News flash: The world of content is changing.

Gone are the days of ‘post and pray’ blogging—today’s content is all about strategy.

From finding a great idea that sticks to watching your analytics like a hawk, in 2020 there’s a whole lot more to content marketing than just putting pen to paper.

But as most marketing wizards know, there’s A LOT of information to compete against—for every query typed into Google, you have a million and ten potential solutions.

So we’re going to let you into a little secret.

If you really want to create words that matter, you only need to pay attention to one thing: Content ideation.

That means finding content ideas that resonate with your audience and continue working for you way into the future. 🙌

To help you step out of the sea of unnecessary content and become a content ideation pro, we’ve come up with some surefire ways to success—to make sure you leap ahead of the competition every time.

Table of contents

FAQ: What you need to know about content ideation in 2020

  • What is content ideation?
  • Why is content ideation important?
  • How important is content ideation for my audience?
  • What are the best content ideation tools?
  • How do you think of content ideas?

Content ideation methods: The Good, The Badass and the Totally Awesome

  • Method #1: Customer-driven content
  • Method #2: Traffic-driven content
  • Method #3: Message-driven content

Ace your quality content ideation plan

What you need to know about content ideation in 2020

To become a content ideation pro, first you need to get friendly with the basics.

From how to come up with awesome ideas to learning about the best tools around, getting the fundamentals in place will mean you have a super strong foundation when it comes to your next piece of content.

Here’s a quick FAQ of the key things you need to know—so next time you’re staring at a blank page, you’ll have the tools to knock it outta the park. 🏆

What is content ideation?

If you’re still unsure about what content ideation actually is, we’ll make it simple.

Content ideation is coming up with A* content ideas that will make your audience jump for joy.

To hit the big time, you need to be able to answer key questions about your industry in a way that’s clear, fluff-free and fun.

Why is content ideation important?

People have been writing content for years with no plan—and it’s worked. So why is content ideation suddenly so important?

Well, the difference between then and now comes down to two things:

  1. There’s more competition: It’s no secret the internet is bursting at the seams—there’s A LOT of information out there. In fact, there are over 2 million new blog posts created every day. And with the increase in competition, it’s much easier for your content to get lost.
  2. Search engines are more complex: Search engine algorithms are a mysterious and ever-changing beast. Over time, the way search engines rank content has become more complex—which is why your content needs to comply with SEO rules to beat the competition. (Read on for our section on top SEO hacks).

How important is content ideation for my audience?

When it comes to acing content ideation, understanding your audience is the name of the game.

Because the better you know who you’re talking to, the more likely you are to create quality, relatable content that shines. ✨

To get to really know your audience you need to come up with a customer persona. Take the time to think about who they are, where you’ll find them, their wants and needs and anything else that’ll help you create content they LOVE. 💖(Psst! That’s where customer-driven content comes in. There’s more on this later).

What are the best content ideation tools?

Smashing out unbeatable content ideas that work has never been easier.

There are a tonne of awesome tools at your disposal to help ensure your content ideation is backed up by facts.

Here are a few of the top content ideation tools:

  • Google: To rank at the top of Google’s SERP (aka Search Engine Results Pages), what better way to check out the competition than going straight to the page itself. Type your keyword into Google, see what comes up and use your savvy content skills to out-compete the competition.
  • Buzzsumo: This is a great free tool for finding out what content’s currently trending. You can search by keyword, phrase or headline.
  • Ahrefs: One for pros, Ahrefs is on the heavier side of the budget—but there’s good reason it costs. From searching for the best ranking keywords, to discovering alternative phrases that work, Ahrefs is a content ideation rabbit hole that’s well worth investigating. 🕵️

How do you think of content ideas?

The key to coming up with ideas that work, is creating an awesome content ideation strategy.

The important thing is to get organized and take time to plan out exactly how you’re going to tackle it. Once you understand your audience inside-out and have the best content ideation tools at your fingertips, coming up with headlines will be easy.

But to become a true expert, you need to understand the three main content ideation methods: customer-driven, traffic-driven and message-driven.

Not sure what they are? No worries. We’ve pulled together a quick run-through, so you can ace your content ideation like a pro.

Content ideation methods: The Good, The Badass and the Totally Awesome 

Method #1: Customer-driven content

Every great content creator knows customers are everything.

It’s because of them your job even exists—so treat them like the VIPs they are by creating content they really love. 👑

That means listening directly to customers to find out exactly what they want.

Here are some of the best back-to-basics tips to get you connecting with your customers today:

  • Interviews: Ask your customers directly. What do they need? What are they most interested in? Where would they normally go for answers? The ultimate benefit of this method is you get to build strong relationships with individuals.
  • Market research: Conduct market research with irresistible surveys. Use tools like SurveyMonkey to gather data and give your content a customer-focused edge.
  • Internal team surveys: Ask your colleagues what they think. What obstacles have they come up against in the industry? Where do they normally head for solutions? What works for them?
  • Social media: If you have a social media following, use it. Ask questions, send polls and even get your followers to generate their own content to help you understand them even more.

From tech to entertainment, customer-driven content dominates the market—proving that listening to your customers = big gains.

Successful startup Slack are one great example. Slack CEO Stuart Butterfield uses social media to personally listen and respond to customer feedback—a tactic he believes has fed into Slacks ultimate success.

So, sit down and start listening—because customer-driven content ideation really does work.

For your toolbox:

Customer-driven content is best for:

  • Connecting with your customers’ real wants and needs.
  • Building trust with your target audience.
  • Getting to know your customers’ challenges to help you create awesome content that wins every time.

