Content ideation

Recommended tools and techniques to support content ideation

Content ideation is a term commonly used in content marketing to define the process of identifying and selecting the most relevant topics that will engage your target audience.

By ‘engaging’ we mean content should be interesting, entertaining or useful which should also lead to it being shareable. Note that content which tends to be engaging and highly sharable may be good for generating awareness of a brand, but it does not necessarily support the decision-making process on the ‘path-to-purchase’. So the ideation process should identify different types of content which support different parts of the buying process or path-to-purchase, for example using the Smart Insights  content marketing matrix.

Content ideation techniques

Here are some common techniques for ideation:

  • Brainstorming – Brainstorming for content is useful since people with different experiences and skills can spark ideas and it encourages the more ‘left-field’ ideas that may form 10X content.
  • Trends – The latest trends engage regardless whether it is B2B or B2C.
  • Search behaviour – Google Keyword Planner is useful for seeing which topics your audience are searching for. Volumes are shown. Another, simple technique for showing interest on a topic is to review the Google Suggest features which are in the search box or at the end of the results page.
  • Social listening – Social media monitoring can give content ideas by reviewing what competitors are sharing. Since much social listening is keyword-based it isn’t the best for finding new ideas. However, Buzzsumo is a great tool for generating ideas:
  • User-generated content (UGC): Checking out questions asked in forums and comments can highlight customer concerns. Aside from specialist forums Quora is useful for giving ideas for articles.
  • Competitive research – Checking out which content competitors are creating and getting visibility for is a great technique, indeed it’s the foundation of the Skyscraper SEO technique where you reverse engineer the content that your competitors rank for different terms. You can use Feedly to set up feeds of blogs from direct competitor sites and publishers. Reviewing these can also give ideas. Ahrefs and SEM Rush are useful for identifying top performing competitor content that attracts links and visits to support SEO

Tools to support content ideation

Here are six services with free options that support ideas generation for content marketing:

  • Ahrefs – best for identifying top performing competitor content that attracts links and visits to support SEO
  • Buzzsumo – best for finding content ideas based on social sharing popularity
  • Curata – best for content curation
  • Feedly – best for reviewing the most popular topics published by websites
  • Quora – best for customer concerns based on questions asked
  • Google Trends – best for trends and ‘rising searches’ about new interests


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Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of digital marketing advice site Smart Insights. We’re a publisher and learning platform that helps our 150,000 active members in over 100 countries plan, manage and optimize their digital marketing activities by applying the actionable advice in our planning templates, guides and interactive e-learning tools.

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