- Use your favorite spreadsheet software (MS Excel, Google Sheets, Airtable) and create three tabs: Topics, Keywords, Ideas. Brainstorm topics related to your online presence and list them in the “Topics” tab.
- Go to Google and type in each of your topics but don’t press Enter… Wait for the Autocomplete to give you some suggestions and transfer the keywords you’re interested in manually in the “Keywords” tab.
- Install the UberSuggest or Mozbar Chrome extensions (available for free) and submit each keyword directly to Google. Pay attention to either the Domain Score (DS) or Domain Authority (DA) metrics: for keywords that have domains with low scores (below 25) appearing in the first page, you have a chance of ranking. Mark those keywords as “Validated.”
- Once you’ve gone through your entire keyword sheet, use the validated keywords themselves as a way to generate your content ideas. For example, the keyword for this post is: “how to generate content ideas,” so you’ll want to brainstorm something like “Content Ideas: How To Generate 100+ in Less Than 30 Minutes.” Do so for all your validated keywords.
To generate content ideas, you need to be thinking about a topic related to your online presence and how it connects with your branding.
You can tackle ideas one by one, but that’s slow and inefficient. In a world where millions of posts are released every day, that’s a no-no…
So why not generate 100s, or 1000s of content ideas instead? With the proper tactics and some key SEO tools in place, you can do that pretty quickly.
(And the more you practice, the faster you get!)
Follow the proven methodology that helps us generate 100s of content ideas for our clients day in day out without falling short on SEO performance.
What is a content idea?
A good content idea is meant to improve your chances of being seen online, not the other way around. So a content idea is not just a random thought.
Good content ideas are generated by following search queries (also known as keywords) in “clusters” of a broader topic that encompasses that query.
This is known as keyword clustering.
It’s an approach that allows you to generate dozens of powerful content ideas in just a few minutes, and the more you do it the faster you get at it.
So let’s get right into it.
How to generate content ideas in 4 steps
First things first, you need to learn to love spreadsheets to both generate more qualitative content ideas as well as do it in an efficient way.
If you want to use pen and paper, go ahead.
(It’ll just take you a lot longer!)
Step 1: Create 3 tabs & list your topics
The three tabs you want to create are:
The Topics tab will feature your core topics, the Keywords tab your raw search data, and the Ideas tab your “processed” draft title.
You start from the topics and finish with the ideas. If you start the other way around, you’re bound to either get stuck or create irrelevant ideas.
Examine what you’re trying to achieve with your content and divide your strategy into multiple topics—these are the basis for your ideation process.
A few tips to get started:
- Go broad, this isn’t the time to be specific. For example, the post you’re reading talks about content ideas but the broader topic is content creation.
- Use your existing assets such as website copy, testimonials, referrals, or anything else to brainstorm topics that are relevant to your strategy.
- Jot some draft topics on paper first. Shoot for ~15-20 topics, and then cross out the ones that are either too specific or out of scope.
Once you’re left with 4-5 topics that are truly relevant to your online presence, then you can list them in your Topics tab.
Step 2: Use Google to research keywords
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need an SEO tool to generate powerful content ideas (although they certain help). Google will do just fine.
Specifically, you want to use the popular feature known as Autocomplete, where Google gives you suggestions based on what you’re typing.
Type in your broad topic and wait for the Autocomplete to show you some results. You want to pick a topic and keep digging until the end.
Once you have exhausted all suggestions from Google and you’re left with only a few keywords, those are ideal candidates for a content idea:
- Also known as long-tail keywords, queries with 3+ words in them are easier to rank for and more specific, allowing to narrow down the scope.
- For each core topic listed in your tab, you want to find 20-25 long-tail keywords. Don’t stop until you have enough queries to cover that topic.
- Once you exhaust the options or see the same results again and again, switch to the next topic. Make sure to cross off the previous one.
Do this for all of your topics and you’ll soon have 100s of keywords to work with. It’s a bit of a manual chore but it’s totally worth it in the end.
