Part one of my gigantic list of content ideas seemed to go down well, so here’s the second half – 25 more! If you missed the first part, you can find it here.
Who doesn’t love a good list? The beauty of them is that they’re easy to read, remember and refer to, and they almost can’t help but conform to web writing best practice. This post is a good example. 😉
When I say news, I don’t mean boring, bog-standard press releases. Adding a news section to your site provides fresh new content on a regular basis, and can be used to report on recent news for your industry, thereby capitalising on traffic for ‘hot topics’. Skyscanner’s Travel News and Features section is a good example, with an entertaining mix of travel advice and topical news stories, such as this one on a flight attendant accused of smuggling pet rats in her underwear…
Build up a reputation for providing honest reviews of products or services in your area, and you’ll gain repeat visitors as well as long-tail search traffic from people searching for specific products. The best reviews are balanced, and come from experts – so try to stick to what you know. Your reviews could meet the needs of a particular group of people; Mumsnet, for example, does product reviews that fit with its ‘by parents for parents’ mission, with reviews written by parents and angled towards others with children. Here’s a product review I wrote about BuzzStream.
Trends are frequently analysed in our industry – for example this post from Econsultancy on top search trends in 2012. But trend analysis makes for interesting content in any industry, and it’s a great way of showing your expertise in a particular area while providing valuable insights and statistics that journalists love quoting. You can make use of your own data, looking at things like changes in buying patterns or what products are most popular in different regions, or you could provide your own insight and analysis into data provided by an industry body, such as ABTA, or the Government, such as the data available on data.gov.uk. Here’s what TravelSupermarket did – the Travel Trends Tracker.
Type “how to” into the Google AdWords Keyword Tool and the estimated volume (phrase match) is 414,000,000 global monthly searches. That’s pretty revealing about the world’s search habits, and also indicates massive potential for tapping into searches beginning with “how to”. Here’s a recent example from CNET’s How To series, How to connect an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch to your TV.
Essentially a specific form of ego-bait, creating a ‘who to follow’ resource should help earn social mentions from the people on the list as well as those who found it a helpful bit of content. Here’s a cleverly titled example from PCMag of 140 characters to follow on Twitter.
Conducting a survey or poll into an interesting topic in your area of expertise, and then publishing the results, is a fairly easy way to create original content,
Creating a regularly recurring feature on your site, such as a column or weekly video, gives people something to look forward to, and is a great way of ensuring a steady stream of new content. Make sure you stick to it though – if you promise a regular feature, for example on a certain day of each week, you’ll look unreliable if you don’t keep to your word! Delia’s Menu of the Month is a nice example. You could even borrow from the world of newspapers and make your regular feature an ‘agony aunt’ column, just like TalkTalk – it doesn’t have to be about relationships, just any problem a reader might have.
Got a complex concept that you’re struggling to simplify and convey, or just want to explain or sell something in a different way to stand out? How about creating an animation! Here’s one about how food is recycled.
Not many commercial sites offer podcasts as a content type, so this could be a good way for you to stand out from the crowd, demonstrate your expertise and give your readers something interesting to listen to on their morning commute. Here’s a nice example from STA Travel.
As the wealth of TV programmes along the lines of “Holidays from Hell” and “When Vacations Attack” shows, people love hearing about what happens when things go wrong. The desire not to get things wrong (and thereby avoid embarrassment) is arguably a more powerful motivator than the desire to get things right, so provide your readers with a handy reference guide to things they should avoid, or how not to do something, in your industry. This format, which I’m calling an ‘anti how to guide’, works across the full spectrum of humour to seriousness: from the Times Higher Education on how not to write a PhD thesis, to the Huffington Post on things you should never do after a break-up, to the Oatmeal’s infographic on how to NOT sell something to my generation.
I’m not talking about Roswell or the Moon landings… I’m talking about tackling common misperceptions in your industry. I’m sure there are a few! Here’s one on ABC about six myths of airline travel.
There are so many online tools these days that it can be a bit overwhelming. When we’re all pushed for time, taking the time to learn how to use a new tool, or learning how to make more of the tools we already use, can get shoved to the bottom of the To Do list. So make someone’s life easier by writing a handy guide to how to get started with (and make the most of) a useful tool that’s relevant to your industry. Here’s a good one on Lifehacker.com – ‘I’ve been using Evernote all wrong. Here’s why it’s actually amazing’.
Potentially a risky strategy, but one that can draw in the crowds. Just make sure it’s for the right reasons – don’t take it too far! You may find that this tactic works best when you pick a topic that’s at the forefront of everyone’s minds, when anybody who goes against the grain will stand out and get noticed. There are plenty of controversial topics on Debate.org if you’re in need of inspiration, but be prepared for a mixed response.
