencers. Your readers get advice from really, really smart people who may be hard to access aside from free content.
It’s what we’re doing throughout this post. We asked influencers for their best ways to come up with content ideas, and the result was various pieces of content like this blog post and its matching ebook.7. Interview experts
Influencer round-ups kind of take the wide and shallow approach to getting content from influencers – you talk to a lot of people and get a small amount of content from them.
The opposite of that is going narrow with more depth: talking to less people, but talking more. So instead of getting 1-paragraph quotes from 20 influencers, you interview one expert long enough for a full blog post about them and just them.
You can either use the interview as research for an original piece, publish the transcript, or use the audio or video in a blog post itself.
Teachable does this every week with their Change Makers series. Interviews appear on their blog and are the feature of their weekly newsletter.8. Send an email campaign
Again, the quickest way to find out what readers want is to ask them. And if your blog’s connected to an email list (it’s now? Shame on you!), it’s already really easy.
You built your email list because you knew the power of showing up in someone’s inbox. Use that power to get ideas for your blog posts. Just send a simple campaign asking any question discussed in this post. Or add it as a callout or P.S.
You can also do this with your welcome email, a method I personally love. Greg Digneo, one of our guest bloggers, doubled his email open rates by asking for blog post ideas.9. Hold a group brainstorming session
Your team can only come up with so many ideas with their brains in isolation from each other.
Group brainstorming sessions start discussions, debates, and new trains of thought. People can take each other down new paths and bounce ideas off each other.
At Siege Media, Ross Hudgens says they use something called brain writing:
“We find if we crack open a beer and set a hard deadline for ideas – beers and brainstorming – we can let the creative juices flow and generate ideas that move the needle.”
While there’s nothing wrong with working alone, group work shouldn’t be ignored when it comes to content brainstorming.10. Ask peers a question
Instead of going to influencers for answers, you can go to your peers. The skillset is the same, but the experiences – day-to-day tasks, career, etc. – are different, in ways that matter.
This can complement influencer content really nicely. Influencers may be able to tell you about running a marketing department, for example, but peers can be more helpful in a post about entry-level marketing careers.Get personal in blog posts
You can also take the approach of looking at yourself (and not in a mirror or front-facing smartphone camera). You want to build a connection with your blog’s audience, right? Then you need to build a connection.
Sharing, opening up, showing things to your readers will do that. It’s like building any other relationship.
You need to be relatable, share things that show who you are and what you’ve been for, and make readers feel like they’re getting an inside look into your experiences.11. Think about what you’ve learned
Never discount your own experiences when thinking about what your readers are interested in.
In most cases, you’ve actually been in your reader’s shoes before. You have to relate to your readers. So by talking about things you’ve gone through, you’re likely talking about stuff that’s happened to them, too.
“I try to relate content back to my real-life experiences. That way I can input my own knowledge into the content I write rather than just repurposing other people’s words and research.” – Nadya Khoja, Venngage
A company that does this so well is SumoMe. Most of their posts, especially their guest posts, are stories about accomplishments or strategies – written by the people that did them or created them.
Take the below post on connecting with influencers from Jason Quey, or their series on growing a site to 10k monthly visitors.12. Reflect on what went wrong
Another really, really great way to get personal and share your experiences is to reflect on what went wrong with something.
Hands down, the company that has this mastered is Buffer. When I started writing this post, I’d only planned on pointing to their post opening up about losing half their social referral traffic, which is still a great example.
But since then, co-founder and CEO Joel Gascoigne has posted about making layoffs at Buffer.
My initial reaction to that post was “what a great way to handle telling the public about that.” So I figured it was worth a re-write.13. Share behind-the-scenes information
Another way to piggyback on sharing experiences is to share behind-the-scenes information. Talk about your unique processes, habits, tactics, and whatnot. Share your team’s secrets to prove your (and your past and future content’s) worth.
