creating new content is your way of signaling to search engines that your domain (and business) is:
- useful to online readers.
- continuously evolving to match searcher intent.
and that’s a good message to send.
fresh content serves your on-page seo goals, too, which may be:
- higher organic ranking for target keywords.
- enhanced ranking potential for variant keywords.
- optimal crawlability and indexability.
- consistent internal linking structures.
but your off-page seo goals similarly receive a boost, like:
- stronger and more authoritative link building.
- updated, modern presence on social media.
- rotating arsenal of content to distribute via email.
- additional guest-posting and influencer-marketing opportunities.
the struggle is real: content ideation fatigue
it’s not easy to brainstorm and execute on creative ideas over a sustained period of time. throughout the content marketing industry and even with our own clients we often see a level of ideation fatigue: there’s a short, vigorous marketing campaign to start the year but for various reasons, motivation or innovation peters out.
this conundrum is interesting, to say the least. it’s also a bit counterintuitive. as we’ve discussed before, 72 percent of marketers say relevant content is their top seo tactic.
but if you’re not able to maintain this content relevance (through consistent brainstorming and research), you’re effectively handicapping your seo marketing plans.
that’s why we decided to release an exhaustive master list of content ideas.
a timeline of roi
a quick note before we move forward. if you were to land upon the most revolutionary idea tomorrow, and then publish it on your site the day after, ranking in serps is hardly guaranteed, especially not in the near term.
through our own research, we’ve found that it takes, at minimum, 100 days after publication for your content to mature and show roi. the average age of content that lives on page 1 of google is 145 days. so while you’re waiting for your content to climb serps, keep generating and publishing new blog posts.
thus necessitates a comprehensive idea bank.
we often employ these techniques during our own internal ideation sessions and for our clients’ content marketing campaigns. some may come a bit more natural than others, but we encourage everyone to experiment with a few that may be a bit more involved and report back to us.
now let’s dive in.
free google options | seo tools | social and digital media | company-specific options | offline / referential ideas
a master list of content ideas
free google options
1. google analytics
ga is a treasure trove of practical data on your content performance. which of your existing pages is drawing the most traffic? how qualified is this traffic? what keywords were used? how long was the content? from what sources is traffic arriving to your site? on which devices?
you can cut up, segment and analyze your content any way you want to, which should arm you with plenty of new content opportunities in the future. find what’s working and do more of it.
2. searches related to
google provides a roadmap for new content ideas right in serps: no download, no software required.
here’s how it works:
type a keyword or phrase into google, then scroll to the bottom of page 1. there you’ll see “searches related to” and several similar keywords and phrases. these are actual entries users have searched for on google, and they clue you in to what they’re thinking.
you can continue clicking through these related searches ad infinitum and you’ll uncover more and more potential ideas taken straight from the minds of searchers.
3. people also ask
in the same vein, google now features “people also ask” near the middle of serps (typically above the fold). this snippet presents additional questions searchers have asked in relation to the original keyword you typed in.
“people also ask” is clickable and will drop down to feature several more options the deeper you go. build content around answering these questions.
build content around answering questions.
4. google news
the search engine is the gift that keeps on giving. the google news function orders timely content in real time and in numerous industry verticals.
this is where you can tap into newly released market reports, industry statistics, government data and newsworthy trends that can set your mind turning.
5. google autosuggest
maybe the most convenient tool to make this list, autosuggestions complete your searches for you. by doing so, google immediately provides a dropdown of ideas related to your query, again, backed by actual search patterns.
so, a simple query of “millennial banking” results in 10 suggestions, including:
- millennial banking apps.
- millennial banking habits.
- millennial banking trends.
boom. that’s several content ideas teed up for you. you don’t even need to hit “enter.”
6. google trends
find monthly, seasonal or annual search trends to understand not only the topics that are top of mind but the timing and cadence of those topics as well. using google trends, you can further segment trends by location, industry vertical and type of web search.
these insights help you plan out content on a stricter schedule and get in front of trends before they repeat in a given year, particularly important around the holidays.
