Step 1: Pick your topic
This is the bit that can sometimes be the trickiest, because let’s face it, ideas don’t always appear when you want them to. Coming up with content ideas is a whole post in itself, but what’s important is having a system.
I keep a spreadsheet that I have bookmarked on my desktop. In it I have three columns — column one is for titles, column three is for notes, and column two I use the to highlight certain posts:
I got this post idea because I had the title idea “how to brainstorm great content ideas” which felt like a bit of a tired subject. So I thought, “the next step is to write it” hence I decided on:
“How to write great content in X steps”
. is that you need to have your mind open to ideas. I don’t sit down and decide to come up with an idea; I get most of my ideas whilst reading other people’s blogs or while writing my own.
Your chances of coming up with a truly new, unique content idea are pretty low in most niches. Innovation happens slowly, and it really is OK to take someone else’s idea as long as you give it a new angle and add some new value.
Step 2: Researching your post
If you are sitting down to write because you know that you need to then there’s a good chance it will come out sounding rubbish, so unless you actually feel inspired to write your post, go for a walk and come back later.
These are all of the articles that Google thinks do a great job of answering my query, and since that is based on links, social stuff and user metrics, you can bet all of these posts were well received by their readers.
I might go further if I need to, but these are some great posts, so I think I should get plenty of ideas. The first task is to pick out the common themes that are covered. In particular, I noticed that all or some of them talk about (in no particular order):
Whoa, that’s a lot to take in. But this is all of the stuff that has done a great job of helping readers who have been interested in this topic, so I need to do something with that.
You don’t have to copy every headline and sub-heading, but all of the above is stuff that you should consider in your own content. You might want to reference points that have been made, for instance:
These are good points and ones that I touched upon above when I spoke about only writing when you feel inspired. You might also decide that you disagree with parts of the posts that you research, that’s fine too, as long as you explain your reasoning.
#1: Find the Right Topic Idea
So how do you find the right topic idea?
Essentially, you need to do a lot of research and learn about your niche before you jump into content writing. Over time, it becomes easy. When it comes to content creation in your niche, you must first pay attention to popular the topics in your niche.
Trending topics are your best bet for content writing that is engaging because you know people already like them. Trending topics are also well-received on social media sites. And if your content is well written, chances are higher that your blog posts will be shared.
There are various tools to help you find trending topics across search engines and social media networks. Some that I use personally are BuzzSumo, Google Trends, and Feedly. These tools will give you invaluable information on the topics that are most shared. You can track them regularly to find trending content.
For example, on Feedly, all you need to do is follow your favorite publications or add topics of interest. The tool will then show you the trending articles about those topics or from those publications.
You can also go on social media forums and Q/A sites like Quora, Reddit, and Yahoo Answers to look for similar questions that a lot of people are asking. These platforms present a lot of ideas on popular topics and how to write about them.
Content Marketing Format Examples
Before wrapping things up, I want to provide a shortlist of the most common types of content marketing texts which you’ll come across online. Knowing them can also help you format your own text.
In an era of us being bombarded by all kinds of information online, it’s essential to offer some quality knowledge, but also to know how to stand out from the crowd. That’s precisely where the art of content marketing lies.
Liraz is an international SEO and content expert, helping brands and publishers grow through search engines. She is Outbrain’s former SEO and Content Director and previously worked in the gaming, B2C and B2B industries for more than a decade.