Writing is hard. Figuring out what to write about can be even harder.
There are many business benefits of a consistent content program. Consistent is the key word here, as posting regularly can boost search engine result page (SERP) placement, keep your audience returning to your site, fuel PR, and build credibility, among other things.
But coming up with dozens of topics to fill an editorial calendar takes some effort.
Whether you’re new to content marketing or you’re just in a content rut, the good news is that inspiration lies ahead – you’ve just got to know where to look. At Propllr, we develop content ideas for our clients all the time, so we have a number of go-to strategies for generating topics from thin air.
Here are 10 ways to make sure you’ve always got timely and strategic ideas lined up for your blog.
1: Identify Larger Business Goals to Guide Blog Content Planning
Before you do anything else on this list, talk to leaders outside of marketing about their current business goals and how content can support.
Does your sales team need more resources to share with prospects? A couple how-to or educational blog posts about your product can answer prospect FAQs.
Is the product team getting ready for a new feature launch? Lay the groundwork on your blog with some content for a target vertical.
Don’t lose sight of how powerful content can be in your company’s overall growth goals. Make these strategic check-ins a regular part of your blog content planning.
2: See What Your Competitors Are Talking About
A blog can help your customers understand how you’re different from competitors. But first you’ll need to see what your competitors have to say.
Take a look at their blogs to see what they’re writing about, how they’re addressing it, and what they’re saying. Then do some gap analysis. What information is missing? How can you be more useful? How is your company’s point of view different from your competitors’?
Answering these questions will help ensure that your content is original and useful to your audience.
3: Build a Well-Rounded Media Diet
It’s easy to compartmentalize the content you read during your nine-to-five and the content you read from five to nine. But great content draws from a wealth of different sources. You should be mindful of how everything you read about the world relates to your business.
In addition to keeping up with outlets of your choice, make sure you curate your media consumption for ideas for your company’s content:
- Sign up for newsletters.
- Read trade publications.
- Attend networking events with people in your industry.
- Listen to relevant podcasts.
Consuming a rich variety of content is also a helpful practice for researching individual blog posts.
4: Set Up Google Alerts for Key Topics
In addition to reading widely, setting up Google Alerts can help you stay up to date on topics directly related to your company’s space.
Just go to Google Alerts and type in the topics you want to track. You can then update your settings for how frequently you want updates in your inbox.
If I ran a blog for a cheesemaker, I might set up a “cheese consumption” Google Alert.
Writing timely, news-oriented content is a particularly effective strategy for content-led PR (see next tip).
5: See What Your PR Program Needs
A content program can fuel PR by showcasing thought leadership and providing original data, both of which reporters like to see when researching a company.
For best results, make sure you’re proactively aligning yourself with your company’s PR team: identify their current priorities and determine whether content can support them. If your PR team is working hard to land a certain story, a relevant blog post may support their pitching.
6: Do Keyword Research
While it’s traditionally part of SEO, keyword research is also great for identifying topics you haven’t yet considered writing about. Keyword tools show you dozens of variations on the terms you care about, questions people are asking about your subject matter, and related terms.
Keyword research is also one of the easiest ways to increase the likelihood that your content gets seen by its target audience.
Tools like Google Keyword Planner, Ubersuggest, and Keywords Everywhere can help you figure out which words or phrases related to your products or services people are searching for. Use this information to build out your list of potential topics and tweak whatever topics you do write about so that you're positioning them so they’re more likely to show up in search results.
7: Replicate Top-Performing Content
You can also look to your site’s analytics to see which pieces of content do the best and try to recreate the magic. (We’re fans of Google Analytics, which is free and only requires that you add a snippet of code to your site.)
- Identify top-performing pages (defined by whatever metrics you care most about – pageviews, time on page, conversions, exit rate, etc.).
- Analyze their components for repeatable elements. E.g., featuring outside sources, addressing newsy topics, going into significant depth, including images, etc.
- Plan future content using these elements.
- Track what performs best.
As you learn what works, plan new content that has a similar structure, style, or subject matter.
Keep in mind, though, that it’s never a good idea to make all your content the same, because that’s boring for your audience. It’s also smart to continuously try new things to learn what resonates so that you can produce content that performs better and better over time.
8: Bookmark Great Takes from Your Team
If a team member casually shares an interesting analysis in Slack, be sure to record it. It could make for a great blog post.
We recommend creating a dedicated space for sharing ideas that might turn into future content, which is what we do for our own Propllr blog.
Propllr has a dedicated #blog channel in Slack to crowdsource ideas for our own blog.
9: Set Aside Time to Brainstorm
Content scoping takes time. Sometimes the fastest way to generate ideas for your blog is to have a brainstorming session with a couple of team members.
Talking out loud lets you spitball, flesh out nuanced angles, test bold ideas, and combine everyone’s independent research. Teamwork does in fact make the dream work when it comes to content scoping.
In blog content planning, more is more!
10: Consider Conducting Original Research
Statistics are compelling. While you can – and should – leverage existing research in your content, sometimes it’s hard to find data that’s relevant or timely enough to make your case.
When that’s the case, consider doing the research yourself. Original research is an investment, but it has a number of benefits for a content program:
- Gain valuable insights about your customers and industry.
- Generate news around your “dream headline” (to help support your PR program).
- Strengthen thought leadership.
- Substantiate a claim or prediction.
- Attract inbound links from others who cite your data.
Build an Inspiration Funnel for Your Blog Content Planning
Great content starts with great ideas. And great ideas don’t appear out of thin air – at least not with any predictability.
Build a funnel of ideas for your content program through news, podcasts, Slack, Google Analytics, and keyword research, and you’ll never have to stare at a blank content planning document in defeat ever again.