Content marketing is a sales strategy that has massively increased in power in modern times. The phrase ‘content marketing’ itself came in with the digital age, when the internet opened up huge new advertising arenas. Here at Gromfrog, content marketing is one of our specialities, and we’d like to share some of our insights on finding free content ideas.
Content marketing today is almost entirely centred on digital influence, particularly social media. It adopts a more subtle approach than the simple promotion of the product, but is more effective in embedding a brand into your mind. Blogs and other forms of content marketing can be used to associate your product with something that has a mass appeal, like a good story, some genuinely useful information, or a topical joke.
Because the internet is so all-pervasive, jokes and memes get flashed around the world in no time flat, and you'll want to get in on that. For the same reason, coming up with an original idea is exponentially more difficult, especially one that's instantly going to engage your customers. Time is tight and advertising costs money, so making use of your content is a cost-effective and fast way to get your brand noticed.
Why Choosing The Right Ideas Is Important
If you want to get the most out of content marketing, choosing the right ideas must be first and foremost in your strategic approach. You can reach the whole world with your content, but if the idea isn’t engaging you'll be wasting your effort. The right ideas could be topical, relevant, popular, and ideally, all of these.
Not only this, but your content has to be optimised for search engines (SEO) so that it will achieve the highest possible ranking. SEO rankings themselves are achieved via a complex metric known only to the search engine's originators, but SEO does need to be considered carefully when you’re thinking about your content strategy. Looking at ranking difficulty, competition and search volumes is key.
This in itself is a complex combination of writing knowledge, detailed research and experimenting. It involves knowing where and how often to place your keyword, so that your page content is recognised by the search engine as relevant to the search. You’ll also need to be aware of the importance of internal links, backlink checkers and searcher intent (i.e. what people were looking for in the first place).
Low Hanging Fruit
In terms of keywords, the ‘low hanging fruit’ consists of those search terms that are relatively easy to rank for. An extreme example would be the name of your own company, assuming it’s unusual, or a niche service you offer – perhaps in a particular location. You can achieve quick results like this, but search volumes will be low.
However, when adopting our suggested methods you might discover keyword terms that aren't so easy to rank for. You can begin with low hanging fruit, as these terms will help to build up your domain authority and enable you to get rankings for tougher searches. This domain authority is part of the algorithm that helps determine the search engine rankings, and gives you an idea of how well your website will rank in search results.
It's important, though, not to focus just on the low hanging fruit. While it will help you build up your rankings over time, you should aim to be producing content targeted to go after more difficult, high-competition searches. To help you do this, we've come up with a few approaches to finding great content ideas.
How To Get Free Content Ideas
Method 1: Google Autocomplete
There are several ways to get great content ideas, and they need not require you to use expensive tools. Google Autocomplete is one of the simplest and most common, as well as being so well-known that it comes as second nature to most internet users. This feature operates a bit like predictive text, and can rapidly provide you with great leads to your content ideas.
Google Autocomplete completes the words you use in your search terms with predictive results, telling you what other users are actually searching for. These predictions are based on what real searches are happening on Google at the time. They’re designed to eliminate typing time and complete searches more quickly. They display the most common searches, and ones that are trending in relation to the search terms you are actually typing in. They're also made relevant to your previous searches and specific location, and so aim to provide the most likely results for your topic.
This method contrasts with search ranking tools, such as Semrush and Moz, which try to estimate what exactly it is that users are searching for. These tools are designed for people to research the popularity over time of specific search topics, and are used to compile metrics for analysis.
How To Use Google Autocomplete
To find free content ideas using this method, start by entering search terms that are relevant to your own products and services. Make a note of what comes up on Google Autocomplete, based on the first few characters you type in. Note also how the predictions change according to how many characters in the search term you've entered. As we've mentioned above, autocomplete works like predictive text, so that the more characters you type in, the more specific your search term becomes. See what differences come up in the Autocomplete predictions as you enter more characters, and choose the most relevant word or words for your desired content. Then do a further search on those specific terms, and make a list of the ones that produce the best results.
Once you’ve drawn up a list, you can then go on to do a search on each of those items. Now you're looking for domain names to see who ranks highest and what type of site makes the rankings. You'll also want to determine whether your term yields any useful features like local listings, or the featured snippet (the one appearing at the top in a box). You might also find larger sites with PPC (Pay Per Click) or shopping adverts, which will indicate that this search term gets substantial traffic and is being targeted. Such terms as this may well be harder to rank for, but they could still yield a good idea.
Method 2: Forums/Question & Answer Websites
You'll find many question and answer websites like Quora, and all sorts of forums where users discuss different topics, products and services. It can sometimes take a while to sift through the irrelevant chatter, but this type of site is a great source of great content ideas.
Using this method of approach is simple. You just enter search terms for topics within your industry, and rank the results in the following broad categories:
- What are the most asked questions?
- Which questions have the most answers?
- Which questions have poor or irrelevant answers?
These sites are usually topical, as they're frequented by actual users asking relevant questions. They can often bring up related subjects that might also be of interest to your business.
Method 3: Your Customers
One of the best sources of ideas is your own customer base. Customers ask a lot of questions about your products and services, and it's a good idea to keep a record of them. Make a note of which questions are asked most frequently, and the most common answers that you provide. This should then lead you on towards some site modifications, as well as the potential for free content ideas. If customers are asking these questions (and particularly if they're asking them often), it's usually because they can't find the answers on your website.
What Tools Do We Use At Gromfrog?
We tend not to use expensive search tools at Gromfrog, as we prefer to employ the methods outlined above. However, there are two very affordable tools that we do sometimes use, though they’re not essential to your business. There’s also one free option.
Trello (Affiliate Link) is a web-based tool based on project management. It makes lists and organises tasks, building and managing teamwork, and using automated processes for tedious organisational activities.
We use Trello to keep track of our ideas at all stages of a project. The system of boards, lists and cards quickly allows us to see why we might choose an idea, what we're doing with it, or why we might have binned it!
Keywords Everywhere can assist you with keyword research. It’s a browser extension for Google Chrome, and an add-on in Firefox. This tool can show search volume, PPC figures and competition data across multiple websites. We use Keywords Everywhere to expand the information we can acquire from Google Autocomplete, and provide us with some volume data on these search terms.
This is a free research tool that functions in a similar way to Keywords Everywhere. We use this one in the same way; to expand our Google Autocomplete data.
Finding Content Ieas: Which Method Should You Use?
To recap, there are three main ways of finding great free content ideas:
- Google Autocomplete web searches
- Q&A sites or forums
- Your customers
1. Google Autocomplete is the fastest and simplest, in that you just start typing. It does the rest, and how complex you make it depends on you. It covers the entire planet and is predictive rather than analytic, giving you the most likely avenues to pursue in your quest for ideas.
2. Q&A sites and forums will often yield more numerical results for keyword search purposes, but may not be so precisely on topic. They're useful for bandying ideas around and picking up related links, but you sometimes have to start with a more precise idea of what you're looking for.
3. Your customers are a fantastic resource; they're specific to you and they can guide you towards what they want. These are people who are already buying your products or services, and who are likely to generate repeat business if you get it right.
At Gromfrog, we use a combination of the above methods to quantify and organise our ideas before we go ahead and produce them as viable content. Getting the right ideas takes time and practice to perfect, but we're always willing to help you along the way.