It’s tough to keep a steady stream of unique ideas pouring into your content feed. Writers’ block and topic oversaturation are some of a content creator’s worst enemies, and maintaining a steady publishing schedule can be demanding. However, there are some simple ways to find the holes in existing content and produce posts that will keep your pages fresh, interesting, and informative.
To start, take a list of seemingly generic ideas and mold them into unique content topics. How? We enlisted the help of two top-notch content managers, Kari DePhillips and Candice Landau, to learn how to fill in content voids. DePhillips owns The Content Factory, a digital PR agency that specializes in content marketing. Landau is the editor of Bplans, a resource site for entrepreneurs in any stage of business. Together we’ve come up with a guide to help you sculpt your generic ideas into more focused works of content art.
Why you need unique content
Before we get into the tips, let’s talk about why unique content trumps generic content.
“Generic content isn’t helpful to the reader, and it’s not likely to be shared,” DePhillips says. “If you try to appeal to everyone, you’ll end up attracting no one.”
Generic content also fails to help you define your brand, Landau says.
“Who wants to become known for producing lightweight, generic content?” she asks. “In fact, if you’re focusing on only producing generic content, you will likely find it hard to even develop a brand.”
Plus, generic content won’t improve your search results. You want specific, appealing content that fits your brand and is appealing enough for people to read and share on social channels.
Define your target audience
Before you start brainstorming ideas or try drawing out more specific ideas from generic concepts, you need to know who your target audience is. As DePhillips mentioned, you can’t please everyone, so figure out exactly who you should be trying to please. Once you define your audience, start making a list of the topics that would appeal to them.
“Figure out who your target audience is, and go after them with content that is useful, actionable and different than every other article out there on the subject,” she suggests.
If you’re working with a team of people, like Landau does, you’ll need to communicate with your team and make sure everyone is creating content that caters to the same audience.
Now that you understand the need for unique content and have figured out the right audience for your work, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty tips and tricks to snap those generic themes into must-read topics.
Break generic themes into specific concepts
If you’ve come up with a generic title, try to break it into smaller, more specific topics, DePhillips suggests. For example, if you’re working with a topic like “How to Eat Healthy,” you’re competing with other articles in a very broad space. DePhillips suggests adding your target audience to the topic. As a result, your generic title may be tailored to fit your readership as “How Pregnant Women Can Eat Healthy.”
Now go one step further, says DePhillips. If you can be more specific than “eat healthy,” you might reach a title like, “Nine Reasons Why Pregnant Women Should Eat Gluten-Free.” You’ve just taken a generic topic and turned into a specific, fascinating idea that would be of interest to a narrow readership, and you’ve created a topic that may not have been covered by any other sources.
Voice a contrary opinion
If one of your generic topics is opinion-based, one of the easiest ways to spice it up is to take a less popular side, DePhillips says. If you havet a topic like, “Why Social Media is Great for Your Business,” why not take that idea and flip the title to reflect an opposing opinion? Try something like “5 Little-Known Ways Twitter Can Hurt Your Business.” With this title, you’re not adding to the mountains of preexisting, cheery social media content and advice and you’ve gone from a generic social media topic to a more specific post that focuses on Twitter.
Do note, though, that common sense should always prevail when looking for contrary opinions. Remember that you need to protect your brand and reputation, so voicing a highly controversial opinion just for the sake of reaching an untapped market isn’t worth the potential repercussions in some situations.
Find holes in advice
Take your generic topic and do a Google search on it. Read through some of the posts and see if you can find holes in the advice, DePhillips suggests. For instance, if you’re trying to write a topic about how to become an extreme couponer, you’ll see a ton of results with similar content in your search. Read through these posts, see what’s missing, and write about that. You might end up with a topic like, “One Thing Everyone Forgets When Trying to Become an Extreme Couponer.” It’s attention grabbing and more specific, and it helps round out the information that your readership needs.
Read outside of your niche
If you feel like your brain is only spewing out big-picture ideas, it might be time to take a step back, Landau says. Rather than skimming through industry news, read content from a different industry. Sometimes just breaking your reading routine will spark some new, innovative topic ideas. You might come across an interesting topic that you can adapt to your business. For instance, an article about popular summer burger recipes might inspire you to write a seasonal post for your own line of work. What services are in demand during the summer and why, or what other seasonal business trends emerge?
Turn to your bookshelf
When Landau’s idea well dries up, she turns to books.
“Books are my default. When I’m stuck, I like to flip to the index page of any book related to the business or marketing industry and look for fresh ideas,” she says. “How can I apply these ideas to my content? How can I adapt them? What am I missing?”
Most professionals keep a mini library of industry-specific books on hand. When the unique ideas just aren’t coming to you, do what Landau does and use a book’s index to get your ideas flowing.
Look for the numbers
You can spin any generic topic into a unique post by adding some research to it, Landau says. For instance, to make a topic like, “Tips to Save Energy” more specific and informative you can add in your own research findings. Maybe as you’re scanning existing research you realize that washers and dryers cost homeowners big bucks on their energy bill. Use that tidbit to create a post and rework your title to “How to Save $400 a Year on Energy Costs By Upgrading Your Appliances.” Now you’ve got a unique topic that’s supported by research, which your readers will appreciate.
Of course, you can also use research of your own. Consider creating a case study about a specific client or conducting your own survey. A simple survey can yield a ton of results, which you can break down into small, bite-sized topics for your readers.
Answer a question
When you can’t seem to break through a generic theme, try asking yourself how that topic can answer a question for your niche audience, DePhillips suggests.
For instance, DePhillips created “5 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a PR Agency” for her company’s blog. It helps her audience figure out what they should look for when turning to an agency for help.
One of Landau’s recent posts, “If I Register a Sole Proprietorship or a Partnership, How Will I Pay Myself?” helps entrepreneurs tackle questions regarding income.
Think of ways to help your target audience. If you were sitting in their shoes, what questions would you have? What would a novice to your field need to know? Or what do they experts overlook? Make a list of specific questions and write topics based on this list, DePhillips suggests.
Be prepared for inspiration
You never know when an idea is going to pop into your head. You could be inspired while checking out at your local grocery store or browsing your social media feeds. To make sure that great ideas aren’t forgotten, download a few apps on your phone or employ another software system to keep those ideas organized. Here are a few that Landau and her team relies on:
- Wunderlist, an easy way to create lists.
- Pocket, a place where you can save inspiring articles or social media posts.
- Google Keep, a bulletin board of notes and to-do lists.
- Basecamp, a project management tool to keep your ideas organized.
Now that you’ve revived that tired list of generic topics, have a seat and start creating the kind of targeted, valuable content that your audience expects from your brand.