Content Idea Generation > What To Do When the Inspiration Dries Up

As a relatively new addition to the Zazzle Media team, I remember feeling pretty overwhelmed when I was told that I’d soon have to write my first ever Zazzle blog piece. “What on earth am I going to write about?” I thought.

And, although the date of my turn initially felt ages away, I somehow found it staring me in the face much quicker than I could have ever imagined. Gulp. It was suddenly now my turn. And I still had no idea what to write.

But, as I was searching high and low for a fantastic content idea, a thought suddenly hit me; I was falling at exactly the same hurdle that I’d often find myself overcoming on a daily basis throughout my job – knowing (or in this case, not knowing) what to write about when it comes to creating great content.

As a fully-fledged content writer, I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that being responsible for whipping up mountains of copy everyday, can sometimes leave you in the same predicament; you simply find yourself running out of ground-breaking ideas, and everything tends to get a little bit ‘samey’.

Which is clearly no good whatsoever when you work in the world of content marketing!

Why? Well, because in order to win the content marketing race, you need fantastic content that’ll give you that all-important head start against your competitors. After all, how else are you going to reach your targeted audience, get tons of shares and get people to follow your do-follows when you’re just churning out boring waffle?

You can’t afford to fall at those ‘I-haven’t-got-an-idea-hurdles’. Fall and you may as well drop out of the race – because boring content is as useful as trying to run the race in flippers…

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So, how do you think of great ideas that’ll guarantee you fantastic content every time? Well, by using the following tools and suggestions, which work pretty well here at Zazzle Towers.

Before You Write A Single Word…

It’s important that you identify exactly who your target audience is and what they’re most likely to want to read. At Zazzle, we follow the diagram below to help us brainstorm ideas:Screen-Shot-2012-11-16-at-15.07.13-300x130The first step is to identify exactly what persona you’re targeting (there will generally be 2 or 3 main ones). For example, if your clients business is in construction engineering, your audience personas may consist of: A construction professional who wants ground-breaking related industry news, and an experienced builder who wants relevant hints and tips to make his life easier. Not only will choosing the right persona help when reaching out to site owners, it will also help you to decide what pillars, and relevant themes, should be covered in your article, to make it more relevant and interesting to your targeted audience.

Once you have identified your persona, you need to consider their current state of mind, around the time of your writing. Consider the time of year and what is generally associated with that particular time of year, relevant to the audience you’re writing for. Using our experienced builder persona as an example, during November he may be interested in ways to keep warm on a building site, or how to plan his work around the Christmas holidays.

Turn To Your Good Old Friend, The Internet

As content marketers, SEOers and social media-ers, the Internet is the most fundamental part of our jobs – in fact, our jobs wouldn’t exist without it. So, it’s no wonder it’s become our best friend.

But, aside from helping us with keyword research, finding bloggers and gaining Twitter followers, it’s great for doing some thinking for us when our thinking caps are feeling a bit rusty.

There are hundreds of great keyword search tools out there that can help you to conjure up great content ideas in seconds. You just have to know where to find them – which is exactly what I’m here for.

So, here are a few of our team’s favorites that help to get our creative light bulbs glowing:

Bottlenose

Bottlenose is a great tool that highlights what topics are trending around a particular keyword, using a variety of social media platforms. All you need to do is type in the keyword, or keywords, you’re looking to write about and Bottlenose will instantly show you all of the popular stories, mentions and social commentaries, based on those words. As you can then take time to read through the various related articles, the tool is useful for acting as a prompt to helping you inform your own ideas on what to write.

Soovle

Soovle is a pretty useful site that helps you to generate content ideas quickly, through the help of keyword suggestions – so; it’s perfect if you’re in need of a great idea, fast!

Similarly to Bottlenose, all you need to do is enter your keyword into the search box and Soovle will bring up a variety of keyword suggestions from around 15 different sites. You can also alter which sites display results, so if you’re in need of ideas for a specific vertical, you can narrow down your choices to ensure you’ll only get relevant suggestions.

Übersuggest -

This tool is similar to Soovle, but rather than displaying suggestions randomly, Übersuggest alphabetizes them, allowing you to see ideas a little more methodically. Übersuggest takes your base keyword and adds a letter or digit to it, in order to extract suggestions for you. The tool also allows you to decide whether you want to get suggestions from a regular web search, or whether you want to narrow your searches down to images, news, shopping, video or recipe categories. You can also add any suggested keywords you like the look of to your ‘basket’, which can later be exported, in order to help you do further research if you’re in search of a completely original and ground-breaking content idea.

Content Idea Generator V2

Now, this is tool we all absolutely love. Created by the geniuses at SEO Gadget, the Content Idea Generator V2 displays all content from a number of sources based on your chosen keyword.

In order to grab yourself a copy, simply access the file here, log into your own Google account, head to File > ‘Make a Copy’ and get searching! All you need to do is enter your chosen keyword into cell ‘B3’, hit return and watch as tons of content ideas from Google News, Bing News, Digg, Reddit, YouTube, as well as top tweets, come flying in. When entering your keyword into B3, it’s important to note that if you want to search for multiple keywords, a ‘+’ must be used to separate them – for example ‘iphone+apps’.

Topix

If you’re in need of a content idea that needs to be relevant to a specific location, then Topix may be able to help you. It works in the same way as Übersuggest and Soovle to produce content ideas based on keyword suggestions. But, with is ability to search geo-specifically; you can tailor your content to focus on particular local, national or global subject matters.

Google Search

This is a fun way to generate interesting content ideas, and is one of Wil Reynolds’ favourites. Simply, type in the start of a question regarding the keyword you’d like to write about, and let Google’s search bar finish of the question off for you. For example, typing in   “What do mobile phones…” or “Why do mobile phones…” brings up a series of most popular search terms, which are bound to get your content ideas flowing. Just be careful what you’re searching for, this method can result in some interesting (and inappropriate) results.

Use Your All-Important Outreaching Skills:

So, you’ve got to do some guest posting. You’ve turned Google inside out in order to find a selection of the UK’s best travel bloggers, you’ve had positive responses from a range of site owners, and now you need to whip up a fantastic article for those who’ve said yes to posting one.

If you’ve utilised all of the above options, but are still struggling to get over those idea hurdles, start back at the drawing board; use those hundreds of blogger sites you’ve outreached to (and particularly those that haven’t got back to you), to see what kinds of things they’re writing about.

Throughout the duration of my course whilst I was at university, I was always taught the value of reading other people’s work in order to help stimulate thoughts and ideas of my own. And, this is something that I truly believe can hold a great benefit in your working life, too – particularly if you’re in the creative industry.

So, as you’re searching through a range of sites, look further than their Page Rankings, Domain Authorities and Domain Moz Rankings and take time to read through their article archives – it might just help you conjure up something great.

Get Asking, Talking and Thinking Together:

This one is a simple, but effective, content idea generator, that’s used daily throughout our office.

If you’re completely stuck for an idea, turn to the person next to, opposite you, or behind you, and ask them what ideas they may have. Bouncing individual ideas off of each other is great way to come up with a truly awesome one, that’s bound to leave you saying ‘what a great idea, I’d never thought about that!” – you’ll be surprised at what you can come up with when you put your minds together. Think of it as the Japanese poet, Ryunosuke Satoro, did:  ‘individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.”

So, there you have it, a few ideas on what to do when ideas freeze over. Next time you’re struggling to get over that idea hurdle in order to become a super content marketer, turn to these and you’re guaranteed to win the race. Happy Writing!