Being stuck for interesting, unique and new content ideas happens to everyone, even us professionals. No matter how much you might know about a subject, how close to your heart it is and how passionate about it you are, sometimes the creative juices just won’t flow.
If you’ve found yourself in a bit of a writing rut or want a few techniques to keep in your back pocket for the next time you’re facing the dreaded blinking cursor, these tried-and-tested strategies are all proven to make content brainstorming a lot easier and much more fruitful.
The swipe file
Inspiration is all around us, but it can seem in short supply when we actually need it most. Starting a swipe file is an easy way to get some creative cash in the bank.
A swipe file is simply a folder or binder that you fill with interesting press clippings, articles, posts, press releases and infographics – in fact any kind of content - as and when you see it. If you come across an interesting idea in the morning paper, put it in the file. See a blog post that you could repurpose or reference? Print it and keep it.
Your swipe file can be physical or virtual. The important thing is to collect and collate the little seeds of inspiration as and when you come across them in daily life. Refer back to it when you’re in need of a light bulb moment for your next blog post or are in desperate need of some interesting facts or quotes to add personality to a piece of content that needs a bit of livening up.
AIDA is a formula that many marketers and advertising professionals will refer to when they begin their content brainstorming.
A = Attention
I = Interest
D = Desire
A = Action
This formula can help you hone in on what to write about and then, when the content creation process begins, how to channel the information to move the reader along your preferred course of action.
When you’re faced with a blank piece of paper and a total lack of ideas, use AIDA to get your brain whirring. You can put each letter to work individually and use the four components of AIDA to help you create a series of different ideas, each one focused on one of these four key needs.
Satisfying the Attention part of the formula for example might mean developing content themes around striking facts or figures or building a post around breaking news.
Equally, Interest could lead you to your latest PPC keyword report to check which keywords have generated the most clicks – from there you can brainstorm content ideas around the phrases shown to interest your target audience.
Desire is fairly obvious - this is the fire which will incite your audience to begin wanting your product or series, so it’s a chance to focus on case studies, testimonials, problem solvers and solutions.
Action should be a consistent thread throughout your content - calling the reader to take the relevant action will bring all of your efforts to fruition. If you want them to sign up for a newsletter for example, perhaps you need to create a lead generator such as a free ebook or exclusive offer.
Google can be a huge help when it comes to making the brainstorming process that bit easier. One of the simplest ways to use the search engine to generate new ideas is to head to Google Trends.
The Trends tool will tell you what’s trending now, what people are searching for and what interests are trending over time. A quick visit to the home page will unveil universal trending topics, giving you the option to create posts tied to popular interest. Alternatively, you can search for a specific topic and get down to the nitty gritty of what’s hot and what’s not in your niche.
Most of us will keep an eye on our competitors but, don’t limit your competitor research just to Google and don’t do it only when you’re facing a blank brainstorm. To add real energy to your content ideas, use social media in combination with Google searches and actual web visits to competitor sites.
Tools such as Buzzsumo can help with this. Plug in a keyword, a topic or a brand name and it will show you the most popular articles on social media for that term. It will displays likes and shares and list articles by popularity. This is one of the easiest, least time consuming ways to come up with new blog titles already proven to be of interest to audiences on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
If you’re visiting competitor websites or following them on social media, make a note of which posts generate the most comments, likes and shares. This makes a useful starting point for building your own ideas around the same theme.