You probably have a daily or weekly routine you follow for creating content that (you hope) will drive traffic.
The problem is, it can feel like trying to hit a target in a dark room.
As part of our content marketing process, my team and I have a weekly brainstorming session.
We generate ideas based on our “monthly template.”
It currently consists of two how-to or list-based articles, a monthly expert roundup and a monthly skyscraper post (super detailed resource).
This helps us plan ahead, as well as gives a foundation which can be improved over time. Once you create that framework, it’s easier to discover what fits within it.
After all, creativity loves limits.
So, you could spend hours contemplating every type of article under the sun…
…or, by using a framework like this, you focus your creative energies. This cuts down the time needed for content curation.
For example, if the AutoGrow team knows a skyscraper post is next on our editorial calendar, there’s no guesswork, and we know the kind of resource we want to build for you.
Like you, even though we have our own process, we’re always looking to get better.
So I wondered, what else could we do to come up with better content ideas?
To answer that question, we reached out to 10 marketing experts for their best “hacks” for how they dream up ideas, titles and killer content.
We also asked the experts to provide an example of their hack in-use, which is super helpful when you’re trying to implement new content processes.
Check out each expert’s idea hack for creating killer content, and see how you can plug it in to drive more people into your funnel.
Expert #1: David Schneider, Ninja Outreach – Browsing Entrepreneur Forums
Recommended Hack: “I browse entrepreneur forums for topic ideas, like Quora, Reddit, Inbound.org, the Moz community or GrowthHackers. Those are the popular ones, but obviously, there are other mediums, like some Facebook groups that I’m in, newsletters I’m subscribed to, etc.
My business is to serve other bloggers and entrepreneurs, and when I see them talk about pain points relevant to my industry, I consider that something worth writing about.”
How to Use the Hack: “I come up with queries related to the topic ideas that I mine from these forums. I then pop them into my Ahrefs tool. This gives me more topical keyword ideas and some potential traffic info. Then I look for internal case studies we can use. Once these ideas take form, I prep the instructions in a Trello card and set a publication date.”
Expert #2: Eric Siu, SingleGrain – Using BuzzSumo and Feedly
How to Use the Hack: “As an example, we wrote this piece on blockchain marketing because we know the blockchain is becoming more and more important in our society, and combining it with marketing (what we know) is a nice spin on the topic.”
Expert #3: Elisa Gabbert, WordStream – Finding Google “Content Holes”
Recommended Hack: “Most of our content ideas come from good old-fashioned keyword research, but there’s another approach that people don’t use enough – we like to answer questions or solve problems that, as marketers, we think about ourselves.
If you Google something related to your business and don’t find a good answer to that question on the first page, that’s a sign that YOU need to create the resource that answers that question!”
How to Use the Hack: “Years ago, I was looking for a way to find my really old tweets on Twitter. All the existing resources on Page 1 were out-of-date or didn’t work. So I figured out a couple of different ways to do it, then I published a how-to along with a bunch of celebrities’ first tweets for fun.
Amazingly, four years later, this post still gets half a million visits a year. Now I regularly look for ‘content holes’ where Google hasn’t yet found an existing result that meets the true intent of a search query.”
Expert #4: David Leonhardt, The Happy Marketing Guy – Browse the Library
Recommended Hack: “Browse the library.” [Note from Matt: Yes, David means a real, bricks-and-mortar library.]
How to Use the Hack: “I was killing time one day at the library, so I started browsing the spines of the books on a shelf, and ideas for posts started to flow. Each book was a new idea for a blog post. Did you know that libraries are full of information? Go figure!
Ironically, the best idea of all that day came from the bookmarks the library was giving away, which led to a post on book marketing.”
Expert #5: David Meerman Scott, DavidMeermanScott.com – Newsjacking
Recommended Hack: “Newsjacking is a great way to come up with killer blog posts.”
How to Use the Hack: “Newsjacking is the art and science of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story to generate tons of media coverage, get sales leads and grow your business. I founded the newsjacking movement. This is my website. I highlight examples from others, not myself.”
Expert #6: Daniel Murphy, Drift – Testing New Marketing Automation Features and Blogging About Them
Recommended Hack: “I’m a product marketer who creates content for our blog, showcasing some of the powerful things Drift can do. So in terms of coming up with content ideas, I’m often trying to build out new marketing automation or even my startup blog so I can learn about new features and test them out.
As I go, I take notes, and those notes can usually turn into a blog post. Actually using the product for a real-use case means I can find and write about what my audience really cares about.”
How to Use the Hack: “The other place I look for blog content ideas are Slack and Drift chat. I spend two or more hours a week on ‘chat duty,’ meaning I work in Drift support and help our customers that chat in and ask questions. I help them solve problems that sometimes lead to ‘aha!’ moments for me, like ‘I definitely need to write about this part of our product,’ especially when I see patterns in feedback, objections, hang-ups, etc.
But more generally in terms of content marketing, we (the Drift marketing team) are all students of the marketing game. The good news for us is that our ideal customer is the same way as us.