WATCH: Want to find out more about the power of listening? Check out this Tedx talk by William Ury, cofounder of Harvard’s Program on Negotiation.

Method #2: Traffic-driven content

Data is the cornerstone to all successful strategies—and that includes content ideation.

Knowing how many people are engaging with your content, where they came from and how long they spend on your website is key to creating meaningful content that lasts.

Intent-driven PPC and SEO hacks are where it’s at when it comes to traffic-driven content, so here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Pay-Per-Click:

Pay-Per-Click—or PPC as it’s affectionately known—allows you to place ads and only pay when a potential customer clicks through to your site.

With search engine ads, you can target specific search terms through your carefully chosen keywords. For example, if we used the keyword ‘content ideation’ for this page, our ad could turn up in the top ad space when someone Googles ‘content ideation’.

This works so well to generate traffic-driven content because you can measure exactly how many people are coming through to your site via a specific keyword—plus use tools to choose keywords you know will bring in the traffic. 🙌

This is how to ace intentional PPC:

  1. Use a tool like Ahrefs or Moz to find high-traffic keywords relevant to your industry.
  2. Create an ad using that keyword (Google Ads is a great place to start).
  3. Keep an eye on your analytics to find out how well the ad is doing. Edit the keyword if you notice it needs a tweak.
  • SEO:

Search Engine Optimization is a minefield for content pros—there’s a lot to learn and it changes all the time.

But once you realize SEO is the difference between getting lost in the noise or coming top of the bunch on Google—it becomes totally worth it. In fact, 57% of B2B marketers agree SEO has the biggest impact on lead generation.

So how do you keep up with the complexities of SEO?

What it comes down to is playing the game—because the internet is easy to maneuver once you understand the rules.

Some content creators employ specialists but there are loads of easy unintimidating hacks you can do without spending that extra dollah.

Here are some of the best SEO hacks to get you started:

  • Ace your keywords: Tools like Ahrefs and Moz can help you find the best KW for your subject. Once you’ve got your primary and secondary KWs, find natural placements for them in your main heading, subheadings and anywhere else that feels right.
  • Bigger is better: Long-form copy is where it’s at. The more well-researched usable content, the better.
  • Quality over quantity: Google may love long-form, but it still has to be good. At the end of the day, we all crave quality.
  • Links, links and more links: Adding backlinks to your copy helps Google build its wider web—and that’s why link-rich copy ranks so high.
  • Get visual: Google loves mixed-media. Add appropriate video, images and GIFs to rank even higher.

For your toolbox:

Traffic-driven content is best for:

  • Boosting traffic to your website.
  • Ranking high on Google.
  • Beating the competition (in a friendly way). 🤗 

READ: Want to learn more about traffic-driven content? Check out this post by Neil Patel.

Method #3: Message-driven

Last (but by no means least) is message-driven content ideation.

We’re talking the kind of content that stands for something and gives customers belief in the brand. ✊

From keeping ahead of the curve with news trends audits to showing self-belief with product value propositions, message-driven content will show your customers you really know your stuff.

At the end of the day, this method comes down to trust—and that means:

  • Showing you’re willing to put trust in yourself and your product. After all, why would anyone trust you if you don’t trust yourself?
  • Building trust with customers through industry knowledge. The more you show you know; the more customers will come back.

Like the sound of message-driven content? Here are a few pointers to get you started:

  • News trends audits: There are a tonne of other people doing cool stuff in your industry. Use Google and social media accounts like Twitter to keep an eye on trends, upcoming events and news in your field. Then use your findings to influence your content.
  • Competitor audits: This one’s all about investigating your competitors to find out what’s working for them. If they have an awesome post that’s gaining tonnes of traffic, why not create your own, better version? Use tools like Buzzsumo to find out how much engagement their posts are getting and create a competitor content spreadsheet to inform your future posts.
  • Belief-driven messaging: Consumers care about brand beliefs. That’s why weaving beliefs into your content’s messaging is the way to go. Keep checking back to your brand values and make sure your content reflects that every step of the way.
  • Product value propositions: Consumers no longer want just a product. They want the product PLUS a life-time guarantee, 10% off their next purchase and a cupcake on the side. 🍰 Product value props are a way of showing your customers you care—even just using Mailchimp to send a free weekly newsletter will do the trick.

Companies around the globe have had message-driven content figured out for a long time. That’s why message-driven mission’s like Coca Cola’s “To refresh the world in mind, body and spirit” take the brand to the next level.

The best content reflects the brand mission, and makes consumers feel the beliefs behind the brand.

For your toolbox:

Message-driven content is best for:

  • Staying true to your values.
  • Creating a trustworthy brand.
  • Strengthening relationships with your audience.

LISTEN: Interested in message-driven content? Check out this “Marketing Over Coffee” Podcast with Simon Sinek on his book “Start with Why”. 

Recap:

  • Customer-driven contentis best for offering tangible solutions for audience wants and needs. Best tools include social media accounts like Facebook, SurveyMonkey and Optinmonster.
  • Traffic-driven content is best for ranking high on Google and leaping ahead of the competition. Best tools include Ahrefs, Moz and Google.
  • Message-driven contentis best for staying true to your values and showing your industry knowledge. Best tools include Buzzsumo, Twitter and Mailchimp.

Ace your quality content ideation plan

Now it’s over to you.

Whether it’s knowing which content ideation tools to use or keeping in touch with your company values, acing your plan is going to be a whole lot easier now you know where to start.

No matter how you approach your content ideation, the most important thing is to aim for quality content that reflects the awesomeness of your brand—because your ideas deserve to be seen.

Want to become a true content ideation pro? Bookmark this article for future ref!

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