11 resources to discover content ideas for your editorial calendar

/ January 22, 2019 / No Comments / In Content & SEO - Content Strategy / By

Imagine you have a large extended and close family of, say, 30 uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, etc. Every year come Christmas, all are expecting Christmas gifts.

With such so many gifts to acquire and gift, you begin jotting down ideas two months in advance. But even though you’ve known them your entire life (or their entire lives) and know exactly what makes them laugh, tick, and cry, where and how will you even begin to look?

Each one of them has his or her own passions and needs. Finding the perfect gift that treads that fine line of fulfilling an expectation or satisfying a need while keeping within your budget isn’t easy.

Now, I don’t know many people who need to find 30 perfect Christmas gifts. But the basis of such a problem is one that resonates with many content marketers when it’s time to craft an editorial calendar.

Ideally, content ideas should flow from the knowledge you have acquired about your target audience. But not every idea is feasible. Those that require more time, budget, or resources than you have available are immediately discarded. And that also goes for those that don’t fit your content marketing goals.

Having created our fair share of editorial calendars for both ourselves and our clients at Dear Content, we know just how frustrating this process can be. That’s why we’ve decided to put together our list of top 11 resources from which we find inspiration and ideas to build a editorial calendar:

  • Idea Backlog
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Search Console
  • Content archive
  • SEMrush
  • Buzzsumo
  • Quora
  • AnswerThePublic
  • Industry News
  • Grandma’s Calendar
  • News Calendar

Idea Backlog

This is perhaps the most obvious, which makes it a good place to start.

If you have the habit of updating and revising your idea backlog consistently throughout the year, this should be the first place you go to when it’s time to plan your next editorial calendar.

If you aren’t already doing so, include links and references to the source every time you add a new idea to your backlog. Be as detailed as possible — especially the ones that come out of the blue (like the one that popped up because the article you were reading reminded you of the conversation the lady in the bus was having with her friend as you headed into work this morning).

Oh yes, sparks of ideas can come from the most random and windy of roads your creative mind decides to embark on.

To ensure your content strategy is more SEO-oriented, make the extra effort to insert data (keyword search volume, keyword difficulty level, etc) that can help with prioritising your content.

Google Analytics

What better place to discover content ideas than the source that can direct you to the exact piece of content that connected most with your audience.

We’re talking about pages that are generating the most organic traffic, conversions, engagement, and have the lowest bounce rates.

Try to spot similarities among your best-performing pages: Are they of the same topic or category? Do they have similar page types or formats?

The GA reports that can best help with generating content ideas are:

  • Behaviour → Site Content → Landing Pages: This is to find out which pages are attracting the most traffic for your site. Contrast session numbers, which are purely quantitative, to other more-qualitative metrics such as bounce rate or the number of pages per session. Likewise for traffic data vs conversion rate.
  • Conversions → Goals → Goal URLs: This will tell you on which pages you’re getting the most conversions.
  • Conversions → Attribution → Model Comparison Tool: By selecting the landing page dimension in this tool, you will find the content that’s generating the most conversions — be it as a first or last interaction. You’ll also find that the results may differ drastically between them, especially for content targeted at TOF (top of the funnel).
  • Acquisition → Social → Landing Pages: This lists the most-shared URLs on social media.

Google Search Console

Now that you know just which content is generating the most interest, the natural next step is to search for content ideas on Google Search Console.

It’s one thing to know which pages attract the most traffic and generate the most leads, and another to know what your readers are searching for when they get to your site.

Do not assume that the main search term that’s driving traffic to your page is the keyword for which your page is optimised. Google Search Console may surprise you.

Let’s say you have an article titled “20 most popular diets in 2018” on your e-commerce site for natural weight loss products. In your Google Search Console, you may come across search terms such as:

  • What’s a ketogenic diet
  • Free diet plans
  • Fat burning food

These are likely to be secondary search terms that are somehow related to your main keyword or the topic of your article, and not to mention great sources of new content ideas.

Content Archive

You may have all your content obsessively organised and categorised with colour tabs and codes in a software or online tool. Or you may just have them listed on a simple spreadsheet.

