I love writing. I love brainstorming and scouring for witty one-liners to post on social media. What I don’t love however, is the quest for ideas. And I know I’m not alone.
If you’re a writer working independently and operating your own personal/business blog or website and a social media page with it, chances are, you’re always struggling to come up with ideas. Looking for ideas and topics to write and post about can be a specifically daunting task – perhaps even more than the act of writing itself.
As a content creator myself I have had my own share of struggle in constantly having to simmer out to new things to write about. And I often get asked about this from other fellow writers and content creators.
So here’s something that I have found useful for myself and is bound to help you too.
Align your voice with your interest and expertise
A lot of people are squeamish about actually getting down and writing about what they know best. I’ve lost count of the times when I’ve heard people say, ‘Oh, but I’m not a writer!’ or ‘I’ve never had any training in writing’.
Personally, I am a strong believer of the idea that everyone is a writer in their own right.
The only gap that lies in this process, is the gap between one’s expertise and interest and the journey to actually writing about what you know best.
For instance, I have always had a penchant for films and TV shows - basically everything pop culture. And since that is the kind of content I chose to consume personally as well, writing about pop culture is how I started my writing journey too.
Similarly, if you’re a dietician or a healthcare expert or even a fitness enthusiast, you have yourself a health and fitness blog. Use your interest and your expertise to find your voice. If you’re a doctor or a medical specialist, you have yourself a health and medicine blog. In any case, channel your interest to elicit a voice about topics you know you’re good with. And that’s the first place to get your content ideas!
However, having said that, it’s not always this straightforward. With your expertise comes a whole new set of strategising and deciding on content. So here’s how you can couple both to come up with ideas for your own online space.
Find similar pages to understand and decide on your target audience
Every brand, every website and every social media page out there has a voice. And with the burgeoning digital culture that we’re operating at, there are numerous pages and handles in this digital whirlpool that are functioning on similar tangents of principles and behaviours. Find your voice.
Once you do find your voice, align your communication with it, and zero down on the audience you want to target with your messaging; you’ll find that there will always be a community of similar voices and similar pages out there. Follow those pages. Analyse their content and the manner in which they are creating their content.
Once you’re a part of the same circle as you target audiences, you’ll be welcomed into a whole new spectrum of ideas and inspiration for your own content.
For instance, over eight months back when I started working as a writer responsible for churning out over 5000 words a week, I completely revamped my own social media and the pages that I was following.
Out went the trashy, slapstick funny meme pages (okay not all of them) to make way for more insightful, career-oriented and thought provoking pages.
Basically anything, which generated engaging content while also being intellectually stimulating enough for me to think about how this was relevant and can be applicable for my own voice.
Arré is perhaps one of the biggest examples from where my personal quota of lifestyle and pop-culture writing influence comes from. Similarly, for anyone trying to write about women, women in the workplace, workplace equality in general, I would strongly suggest the Kool Kanya Blogs. (see what I did there)
Organise your ideas and plan your content
Google Sheets is my personal favourite. Inspiration can strike anywhere. But you can’t always have your ideas’ notebook handy. Which is why I suggest keeping a notes’ folder specifically for ideas on your phone. A place to store random ideas and topics that befall your consciousness at any given moment during a day. These seemingly meaningless words can then take the form of a fully developed idea concept on your Google sheet – or an Excel one at that.
Something like this,
If you’re wondering about the relevance or the need of writing everything down – click here to know why writing your thoughts down is so significant to your productivity.
Organise your sheet in a way that you have your title marked against the description, the keywords and the date of publishing for every piece of content that you put out. By marking the exact date, this same sheet can double as your content plan too.
Once you’ve planned out your content, the next step is to actually start writing. And digital writing as you must have figured out by now, is a different ball game altogether.
Write about trending keywords – with a keyword research
Before we delve into trends and keywords, let’s first get to know what keyword research is. A keyword research basically aids you to find out what is it that people are exactly looking for. Incorporating this in your blogs essentially makes it easier for your pieces to be picked up by the Google crawler. Since it basically answers the questions that people are actually looking for.
So how do I keyword research?
Let’s say for instance you have decided to write something about freelance makeup artist. The inclination for this topic may come from the fact that you yourself are a makeup artist, or maybe you are catering to freelancers in general and your audience or people you know have asked for a guide on creating a career as a makeup artist. Whatever be the inclination, the question that haunts you is this – where do I start. The answer? Keyword research.
