Creating content is easily one of the most important activities in online marketing. Providing data to search engines, helping to establish authority, useful for attracting back links and important for social media, good quality content is hard-working and will give a tangible return when done correctly.
Even the most creative of copywriters or experienced of journalists can find it difficult to continuously think of interesting, relevant ideas to start off the article writing process. How many times have you flicked through a magazine or newspaper and passed straight over at least some of the articles because they held no interest?
If you’re running a search engine optimization campaign, you need to minimize the amount of no-interest content you produce in order to get your business noticed. Finding inspiration for articles that will attract traffic to the site and make others want to pass the content on is a significant achievement. If you’re struggling to find inspiration, why not use the below ideas as a starting point for the creative process?
The internet is awash with forums and people using them to seek answers to pressing questions. Type in any search term and you’re sure to find a forum posting within the search engine results pages. You can use these spaces as a melting pot of inspiration for your next article simply by spending time studying the most popular threads.
Having found a forum related to the theme of your website, browse through posts to build an idea of common questions, recurring topics, and points of interest. Threads with the most replies are often a good starting point as they show an interested audience – capturing this interest is as simple as exploring the theme of the thread. What points are raised? Are any questions unanswered? Is there a variety of opinions? Are there any common problems? This information can be used as a starting point for a new article or series of articles, with the added bonus of knowing that the content of the article will be both useful and relevant to the target audience.
2. Social Networks
Social networks are an idea way to interact with your target audience and go to the source directly. If you have a Facebook page, Twitter or blog, ask your existing audience what they would like to see future articles about. This is a great way to start communicating with those following you in social networks and again, gives you ideas for content that will be useful to your target audience.
You can also use social networking sites to check out what competitors are doing. Look out for posts that have been retweeted or spun or Facebook messages that have lots of responses. Blog posts that have ignited a heated debate or have lots of comments by readers will also be a useful source of inspiration. Tap into this engagement by noting popular themes in the dialogue or picking out common questions to use as a starting point for your next article.
3. Using Adverts
Reading adverts is an unusual way to source article ideas but can lead to some really creative pieces. You can search pay-per-click ads quickly and easily by typing a few of your keywords into Google. If you know your want to write your next article about ‘tooth whitening’ for example because you’re a dentist, type ‘tooth whitening’ into Google. Read the titles that advertisers have used to capture your attention. Do any of them spark off an idea? What about an ad with the title ‘Look Years Younger’? Does that have the potential to be turned into an article about the psychological benefits of tooth whitening, or with a little further research a study into just how much younger and happier patients feel after tooth whitening? Has it inspired them to try something new? Or have a certain percentage gone on to have regular treatments or further dental work? Exploring any of those points further could easily lead to an interesting new article.
Newspaper classifieds and magazine adverts can work just as well and you don’t need to stick to journals or titles specific to your industry. National newspapers or glossy magazines often publish very creative adverts, full of color and snappy strap lines. Any one of them could give a premise that would work just as well for your article. And what about TV ads? If you’re more of a visual person, watch a few TV ads and see if inspiration strikes.
4. Consult the Calendar
You’d think the calendar would be the last place to look for inspiration, but sometimes casting your eye over less obvious upcoming holidays and then thinking about traditions surrounding that date can force your mind to wander along lines that it wouldn’t normally follow. The event doesn’t even need to be a holiday such as Thanksgiving or the 4th of July — it could be something that you wouldn’t normally give a second thought to such as the start of summertime or the clocks being turned back. These annual events often have ideas or rituals associated with them or special meanings that all of a sudden, give shape to a new idea.
The changing of the clocks, for example, could be used as a starting point for any number of ideas suited to all manner of industries – personal safety during the longer, darker nights or the use of energy-saving bulbs rather than incandescent through the winter to save money or tips for insulating the house to keep it warmer for less during the cold, dark months ahead. Best winter travel destinations, even best new alarm clocks – these are all ideas for articles that could be developed based on the single calendar event of the clocks being turned back or the official start of winter time.
5. Use Analytics
Check your website’s Google Analytics and see what phrases users are actually typing in to get to your site. It’s easy to get caught up in the phrases you want people to use to find you (i.e., the keywords you are optimizing your site for) and overlook the terms that are already bringing visitors. Use these words and phrases to mind map article ideas, thinking not in terms of SEO or keywords at this point, but simply topics, questions and themes that come into your mind when you focus on that one word or phrase.
6. Use Statistics
Browse through the results of surveys and statistics published recently from respected sources. The UN has its own dedicated statistics web site (http://data.un.org/) which publishes data about a myriad of different topics, easily searchable and filterable by country. Pick a fact which stands out or data that is compelling, and plan an article around it. How does it link to your product or industry? Why is the number so high or low? What are predictions for the next 12 months?
Rebecca has written a number of articles recently on article marketing for Search Marketing Standard. A two-part article on the Basics of Article Marketing can serve as a good introduction to how this form of marketing can help you bring traffic to your site and expand your online presence. (Part 2 is here.) In addition, she recently updated her 2009 post on article marketing directories to profile 11 article marketing sites for 2011.