However you have them organised, it’s important to look back at your content history once in a while. What you’re looking for here isn’t the best performing content nor keyword but simply ALL the content you’ve ever published.

More specifically, these two opportunities:

  1. Articles on very general topics
  2. Articles on very specific topics

Articles On Very General Topics

With articles that deal with very general topics, there’s a high chance you’ll be able to develop the different points into a standalone article. This is especially so for articles that are divided into bullet points or sections, such as listicles.

This also allows you to produce more valuable and useful content for your audience. In general, the more specific the and in-depth the content, the more value it holds.

Articles On Very Specific Topics

You can do just the opposite for articles addressing very specific topics — ascertain a common underlying topic among several articles and using these to produce a single piece of long format, such an in-depth guide.

This is great for keyword or topic clustering.

Let’s go back to the example of e-commerce diet products. Here are the articles on the site:

  • Fat accumulation and its health risks
  • Most effective fat-reducing food
  • Is diet or sport more effective for burning fat?
  • Advice on how to burn fat.

Each of these addresses, in its own way, different aspects of essentially the same overarching subject. And they all target the same audience and are related to the same generic search intent.

The idea is to make full use of all this material by consolidating the content and organising it into sections that will form one single long format content.

And of course, it’s not about copying and pasting one article after another. Rewriting and re-phrasing will be required as even though the crux of the information is the same, the user’s search intent for long formats isn’t and your content will have to adapt accordingly.

One added advantage with this is that you can easily highlight the key ideas of each article and include a link to the original piece for readers who want a deeper look into said content.

SEMrush

I’m sure we’re not alone when we say we at Dear Content often use SEMrush when we need a quick dose of inspiration — be it for ourselves for our clients.

It’s a tool that offers endless possibilities. But what we particularly like about it how it allows you to ‘spy’ on your competitors. It’s like a mini gold mine of ideas inspired by your competitors.

Note: inspired, not copied. Or as Picasso puts it:

“Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

Here are three reports from which you can obtain data or information regarding your competitor’s content that will help you get inspired:

  1. Domain overview: Enter your competitor’s domain and get a list of keywords that are generating the most organic traffic and the landing pages the traffic is driving them to.
  2. Backlink analytics: Under the ‘Indexed Pages’ tab of the backlinks analysis (in Domain Analytics), you’ll find the pages that are getting the most backlinks. With this, you can begin to analyse the type of content that’s worked best for your competitors in generating backlinks and the possible reasons for their success (content format, topic, focus, etc). Use this as a base to work on and create your own ideas.
  3. Keyword Gap: This tool allows you to compare your keywords with those of your competitors to identify common and exclusive keywords. A simple trick to quickly get content ideas is to look for keywords exclusive to your competitors. Export the list and analyse the possibilities.
  4. Keyword Gap: This tool allows you to compare your keywords with those of your competitors to identify common and exclusive keywords. A simple trick to quickly get content ideas is to look for keywords exclusive to your competitors. Export the list and analyse the possibilities.
SEMrush's keyword gap tool for content ideas

→ If you’d like to read more about using SEMrush to generate content ideas, check out our step-by-step guide on creating a content benchmark.

BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo is a tool that breaks down the most-shared content by industry, audience, company, or topic.

To give you an example, let’s look at the most popular content in the content marketing world over the past month.

 

Example of how to use Buzzsumo to get content ideas

From the overview, we see that the most popular content (in terms of shares) is related to forward planning. More specifically, planning for 2019.

The topics you see here that are generating the most chatter now and over the past few months are precisely the information you need to plan out your editorial calendar.

(Clearly, December’s a good month to be producing content related to marketing goals, strategy, roadmaps, tools, editorial calendars, etc.)

Quora

Quora, if you don’t already know, is one of the best places to find out the questions your audience is asking and how they’re asking them.

Not only is this a direct source of content ideas, spending time on Quora regularly brings you closer to the minds of your audience. And the constant exposure can help you think like your audience and reduce the effort needed to generate content ideas.