For example, BuzzStream shared some of their own influencer marketing tactics in a webinar and blog post with us.
They’re an influencer marketing software provider. Proving their knowledge in this area is obviously very important.14. Turn your story into a case study
If the actual story of your experience isn’t that interesting, take a more analytical approach to it. Turn it into a case study.
Look at your team’s story as an experiment. If your marketing team is like ours, it probably was one.
When thinking about content, consider:Hypotheses Your exact methods The results Raw data, as well as any patterns or trends found in it
For example, take the case study on our own SEO strategy that looks at a few of our own tactics from earlier this year.15. Interview your coworkers
Despite what your personal bias may lead you to believe, all of your coworkers are wealths of useful information.
Because they all interact with your business in different ways.
Customer services knows what gives customers a hard time. Executives know the overall goals and reasoning for decisions. Sales knows what makes people want your product or service; what makes them click the “buy” button or grab your product off the shelf.
You can either publish actual interviews with your coworkers, or use their advice to come up with ideas and feature it in your posts.
For example, I eavesdr- I mean, “join in” on our sales and customer success teams’ phone calls a lot in our open office. Do you know how many of their tips, sayings, and more have then made it into our content? (Editorial note: thanks, Mention guys and gals!)Look at past blog posts
People say not to focus on the past, but they’re discounting how much insight it can give you into the future. Historical performance can be one of the best predictors of future success, which is obviously what we all want for our blogs.
Looking at different qualities and metrics in blog posts you’ve already published can help guide your content strategy and help you come up with blog post ideas.16. Rank previously popular blog posts
This one is obvious to any content marketer, or data-driven marketer in general. Look at analytics, figure out what works, and do more of it. When it comes to content, that means looking at popular blog posts and coming up with similar ideas.
For example, our digital marketing checklists post has (converting) pageviews coming out of its ears. So as soon as I finish writing this post, I’m going to be starting on an update to it.17. Expand on points or subheadings
This has always been my favorite way of pulling blog post ideas out of thin air. I once had an internship where I had to write 4-5 new posts per week, and I relied on this so hard.
I would start off the week with a post on the more general topic. Then throughout the week, basically made my way down the list of subheadings and wrote full-length posts on them, using parts of the original post and linking them together as a series. Basically, repurposing content without realizing it.18. Read through blog comments
Another place your readers may have weighed in on their opinions in the past is your blog’s comments. Or even the comments of other blogs they read. Go look at their questions, opinions, and ideas and see what new content springs up.
This is how I first guest blogged for HubSpot. The section (at the time, it was its own site) editor emailed me about a comment I had left ages ago. But instead of writing the new post themselves, they asked me to.19. Look for new ways to explain ideas
Sometimes there just isn’t an answer to “what haven’t I written about before?” At least, not one that’s actually a good blog post. So instead of looking for new topics, look for new angles or approaches.
Popular, high-volume blogs do this all the time. For example, Social Media Examiner publishes several new articles per day. Obviously, there’s going to be some topic overlap. They can’t tell contributors “no” to everything they’ve already talked about. So you see different posts on the same topic, like Periscope basics and Periscope uses.20. Take the opposite approach
Of course, instead of looking at a similar angle, you can look at the opposite one. If you wrote about success in your last post, talk about failure in this next one. It’s pretty simple, but pretty genius.
Thanks to Andy Crestodina at Orbit Media for this one:
“If you wrote a very successful ‘best practices’ article, trying writing it from the other angle: ‘top mistakes.’ I call this kind of article the evil twin. Evil twins are fast to produce because the research is already done. Just write it from the negative angle using different examples.”21. Expand a short list
We’ve all seen the “10 (More!) Ways to…” blog posts. Say what you will about the headline format, the approach is solid.
Continuing one list of tactics, tools, or strategies across multiple posts kind of creates a team to work together. They’ll link to each other, drive traffic to each other, support each other. One for all, and all for one!22. Play Devil’s advocate
So you wrote a great piece of content that convinced everyone of your point. Now un-convince them.