7. answer the public
for blog topics in particular, answer the public is an extremely simple and thorough resource. simply type in a target keyword or general phrase and the tool generates several lists of ideas based on actual search results.
answer the public excels at visualizing ideas in multiple formats. they connect ideas via similarly related keywords, questions, prepositions, alphabetically and more. it’s completely free and all you have to do is scrape the key phrases that are most pertinent to your target audience.
find what’s working and do more of it.
semrush’s suite of keyword and organic research tools is a godsend. with numerous functions and visualization features, you can organize potential ideas by semantic relation, keyword difficulty, traffic analytics and serp crowding, among others.
you’ll need an account to use it, but its utility extends beyond ideation and into audits, ppc, link building and technical seo.
another great paid tool, marketmuse generates custom content reports that show you additional keywords and subtopics you could be writing about.
it also tells you how many words it will likely require you to write to outrank other pages and thoroughly cover the topic as much as possible. each related subtopic can serve as its own standalone article in the future as well.
moz’s keyword explorer tool allows you two free searches per month, and you can toggle your keywords by low lexical similarity, meaning the tool returns findings that are more tangential.
this helps you broaden the scope of your research and your thinking. you can also adjust all findings to be phrased as questions, which are effectively the headlines to potential evergreen how-to articles.
just enter a target keyword to get started and then tailor the dropdown functions to your liking.
11. lsi keywords
latent semantic indexing keywords are essentially phrases and terms that relate to your seed keyword or query. they help add context to your web pages and alert google as to what your content is truly about, beyond a high-level keyword.
think of them as a word cloud. so, if you’re writing about millennial banking, your lsi keywords might be “apps,” “student loans” and “venmo.” in other words, an authoritative guide on millennial banking will likely need to contain these subtopics since they are so closely correlated to your seed keyword. these subtopics can be explored further in subsequent blog posts as well.
12. check backlink profiles
use a tool like semrush or ahrefs to evaluate the types of content that are generating links. remember, links are a top-three google ranking factor.
if a certain brand, influencer or domain has a stellar backlink profile, check out those urls and see for yourself. can you build content of a similar link-building capacity?
13. revamp/update older/recurring topics
we’re huge fans of re-optimizing existing content. it saves you the headache of coming up with completely new topics – aka that’s why you’re reading this – and you increase your chances for ranking in google.
an article like “x b2b marketing trends to know in 2017” can easily be updated each year with new tips and recent data. in fact, that’s exactly what we’ve done the past two years. the result?
we’ve ranked in the second position on page 1 of google for the keyword “b2b marketing trends.”
you can follow the same process for any evergreen or seasonal pages already on your site.
social and digital media
14. twitter ‘trends for you’ and ‘what’s happening’
when you’re logged in to and search on twitter, news is organized at the top of the app based on your personalized preferences and trending events.
first is “trends for you,” which are high-level events that’s are based on who you follow and the types of tweets you typically interact with. then there’s “what’s happening,” which are broad national or pop-culture affairs.
these twitter features give you topic ideas at the touch of a button.
what’s actually being shared on social media? does some content perform on certain platforms but not others? is there timely content out there that’s dying to be written?
that’s what buzzsumo tells you.
instead of racking your brain trying to reinvent the wheel, just head over to buzzsumo to find out what’s trending at the moment, allowing you to piggyback on a given topic or use the skyscraper technique to outbest existing competitor content.
primarily a blog-writing tool, coshedule provides a numerical rubric for producing the optimal headline. you can adjust your titles to generate a higher score, which is supposed to correlate to higher clickthroughs (although we found this to be untrue for the purposes of email subject lines).
each iteration of headlines is a jumping-off point for a future article.
though we’re all taught that wikipedia should never be cited, we use it every day. why?
because it has a table of contents featured at the top of entries, which effectively act as h2 and h3 subheads. you can use a similar format to structure your content if you’re writing on this topic.
additionally, wikipedia dominates the featured snippet game because its content is marked up and formatted exactly how google prefers to serve info in serps. again, you can mimic this style for your own gain.
this one’s a personal fav.
quora has established itself as a fairly reputable q&a forum. just ask a question and a community of users can chime in, provide helpful links and steer you toward the correct answer.
the great thing about quora is that it essentially serves as a proxy for the types of topics you should be writing on. people have already searched specific terms, asked them in a question format and solicited additional information. why not just write that topic, cover all subtopics and link to further reading materials on your own blog?
you’ll capture traffic and useful commentary.
this one’s easy. you can quickly find topics to talk about on any social platform or through a social automation tool using hashtags.
something as simple as #seo can propel you into a whole world of trending, relevant topics.