One of the best Quora hacks we’ve tried is an acquisition strategy mentioned in this article by Matthew Barby. If you’re searching for Quora questions with the highest potential to generate organic traffic, look no further. The strategy basically consists of five simple steps:

  • Do a search on SEMrush for the domain Quora.com under “Domain Analytics”
  • Click on the “Organic Research tab”
  • Expand the Top Organic Keywords table
  • Filter the results by searching for your main keyword or topic
  • Sort the results by search volume
Example of how to use SEMrush and Quora to get content ideas

Matthew uses this technique to identify and answer relevant Quora questions to drive qualified traffic to your site. But this can also be used to identify a specific topic and inspire content ideas.

AnswerThePublic

Another useful tool that helps to spot relevant questions is AnswerThePublic. It calls itself the ‘free visual keyword research & content ideas tool’ — and it is.

With AnswerThePublic, content ideas are sorted by syntax, and it answers the ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’, ‘how’, and more of the keyword entered.

Example of how to use AnswerThePublic to get content ideas

Here are the results of a search we did on the keyword ‘content marketing’. From why content marketing fails to why content marketing works, simply trying to answer all these questions will give you endless ideas for your content strategy.

Plus, by identifying the question word used in the question, this presents content optimisation opportunities to appear as featured snippets in search engine results.

Industry News

Evergreen content is scalable by nature. But the downside to focusing only on evergreen content is neglecting the potential of time-sensitive content such as news.

The shelf life of news-related content is short. As soon as the piece of news stops becoming news, traffic to this content will likely drop and sharing this on social media will no longer make much sense.

Nevertheless, news presents its own opportunities for content and if you know how to take full advantage of it, the results can be considerably substantial — and may even go viral.

Writing about the aspects your company specialises in and can thus offer expert and insider insights about can establish your brand as authoritative and an industry leader.

And despite its short life span, news-related content is more likely to be shared. That means its impact across social media or even the media is larger than evergreen content.

A good source of content ideas is industry news itself. Depending on your industry, general news may suffice. But if you’re in a niche industry, you’ll need to hone in on more specialised media.

To do this, besides Google news, you may also consider other media monitoring tools such as Meltwater, Mention, Brandmentions, etc. Although some of these tools are meant for tracking a brand’s media mentions, you may also use it for news-related content opportunities by either tracking a certain keyword or even your competitors.

As soon as you have identified a news opportunity to which your company can lend its expertise, get to work immediately. Remember that news is short-lived. Choose your opportunity and time your content production so that its release coincides with when the news is still relevant.

Grandma’s Calendar

This isn’t your editorial calendar that’s waiting to be filled nor the one you just completed. This is your day-to-day calendar — be it the digital one on your smartphone or the physical one hanging in your grandmother’s kitchen.

It sounds simple and perhaps even unfulfilling. But the calendar can serve as a well of content inspiration. All you have to do is identify the dates that are relevant to your audience and find ways to align your content with them.

Every industry will have dates, festive seasons, occasions, or even events that are relevant. The trick is to incorporate them into your editorial calendar and ride on its relevance as the date nears.

Consider Valentine’s Day. If you’re a florist, there are thousands of content ideas you can produce in the weeks leading up to February 14: what does each type of flower represent, how to choose the ideal bouquet, etc. If you’re a freelance writer, you may consider creating a guide on how to write love messages that make hearts race.

And even if you’re in the logistics sector, there’s still something for you: an infographic on the production and logistics of a Valentine’s Day rose.

example of how to use a calendar for content ideas

News Calendar

Another way of making use of the calendar is by incorporating the previously mentioned point on news.

News is fluid. It’s constantly changing and requires round-the-clock updates. What happens today may no longer be as relevant the following week. But it may resurface again in a few months.

Let’s take the recently restarted US-China trade talks for example. At the height of trade tensions and tariffs impositions last year, this was relevant news to many different industries and companies around the globe.

But when both countries agreed to a temporary truce till 2 March 2019, the chatter died down. All that meant was that news on the trade war wasn’t as relevant as it was during its peak. But it certainly wasn’t dead.

As soon as further important developments are expected, you can expect the topic to be on the front page of every media outlet again. If your company has any dealings with the trade industry, you’ll want to keep track of developments as they present good opportunities for content.

About The Author Lin Lin's an ex-journalist who's found her new love in content marketing. In her spare time, she's on a secret conquest to find a solution to never having to cut her nails again.
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