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How To Come Up With Unique & Fresh Content Ideas (Regularly)

If you’ve ever wondered…

  • “How do I come up with great blog ideas on a consistent basis?”
  • “Where do my competitors come up with ideas for great blog posts?”
  • “What are the best sources for inspiration when it comes to finding blog post ideas?”


…then I’ve got something you’re going to love.


It’s a list of proven ways to find inspiration for your next great piece of content. Over the last few years, I’ve written hundreds of blog posts that have been featured on various sites and viewed millions of times. I’m often asked how I constantly come up with new ideas for the different blog posts and where I find my inspiration.


In this article, I’m going to share with you five tactics that I rely on every single week as I brainstorm ideas for my own blog or the content I’m often developing for clients.

Bookmark these resources and use them next time you’re feeling stuck.

Let’s get to it…

Leverage Industry-Specific Forums

One of the biggest benefits that the internet has brought marketers is the ability to understand our audience better than ever before. The internet gives us a platform to discover the perspectives, opinions and triggers that resonate with our audience without actually talking to them.

Today, you can find online communities where hundreds or thousands of people talk about topics they’re passionate about. It could be a forum dedicated to Pokemon. It could be a forum dedicated to writing. It could be a forum dedicated to Guitars.

The web is filled with these different communities, and within these communities are discussions that you can use as inspiration for blog and marketing content. One of the biggest mistakes that content marketers make is assuming they know what their audience wants rather than spending the time to truly understand.

One site I rely on frequently for finding passion-based communities is Reddit. It’s one of the oldest forum sites on the web, and still one of the most active, boasting millions of visitors every single day. You can spend time browsing through conversations and the sort by the top content in a Subreddit to uncover great content ideas that you know your target audience is going to enjoy.

Let’s say I’m interested in launching a new blog all about Philosophy. I could go to the /r/philosophy subreddit and see what the top content was over the past week:

philosophy-reddit

From here, I can quickly see that there was a lively discussion about The Philosophy of Bob Ross & The Joy of Painting. Using a site like BuzzSumo, you can type in a keyword from the topic and see if it’s something that could potentially stir up some shares:

buzzsumo

In this case, I quickly see that a topic on Bob Ross could resonate with a large audience and might be worth pursuing. At this stage, I just need to find the right headline and story angle to craft something that my audience would enjoy. Using a tried and tested headline formula, something like: What Bob Ross & The Joy of Painting Can Teach Us About Stoicism could work well.

Hop In The Shower Or Meditate

Sounds hippie-ish, doesn’t it?

Hear me out for a second.

As Leo Widrich explained on the Buffer blog a few years back, when we shower, a lot of dopamine is released from our brains. In addition, showering forces us to think of something other than work while offering a relaxed state of mind. The combination of a dopamine high, relaxed state and distracted mind is what makes a shower the perfect place for finding great ideas.

Taking the time to meditate or take a relaxing shower can ease your sense of writer’s anxiety.  As content creators, it’s easy to be thinking all the time about your next great piece of content or how to further distribute your latest piece. Over time, this constant effort to create something new can cause mental fatigue and push you to a point where you’re simply unable to gather new thoughts.

The peace that you can achieve when showering or meditating can offer a bit of clarity. You can use this time be alone with your thoughts and be better equipped to tackle your next creative endeavour.

Here are a few addition benefits that meditation can offer:

meditation-benefits

Use Quora For Headline Inspiration

One of my favorite question-and-answer sites, Quora, is a brilliant resource for finding inspiration for your next piece of content. It’s a site where people ask questions above a specific topic and receive answers from the community. Quora is filled with a diverse range of topics. From Startups and Inspiration to Productivity and Politics—there are experts from around the world answering and asking questions on the subjects your audiences might be interested in.

When you’re looking for content inspiration, I recommend using Quora’s search bar to type in the topic you’re looking to write about. Let’s say you want to write about stock markets. Type it into Quora…

quora-stock-markets

…and use the results as inspiration for your next post.

For example, the question: “What are the best tools for learning finance and stock markets?” is a great starting point for a new blog post titled: “10 Of The Best Tools For Learning Finance & Stock Markets.”

Try a few new keywords, rinse and repeat.

