Content Marketing

SEO: 8 Free Sources of Content Inspiration

Researching keywords and social chatter can uncover content ideas — and sources of new revenue. That's what happened with Elmer's glue when it discovered children used the glue for "slime."

Researching keywords and social chatter can uncover content ideas — and sources of new revenue. That’s what happened with Elmer’s glue when it discovered children used the glue for “slime.”

One of the hardest aspects of providing meaningful content on ecommerce sites is trying to determine what your audience members read as they’re shopping.

Coming up with ideas for new and compelling content isn’t as difficult as it sounds. Identify consumer desires and problems and solve them. Relax, and explore.

To be sure, generating a content idea is much different than turning the idea into, say, an article, or video, or infographic. But at this point, forget execution and lose yourself in finding the trends and patterns that indicate interest.

When you look for the trends, sometimes you find a windfall. The Elmer’s glue folks hit a home run when they saw the spike in their sales and dug into the source: the “slime” trend. Kids all over America were turning vast quantities of white glue into stretchy goop that can be pulled and twisted without making too large a mess. All Elmer’s had to do was ride the slime wave and offer great kid- and parent-friendly content that people searched for in droves.

When you’re ready to find your own slime-sized content trend, here are eight inspiration sources to investigate.

Sources of Content Inspiration

Keyword research. The first place to start when you’re looking for any content-based concept is Google Keyword Planner. Even though it only contains Google data and not information from the other engines, as the largest search engine it covers a sample size of primary data that’s unmatched by any other keyword tool. To learn more about keyword research, read “SEO How-to, Part 5: Keyword Research in Action.”

Autocomplete suggestion and question tools. As you type a search, Google shows suggestions for phrases it thinks you might be typing based on what other people have typed before you. Mine those other phrases using tools like Ubersuggest and KeywordTool. They return lists of keywords that, unlike keyword research, have no numeric value of search demand associated with each word. You can’t tell how many people are searching for each phrase, but it’s reasonable to assume that there’s enough volume behind the searches or Google wouldn’t bother to suggest them. Answer the Public offers a unique variation on the autocomplete arena, in that it returns all question-based keyword suggestions. These are especially good for determining which burning questions your customers might have regarding your products.

Competitors. What are your competitors doing? What are they missing and how can you do it better? Merely copying what the competition is doing won’t enable you to leapfrog ahead. So look for ways to improve and build on the concepts they have already begun. Let it be a source of initial ideas, not the end product.

One of the best ways to find out who your competitors truly are in natural search, and to identify what they’re doing, is to search for them. Any company that ranks anywhere on page one of the search results, or ahead of you, is a competitor regardless of what industry or niche they’re in.

Amazon questions and reviews. You may or may not sell products on Amazon, but it’s a good bet that someone sells something close to what you sell there. Scan those product reviews for areas that especially please or anger customers, and read the questions for areas that cause confusion. Those are all excellent places to identify customer passions that you can tap into to.

People do not write a review for something they don’t care about. When they do write a review or ask a question, they’re sending anyone who cares to look a signal about what’s really important — positive or negative. When enough of those signals combine on a single topic to interest you, you have something to write about.

Social listening. Social listening is a lot like keyword research — people ask or write about what they care about and push it out to anyone listening. Using free listening tools like Keyhole and Social Mention, enter keywords to identify how people are sharing related information across social networks. Depending on the tool, you’ll see sentiment, gender, related keywords, volume of activity, and the posts themselves. Try using especially interesting keywords you’ve sourced from your keyword research or autocomplete research in your social listening tool.

Sales trends. Dig into areas where your sales exceed expectations, or disappoint. You may already know what some problems or successes are around your product offering, but it’s likely you’ll uncover more using these methods. In addition to using them to create content that your customers will value, share your findings with management. A startling number of companies are blind to customer sentiment in their business strategies. Your research could fuel a larger and necessary change.

Customer service. Just as companies are blind to customer sentiment, marketing tends to be blind to customer support. Those teams work day in and day out with customers who are really excited, or more likely, really angry, about something. Learn what those somethings are. Set up a regular dialog. Creating content that speaks directly to customer support issues — answering the exact questions and complaints they receive the most frequently — will also help reduce the burden on their beleaguered support teams.

Friends and family. Don’t overlook the value of asking around. While they are nowhere close to a representative sample of your customer base, they probably have opinions about things. Ask them what they love and hate about your products or the process of buying your products. Ask them how they would find the products or information you think you want to generate.

What would they search for, and how would they talk about it in social media? Where would they buy it? Or would they even buy it, and if not, why? Promise them you won’t get mad — and keep that promise.

What’s Buzzing?

So many other places exist to find content ideas. Forums specific to your niche, customer-survey data that either has already been collected or will be collected soon, internal search keyword reports, and more.

Much of this is open-ended, free form data that needs to be trawled through and analyzed subjectively. The volume can be overwhelming. Be the judge of when you have enough data to make decisions.

Remember, you’re not looking to identify and solve every problem. You’re looking for a list of likely topics that can be turned into creative concepts. Other potential ideas can be explored in a phase two or three. This is not a one and done. Pick the biggest three or five or 10 and get rolling.

The best way to identify a truly interesting content area is to gather data from multiple sources and look across them all for trends that keep popping up. If people are buzzing about a topic in search, on Amazon reviews, in social, and on YouTube, or across other sources, it’s a pretty safe bet that there’s a large enough audience to target with your content.

Jill Kocher Brown
Jill Kocher Brown
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