Content Ideation: Best Practices and Tools for Content Marketing Success

Author's avatar Content Marketing Mar 18, 2021 13 minutes read

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    Peter Caputa

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    Coming up with new content ideas shouldn’t feel like throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. 

    That’s what a lot of marketers do today — usually through a mix of brainstorming meetings and over-relying on SEO tools. 

    While this can work, it is inefficient. 


    Instead, a better approach to generating new content ideas starts with listening to your customers. This can not only provide a nearly limitless number of ideas but also comes with a higher likelihood of the post resonating and converting.

    In fact, there is nothing that can replace actually talking to customers and conducting detailed voice of customer research (VOC research).

    Before we dive in, here is a little background on the marketers we surveyed and how they generate new content ideas. 

    About 70% of the marketers we surveyed work in professional services – like agencies.  

    which best describes your business?

    In fact, 30% said that generating new content ideas was everyone’s job. 

    who's responsibility is it to come up with new content ideas?

    And, the process is both flat and fluid, with more than 50% of marketers saying they come up with new ideas at least weekly. 

    how often does your team come up with new content ideas?

    When you are tasked with coming up with new ideas on a regular basis, anything you can do to streamline this process can go a long way. 

    In this post, we’re sharing how to mine insights from alternative voice of customer resources to come up with dozens of new content ideas that convert often in a matter of a few hours. 

    6 Ways to Come Up with Better Content Ideas

    Whether you are short on time, budget, and/or resources, here are some resources you can leverage to turn voice of customer insights into new content ideas. 

    1. Create buyer personas
    2. Listen to sales and support call recordings
    3. Analyze your Google Analytics and Google Search Console data
    4. Spot insights on social media
    5. Plan your content based on your marketing funnel
    6. Use topic clusters to organize your content

    1. Create buyer personas 

    If you haven’t done this already, create different personas for all of your ideal customer segments. 

    Jonathan Aufray of Digital Growth Hackers says, “To come up with new content ideas, a great way is to create buyer personas. You want to create different profiles corresponding to the different audiences that you want to target. Then, you need to put yourself in their shoes.

    • What are the questions they’re asking themselves?
    • What are the answers they’re looking for?
    • What problems are they facing?
    • Do you have that solution?
    • Which part of your funnel (Top, Medium, or Bottom) are they in?

    If you can answer those 5 questions, you will come up with dozens of new content ideas in a very short amount of time.”

    As you continue to learn about your customers, your personas will evolve. Often, it is better to create a quick and dirty version of your personas in a few days than spending weeks perfecting personas that will likely be outdated within a couple of quarters. 

    2. Listen to sales and support call recordings 

    Sales and support calls are a goldmine for new content ideas. You can often learn more by reviewing 3 calls than several hours of random brainstorming and Internet research. 

    Here are some questions to keep in mind when reviewing call logs: 

    • What are their primary motivations for using your product or service? 
    • What are their expectations?
    • What alternatives do they bring up in sales conversations? 
    • What are their pain points? What are they struggling with? 
    • What are their key objections that need to be addressed before they feel comfortable buying? 
    • How are customers really using your product? 
    • Are they using your product in ways you didn’t expect? 

    In addition to sales and support calls, you can also get a lot of this data from mining live chat transcripts and support tickets. 

    3. Analyze your Google Analytics and Google Search Console data

    Another great resource is your own website data. 

    “I primarily use Google Analytics and the brand’s website data to find content opportunities for things they already have a ranking for,” says Ann Young of Fix The Photo. “Using the same tool, we use site search terms as content ideas. The site search tool has proven to be a treasure for finding content ideas that resonate well with the audience. 

    Google Analytics gives us the longest average time on a page, and this tells us about the content that the user engages with the most. Helps us weed out irrelevant ideas and to look exactly what the customer finds the best. Similarly, the bounce rate and the exit rate help us to update content that has failed to generate engagement.” 

    Alicia Blessing of OuterBox adds, “One of the best ways to come up with new content ideas is to use Google Search Console to understand the search queries that are driving traffic to your website and where there are opportunities to build out content around those queries. You can access Google Search Console through your Google Analytics account – just navigate to the Acquisition report then select Search Console then Queries.

    You’ll then be able to pull a custom report based on your selected date range that shows your site’s search queries, the number of clicks your site received from those queries, as well as the number of impressions, CTR, and your average page position.

    I will typically sort the report by the number of impressions (highest to lowest), then look for terms where I think we have a good opportunity to raise our average position.

    Obviously, this is just a tool to help generate some new content ideas and you certainly shouldn’t try to develop content around every query that shows up in your report.

    I typically will look for long-tail keywords, or those that are more specific and the search intent behind them is more clear. It’s not an exact science but I’ve found it to be an extremely helpful technique when developing new content ideas!” 

    4. Spot insights on social media 

    While you can certainly find great ideas on Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, and Instagram, one of the underrated social media sites for content research is Reddit. 

    There is literally a subreddit for almost any topic from ecommerce and entrepreneurship to personal finance and shower thoughts. 

    The fastest way to find subreddits is to search for your topic here.

    In my experience, the best content ideas come from paying attention to any trends or patterns that start to emerge in your research: 

    • What are the most common questions? 
    • What are the most common issues? 
    • What topics are repeated? 
    • What are the common themes? 

    This will give you a better sense of how your target audience searches or talks about this topic online. 

    In addition, once you have a few ideas, you can even use Reddit and other social media sites to test the idea with a short post to see if it resonates. 

    For example, Wendy Margolin of Sparkr Marketing says, “I create content on social media revolving around 6-8 themes that showcase my expertise as well as my business personality. Once content performs well with my social media audience, I know that it is a good topic for creating blog content.

