There are apps galore to help you generate story ideas. Are you using any of them yet?
6 min read
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Writer’s block can disrupt the productivity of even the most prolific writer and content creators out there. The reason, ofcourse, is lost time: If you’re creating content primarily for purposes of inbound marketing, simply waiting for inspiration to strike is not a sustainable strategy. In fact, your business likely can’t afford that strategy at all.
According to the inbound marketing industry leader, Hubspot, businesses studied that had published 16-plus blog posts per month got almost 3.5 times the traffic of companies that had published between zero and four monthly posts.
If you’re a busy entrepreneur, coming up with an idea for even just one blog post a week can feel like a heavy burden, let alone four or more. Luckily, there are tips and tools that can help unblock any log-jams in your content-creation workflow.
The following seven online tools are useful to turn to when your stream of thought just won’t flow.
Ever start typing a phrase into Google only to marvel at how it predicts the question you’re about to ask? This isn't magic. Google compiles data from countless search queries in an attempt to predict what you’re looking for — even before you’re finished typing. This autocomplete data is publicly available to developers, and AnswerThePublic has leveraged it to create a tool that can help smash any creative logjam.
Simply type in a search keyword, for example, “content marketing,” and AnswerThePublic will spit out hundreds of questions that people have asked regarding the topic. Knowing what people search for regarding a specific keyword gives you the opportunity to write content that answers that question. It’s a marvelous springboard for brainstorming new content ideas.
AnswerThePublic also boasts an entertaining user interface and presents data in a visually appealing way. It should be one of your first stops when writer’s block strikes.
Unless you’re venturing into completely uncharted territory, the odds are that your competitors have written successful content related to topics you’re interested in pursuing.
BuzzSumo is a powerful app that allows you to research which content has been successful for any given topic or keyword. But the app doesn’t stop there. BuzzSumo employs social listening to actively monitor mentions of your brand — and your competitors –on a wide assortment of social media platforms. Knowing what questions your potential customers have, and what problems they’re trying to solve, is crucial to your creating resonant and engaging content.
Another social listening tool, Builtvisible, scans Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn, even Y Combinator’s HackerNews, to uncover which topics are trending. Writing content that speaks to popular issues relevant to your product is one of the best ways to ensure that your articles connect, and get read. If you team Builtvisible with Followerwonk, you can also identify influencers who are writing about your topic and facilitate outreach campaigns to get your content noticed.
Blog Idea Generator, by HubSpot
Just enter a topic keyword into Hubspot’s Blog Idea Generator, and it will generate an Excel spreadsheet of over 200 related topics. A search for the keyword “Content Marketing,” for instance, yields such headlines as “How to Explain Content Marketing to a 5-Year Old” and “15 Most Underrated Skills That'll Make You a Rockstar in the Content Marketing Industry.”
Not surprisingly, some of the suggestions are more usable than others, of course, but the Blog Idea Generator is a fantastic free resource that will get you unstuck when inspiration is hard to come by.
StoryBase is a “reverse search engine” that gives you insight into the intent behind why people search for your chosen keyword. A search on StoryBase for “Content Marketing” reveals that males between the ages of 35 and 44 are the most likely to search for the term. The most-asked question out of 43 listed regarding content marketing is, “What is Content Marketing?”
The questions, “How Does Content Marketing Drive Sales?” and “How to Measure Content Marketing?” also appear in the top-10 most searched questions on the topic.
Understanding why people search for any given keyword can be a valuable step to your learning what answers people are seeking when they type that keyword into a search engine.Content that helps solve a problem many people are trying to solve always stands a better chance of engaging the audience you are trying to reach.
Wouldn’t it be valuable to know which pieces of content have been the most successful, in terms of driving traffic and generating backlinks for your competitors? Through its competitor research tools, Ahrefs allows you to see just that. You can also see what articles attracted the most traffic for any given keyword.
If you think you can improve upon the content that is already published, through content that is more comprehensive, better written or by better researched, you can even reach out to websites that have linked to your competitor’s content in the past. Backlinks are a vital component in determining a website’s search engine result page (SERP) ranking. The higher your ranking, the more likely that your content will get read.
Portent Content Idea Generator
Breaking the cycle of turning the same idea over and over in your head by injecting a little distraction can be just the ticket for escaping the creative doldrums. Portent’s Content Idea Generator provides just that distraction by generating entertaining headlines, using its proprietary algorithm.
While the results may be more diverting than usable — recent ones included “How Fatigue Can Help You Lead a Better Life” and “15 Ways Persistence Can Give You Better Hair” — these results are always unexpected, and can help spark your creativity in novel ways.
When inspiration fails to strike, the minutes required to craft an effective and engaging piece of content can easily stretch into hours and days. While the online tools listed above won't do the writing for you, they can help dissipate the creative logjams that led to writer’s block in the first place.
Next time you’re staring at an empty page or screen, give one (or all) a try.