The most common characteristics of every marketer on this team is that we love to learn. And what we learn we want to teach.
We have a very unique opportunity to learn from great investors like Pat Grady from Sequoia Capital, great company leaders like from Shopify and many others, so we like to learn and share what we learn, which turns into great blog posts like this and this.”
Expert #7: Shama Hyder, Marketing Zen Group – Reading Social Media Comments
Recommended Hack: “One great idea hack that I use for content is looking at followers’ comments once a blog post, video, etc. is shared on social media. In those comments, it’s easy to crowdsource future content by seeing which trending topics and questions are being discussed.”
How to Use the Hack: “So as I scroll through users’ comments on social media from a recent post, I take note of the most popular subjects and questions brought up by followers. If there are multiple questions on one topic, those questions can really help you with creating the structure of the content and addressing the topic.
You need to give fans what they want, so by taking note of what your fans are saying, you can directly deliver what they are looking for.”
Expert #8: Amy Wood, Unbounce – Internal Reporting
Recommended Hack: “Internal reporting is my favorite all-time content marketing ‘hack’ — if you can even call it that. Whether it’s dogfooding our own tools and reporting on the results or sharing our most successful internal practices and processes, we’re keen to lay it all out there — hits and misses.
In fact, one of our core values at Unbounce is transparency, so it’s not a stretch for us to demonstrate this value in all our marketing.”
How to Use the Hack: “A few examples of internal reporting include a post breaking down the success of another piece written for Unbounce by Aaron Orendorff leading up to the 2016 election. In it, we share the exact tactics we leveraged to create one of the most successful posts of the year.
More recently, I co-wrote a post with Unbounce’s marketing manager of international markets, partnerships, and events, Stef Grieser. The post, titled ‘“There Aren’t Enough Qualified Women Speakers” and Other Garbage Excuses for Why Your Marketing Event Isn’t Gender Diverse,’ details strategies and policies to create a safe and inclusive event environment and highlights our pledge to showcase at least 50% more women speakers at our annual Call to Action Conference.
Three things were of utmost importance to me with this post: (1) that the right person authored it (2) that it wasn’t just a toot-our-own-horns post, but rather an actionable piece with real takeaways and (3) that the title was so intriguing that you couldn’t not click.
The result was a post that went rather viral on social media, inspired debate in the comments section and led to us running the first-ever CentHER Stage Keynote Speaker Bootcamp.
When creating your own internal reporting-type content, I suggest employing the same three principles: (1) make sure the right person (authority) is authoring the piece (2) avoid too much navel-gazing by giving your readers actionable takeaways (3) give people a reason to click and engage, whether they agree with you or not!”
Expert #9: Carolyn Frith, Carolyn Frith Marketing – Using Other Businesses’ Processes as an Example
Recommended Hack: “Is there something that really bugs you about how your prospects or clients approach business? Don’t fret about it. Write about it.”
How to Use the Hack: “A couple of years ago, I came across several companies that had invested in marketing automation but had only achieved paltry results. There was nothing wrong with their marketing solutions. The problem was their content strategies. They didn’t exist.
So I wrote a blog post entitled ‘Why Marketing Automation Does Not Work,’ which created a flurry of interest on LinkedIn. Gurus of marketing automation were drawn to the title, ready to defend their turf. But when they started reading, they had to agree — you cannot automate a process that does not exist.
Also, professionals who had put the marketing automation cart before the workhorse of content strategy learned why they were not moving forward.”
Expert #10: Chad Pollitt, ChadPollitt.com – Commenting and Blogging on Popular and Controversial Content
Recommended Hack: “When I write a blog post, it typically falls under one of the four categories (and has for 10 years): what I’m going to do, what I’m doing, what I just did or thought leadership.
Much of what I write these days is either posts in or around current research I’m doing or my comments around the industry topic de jour that month.
So the actual hack for me is to use blogging as a promotional tool for my original research and to uncover popular or controversial content within the industry (usually via Twitter) and comment on it via blogging.
How to Use the Hack: “With Twitter, I have a specific marketing list that contains many of the thought leaders within our industry. Keeping tabs on that keeps me abreast to the trends and popular content that’s resonating. It’s this content that I tend to comment on via blogging.
Lastly, I have subscribed to blogs that hit my inbox every day. That also helps me discover new content to comment on via blogging.”
Content creation, as you’ve seen in this article, comes from many places. Almost every marketer on this list had different ways of curating ideas for their respective content calendars.
- There’s almost no wrong way to come up with killer content. If your current method isn’t working, try one of these 10 hacks for a while and see what happens.
- It’s good to have a process, such as the Monday morning pre-meet and weekly content call we do here at AutoGrow. Don’t be afraid to refine that process until it produces the results you want.
- Always be open to ideas. These can come from just about anywhere, such as your local library, social media or even comments and questions from your customers.
- Tools can be your best friend. From Ahrefs to Trello and BuzzSumo, these tools let you organize and find ideas.
Which of these 10 content hacks did you find the most useful? Do you plan on changing your content creation process after reading this article? How so? Let me know in the comments.
Keep Hustlin’, Stay Focused,