    I also have a Facebook group where I encourage participants to ask questions. I base my live videos, podcasts and blogs on the questions from this group.” 

    This is a smart way to test ideas on a small-scale before investing the time and energy to create a longer piece of content. 

    5. Plan your content based on your marketing funnel 

    As you get new ideas, it can be helpful to organize them based on the desired outcome. 

    For example, would the post be more of an inspirational and TOFU asset? Or, is it something that caters to someone at the BOFU, who is already problem and solution-aware? 

    Angela Ash of Flow SEO says, “When we consider our content topic ideas, it’s important that we focus on our projected end result. What are we hoping to achieve by writing this content? Is it in hopes to educate our audience, convert or establish us as an expert in our field?

    Sometimes, a piece of content can be used for all three, but if we’re being really strategic, we look for content ideas on trusted sources, and then we expand on those ideas with data, research, and specialized knowledge.” 

    Beth Cooper, JD/MBA of KNB Communications adds, “To keep the process structured, we perform a content audit to see what kind of content currently exists and identify gaps. We then plan based on the target audience and stage of the funnel (TOFU, MOFU, BOFU). This allows us to choose the type of content strategically and keep in mind the goal of it. 

    We try to split the content into 80% evergreen and 20% timely. After going through this process, we brainstorm with a team and then discuss the options before narrowing it down and assigning it.” 

    6. Use topic clusters to organize your content calendar 

    Building out topic clusters for related content ideas is another way to showcase your brand’s expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.  

    “We build our content out in clusters – looking to cover a topic completely before shifting into a new sub-niche,” says Darcy Ogdon-Nolan of POD Furniture Australia. “To do this, we identify the ‘head keyword’ in Ahrefs and then build out our content to make sure we are covering all related topics. 

    We also use ‘Answer The Public’ to make sure we are covering the most commonly asked question on each topic well. This has worked very well for us, allowing us to build thorough and engaging pieces time and time again.”

    Best Tools for Content Ideation 

    Once you have some general content ideas, you can leverage tools to expand on your ideas and optimize them for SEO. 

    Here are the top tools that the marketers we surveyed recommend.

    best content ideation tools

    The two most popular tools are Ahrefs and SEMrush. 

    “Our content ideation process revolves entirely around search,” says John Ross of GRE Prep Insights. “We don’t generate ideas for content based on what we think people will want to read. We look at the cold hard numbers. 

    Whatever high-level topic we want to post content on, we plug that overarching term into our SEO software, Ahrefs, and analyze all of the long tail keywords underneath that to identify high-value targets. We then weigh a potential keyword’s search volume against its keyword difficulty (KD). This is sort of a sliding scale analysis. The higher the search, the more willing we are to tackle a keyword with a high KD. 

    Conversely, we will really only go after a keyword with low search if the KD is next to nothing. It really just depends. But we are always looking for that sweet spot combo of high search and low KD. Once we identify a primary keyword, we think of finding secondary keywords that are closely related and mold those around the main keyword to create an outline that works for content.” 

    Another common approach to leverage SEO tools is competitor research. 

    We previously started with high volume seed keywords and just went down the rabbit hole, but this was timely and didn’t result in as many quick wins as looking at our competitors.” 

    “First, review the company’s website for relevant keywords you can start researching for SEO purposes,” says Hannah Wiginton. “Then, use Keywords Everywhere to find the volume. Then, use Semrush or Ahrefs to find keyword difficulty.

    Next, find their competitors and review what keywords they rank for and try to fill in gaps. Find keywords that are long tails or that have a lower volume and a lower difficulty.

    Create a list of all relevant keywords and order them by volume and difficulty. Find sub-topics related to your main keyword. Then, based on your domain authority, start creating content surrounding specific keywords.” 

    Quincy Smith of ESL Authority says, “The easiest way is to reverse engineer what our competitors are doing – to do this we use the Best Pages report in Ahrefs to see which pages are performing and what keywords they are targeting. We then categorize the type of post + topic and add it to our content idea sheet.

    Karan Bhatt of Best Web Hosting adds, “I go to Ahrefs content gap tool and paste URLs of top 3 ranking pages and see which keywords those pages rank for, which shows me even more topics I should consider covering in my content.” 

    In addition, another tool that you can use to leverage insights for your new content ideas is Buzzsumo. 

    Markus Goess-Saurau of Sond says, “We take a two-pronged approach with our content ideation process.

    Firstly, we monitor BuzzSumo to see what topics are on trend along with how certain pieces of content have performed historically. 

    We then perform an initial piece of keyword research to discover monthly search volumes along with mapping out what competitors are ranking well in the SERPs.

    Once we have gathered these initial insights we choose which key phrases we wish to create content for, followed by running an internal “jobs, pains and gains” workshop. The purpose of the workshop is to further explore what the search intent behind the keyphrase is and how we can add value to the user experience through content

    Jobs to be done focus on the problem the customer is trying to solve. For example, how to treat eczema on dark skin.

    Pains refer to the challenges a customer may experience when trying to complete a job.

    Gains describe positive outcomes for the customer and what they wish to achieve by engaging with the content”

    These are some examples of how you can leverage tools to create content that resonates and converts with your ideal customers.  


    In sum, your best content ideas come from listening to your customers. You’ll have a much better chance of creating content that converts if you start by mining voice of customer insights related to their goals, challenges, pain points, and questions they have. Then, layering SEO tools on top of that to extend your reach.

    Author's avatar
    Article by
    Jessica Malnik

    Jessica Malnik is a content strategist and copywriter for SaaS and productized service businesses. Her writing has appeared on The Next Web, Social Media Examiner, SEMRush, CMX, Help Scout, Convince & Convert, and many other sites.

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