20. review comments on your social media
you can manually monitor the comments on your social profiles or have a tool do it for you. either way, commentary, likes, shares, etc., are insightful metrics.
they not only inform you on what’s “popular” but what’s genuinely interesting or buzzworthy. piggybacking off previous social media success should help generate new ideas and additional engagement on subsequent posts.
21. check influencer profiles
who in your niche is the biggest on social media? who’s name is so well-known that it’s impossible not to listen when they speak? what do they publish?
a social media influencer has enormous reach, so what they’re publishing could be a good indicator as to what your followers might also want to read about. find the common threads and themes among influencers and repurpose them for your own brand.
22. industry sme
if you don’t have ready access to a thought leader in your space, scanning their social profiles and recent online musings should suffice. what you’re looking for is a unique perspective, a quirky train of thought or great quote from a well-regarded expert in your niche.
this may be a short video clip on linkedin, a youtube video from a recent interview or even a press release. learn how others with more experience and different viewpoints approach and talk about the industry. you may uncover a number of new buzzwords and, perhaps, an interesting bit of truth that would’ve never crossed your mind.
23. industry forums/threads
while yelp, reddit and google my business can provide more generalized customer feedback, industry-specific forums are more engaging platforms for high-intent commentary and conversations.
in the marketing space, this could be something akin to the comments section of search engine journal.
for niche industries, do a quick google search of “forum: [industry or product].”
24. competitor newsletters
newsletter marketing is the bread and butter of both b2c and b2b brands. email is regularly cited as marketers’ top channel for roi, so it’s a no-brainer that you should scour your competitors’ distribution ideas to a) gain a sense of where you’re being outdone and b) determine how you can do better.
the best part about this tactic is that you only have to sign up for a newsletter once and then you’ll receive a steady stream of content ideas directly in your inbox – no further research or effort required on your end.
25. competitor websites and social media profiles
the same logic applies to your rivals’ domains and media channels. while you won’t be receiving ideas in your inbox, all you need to do is check in on a consistent basis for any new developments or campaigns competitors are pursuing.
are they building out new landing pages? did they overhaul their entire site? do they clearly have a more engaged social following in the new year?
which types of content pique your interest at first glance? is this something you can mimic?
26. pick apart mega lists
we’ve created our fair share of mega posts, like the aforementioned “99 benefits of content marketing.”
now, if you’re a marketer, you could easily comb through that list and write a unique article on each of those 99 benefits. that’s 99 ideas, 99 new web pages, 99 new ranking opportunities.
the internet is littered with exhaustive lists, and much of the research is already done for you.
27. speak with your sales team
marketing and sales alignment is the perennial pipedream of companies old and new. in pursuit of that unification, ask each of your sales reps to email you the top three questions they receive from prospects over the phone.
write content based on those questions.
28. trade shows and conferences
sometimes, digital tools and online communication remove the human aspect of marketing. attending trade shows and industry conferences helps you home in on real concerns, real personalities and real pain points – and they’re often communicated in ways that are more authentic.
off-the-cuff or spur-of-the-moment experiences from events-based marketing ventures keep you honest. they keep you human.
off-the-cuff or spur-of-the-moment experiences from events-based marketing ventures keep you honest. they keep you human.
29. customer service reps
as the frontline of your organization, customer service reps hear all the good and bad either online or over the phone. these interactions with customers are often heartfelt, demanding and insightful. they provide additional context and shape to the conversations you should be having in the marketing sphere.
what’s the most frequently asked question? what’s the top pain point? what triggers customers to repeat purchase?
ok, now build content around these premises.