Use Crate For Content Inspiration

It wouldn’t be an understatement if I said that in the last six months, the majority of my ideas came from Crate. I know the same is true for many other Crate users because I’m the co-founder of this tool and I get to see all the user feedback.

Crate is built for content curation, but it’s also being used for inspiration. At its core, Crate is a content recommendation tool that makes content suggestions based on keywords, domains and Twitter handles that you upload to the site. Crate then uses these pieces of information to find the best content containing those keywords, shared by those Twitter handles, or published on those sites.

To find inspiration, you start by building a Crate:

Crate Building Screen

As mentioned, you’re going to want to add relevant keywords, domains and Twitter handles to your Crate to get great results. I like to create Crates that are specifically about the topics I’m going to write about.

This is a Crate about marketing:

Crate-Blog

 

Using this information, Crate goes out to the web and finds articles that match the criteria I’ve uploaded. Within minutes (sometimes seconds) I have a stream of content filled with interesting, compelling and unique articles:

Crate - Content Inspiration

I use this stream to find insights about the type of content that people want in this industry. In the example above, I see that one of the most popular blog posts is titled: “The Best Way To Present Marketing Results To Your CEO.”
From there, I could start remixing the headline until I land on an original idea that would likely resonate with my audience. For example, I could write: “Six Tips For Presenting Complex Analytics To Your CEO” or “How To Communicate The ROI of Social Media To Your CEO.”

Visit Viral Sites For Content Inspiration

Whether you love BuzzFeed or hate BuzzFeed, you have to respect their ability to create content that gets shared. It’s hard to go a single week without seeing something online that was developed by the folks at BuzzFeed.
Sites like BuzzFeed and Upworthy offer daily articles, videos and quizzes that can be used by marketers as inspiration for your next great piece. For example, here’s a batch of content that was trending on BuzzFeed at the time I wrote this blog post:

buzzfeedLet’s say I’m running a blog all about writing. From this list, I could find inspiration and come up with the following ideas for potential topics on my blog:

  • 21 Tips For Writing a Bit Better In 2017
  • 33 Writer Jokes That Are Just Very, Very Funny
  • Which Writer Are You More Like? Shakespeare or Marlowe?
  • Can You Spot The Child Prodigy Before They Became A Famous Author?

It’s all about the remix!

You take inspiration from these articles that have absolutely nothing to do with your industry and remix them to fit your story. In doing so, you’re able to come up with fresh content that will consistently leave your audience waiting for more.

Wrapping Up

So there you have it:

Five great ways to come up with new content ideas on the regular.

Of course, there are tons of other ways to find inspiration for content ideas—everyone has their book of tricks for brainstorming. I’d love to hear some of the ways you come up with ideas. Please leave a comment below!


Headline Swapping: Why You Should Write 3 Different Headlines To Maximize Reach

Today, you’re going to learn why some of the top media companies are using headline swapping to drive maximum reach and traffic to their content.

What’s headline swapping?

That’s the question I set out to answer after hearing about some media companies writing multiple headlines for a single piece of content. After coming across this trend, I decided that I was going to dive deeper and see what it was all about.

In this blog post, you’re going to learn how a simple approach such as headline swapping can have a direct impact on content engagement, SEO rankings and your ability to create content that gets spread on social media.

Let’s get to it…

How Slate.com Uses The Headline Swapping Technique To Drive Millions Of Visits & Thousands Of Shares

 

Slate Headlines

The Social Title

The goal of a social title is to inspire people scrolling through Twitter or Facebook to click on a link. Some of the most viral and effective social media titles leverage a concept called the curiosity gap. It’s the content we’ve all seen on Facebook. It’s the content made famous by the BuzzFeed, Upworthy, Viralnova, World Star & eventually embraced by everything from Slate.com to the Wall Street Journal.

As Joanne Weibe of Copyhackers described the Curiousity Gap:

It’s the space between what we know and what we want or even need to know.

In the Social Title being used by Slate, what we know is that Lady Gaga & her infamous Meat Dress. What we want to know is who the woman is behind it… And that’s what causes us to click.

On-Site Title

The goal of an on-site title is to do one thing:

Keep you on-site.