Like anyone who joined debate team in high school knows, to truly understand an issue, you have to be able to argue both sides. And each side can be it’s own blog post idea.
For example, follow up “10 Reasons to Do X” with “10 Reasons Not to Do X” or “10 Reasons to Do Y Instead of X.” It lets readers see the all sides of the topic and make their own decision.Go to Google for blog post ideas
Google and all the other wonderful search engines out there have given us no excuse not to do research ourselves. While that sucks for when we’re feeling lazy, it makes content research really easy.
For obvious reasons, Google probably has more data than any other website in existence on what people are looking for online. For it not to be a source of research for you would just be silly.23. Let autocomplete take it away
Sometimes the best way to find content topics to perform well in search is by doing searches yourself.
Autocomplete is magic. Plus, one of the factors it’s based on is current search trends, so it’s a quick way to get suggestions, especially for long-tail keywords to optimize your blog posts around.24. See what blog posts are ranking well
Remember that by now, the Google algorithms know their stuff and are pretty reliable. If content ranks well, it’s good. It’s what people want.
This is great for coming up with specific blog post ideas when you already have a broad topic. A simple block of time spent Googling popular or trending keywords in your niche can tell you what subtopics people are interested in. Simple, right?25. Search things you’ve written about before
We’ve all written a few posts that were a swing and a miss. It’s nothing abnormal in content marketing. Theoretically, your best content ranks, but that’s not always how it plays out.
Look at some of your best ideas or posts that aren’t really performing in terms of SEO. If they were popular by other metrics, it shows you did something right. Take another stab at the topic, maybe in a different format or structured differently, or from another point of view.
Whereas the last post might not have been appealing to search engine algorithms or users, it resonated elsewhere, so you don’t want to completely redo the original post. Adding a second post on the topic lets you get the best of both worlds and please the best of both audiences.26. Paste URLs in the AdWords Keyword Planner
Lots of content marketers and SEO know the basics of the AdWords Keyword Planner – looking up search volumes, browsing ad groups to get keyword ideas, and stuff like that. But you can also use it to mine keyword ideas from existing data.
Paste any of your existing content (like the stuff you took inspiration from in the past few steps!) into the URL field to see keyword ideas based on what you’ve already written about and published.Use competitive analysis
Competitive analysis is also an amazing source of blog post inspiration. Not only does it help you find examples of content relevant to your industry and audience, it also shows you what you need to beat.
Use competitor content strategies to guide your own and learn from both their successes and mistakes. Even better, you Skyscraper Technique the crap out of their best content and make your target audience forget all about their piece.27. Find your competitor’s most popular content
You may think competitors for your product aren’t competitors for your audience. After all, someone can read more than one blog, right? Well, content shock is real, so you are competing for a reader’s time.
“Level the playing field” topic-wise by looking at what their most popular stuff is. The best tool for this is probably BuzzSumo. Enter their URL or their blog URL and see which content was shared the most. You can also use SEO tools for competitive analysis and see which content of theirs is ranking well for competitive keywords.28. Look at what they’re not talking about
Performing a competitive analysis then adapting and replicating their ‘wins’ is always a good strategy. But it’s also difficult – you’re putting your content up against something already popular, with the (SEO and social media) competitive advantage of age.
So another approach is to instead look for the gaps in a competitor’s content. Then fill those before they do. Cover topics they haven’t, so it’s easier for that resource to become the definitive piece of content on its topic (at least out of the competition).
“I like to find out what’s currently pissing off a target audience…or what they’re dying to know, but can’t seem to find out anywhere else. I do this by looking in blog comments, comments of blogs that cater to the same audience, or even in frustrated book reviews on the topic in Amazon.” – Chelsea Baldwin, Copy Power
For example, say we saw a competitor publish a guide to social media that covered the main business channels. We might address the “what else?” question by creating something about lesser used social marketing platforms. Oh wait, we did.29. Find unpopular blog posts
Like I said before, there’s nothing wrong with having published a few posts that have fallen flat. Look for those on your competitor’s blog. You could use BuzzSumo again for this, and look at the least shared content.