30. product engineers/specialists
who knows more about your products and services than the people who actually designed them or demo them every day?
use their intimate and exclusive knowledge of your company’s products to inform brand messaging, service differentiators and ad targeting.
as an initial exercise, ask a member of your product team, “what are three things you wish prospects understood about this feature/function of the product?”
this is an evergreen idea that can be repurposed across your entire marketing funnel.
31. proprietary data
marketers rate proprietary research as their best tactic for link building. and we’re big fans of it, too.
if you’re the one true arbiter and publisher of relevant data insights, you’re inherently at the forefront of a given topic of interest. you don’t have to be a data scientist, either.
where is research lacking in your industry? what do you genuinely find interesting? how laborious would it be to compile pertinent data?
we answered these questions in the past and chose to publish a number of authoritative posts using both proprietary data and publicly available information:
- the google ranking factor you can influence in an afternoon [case study]
- we analyzed 181 websites: here are the mobile vs desktop benchmarks you need to know
- page 1 ranking secrets (and how to quantify content quality)
- 2019 state of content marketing report
32. company experiments/learning experiences/personal analysis
a little self-reflection is a great thing. it shows your humanity, expresses your openness to new experiences and provides a roadmap for others to follow (or not) in your path.
what did you learn in 2018? write about it.
what does your ceo say in every company meeting? write about it.
personalizing your content is excellent social media fodder.
33. ask your stakeholders
sometimes your brightest minds are the colleagues sitting next to you. look outside your immediate department to gain new perspectives on what your organization can be better at.
some might say customer service, others say promotions, for instance.
even if a given stakeholder doesn’t directly have skin in the game (of your marketing campaign), their input is valuable nonetheless. this tactic keeps you from living in your own echo chamber, surrounded by other marketing types who’ve been conditioned to speak the same jargon as you.
34. send a quick survey and aggregate results
user-generated content can be an efficient and painless method for churning out new ideas and offering fresh perspectives on industry issues. all you have to do is leverage your own social networks or internal communications.
we were interested in learning more about chatbot use in digital marketing, so we sent out a short five-question survey over linkedin. within a day we had hundreds of responses, which we then aggregated and wrote about.
we quickly created a few charts and graphs, and got the post up live with amazing speed. very little external research was required.
35. create personas and work backward
building buyer personas is a baseline marketing tactic. but then marketers try to wrap content around those personas, no matter how static or shapeless they seem.
instead of writing to a persona, imagine them writing to you.
35-year-old middle manager steve who hikes on weekends might use more casual, nonjargon language in his personal time. he might even throw an emoji into an email or two.
can you reciprocate that language? can you create content that mirrors steve’s conversations on saturday versus simply writing professionalized, buttoned-up content that steve sees all the time on mondays at work?
instead of writing to a persona, imagine them writing to you.
36. customer reviews
yelp, google my business, better business bureau and other online directories can be great sources of inspiration. or you can solicit customer reviews via a form on your site or at the end of a phone call.
regardless, reviews from your actual customers are very direct and actionable in the sense that you can immediately create content based on those comments.
it’s almost like knowing how your content is going to be received before you even write it.
37. accept guest posts
allowing external content creators to post on your website means you have one fewer blog to worry about creating in-house: you’re getting a freebie.
building a rapport with guest-posters also means you can likely count on them in the future to share and link to your content, boosting your backlink profile and engagement metrics.
create a submissions guideline for guest posting and accept only those that are most relevant to your audience.
38. target different parts of your funnel
time after time we see clients wanting new leads but only through blog content. not how that works.
too many marketing campaigns are focused on individual parts of the funnel. content should be funnel-specific, and the topics should be intent-driven.
so if you’re running out of top-of-funnel ideas, pivot to the bottom. work on customer testimonials, sales collateral and product demos.
offline / referential ideas
as we’ve talked about before, turning cliches or tired phrases on their head can help you brainstorm in a distinctive way. here’s a rundown of what we mean:
- flips: products selling like cold cakes.
- substitutions: cat got your roi?
- puns: a diamond in the rough draft.
in each case you threw readers for a loop. you injected a bit of humor, surprise and energy that doesn’t normally exist in otherwise boring industries or marketing.