In 2009, Jakob Neilsen pointed to the editors at BBC News as being the best at creating these titles. He described these headlines as being:

  • Short (The average headline consumed a mere 5 words and 34 characters.)
  • Rich in information scent (Clearly summarize what happens)
  • Front loaded (The most important keywords are used)
  • Understandable out of context
  • Predictable (Users know whether they’ll like the article before they click)

Wait… What…

I know.

It’s completely opposite from what we’ve seen spread around the web.

But what makes it work is that this is the title once you’re on-site. Once you’ve already been lured to read the content from social media. It’s at this point where the author shouldn’t be striving to lure you in but instead be striving to keep you engaged.

In the example from Slate, the on-site title is short, rich, front loaded, understandable and predictable. It gives you enough to glance over it and begin digesting the primary content immediately.

SEO Driven Title

This is where things get really interesting.

The actual SEO title, the one that shows in Google search, seems completely different from the social and on-site title.

Why?

Because it understands a simple principle around why people use search engines.

They’re going to a search engine to find answers.

Most people in the world aren’t searching for answers about who was behind the meat dress but a large portion of Lady Gaga’s fan base and music fans will be looking for a review of her latest album. Especially the week of launch, take a look:

This surge of interest and this title ensures that Slate can drive traffic from search.

That’s the goal of an SEO title.

Social Media Titles vs. SEO Titles

seo-social-titles

The Case For Creating Multiple Headlines

typing-headlines

When you think about the difference between the social title above and the SEO title, think about the audience.

Who would find the social content clickable?

Who would find the SEO title clickable?

The social content is more likely to be clicked by anyone who has heard of Lady Gaga and her meat dress. It could be a Lady Gaga fan. It could be someone who is bored and just looking to procrastinate. It’s someone whose attention you were able to capture when they had an initial goal of simply scrolling through Facebook or Twitter.

On the flipside, the person who finds the title crafted for SEO is in a different state of mind. The keywords are focused around a Lady Gaga album review… The person who finds this content isn’t someone who just happened to stumble upon it mid scroll. The person who finds this content is someone who wanted to find a review of the album Joanne by Lady Gaga.

People use google to find solutions.

Sometimes it’s to find out how to tie a tie.

Sometimes it’s to learn who won Survivor.

Sometimes it’s to find out what other people think of Lady Gaga’s new album.

People using Google want solutions and an SEO title delivers that.

Crafting three titles gives you the best of both worlds. You have the ability to lure a reader in on social media and solve a problem when someone relies on search. Most blogging platforms have plugins that allow you to optimize your headlines for both social, SEO and on-site.

Take advantage of these tools and capitalize on these two benefits:

1) Search Traffic Can Drive Long Term Results

An article created with an SEO driven headline gives you the ability to rank in Google’s search engine results pages (SERPS) and drive long term organic traffic. The biggest benefit of showing up here is that organic traffic is usually the highest quality and unlike social media you don’t have always to pay to play.

2) Social Media Can Offer Immediate Traffic Through Shares

A quality blog post and a catchy headline on social media can drive thousands (maybe millions) of visits to your site within a short period of time. The life span of the average Facebook post is about 3 or 4 days and on Twitter that could be 3 or 4 hours. It’s not easy to create content on social that is sure to generate thousands of shares but a compelling headline is one of the most important factors.

Wrapping Up

Ready to use Headline Swapping for your own content marketing efforts?

Good.

Now show me in the comments that you’ve truly learned something from this. I want you to comment with an example of an SEO title, Social Title and On-Site title for a blog post that you’re thinking about writing.

I’ll let you know if it’s a good combo and if there’s anything you can do to improve it.

I look forward to hearing from you! 

(This article was inspired by this post on Inbound.org)


Why You Should Schedule Fewer Meetings In 2017 (And How To Make Sure Of It)

Hours

Time is a terrible thing to waste. 

Yet each and every year, companies, brain pickers and managers around the world suck time from others.  A study conducted by the Harvard Business School and the London School of Economics found that  executives spend upwards of 18 hours per week – a third of their working week – in meetings.

That’s a lot of time.

But what’s scary is that they found this: 25-50% of meeting time considered wasted.