As an industry, we’re used to seeing conference speakers sharing their slides after an event. But this is a content type that you can also use on your site to showcase your expertise on a particular topic, and to provide advice or resources in a format that’s nice and easy for readers to digest – and to use themselves. Here’s a nice example from JESS3 – ten things CEOs need to know about design.
Old-fashioned perhaps, but people do still read email newsletters if they feel they get value from them, and they can be a good way of highlighting and driving traffic to new content as and when it’s added to your website. Here’s a nice example I received last week from National Geographic, encouraging readers to visit the website to share their travel photos. They’ve even brought the email newsletter format right up to date by signing off with a hashtag – #letsexplore.
One form of ego-bait is to ask experts for their opinions, thereby creating useful content as well as widening your reach, as in this Econsultancy post on content marketing in 2013. Other ego-bait methods are discussed below. Here’s another example – our very own Matthew Taylor talking about SEO over on the Copify blog.
Do you feel you need to inject a breath of fresh air into your blog or magazine site? A guest editor could be just the thing you’re looking for. The papers do it, and so do the Today Programme on Radio 4 and The Radio 2 Arts Show. So why not let an interesting person from your profession – or your company – take over your blog or social media account for a day? With plenty of prior promotion and social media to create a buzz around it, of course. As for the format, it’s up to you. For some inspiration, here’s the news that Snoop Dogg (sorry – Snoop Lion) was to guest edit on the Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog…
It’s the season of giving and sharing, so what better time to put out a great bit of content than the run-up to Christmas? With many companies now more conscious of their impact on the planet’s resources, it’s becoming increasingly popular to do online versions of Christmas cards rather than wasting trees. I’m not talking about those naff e-cards that there was a craze for about a decade ago. A great example is the Torchbox Christmas Choir, which featured each member of the team singing a different note, and allowed users to make up their own tune by clicking on each person, or to play pre-recorded ones. The Knightrider theme was one, prompting a tweet from none other than Mr. Hasselhoff himself. Also on the festive theme, perhaps you could try an advent calendar, revealing exclusive offers, entertaining images or mind-blowing facts behind each door.
The enduring popularity of the ‘For Dummies’ books surely indicates that there’s a big market for content that simplifies – so why not exploit this and produce a ‘dummy’s guide’ to something in your industry? It’ll be a useful resource that could serve as a blog post, static content, a downloadable PDF or even an infographic, and if you pick your topic carefully, it could prove very popular. You don’t need to use the ‘dummy’ word if you don’t want to – it’s the concept, of providing a simple, easy-to-digest introduction to a topic, that matters. For something a bit more sophisticated, for example, you could try something like ‘for the uninitiated’ or even just ‘beginner’s guide’. Here’s one the NHS did on running tips for beginners.
Conducting your own experiments into things relevant to your industry, and then publishing and promoting the results, is a great way to get noticed at the same time as pushing the boundaries of research and helping others to learn. This is more applicable to some industries than others, but it’s certainly a format that works well in the world of SEO, in which nobody really knows exactly what affects rankings and by how much. Experiments we’ve conducted and written about on our blog have proved some of our most popular posts, such as this one by Marcus Taylor on what happens when you build 10,000 dodgy links to a new domain in 24 hours.
Solving common problems is a good way of bringing in long-tail traffic from people who are trying to find out why something isn’t working for them. As an example, this advice from Total Jobs is one of the results for a search for ‘why can’t I find a job’.
No, I don’t mean a spammy directory! I mean a useful resource aimed at a particular niche, such as this example from The Next Web – 20 incredibly useful tools and resources for web designers.
Don’t let your offline publications go to waste; they too can be helping drive traffic online. So if you have company brochures, magazines or guides lying about in the office, get them online as downloadable PDFs, HTML pages or iPhone/iPad/mobile/tablet versions. Thomas Cook does this with its extensive range of brochures, which are available in Thomas Cook shops or viewable online. You could go a step further and create an exclusively digital version of a popular offline format, just as Net-a-Porter does with The Edit Magazine.
The great thing about user generated content is that you get your readers to do the work for you; all you need to do is collate and publish it. It’s the same principle as the ‘letters to the editor’ section you find in magazines and newspapers, only the internet makes it even easier to source other people’s opinions and make it into content of your own. In fact, it’s as easy as finding a Twitter hashtag on something relevant to your industry, picking out a few interesting ones, and cobbling them together under a heading such as ‘what Twitter is saying about the royal baby’ – just like Fox News did. (Yeah I may have written this last week but I just had to edit it to get in a mention of the topic on everyone’s lips…!)
And on that bombshell, my list of 50 content ideas has reached its conclusion. If you have any ideas you think should be on the list, I’d love to hear them – leave a comment below or let me know on Twitter, @RachelsWritings.