Idea Generation: 9 Proven Techniques That Work

by Mandy Boyle January 4th, 2011 

girl playing with her food

Content copywriting isn't always easy.

OK, it's almost never easy. Between dealing with your muse and thinking about how you're going to make embroidered pot holders sound interesting, there's also that little problem of what the heck you're planning on writing about in the first place.

In the SEO copywriting process, the first thing you need to decide on is what you're planning on writing about in a general sense. For some people, it's deciding on a keyword. For others, it's choosing a specific topic and then suiting the keywords to the subject. No matter which path you decide, the point is to make the decision and then move into the next phase: idea generation.

you can't wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club

So What Are You Writing About?

Idea generation, like copywriting, can be damn difficult, especially when you're under pressure. I've been there and I know what it's like to have only a few hours left and too many pages to write. However, there are some ways that I can speed up the process; get those mental light bulbs flickering.

When I'm stuck on what to write about but have to meet a deadline, here's how I generate ideas for content:

  1. Read Something: Reading usually gives one a fresh perspective, which helps when you're stuck on what to write about. Browsing through your favorite blogs, the headlines, or even a book you've been reading can give your mind a break. All the while, the gears will start to turn with inspiration.
  2. Listen to the Stream: Social media is a wonderful place to start your copywriting assignment. Think about it: social media is like a huge river of ideas. Dipping in can give you a new perspective (or at least a more social one). Spend a few minutes listening to what's happening on Facebook and/or Twitter. You may be surprised when the right idea strikes.
  3. Take a Break: Sometimes walking away from a piece of content can help you sort out your ideas and get a firm grasp on what the focus is. Step away from the keyboard and breathe. Go ahead and get a fresh cup of tea. It'll still be there when you come back. In the meantime, rest and let your mind wander over, around, and through the topic you need to write about. Jot down some notes on where your mind leads.
  4. Study the Competition: Looking at a competitor can also give you some ideas on how to best communicate with your audience while keeping things interesting. Not to mention, you can see what works, what doesn't, and what you can do better. Make it a habit to check up on the competition to see where you can be strengthening your copy. Did the competition approach the subject in a unique way? Was feedback given? Use the findings to your advantage.
  5. Look at the Calendar: Even the time of year can be a great guide into creating interesting content. Consider your topic in the context of the calendar or time. Is the subject relevant to what's going on now? Something that's happening soon? Is there a unique holiday coming up that can somehow relate to your product or service?
  6. Ask for Feedback: Besides being a source of hilarious memes, social media can be a place where you can get honest feedback from those both in and outside your industry. Don't be afraid to ask for some help from those within your social network. See if a connection has a good idea for approaching a content assignment. Get a fresh perspective on the subject matter. Ask for an opinion. It'll only make you a better writer in the long run!
  7. Get Creative: Did you know that coloring can actually help you boost your brain power? Getting crafty or creative with some art supplies can sometimes free up creative energy that's needed to help you generate some awesome SEO copywriting ideas. Give it a try. It'll lift your mood if nothing else.
  8. Check The Notes: I usually keep a notebook (or pile of sticky notes) of passing thoughts I have about certain topics related to my copywriting assignments. When I'm stuck on what to write about, I'll flip back through the pages to see if I have a gem of an idea jotted down. While I may not have the idea firmly in my grasp now, there may have been a time before that it crossed my mind and stuck.
  9. Consider Popularity: Take a look at some of your previous SEO content pages or blog posts. Did you notice a particular subject being more popular? A type of post that did particularly well in terms of backlinks or social media shares? A format that got a lot of comments? Think about what content is most popular for your site and how it can be further utilized to drive traffic.

4 women on a couch waiting for inspiration

All of these methods are great for helping you through the idea generation process, especially when you're feeling particularly lost on a subject. When you take the time to step away, reconsider, or even just look at the topic in a different way, you may find a perspective that's a lot different from where you originally started and sometimes, that's where the best content comes from.

How do YOU generate ideas?

Mandy Boyle

Mandy Boyle gets her daily fix of copywriting as the SEO Team Leader at Solid Cactus. She is also a published freelance writer , co-founder of NEPA BlogCon and was probably a baker in another life. Cupcakes, anyone?

Mandy Boyle

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4 Responses to “Idea Generation: 9 Proven Techniques That Work”

  1. Hi Mandy

    Being fairly new to blogging I haven't so far run out of ideas in my chosen niche. However, my writing style is now a lot more of me rather than just facts that I may find illuminating but others find boring!

    You have given some useful tips for when I do though. Some of my ideas come from questions my commenters ask. They sometimes even suggest posts they would like to read.

    If I get an idea for a post I quickly get it down in a Word document and leave it on my desktop till it's time to post. Then I will go back and edit before publishing. Sometimes it's just a few lines, other times I will just sit and write and finish the post in one sitting.

    Thanks for sharing your content ideas with us Mandy.

    Patricia Perth Australia
    .-= Patricia@lavenderuses recently posted: Are Your Goals Attainable In 2011 =-.

    • Mandy says:

      Hi Patricia,

      So glad that you enjoyed my article!

      Great tip! Getting feedback from your readers can be one of the best ways to generate ideas when you get stuck. Plus, when you respond to that feedback, you show your readers that you value their opinions and are really listening. As a result, you may find that they tell their friends and keep coming back for more. :)

      Also, I've found a kindred spirit! I sometimes keep a Notepad file open on my desktop as well to jot down ideas or even entire posts.

      Thanks for the comment, Patricia!
      Best,
      Mandy

  2. Peter says:

    If i cant create any new ideas, i usually put the headphones on and listen to this music. I've found that some lyric can trigger some sort of idea, or maybe that's just me that that happens to :P

    Your can also create a swipe file (Kinda like your collection of notes) except you focus on smaller things, like a headline to inspire creativity or a bookmark to a web page.

    Great post :)