Pro Tip: Once you’ve exhausted your options, branch out by identifying related keywords. Do this by entering one of your long-tail keywords in Google and checking the Autocomplete after you’ve submitted the query. It’ll give you different results.
Step 3: Look for low Domain Authority (DA)
Good content ideas should help you gain online visibility. But there’s a ton of content out there already, so you’re competing with other sites.
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy to know how likely it is for you to rank on a specific query compared to another, apart from using long-tail keywords.
The only way you can get a glimpse of this is by using an SEO tool like UberSuggest or Moz. They become real handy for competitive data.
- UberSuggest has a “free” Chrome extension which offers data for a dozen of keywords and then stops working for the day after that threshold.
- Moz has been offering the Mozbar as a real free alternative for a long time, and it’s my personal choice when it comes to SERP data.
SERP » Search Engine Result Page
Whichever you end up choosing, I recommend trying one of these tools at this stage, otherwise you’re totally blind to your competitors.
Once you have one of them installed, browse the SERPs for each keyword in your sheet and enter the min. Domain Score or Domain Authority on page #1.
Depending on your own authority (which is primarily a variable of dofollow backlinks from other sites to your site), you can gauge the playing field.
In this case, let’s say you had 10 Domain Authority (/100); then you’d be able to compete in pages where you see domains in the 20-40 range max.
Pro Tip: Look for SERPs where low Domain Authority domains outrank much higher DA pages. While more powerful because of their reputation, the latter don’t answer search intent as well.
For each keyword that you think you can compete for (i.e. rank in the top 5), you want to check that keyword as “Validated” in your spreadsheet.
Step 4: Generate Your Content Ideas
With so much work under your belt, you’re one step away from generating 100s of content ideas that will yield organic results on Google.
There are 3 ways you can go about it:
- Be creative and create a draft title yourself
- Get some help with a draft headline analyzer
- Use a headline generator until you find a good fit
All options are fine as long you don’t get stuck. With a validated keyword in hand, you basically already have your content idea ready to go.
The way I go about it is:
- Identify the search intent behind the keyword to position the headline accordingly (how to, guide, tutorial, template, list, review, and so on).
- Separate each word within the keyword and spread it across the draft title when possible, otherwise find creative ways to mix and match.
- If appropriate, enter the actual intent within square brackets at the end of the title. It’s an easy way to fill space and let people know what to expect.
Remember that you have a 60 character limit for each headline so you have a significant constraint to work with, especially for long-tail keywords.
I personally still use headline analyzers from time to time but never headliner generators. I find joy in being a little creative with my ideas.
The more you’ll practice this 4-step process, the faster and better you’ll get at it. There’s no magic to it… You can do it just as well as anybody else.
Good content ideas = business growth
A single content idea can bring you an absurd amount of new leads and customers when executed well. So don’t rush the process.
Quantity is important but so is sustainable growth. The more you align your ideas with your target audience, the easier it gets to create new ones.
Originally published Jan 6 2021
Frequently Asked Questions
The best way to find good topics for your online content is to browse all your existing assets: your website copy, internal documents, previous work you’ve done, etc. If you don’t have any of these, you need to do some brainstorming… Pull out a piece of paper and start jotting down things that are relevant to your day-to-day life and/or online presence. Do as many as you can (30-40), then cross out those that are not as relevant or secondary to your online goals.
A good content idea isn’t just a random thought to share with the world, it’s something that offers value to both your audience and your online presence (whether for a business, blog, or anything else). To generate good ideas, it’s important to use search data as a way to offer content that is relevant.
There are multiple ways you can go about creating draft titles: 1) use the keywords you strategized as anchors for your titles and be creative with the rest; 2) use a headline analyzer to guide you towards the best possible headline, or; 3) try a headline generator using your keyword and see what pops up.
Yes. The best process to generate powerful content ideas for your online presence is explained in 4 simple steps in this blog post. You’ll find the step-by-step process at the top of the article, with more detailed guidance in the body.
Arrigo is a content marketer with a twist. From the beating heart of Italy, he shares his passion for data-driven content strategies. He’s an avid (copy)writer and former language professional.