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I know a lot of people who are great marketers, but when blogging they often worry that they don’t have something which is important or unique enough to share online.

Normally this is at the risk that someone may have said something similar before.

That makes sense in a lot of ways and it is a valid concern which I admit to thinking myself when creating new content, or speaking at an event. Of course you always want to impress by telling people something they don’t know.

Rand Fishkin wrote up a post recently about this topic - based largely on an excellent Ted talk by Kirby Ferguson, titled Embrace the Remix.

While we may not want to think that way at first - after all we want to think differently and create something new - what we are actually doing is taking an idea and giving our own angle and opinion for an audience.

How do we come up with creative content?

And how can you figure out what readers don’t know already? I’m not sure you can figure this out 100% – even if someone has written about something very similar before, it doesn’t mean your audience has read it.

And it also doesn’t mean that you can’t share your own experiences, key findings and opinions on a particular subject either.

Here's some steps I would take for content ideation and planning:

1. Keyword research tools lack the creativity you need for great content

Let's start with a common misconception I’ve found is that many people just assume that content strategy is just keyword research. It's not! Keyword research lacks the creativity that you really need for outstanding content.

If no-one's ever searched for your idea before and it has a low search volume, that's probably a good thing - so if you use it, flip it on it's head. Look for content that people aren't looking for, and show them something new instead.

A keyword research tool just isn't going to give you content ideas like this!

From an SEO perspective - it's obviously important to consider keywords. But in order to create the best possible content to resonate with you audience, it's really not. Aim to make an impact and you'll generate lots of online attention and great links. If you can do a good job on that, SEO should be the easy part!

2. Talk to your team/clients

You want to find out what information and data you already have that's unique and interesting. You might have to dig deep on this, but we often find that clients don’t always realise information they own exists – and they certainly don’t always realise it can be used for marketing purposes.

This is where you can really make your content unique, when you use your own data and research - take the Econsultancy/Outbrain content marketing survey results as an example. You can present data and information that is new and hasn't been seen before.

And you're the original source - so everyone is going to credit you for it when it's shared. That's perfect - you'll letting your content naturally do it's own outreach!

3) What types of content can fit into your content initiative?

Just because you’ve done some great research and turned it into a really useful infographic, that doesn’t mean you have to leave it there.

Why not think of additional ways you can use this content and share with different audiences – for example:

  • Blog posts/articles.
  • HTML5 interactive content.
  • Kinetic typography videos.
  • Socially targeted infograms.
  • etc…

There’s more than one way to get your message across, so if you’ve already put the hours and days into research - why shouldn’t you maximise the promotion too, by looking into different content opportunities and spreading your message to wider audiences.

4. Analytics: find the content that resonates

This is the most obvious one by far, but it’s surprising how many people generate new content, without really paying attention to what your audience likes and really resonates with them. It’s amazing what you’ll find out just from 10 minutes of digging around.

I often find that when I think I’ve written by best content, it sometimes doesn’t always get the attention or interaction I expected once published. And alternatively, I’d often write very
quick posts that I don’t really have high expectations for – I just expected it to be useful for a small audience - and those are the ones that quite often outperform the content that took several hours or days to create!

It’s a huge waste to have one really successful piece of content and to not learn anything about why this worked so well. Likewise, what content doesn’t work so well – so that you don’t make the same mistakes again.

5. Focus on making just one reader happy

Ask your audience what they want to know - it’s a very easy way of giving readers what they want.

And pay particular attention to the individual and less common answers. This might sound like an odd piece of advice – but rather than trying to please everyone (which you rarely can!), I often find that some of best previous posts have actually been largely driven by email responses to client questions.

At worst, I know when I’m writing a response that it should help out this one person. But normally you’ll find that if one person is asking this question, there’s probably a much larger number who are trying to tackle the same issue.

6. Do, Know, Go

I wrote up this process recently - but it’s a very simple way of looking to ensure that you are giving readers what they want - so that they can find you through search. Whether that’s informational, transactional or branded content - it doesn’t matter, you make sure you can cater for everything during that journey.

7. Set clear timescales and goals on brainstorming

It can be easy to try and do a quick job on this and then focus on developing content - but the brainstorming and ideation phase really shouldn’t be overlooked. If you’ve got weak content idea - you’re always going to struggle to make a serious impact, no matter how good the execution is. So make sure you give this the attention it deserves.

You don’t even have to brainstorm together as a team - that helps, but if you can’t all get to be in a room at the same time - that’s not an excuse. There’s lots of different ways you can ideate - how you do it isn’t important. Actually making sure you do it is - so make sure you set timescales and clear goals and then stick to it!

8. Use Tools

Brainstorm ideas and manage content processes by using tools such as:

  1. Trello - managing and collaborating brainstorms with teams.
  2. Basecamp - for sharing ideas as a team.
  3. Google Drive - collaborating and adding comments to ideation documents.
  4. UberSuggest - generating different keyword ideas around content.
  5. WordTracker Questions Tool - find common questions you can answer.

9. Use your brain

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that despite the above, this is your best tool:

Most importantly you really think about what you (or your client) are looking to achieve.

10. Find popular content ideas via social media

I often find that the best ideas are trigged by simliar ideas which you've seen work well in the past.

So think of what content you've seen shared recently on social sites.

Spend time searching for top content on:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Tweetmeme
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • Relevant blogs
  • Niche social media sites

Based on this research you can really popular content and start to generate some great ideas for your own content. Plus you know that if well-executed, with a good angle - this should resonate with social audiences, which always helps to build confidence in your ideas when that is one of your main promotional targets.


