Writer's Block by Pyre-Vulpimorph on DeviantArt

Writer’s Block courtesy of Pyre-Vulpimorph on DeviantArt

Arguably, the biggest challenge for inbound marketers is coming up with a steady stream of content marketing ideas. The unfortunate truth is that we’re not all Seth Godin, who seems to effortlessly come up with insightful observations every single day.

I was feeling that pinch today. I’ve been struggling for writing inspiration and have not been posting frequently enough recently. So my task for today was to sit down and do some brainstorming and then develop an editorial calendar.

Using one helpful tool, I was able to turn 6 foundation terms into 360 ideas for blog posts in just 30 minutes.

Size Matters

Last year, Hubspot published Marketing Benchmarks form 7,000 Businesses. There is some incredibly convincing data contained in this report and much of it confirms that size matters. The more pages you have and the more you blog, the more traffic, leads and customers you generate from your website. According to this report, companies that blog 15 or more times per month get 5 times more traffic than companies that don’t blog. And companies that increase blogging from 3 – 5 times per month to 6 – 8 times per month double their leads. That sounds good to me!

hubspot data - impact of monthly blog articles on leads

Image taken from Hubspot’s “Marketing Benchmarks from 7,000 Businesses” report.

The total number of blog posts on your site also impacts traffic. The best part is that it’s not linear – it’s geometric. To see what I mean, check out this graph from the same report:

hubspot data - impact of blog articles on traffic

Image taken from Hubspot’s “Marketing Benchmarks from 7,000 Businesses” report.

Clearly, more is better. Of course, more garbage isn’t better. Which leads us to our next topic.

Which Comes First – Ideas or Schedules?

As more and more businesses implement inbound marketing strategies, the Interwebz are being flooded with more and more content. It’s leading many to cry uncle with articles like Your Content Is Boring and Wasting My Time. And it results in pleas from marketers who insist that you shouldn’t blog unless and until you have something to say. For them, the idea of an editorial calendar is contrived and leads to lower quality content.

But all writers know that creativity takes work. You can’t rely on your muse to bless you with quality content marketing ideas on a regular basis. So is there a happy medium between forcing the issue and waiting for inspiration?

Discovering Content Marketing Ideas

Ideally, you want to come up with lots of content marketing ideas that are aligned with your keyword strategy. Your keyword strategy should include three buckets; foundation keywords, opportunity keywords and long tail keywords. The methodology I’m going to describe uses foundation keywords as a starting point to find long tail keywords that you can turn into blog posts. Here’s the list of foundation keywords I started with:

  • content marketing
  • search engine marketing
  • website design
  • social media marketing
  • landing pages
  • marketing analytics

I took my foundation keywords and entered them into a tool called Übersuggest. They describe themselves as “Suggest on steroids. Get keyword ideas with Übersuggest the free keyword suggestion tool that makes good use of Google Suggest and other suggest services.” And it works really, really well.

Content marketing ideas from ÜbersuggestAfter typing in a phrase, Übersuggest will go out and find suggestions that include your phrase plus other words. It arranges them alphabetically and hierarchically. For example, the screen shot on the right shows a really handy set of ideas that was generated for “content marketing.” It returned a whole list of comparisons, several of which instantly registered in my mind as great ideas for blog posts.

But this was just one letter in the alphabet. It returns a result set for every letter and numbers, too. Clicking the “+” icon next to the keyword phrase saves it to a list that you can then copy and paste into a document or spreadsheet. I was able to nab a cool 75 ideas from this single search phrase! That doesn’t mean I’ll end up with 75 blog posts, of course. There is some overlap between ideas and I may not have the knowledge and/or ambition to write a quality post for all of them. But it’s still a great place to start.

social media marketing tips from ÜbersuggestIn addition to the flat list of suggestions for each letter, you can expand the phrases to reveal even more suggestions. The screen shot to the right shows another list of hidden gems. “Social media marketing tips” is a solid, albeit slightly boring idea. But expanding the list reveals another dimension that leads to more interesting possibilities. Note the tips for beginners, small businesses, restaurants, etc. Each of those has the potential to be a unique, high quality post that would be valuable to different audiences.

And so I followed this process for my 6 terms and ended up selecting 359 suggestions that will serve as ideas for future blog posts. I don’t consider this be forcing the issue because it’s simply a tool to shake ideas out of my brain. It can be really hard for us to make an inventory of things we know, but looking at lists like these make it easy to recognize topics we can write about. That’s why I feel like this is a great combination of purposeful strategy and creative inspiration.

Wait, You Said 360 Content Marketing Ideas

Yes, I did. Übersuggest gave me 359 ideas from this exercise. But the 360th idea became the first I would write about.

It turned into the blog post you’re reading right now. 😉

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