But if time is so valuable – Why do we waste it?

Let me paint the picture for you:

You’re heads down working and suddenly an invite hits your calendar. It’s for a meeting that is going to be held in 1 hour and the invite suggests that it will only take up 60 minutes of your day.

But the truth is:

1) The meeting isn’t going to start on time (or end on time).
2) You’re not going to get any value from the meeting.
3) You’ll have a new task at the end of the meeting.

After a three hours of completely being focused on a major project and being close to the finish line, you’ve been summoned like a Genie. Someone has rubbed the bottle and it’s your job to appear and then grant their wishes.

It’s this experience that brings me to today’s blog post.

Before you send a meeting request, determine whether it’s truly necessary.

That “30 minute chat” could be disrupting your colleagues schedule at a time in which they’re focused on something important to them or the entire organization. Realize that just because they have empty space in their calendar doesn’t mean they’re actually free to chat. And understand that if you invite more than one person, it’s not just an hour meeting.

Let’s say you’re going to schedule a meeting that lasts one hour, and you invite ten people to attend. That’s actually a ten-hour meeting, not a one-hour meeting. You’re trading ten hours of productivity for one hour of meeting time.Rework

But it’s only a few minutes, it’s not going to ruin their day!

Schedule

The impact of a meeting request can be even more disruptive depending on whether you’re scheduling time with someone who works on a manager schedule or a maker’s schedule.

What’s the difference?

Paul Graham defines the manager’s schedule as the traditional appointment approach; the days are cut into one-hour intervals and you can block off several hours for a single task if needed, but by default, it’s broken up by the hour. An hour to do expenses, an hour to do one-on-ones, an hour to update the roadmap and an hour to handle customer support.

The maker’s schedule is a bit different.

Makers prefer to use time in units of half-a-days as they tend to be writers, coders, designers and are constraint by the reality that you can’t create something meaningful in an hour increment. For a manager, a meeting is nothing more than a an extra spoke in the wheel but for a maker, that meeting can result in throw off your entire day.

Put yourself in their shoes for a second…

Imagine you wake up knowing that you have a task that is going to take 5 hours to complete and are fired up to make it happen when you get to work. You take off your coat, grab your coffee, put in your headphones and after two hours of complete flow and productivity – you get a notification summoning you to a meeting in 40 minutes.

It would impact your morale.
It would impact the quality of your work.
And it would impact your perspective of the individual who is interrupting your flow.

Remember this before you send your next invite. Because while it might be just a meeting to you, it could be what leads your colleague to spending an extra hour or two away from their kids school play, an anniversary or even just dinner their family. Whatever it is – understand that it’s possible that you’re taking time away from them that could be spent elsewhere.

So ask yourself these three questions:

1) Would an email suffice or is a face to face meeting necessary?

Most meetings tend fall into one of these four categories: (1) Information Gathering (2) Relationship Building (3) Idea Generation and (4) Decision Making. If you’re looking to simply gather information, ask yourself if an email would do the trick or maybe read that memo sent around the office last week. The other three categories may require a meeting but often times, a decision can be made over email by simply sharing the right information clearly and in the right format.

2) Do you have a clear and specific goal for the meeting?

If you’re going to have a meeting, have an objective behind it. What are you trying to accomplish during this meeting? Are you trying to plan your growth strategy for the upcoming year? Are you trying develop a new process for internal decision making? It’s much more efficient to understand this before the meeting and ensure that everyone else is also aware of what you’re looking to accomplish. Include the specifics in the invite so it’s obvious to everyone around the table what’s going to be discussed.

3) Is this meeting for you or is this meeting for them?

Before you take the time to schedule this invite – understand who is going to benefit most from it. Are you going to be gathering information that you need to move your project forward or will you be providing insights that will help them? If the meeting is all about you, then ensure that you’re not just simply looking for validation on a thought or your next steps.

I don’t hate meetings.

I just hate when time is wasted.

Meetings can work but you have to understand the objectives behind them. Don’t rely on others in your company to value your time. You have to value it first. So the next time someone asks you to meet, don’t be afraid to ask for an agenda and a clear objective. Hold them responsible and ensure that you’re reciprocating that respect by practicing what you preach.