Whenever you put something into the search query Google will come up with certain suggestions. Normally we tend to ignore those suggestions but for keywords, this is exactly where your research starts.
Next, when you do select a search query the result page will look something like this.
Notice that tiny, seemingly inconsequential ‘People Also Ask’ dialog box? Not so unimportant here. All of that is a direct insight into what people are actually looking for. If you’re able to answer and incorporate all of these questions in your blogs and articles, then it gives incentive to the crawler to get your piece picked up whenever those questions are asked for.
Next, if you scroll to the bottom of the Search Engine Result Page (also called SERP, learn something new everyday!) you’ll see another tiny, but not so inconsequential as you may have guessed by now ‘Related Searches’ tab. This serves a similar function. As you keep clicking on those related searches, you will be led to newer SERPs with newer keywords presenting themselves before you.
If you continue this process long enough, you will eventually circle back to the same keywords you first started with. And that is when you know you have successfully completed your keyword research for this topic. This will further help you organise and streamline the flow of your article in order of the importance with which they appeared in your research too.
Tools for keyword research
Furthermore, there are various different online tools available for finding out the level of competition and the popularity of the keywords that you have found out too. These tools generally yield specific numbers and let you know what all websites are already ranking and wishing to rank for the keywords that you put in.
How to look for Trending Keywords
Once you’ve mastered the flow of this keyword research process, trending keywords is the perfect answer for your ideas’ quest. There are various tools which help you figure out what keywords, topics and queries are trending. Writing about anything that is trending is a much easier and quicker way for the crawler to pick up your blogs.
Going back to my earlier example of Arré, starting out, they did a rather tactful job with writing numerous articles on everything trending.
Tools for identifying trends
And thank God for the plethora of content that we live in today, there are multiple tools that help you identify the trending topics on the Internet on a daily basis-
For an in-depth guide on how to optimise your blogs for SEO, click here.
Set time aside for content research
Keyword Research is what makes your content get picked up for ranking on the SERP but content research is what aids your content to be relevant, resourceful and entertaining – when required.
This is an extension of the trends and keyword research but it has more to do with the voice and creation of your articles altogether. Building on from the first point in this piece, from the purview of artistic freedom and expression, the content that is already out there can be the biggest source of your ideation. Here are a few things you can keep in mind to generate ideas for your blogs -
- Do regular rounds of the Discover feed – it helps you factor what kind of content is already popular and what more scope there is which you account for in your pieces
- Sign up for a feed reader, like Feedly, to subscribe to your favourite blogs and check in once a day to see what’s been published
- Sign up for newsletters of your favourite blogs
- Put some time aside in your workweek which is dedicated only to reading, and seeking inspiration and ideas
- Do a regular scan of similar social media handles, forums and other online platforms, and basically wherever your target audience thrives on in the online space
- Use Competitor Analysis Tools – like AHREF which help you build from the keyword and target audience research that brands similar to yours’ have already found out
However, there’s something else more important than the content scanning part of it. Your personal take. What you’re thinking about it and your views on it. Find that unique take that’s only yours’ to have. And frame it in a way that your voice is able to take precedence over the endless discourse already done on the issue.
There are no new ideas anymore. Just new voices.
So for every other topic that you come across online and find interesting, think about what new are you bringing to the discussion. What’s your take, why is it relevant and why should people hear you out? Else it’s just thought plagiarism.
There are various online plagiarism tools available out there for you to ensure you’re not indulging in plagiarism at all. Here’s what all you can use.
Ask your audience
What keyword research yields via a long yet thorough process – a casual AMA can too. Given, it’s not always reliable and accurate in terms of numbers and website competition.
If you’ve operated on the content spectrum for a while now, chances are, you have established a definite audience. Use this dedicated viewership to your benefit. Indulge your audience in weekly polls and AMA’s. Ask them to put down topics and ideas they’d like to read and have covered.
This helps gain popularity as well. It establishes you as a people’s content creator, while also ensures you returning users. Factoring in your audience’s suggestion is a good way to retain them while also creating newer ones.
For the long run and for the pursuit of your sustainability as a content creator, ask yourself these three questions before beginning to write anything –
- Which questions is no one willing to answer?
- What does everyone disagree with you about?
- What is the message you’d like to disseminate via this platform that you have created for yourself?
And that is how you will never feel jaded or irrelevant as a content creator. A rather important sentiment to posses when you’re thriving in a sea of creators.