There's lots of ways you can think of content ideas - it just takes a bit of thought, but it's well worth the effort. I'd be interested to hear in the comments how you approach this?

Kevin Gibbons

Published 22 January, 2013 by Kevin Gibbons

Kevin Gibbons is UK Managing Director at digital marketing agency BlueGlass. He is also known as an SEO speaker and can be found on Twitter and Google+.

102 more posts from this author

Comments (13)

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David Boland

David Boland, Owner at Retail Computer Solutions Ltd

Great article - it's provided me with some much needed food for thought. I blog on a daily basis and must admit that I often struggle with writers block. I am going to certainly take on board some of the tips offered in this article, especially in terms of focussing too heavily on my keywords.

over 3 years ago

Kevin Gibbons

Kevin Gibbons, UK Managing Director at BlueGlass

Thanks David - I definitely think that's a good way to go.

SEO is always worth considering, but normally the true value is in the long-tail of traffic, as opposed to primary key target keywords. Especially for blog content.

So if you focus on creating great content that can generate quality natural links, the rest should take care of itself!

over 3 years ago


Andrew Japp

In a year where content will be king (again - is content the new mobile?) then this article should be a short form bible for creators and editors alike. Content drives traffic and delivers engagement and should be fundamental to any strategy but is often forgotten or sidelined.

over 3 years ago


Jo Turnbull

Fantastic article Kevin. Very interesting to see this broken down into clear tips to implement. I especially like point 1 and point 9 - using your brain.

over 3 years ago

Nathan Levi

Nathan Levi, Head of Performance Marketing at TotallyMoney.comSmall Business Multi-user

I completely agree with the first point. It's a misconception that highly searched for keywords will point to good ideas for content. I'm not sure that point 9 is anything but patronising (or a terrible filler) for the Econsultancy reader.

over 3 years ago

James Perrin

James Perrin, Digital Communications Specialist at Feefo

Nice Post Kevin. The points you've made make a lot of sense, but in particular point 3 is really interesting; whilst I'm a big fan of the idea that one idea can be spread across multiple content opportunities, I do feel that no one idea should be shoe-horned into a content opportunity if it doesn't fit. That said, as long as the idea fits the content opportunity, it's a great way of maximising time and output. I'd also like to know what your experiences have been in working with HTML5 interactive content. Is this something you think we will see more of?

over 3 years ago

Kevin Gibbons

Kevin Gibbons, UK Managing Director at BlueGlass

@Andrew - definitely, and content can't just be an after-thought to SEO anymore, it crucial to your online strategy so it makes sense that it's prioritised with high importance.

@Jo/Nathan - thanks, I really like that sleeping bag example - it's a genius content idea. I've seen so many people rush straight into content with a keyword research tool to come up with ideas - rather than actually using their brain, thinking about what they're trying to achieve and planning from there. Sounds obvious, but it's so often overlooked!

@James - yep and if you've done a large amount of research it makes sense that you'd want to maximise promotion. But that's where you need to know where to draw the line between a) maximising content promotion using different angles, targeting new audiences - and b) milking it to death.

HTML5 just stands out so much more at the moment, in the same way infographics did 2-3 years ago. So it's definitely something that I think we'll see a lot more of, just because they are generating so much attention.

over 3 years ago


Dan | DBTHSocialPR

"Look for content that people aren't looking for, and show them something new instead". Couldn't have put it better myself.

Great article Kevin.

over 3 years ago


Dominic Collard

All very valid points, but isn't it the truth that it's increasingly harder for great content to create an impact simply by the ever increasing volcano of rubbish being put out there by others? "Then make your content better" could be one argument, but isn't it all becoming a bit like running in quicksand. What do people think to the theory that, although content is still king, the web might not be the castle. Perhaps more traditional channels like print and face2face will see a resurgence, where content is more selective and subject to better editorial controls. by the way, i appreciate the irony of making this point on the web!

over 3 years ago


Steve Campen

Excellent article. As a Talk Radio Producer I've had to create thousand of hours of compelling content. One piece of advice I would give is to take something from your personal life (not private life)and use that as a springboard or anecdote connected to your business message.

over 3 years ago

Kevin Gibbons

Kevin Gibbons, UK Managing Director at BlueGlass

Thanks Dan - it makes sense, you don't have to create a completely new concept - just tell people something new that they didn't know.

Dominic- thanks for your comments, it's definitely becoming increasingly harder because of the volume of content that's one the web. But the alternative is you don't create anything - you can guarantee the results in that scenario, it has no impact.

This also highlights the importance of standing out and focusing on high-quality, rather than creating high volume of content - just focus on one post/infographic/video and make it the best you can. Then you can move on to the next one afterwards.

Steve - great tip, I always find that any anecdotes or analogies you can you use in content can give you a great impact both to stand out, but also to get your message remembered. It's story-telling after all!

over 3 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for posting.

I'm with you 100% on not starting the content creation process with keyword research.

In my opinion, and based on experience, good content flows when you start with customer needs - what will help them, what answers their question, what would be interesting/exciting/shareable etc.

Once you have a plan that is focused on clear goals and needs, then you bring in the classic SEO to ensure it is optimised effectively to support SEO.

What use is a listing on page 1 in SERPs if the content is of no use to target customers? You might get a 'good' ranking but you're unlikely to get much click activity and even if you do, on-site engagement will be poor which means inevitably your rank will suffer.


over 3 years ago


Allison Vaughn

Tip #11 - Proofread before you publish. I am appalled at how sloppy this article is, especially considering the topic is about creating "great" content.

over 3 years ago

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