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Field Notes

Field Notes #006: How We Drum Up Winning Content Ideas

how we drum up winning content ideas

The dreaded blank page and blinking cursor—we’ve all faced it. What’s worse? A dry well of content ideas.

We create a year-long Content Roadmap Report for every client we work with. Depending on our established production cadence, this process can result in nearly 100 deliverables.

So we’re well-versed in generating unique content ideas.

Some of our research involves Ahrefs and deep competitor analysis—a common approach to SEO content strategy. But this process yields only so many keywords and topics, and some can be redundant or already written about.

Moreover, the results are limited to what competitors are already writing about and what customers are already searching for.

Competitors and their keyword choices can only inform your content strategy so much. You don’t always have to match your competitors to beat them.

Here are a few ways we generate new content ideas alongside competitive analysis and tools like Ahrefs:

1. Talk to Sales and Customer Service/Success to understand how prospects and customers describe the product and their experience with it

This tells you how customers search for solutions and what language they use when discussing a product and its features with others. This can inform new keywords to target and queries to answer through content. It can also provide insight into how customers define themselves and their relationship with a tool or product category.

For example, we learned that customers of a popular AI writing tool love how the tool helps combat the “loneliness of being a freelancer or solopreneur.” This tidbit has little to do with the product features, yet it has strongly influenced our content ideas and how we relate to the audience in each post.

2. Take product demos and sign-up for free trials and freemium plans to understand better how features translate to benefits and solutions (and search queries)

Many product-led content strategies focus on features over benefits. Yet, customers don’t always know what features they desire in a new product or tool—they mostly focus on finding benefits and solutions.

By indexing on the keywords and topics related to benefits, you’re likely to catch someone with commercial or transactional search intent—a much more potent mindset than when searching informational.

For example, we could market our services at Omniscient by listing what we deliver: blog posts, fully-managed content production, a brilliantly awesome team… you get it. But it’s way more interesting and impactful to tell potential clients that we “develop content that drives business growth and revenue.”

The outcome is what they care most about, after all.

3. Chat with real customers, as queries vary between and within companies

What a decision-maker searches can be wildly different than what the end user and/or champion searches. The same variation applies to how different companies use different words to describe tools, products, and platforms.

For example, what one content team calls “content operations,” another may call “blog management.”

4. Scour social media, discussion forums, and review sites

People are always talking about their pain points on Quora, Reddit, Hacker News, communities and Slack groups, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and product review sites. Observing this surfaces new vernacular and language around industries and products—similar to the process in step one, but by observing attitudes and opinions expressed in the wild. 

Bonus: This step also provides ideas for content distribution and promotion once content goes live. And new content distribution ideas are never a bad thing.

1. Thought Leadership Isn’t a Content Type. It’s a Content Goal: Tracey Wallace (a good friend of ours) reframes how to think about thought leadership and content marketing. A must-read.

2. Can you achieve long and short at the same time? Usually, no: “It’s appealing to fulfill brand and sales objectives in one execution, but they’re so different that you’ll probably fail at both,” says Mark Ritson. I love thinking about how these high-level marketing discussions apply to SEO and content.

3. SaaS Content Strategy: How to Drive Compounding ROI with Content: Alex teaches you how to build an individualized yet scalable content strategy that results in actual pipeline and ROI—every content marketer’s dream.

Allie Decker

Allie is co-founder and Head of Client Success at Omniscient Digital. She previously led content initiatives at HubSpot and Shopify.