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April 11, 2017 (Updated: February 28, 2020)
Topic creation is an ongoing struggle for every content marketing professional. You need a steady flow of fresh, interesting ideas to continuously generate new traffic and keep your existing readers coming back often. Yet you quickly run out of obvious ideas revolving around your products, services, and industry when you write regularly.
If you’re hitting a wall when it comes to topic creation, there are several strategies you can use to shake things up and plant the seeds for new ideas. Try these steps for gathering unused topics and turning them into intriguing titles that give you the traffic and conversions you’re after.
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Topic ideas can pop up at any time. You may think of something while you’re deep in another project, out to lunch, or getting ready to head home from the office. Don’t let these ideas escape. Maintain a simple folder or document where you and your teammates can collect content ideas. This can be as complex as a shared file folder in Dropbox filled with fully outlined pitches, or as simple as a spreadsheet in Google Docs where you jot down the bare basics.
What’s important is catching your ideas before they dissipate in the daily grind. Toss them in the idea file where they’ll be fresh for the picking when you’re ready to flesh out full pieces.
If you’re in the business of content creation, you should spend a little time surfing the web every day to take in trending topics. You can simplify your efforts with a resource like PopUrls, which curates headlines from several sources including Digg, Reddit, BuzzFeed, Google News, The New York Times, and more. While you don’t want to simply recycle these pieces, they can provide a valuable source of inspiration for your own posts.
Examine what’s trending and look for holes in coverage. Which angle is getting overlooked? How are these stories relevant to your industry? Think about how national news is impacting your corner of the country, or what bigger economic trends mean to your buyers. Tailor hot topics to suit your reader base and you have a hit.
Maintain an active presence in communities that are relevant to your industry. Visit pertinent forums regularly or have updates delivered to your inbox. Stay active on social media, browsing the latest posts and tweets from the same sources your customers are following. While you can take inspiration from these sources, you should also be wary of posting anything that’s too similar to the competition. Strive to keep your content both relevant and fresh.
While it’s easiest to follow online communities, you shouldn’t discount live options, either. If you’re targeting a local audience for your brick and mortar business, it’s important to stay active in your community. Does your city have a monthly networking event for local business owners? Is there a City Hall meeting on the horizon? Does the town host major festivals that bring in outside traffic? You should maintain a presence at these events and keep a keen eye out for fresh topic ideas.
Browsing the competition’s website only scratches the surface. Dig deeper to see where the inbound links are coming from, how they’re getting traffic, and which pages are performing best. Use a site like SimilarWeb to gather all these details and more in just a few clicks.
This information gives you a better idea of where the competition is stiffest and where you can easily distinguish yourself. If your competitors are overlooking a key topic, that’s your cue to jump in and offer full comprehensive coverage. If they’re excelling in a particular area, think about ways that you can spin the topic and do it better.
A thick file of information on trending topics and your competitors’ performance only go so far if you’re struggling to turn those details into viable content. Brainstorming sessions for content ideation are a great way to pull several minds together to generate workable topics. Hold ideation meetings regularly to bounce thoughts off others on your team.
Keep these meetings as laid back and free-flowing as possible. No idea is too off the wall. No thoughts are taboo. While you might not run with the first raw idea, it could act as the catalyst that generates a slew of high-performing headlines. Create an open atmosphere that allows your creators to explore freely so you hit on the ideas that closed-minded competitors are missing.
Once you’ve generated some content topics, you need to put them to the test. Start with the time-tested AIDA formula. This specifies that your piece generates:
First, you need a headline that stops your readers in their high-speed scroll through Facebook, Twitter, or Google SERPs. Once they’ve slowed enough to read it, it must spark their interest. Next is the desire to learn more, which leads to a click-through. Finally, the content needs to spur the reader to action, featuring a relevant CTA. Whether that action is purchasing your product or simply sharing the piece to generate more traffic to your site, there is some activity that you want your reader to do after they’ve digested your content.
Regularly analyze your earlier posts to see how they’re living up to the AIDA formula. If they’re underperforming, identify where you went wrong so you can ideate better in the future. Spotlight topics where you got it right and spin out from these to create similar content with a fresh twist.
Topic creation is an ongoing challenge that you have to face again and again to keep your blog and website relevant. However, smart steps like these help you streamline the process and develop handy habits that make the process easier. Keep topic creation in the back of your mind no matter what you’re working on and you may find these ideas flow easier than you expected.
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