How to Generate Relevant Content Writing Ideas

Sarah George on Content Marketing

Content Marketing ideasWriting great content takes more work than typing words on paper. The best content comes from producing well-thought content writing ideas. Then, you can use those ideas to serve your audience.

By the end of this article, you’ll know where to find good writing inspiration, how to use brainstorming techniques, and what questions to ask to keep your content relevant. Let’s dig in to these topics.

Find Content Writing Inspiration.

First, generating well-thought content writing ideas starts with finding inspiration. Most ideas aren’t completely original; so you can and should look at ideas from other sources.

These sources will help you understand the mechanics behind good content and may prompt you to take their ideas in a new direction. Keep these sources handy so that you can access them during a brainstorming session (more on brainstorming techniques below).

Swipe files

A swipe file is a collection of writing examples that you can use to copy format or style or expand on the ideas.

A swipe file can include email subject lines, sales copy, advertising campaigns, landing pages, or titles for blog posts. As you find examples related to content your company might use, keep those in a computer file or print them as hard copy examples.

It’s important to note that a swipe file doesn’t give you license to plagiarize.

Plagiarism means using someone else’s words, phrases, or thoughts and taking the credit for yourself.

You plagiarize by not announcing the source of your information.

The good news is that using swipe files does not constitute as plagiarism. Again, you are compiling these sources to help you expand on their ideas or inspire new ones.

A list of ideas

Another way to keep thoughts flowing is to keep a running list of ideas. Good ideas can come to you at any time. Note those ideas in a notebook or on your phone, and pull from them as you need them.

With this list, you should jot down your thoughts freely, even if you don’t think they pertain to your company. You may be able to apply them in a new way to a seemingly unrelated campaign.

Books/magazines

Top professionals are always learning more about their industry, and reading is a great way to add to your knowledge.

According to Business Insider, Bill Gates reads about 50 books per year. Although most would consider Bill Gates a highly successful businessman, Gates still puts an emphasis on reading. So should you.

Make time to visit a library or buy books in your industry. You can also subscribe to top industry magazines that will keep you up-to-date on current trends. These sources will keep ideas flowing for new content your company can create.

Content from the competition

Last, you can find inspiration by researching your competition. Follow them on social media, research their websites, and subscribe to their emails.

You can do this whether the sources provide good or bad content writing ideas for your company.

For example, look for gaps in their content.

  • What have they not covered?

  • Could you write an in-depth piece based on a recent topic they introduced?

By researching the competition, you can also rule out ideas already covered by your competitors.

These sources of inspiration will help you generate ideas for new content. You can use these and other parameters set by your company to determine your direction.  

Generate ideas with brainstorming techniques.

Next, you need a way to channel your ideas. Start with the requirements your managers assigned, such as the topic or purpose of the content.

If you weren’t given any requirements, think through your company’s business goals, target audience, and previously successful content. You may decide to pull a thought from your inspiration above and use this as your central idea.

Then, you will hone and organize your ideas as you brainstorm.

Brainstorming

Brainstorming is the act of coming up with new ideas as a group or an individual.

Brainstorming can be a technique in itself. You simply write your ideas as they come to mind or while you’re researching.

However, you will need to delete and organize these ideas to find the best ones for your content. Here are a few brainstorming techniques to get you started:

Mind-mapping (or clustering)

Mind-mapping involves diagramming your ideas around a central thought and organizing secondary ideas around that thought.

Mind-mapping is a highly visual brainstorming technique, and different people mind-map in different ways. You can use lines, pictures, colors, and shapes to represent your thoughts.

To start a mind-map, take your central topic and write (or draw) that idea in the center of a paper. Then, using lines or arrows, you can add branches going from that topic. Write secondary ideas on these branches.

From there, include more branches and thoughts related to those secondary ideas. You may want to set a goal number for each branch.

Take a look at the example mind maps below. You can see how the different maps use words, colors, and pictures in different ways. Use the mind map in whatever way helps you generate your ideas best.

(Insert example/examples)

Free-writing

Free-writing involves writing your thoughts without stopping for a set period of time.

Because this technique lacks organization, it may not produce an ample number of content writing ideas for your project. However, free-writing can help you clear your mind for creative thinking afterward.

To start, set aside at least 15-20 minutes in which you won’t be interrupted. As with the other brainstorming techniques, set the topic ahead of time to direct your thoughts.

Then, write any thoughts that come to mind without interruption. You can write complete sentences or use words and phrases, but do not stop until the time is over. A timer will help you continue writing without looking at the clock.

Once you’ve finished, transfer any usable ideas onto a list or document where you can expand them.

Outlining

Outlining is the process of listing ideas and organizing them into main and secondary ideas using numbers or Roman numerals.

When you create an outline, start by writing the central idea as the title. Then, list main ideas underneath the title, assigning them a number 1,2,3 or Roman numeral I, II, III.

Keep going until you reach a goal number or run out of ideas. Next, list secondary ideas under main ideas, assigning letters a, b, c, and so on. You can continue into more secondary categories if needed. For example, this article could be outlined:

How to Generate Relevant Content Writing Ideas

  1. Find content writing inspiration

a. Swipe files

b. List of ideas

c. Books/magazines

d. Content from the competition

Once you’ve listed your ideas, reorganize and delete them until you have a clear progression for your piece. You may even decide to present your ideas in this outline form.

Keep content writing ideas relevant.

Once you’ve narrowed down a few ideas, you should ensure that they are relevant for your company. Determine if they’re relevant by asking these questions:

  1. Does my idea fit the topic given by my manager?

  2. Will it further company goals, like generating sales or helping interested customers learn information?

  3. Does it fill a content void mentioned by management?

  4. Has it been covered by my company before? If so, how will I make this piece different?

  5. Who does your idea speak to? Be specific.

  6. How will readers use this information?

  7. What problem does it solve or question does it answer for readers?

  8. Does it show readers how to use company products?

  9. Does the content stay relevant to holidays and seasons, or will it speak to readers anytime?

  10. What content type would this idea fit best in: a blog post, podcast, social media post, etc.?

As you answer these questions, you may find that you need more research. You can use recent customer questionnaires or online forums to find questions customers may have. You may need to delete and re-organize ideas based on your business goals.

In addition, you can create user stories to hone your thoughts. A user story will help you think about ideas relevant to a specific audience.

For more on creating user stories, click here.  

To write great content, you should develop the skill of generating good content writing ideas. These ideas should be well-thought and relevant to your company and audience. As with any skill, the more you practice, the more frequently you will generate good ideas from the start.

Summary

  • Get inspiration for new content from other sources.

  • Use brainstorming techniques to think about and develop ideas.

  • Ask questions about company goals and audience to stay relevant.

 

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