Writer’s block: an affliction that can strike at any time and leave even the best, most imaginative writers a quivering wreck unable to put together a coherent sentence.
But how do you beat writer’s block and consistently create content that you know will meet the high standards of your readers and, better still, the readers of rival blogs?
We’ve found that the answer doesn’t always lie in a new way of brainstorming or a creative thinking technique (although we will give you examples of those too over the next couple of weeks - watch this space). Actually, new ideas are often right under your nose - you just need to know where to look for them.In this blog post we will share 3 websites, resources and tools that have the potential to unearth a goldmine of content ideas for your blog. And remember, if you have any tools or websites to suggest, let us know by tweeting @PortlandStreet_ and we will add them to this post and give you a shout-out.
Google Analytics: Demographics
I’m going to assume many of you have Google Analytics set up for your blog (if you haven’t, we have created a guide which explains how to do so. Simply sign up to Portland Street using the form at the top of the page and you will receive the guide directly to your inbox the next day!). But just because you’ve got it set up doesn’t mean you know how to use it to unearth great content ideas.
If you’re not already aware of it, the first place I recommend heading to once you’ve logged into Analytics is the Demographics section. You can find this beneath the Audience module on the left-hand navigation, as shown in the image below:
There are a couple of things you need to do to before Analytics starts pulling through the data that you need (find out what to do and how to do it here), but once it’s up and running you can find all kinds of interesting information about your readers, including.
The Interests section is particularly useful. Here you can find out what Google considers your visitors to be interested in, based on their activity on the web.The ‘Affinity Category’ (example shown below), Google says, “identifies users in terms of lifestyle”. I read that as informational websites (news sources, blogs, etc) that they visit whilst signed into a Google account.
On the other hand, the ‘In-Market Segments “identifies users in terms of their product-purchase interests”. In non-Google speak - this is referring to the kinds of products they’ve been browsing in Google Shopping and other e-commerce sites.
That means you can get a detailed insight into what visitors to your blog like to do when they’re elsewhere on the web.
But how can this help you generate ideas? Well, if I’m a fashion blogger, for example, and I see that there has been a 26% increase in ‘business professionals’ on my blog, I need to think about how to engage those who are clearly interested in business and working life. Therefore I might want to think about how to appeal to them with a ‘how to nail smart casual at work’ blog post, or a ‘how to dress for summer in the office’, or a ‘10 interview fashion faux pas’ blog post, and so on.
And those movie lovers I see lurking around my blog, what could I do for them? Off the top of my head, I could put together a piece on the most iconic film outfits of all time, or a ‘15 things Paul Newman taught men about fashion’ feature.
That’s five ideas generated from spending around 30 seconds on the Demographics section.
By the way, it's worth bearing in mind that many websites will see visitors who fall into the ‘movie lovers’ category (think of how many people you know with a Netflix subscription), so look into the more specific demographics where possible, which can be found be found in the ‘Other Categories’ section. For example, one category is ‘Bollywood & Asian Film’, while another is ‘Superhero Films’.
This is a fantastic and underrated resource that gives you some amazing insights into the content that already exists on any given topic. You do have to pay for this (packages start at $99 a month, which at time of writing is approximately £68), but I’ve found that it’s definitely worth it - I probably use it every day. If you do think it’s quite costly, you could consider asking blogger friends if they want to share an account and split the cost.
In fact, there are so many features that I should probably list them:
- Most shared content - search for a keyword and see the content that has been shared most on social media over the past year, six months, month, week or day
- Trending content - the content being shared the most on social media over the past 24 hours
- Content analysis/domain comparison - Find out the most shared content from a particular website, and compare that to another website
- Influencers - find influential web users talking about specific topics
Being able to see this and look beyond your own blog gives you a really good idea of the content that has worked in the past and the content that people are passionate about enough to share. And sharing is very important, because that’s what helps you grow your audience.
The trending section is also really cool because it means you don’t have to spend all day on Twitter and watch the news to know what people are talking about. If you’re struggling to come up with new ideas take a look at this section and think about how your blog can add something to the conversations people are having online.
Answer the public
And finally, we come to Answer the Public: a fantastic, uber-simple tool that can present you with new content ideas within seconds.
The website gives you the chance to see popular search queries made on Google (UK, US and many more) - but that’s not all it does. Its genius lies in the way it presents its data.
Ignoring the slightly sinister bearded ‘Seeker’ who is gesticulating behind the search field, and whose job it is (apparently) to help you use the website, all you need to do is enter a search term and select the country from which you’d like the data to be generated. Once your data loads up, you’ll see a huge range of popular search queries all containing the keyword that you entered, and visualised in a mindmap-esque format.
The best bit, though, is that it produces and then splits up queries categorised as:
- Alphabetic listings
Here’s an example report for the term ‘parenting’:
Pretty cool, right? Many of these results read like titles to blog posts in their own right. And blog posts that we know for a fact people want to read, because they’re searching for that information!
what's so good about these tools?
There are many different tools out there to try, but I found the above three to be a very good place to start. I particularly like the fact that they are based on existing data - this can really help you to identify topics which are more likely to drive interaction and visits to your blog.
Next time I’ll be talking about different creative brainstorming techniques you can employ when generating new ideas. That, combined with the data provided by these three tools, should mean you are an unstoppable creative force from now on….
Thanks for reading. And don’t forget to tell us in the comments if you have any ace tips or tricks of your own for getting over writer’s block.