40. books, yes, physical, hard copy books
a lot of digital marketers are avid readers, and many of us spend too much time staring at screens. that’s why books – yes, those old, dusty relics – are an escape.
and sometimes an escape from thinking in the same professionalisms day in and day out is exactly what you need to formulate new ideas and get those creative synapses firing.
41. think tangentially
word association is a great free-thought experiment. but what ends up happening when you think tangentially is that you end up further and further away from your original concept (or seed keyword), and that can be a good thing.
sometimes known as horizontal or lateral thinking, tangential thinking simply refers to stepping outside of your normal line of thought and coming up with a nontraditional idea – sometimes this is a circuitous or disastrous path, but it can also get you out of a rut.
here’s an example of an actual thought process i just had, using the very next word that came to mind when i started with “marketing distribution”:
marketing distribution – pamphlets – hospital lobby – doctor.
so maybe you can put this into action using “doctor” as a starting point to an article, though still creating something relevant to your target audience: marketers. how about “doctor’s orders: 11 science-backed techniques for diagnosing marketing distribution woes”?
pros and cons. what to do and what not to do.
using opposites allows you to double the number of content ideas you have. so if you’re a mortgage lender, you might post an article titled “6 reasons why a fixed-rate loan could be ideal for younger buyers.” you could then write an opposing article titled “6 reasons why an adjustable-rate loan could be ideal for younger buyers.”
43. aim for emotion and work backward
thinking too literally can be a handicap. and you’re probably already sick of all your industry jargon.
why not use a human emotion as a starting point for ideas?
instead of “let’s write a post on e-commerce trends in 2019,” say “pet gifs make everyone smile, so how can we overlap this with e-commerce?”
so maybe you write a blog post featuring the top e-commerce trends in the pet industry and you can include as many joyous gifs of bulldogs as you want.
why not use emotion as a starting point for ideas?
44. pop culture
song lyrics, live concerts, netflix, apple news notifications and even reality tv – to name a few – can all plant the seed for new ideas.
heck, we wrote an entire ebook titled “99 benefits of content marketing” with a nod to jay-z’s “99 problems” and we generated a new sale the very next day because of it.
don’t discredit readers’ desire to feel connected to pop culture.
45. study headline success from top publications
imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. look at how top brands – outside your industry – format their headlines and ledes. how do they structure their articles? why do they generate so much traffic?
we’re talking about the new york times, buzzfeed, forbes and other publications that are extremely well-known and are almost always appearing in search results. here’s an easy way to co-opt their approach to success:
an actual buzzfeed headline from jan. 13, 2019:
- 19 tv couples that broke our hearts when they didn’t get their happy ending together
now transfer this format to your niche:
- 18 times big data broke our hard drives, and why enterprise storage software is now our bff
kind of silly, right?
try it. it’s likely that no one else in your seemingly boring industry is injecting personality or humor into their content. differentiators are always good.
don’t discredit readers’ desire to feel connected to pop culture.
46. bust myths and frame the conversation
taking a stance, no matter how controversial, is a surefire way to shape industry conversations. now, you better have the chops to back up what you say, but the point here is that there’s a definite market for content that forces people to rethink previously held beliefs or at least offer up their own rebuttals.
for instance, we’ve all been told that:
- the average human swallows eight spiders a year while sleeping. false.
- you’ll get sick if you swim after eating. false.
- you can see the great wall of china from space. false
can you apply this sort of mythbusting to your industry?
47. podcasts/ted talk
take a step back and remove yourself from the workplace.
how do you pass the time? how do you learn new things?
millions of people listen to podcasts or ted talks on youtube because they’re designed to generate interest, start conversations and spark new ideas. audio and video stimulation also activates different parts of your brain, aiding retention of information and causing you to think in different ways.
even the tiniest of tidbits or passing moments spent learning in a nonprofessional setting can initiate a cascade of outside-the-box ideas.
hopefully this list sets you up for a strong 2019 and beyond. never let writer’s block or slow-moving stakeholders keep you from proactively planning out your marketing campaigns. at the end of the day your job depends on marketing roi.
have even more ideas that aren’t listed here? let us know and we’ll try them out ourselves.
editor’s note: updated february 2019.