It takes more than good info for a post to be a success. Figure out what they were missing – was it relatability? Readability? Depth?
Address the missing ingredient in a post of your own.30. Read comments on other blogs
If you don’t have any luck getting blog post ideas from your own blog’s commenters, look at comments elsewhere.
This can be really helpful, given that blog comments are less popular than they used to be as people increasingly share their opinions on social media. It’s good to have a backup source handy.
Start at the most popular blogs in your niche, the competitors that will be most likely to have an active comments section.
Additionally, in my own experience (so no hard data, unfortunately), tutorials and how-to posts are the ones most likely to have comments that contain people asking questions. Since they’re education-based posts that answer questions, people are likely to ask follow-up in the comments.31. Look at what questions competitors are being asked
You can also look beyond blogs to competitive research on social media outlets and customer support forums, anywhere really.
When your monitoring competitors, these questions will be easy to find. If one of their customers has a question about your general area or a product specifically, they’re more likely to go to who they use versus a competitor.
Don’t miss out on that valuable data by getting ideas from both your own social following and your competitors’.Curate content for blog posts
Content curation is so appealing for busy, overworked, behind-on-the-editorial-calendar content marketers. But it’s also so appealing for readers. Double win? I’ll take it.
Curating content lets you take a bit of a break since you can just collect other pieces and add your own comments and opinions or explain them in your own words. It also helps you build relationship with the content creators of what you select. More wins!32. Create a roundup of popular posts
There’s a lot of approaches to curating content. But I like the ones that milk the original content’s popularity for all that it’s worth. If you’re going to take advantage of something, go as far as you can without being annoying. (That’s just unofficial advice.)
So if you’re going to feature an external piece of content, choose the best ones to piggyback off of. When curating, choose popular or trending content.
For one, associating yourself with popular stuff also puts that association in your readers’ minds. Secondly, you know it’s well-liked, therefore that including it is is a good choice.33. Collect best resources
When selecting high quality content to curate, you can also go with overall best posts instead of what’s currently popular. This is great if you’re working with a specific theme.
For example, look at Sujan Patel’s lists of content marketing tools, experts, and more in his guest post for us:
Also, take a look at this post. So meta.34. Share recent news and insights
A lot happens every day, no matter what industry you’re in. Blog readers will thank you for making it easy to keep up on everything important in the industry news.
Consider publishing news recaps or roundups. Share recent news and make your content unique by adding a small bit about why you think it matters to demonstrate your own expertise.
One example of this is Search Engine Land’s SearchCap, a daily blog post rounding up search engine marketing news.35. Curate tutorials in a special order
How-to guides and tutorials are usually pretty specific, since they need to be so detailed. That means to complete a full project, someone may need to read four or five tutorials for simultaneous tasks.
Why don’t you save some readers some time and string the tutorials together for them ahead of time. Find the different guides, put them in the order they’ll be needed. For example, queue up a resource about social media measurement after ones about strategy and content creation.36. Collect facts or statistics
This one’s hardly original, but whatever. People love data. Eat it up. And it never gets old, because as old data fades away, new numbers come out.
But sifting through data for numbers that mean something? An endless task. Do the work for your readers. Curated posts of statistics around the same trends or audience can help readers draw conclusions and notice new patterns.
As an example, HubSpot has a whole microsite collecting different marketing statistics. They sort things by different categories and topics and update it regularly to keep the numbers current.37. Crowdsource answers from your audience
If following earlier advice in this post gave you questions that you don’t know the answer to yourself, turn to other audiences. Curate the best answers to questions on forum sites like Quora. Sites like Mashable frequently use them as sources and publish blog posts made up of a few different answers.Use media monitoring for blog post ideas
You didn’t think we’d skip over media monitoring, did you? I’m part of it’s official cheering squad, especially when it comes with finding inspiration when I’m feeling stuck.
Just browsing through the alerts you have set up for other marketing activities, like social media engagement and tracking PR coverage, can give you your next great idea.38. Look at what you’re mentioned in
Media monitoring is our last genius way to get ideas today. It helps you automate finding and reading content, whether you’re looking for other blog content or conversations on social media.
The first thing to look for is other blog posts mentioning your brand or product. What are those posts about? Other content creators might have thought of cool blog post ideas related to your brand that you haven’t yet.39. See what keywords are popular
It can be really helpful to see summaries of what people are talking about online. Media monitoring metrics can help you see trends in conversations happening, content being created, etc.
Look at media monitoring metrics to see what phrases and words are popular within an alert.
For brand alerts, this tells you what people are talking about along with your or your competitor’s product. Topic or industry alerts tells you what within the overall conversation is getting more attention than other areas.40. Track trends and patterns
Another way to take advantage of your media monitoring tool’s analytics area is to look for trends and patterns. You can almost predict what blog posts your readers will want a month from now.
If one of your products starts getting a ton more mentions than any other, you know it’s probably a good idea to be creating a lot of content for that target customer. Reports like share of voice and mentions over time can help you figure that out.41. Look at online discussions
Forums, question and answer databases, and social bookmarking sites are also great sources for content ideas. The insights you can get from conversations will be more in-depth than on social media, where conversations are brief and and space is sometimes limited.
For example, a lot of content marketers use Inbound.org as a source of inspiration. People post there when they’ve accomplished something big, are stuck on something small, and everything in between. It gives you insight into what’s trending as well as what people think of it.
Find the similar sites for your own company’s niche. What topics have super long threads about them? What keeps getting posted again and again? All great insights into what content you should be creating.42. Talk about current events or try newsjacking
Current events can also give you ideas about what blog posts to write. And I don’t just mean with overdone tactics like the “What Current Event X Can Teach You About Topic” post.
Although that one’s still an option among others.
What trends do you notice in your industry? Is everyone starting to look into a new technology or tactic? Noticing these things puts you at an advantage to write about them before they’re obvious.
And there’s also the straight-up newsjacking approach. How can your brand or audience relate to a certain event or trend? If there’s a natural tie, work the two together to piggyback off popularity.
“Typically, it’s all a part of keeping up with trending news and updates taking place across the industry via different tools, platforms and channels. I can be inspired to write a unique piece of content just by scrolling my Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn feed, or from scouring the variety of email newsletters I receive on a daily / weekly basis.” – Shana Pilewski, OutbrainUse blog post headline generators
Woof. That’s all for the tactics to help you come up with blog post ideas, but I’m not quite done yet.
There are also some tools that make it easy. Stuff like blog post title generators and analyzers may be designed for writing headlines, but you can use it to guide your whole post.
If you know the general direction you want to go in with your piece (for example, knowing you’re going to write about Twitter marketing best practices), you can open up one of the generators and just play around.
It may seem aimless, but it can help you discover new angles, shape the structure of your post, and figure out how to approach your overall topic in a specific and engaging way.
Here are a few that I like to turn to:
43. HubSpot blog topic generator
44. Portent content idea generator
45. Inbound Now blog title idea generator
46. Content Now linkbait title generator
47. CoSchedule headline analyzerLet the ideas run free
I can’t promise that you’ll never get writer’s block ever again. Because you definitely will. But now you’re equipped to design an epic brainstorming session next time it happens, and come out the other side with a ton of ideas to create.
Pick a tool, pick a tactic, and pick a title generator to play around with. It will get your creativity juices flowing, get you thinking about what your readers want, and get your fingers typing on the keyboard again.