5 Traditional Content Ideation Techniques That Still Kick Ass Today

This is a guest entry by Jec Gonzales. Jec is a freelance SEO / Content Manager currently handling websites for multiple clients. He also manages a local team of content writers in charge of diverse content marketing campaigns.

Content Marketing

The total number of websites in the world wide web hit the 1 billion mark last September. Websites are popping up faster than Floyd Mayweather’s excuses for ducking Manny Pacquiao, but that’s another story.

With more online marketers veering toward content-focused campaigns, the competition for unique and effective content ideas is becoming a lot tougher.

It’s one thing to generate songs and poems for a girl/guy you’re pining for; being asked to create a campaign for a pesticide business based in the outskirts of Cleveland Ohio is an entirely different matter.

It gets more complicated when you factor in the overwhelming “content marketing” noise out there.

A confused mind always says no, so it’s better (specially for beginners) to focus on the basics first.

Here are 5 proven content ideation techniques that still work today.

1. Hunting the Hunters: the Power of Search Data

Content marketing screenshot


One of the most common pitfalls of content marketing: focusing on the noise outside instead of cleaning house first.

Instead of running after content ideation tools, social networking buzzwords, etc. look into your historical SEARCH data first.

What is search data?

Most websites have its own “search function” (if your site doesn’t have it, add one now). I prefer to use Google Custom Search code generator as the data goes straight to your GA account too.

It works in the same way search engines index websites, only the results are confined to the pages under your domain.

The site search data gives you insight on:

  • what your users are looking for
  • what your users are NOT able to find in your site
  • user behaviour trends

There are so many nuggets of info you can get here that can help you improve your site’s performance, but for the purpose of content ideation, let’s focus on the first two items.

Site search overview

What your users are looking for:

Data Source: Google Analytics > Behaviour > Site Search > Search Terms > Secondary dimension: Start Page

Data above should contain a table showing the search keywords used and origin of the search. This gives you insight on what information/page your users searched for, and what they were reading when they ran the search.

Let’s say majority of the searches came from your page that covers “Manila As A Tourist Destination”. Search queries range from “best restaurants in Manila”; “budget hotels in manila”; to “manila red district“.

If you don’t have pages that cover those topics, those are your next content projects. If you do have those pages, then you need to do a better job of interlinking your pages, as well as designing your site navigation.

What your users are NOT able to find in your site:

Data Source: Google Analytics > Behaviour > Site Search > Search Terms

There should be a table with an item that might be something along the lines of “no-results:Search-keywordXYW”.

Identify the keywords used, create new pages built around it.

Users that run search queries are potential “hot leads” or at least “loyal readers”. Providing them with what they’re searching WITHIN your site should be on top of your content priorities.

2. Turning Numbers into Letters: How to Make 1 + 1 = ROI

Moz blog screenshot

Any kind of search engine traffic you get is traffic with user-intent driven by research.

Researchers are predominantly inclined to treat “numbers” and “data” as stop gaps. Much like how effective subheaders and bullet points stop people from skimming to make them read, numbers make people go from “reading” to “analyzing”.

Case in point: While writing this piece, out of the 15 articles from Moz’s blog frontpage 11 delved into data or had sections that include number analyses.

If you’re struggling to find data-based content ideas for your site, remember that all sorts of industries are based on “research”. There’s a science to everything.

For instance, there’s a reason why grocery stores place dairy and produce at the very back, while snacks and sweets are placed on ailes along your way there.

Your website’s about pesticides? Run “pesticide research” or “pesticide trends” in Google and you’ll find papers with facts and numbers about it. Swap “pesticide” with your site’s main niche and you’ll find the same thing.

Once you’ve got the numbers, you can create infographics or list-based articles to produce an article with viral potential.


3. One Step Backward, 10 Steps Forward: Reverse Engineering Content

Site hierarchy

I once had a client that wanted me to write 10 articles for his site every month. The issue: his website already has an existing content totaling about 800 pages.

The website is already having issues due to its thin content, adding more would only worsen it.

What we did: Instead of adding more pages, we “reverse engineered” his site topics and created “umbrellas” that serve as meeting points.

So instead of the old process of: Site Topic > Site Sub-topics > Subtopic Ideation; we took a few steps backward and created pages that brought his pages together in “clusters”.

Content production is a holistic approach. It shouldn’t be just about the idea of “adding pages”, but on how it makes sense from a user perspective.

If the website is only two-tiered (very common among old sites using Drupal), it makes more sense to add two to three more tiers in between that serve as “glue”, versus adding more articles to the second tier.

4. Human Eyes Humanize: the Art of Repurposing Content

You can only sharpen a blade so much before it breaks. In the same vein, content (particularly those that can go viral) has its breaking points.

So if you’re struggling to come up with something new, why not look into the “old” first then figure out a way to do something “new” with it?

Reddit is great source of traffic when promoting content. It is also a great source of recyclable content ideas.

First, identify subreddits most relevant to your site: Go to reddit, use its search function, then run queries using keywords related to your site.

Open the more popular subreddits. Click the “Hot” tab, then sort it by “Week”, “Month”, “Year”, or “All Time”.

This should give you a list of the most popular articles in that sub (and topic). Pick ones that are a good fit to your site, repurpose.

7. Ways Of Repurposing Content

  • If it’s an infographic, write an article fleshing it out
  • It it’s an article, see if you can create an infographic about it
  • It it’s about numbers, research data to include this year and remake it
  • If it’s seasonal (Valentines, April Fools, etc) and from last year, use it this year
  • If it’s about people, write a “where they are now” article
  • If it’s about an event, write a “event: aftermath” article
  • Compile the most popular, run a “most popular stories of the year” post (you can also do this by location)

8. Content Poaching: Learning From What’s Already Out There


We usually generate link building ideas by analyzing the link profile of our site’s competitors.

We can generate content ideas by following the exact same process.

Using your preferred backlink analysis tool, review incoming links to your competitor sites.

However, instead of just checking the sources of incoming links, check the linked page too.

Analyze and find the “reason” why your competitor’s page was used as a resource. Read the article; afterwards study the link source and identify the “sourcing intent”. Ask yourself:

  • Was it sourced due to a specific data/info?
  • Was it linked because of the general thoughts shared?
  • Was it used as an info reference or resource?

If you can map out the “intent”, you can go beyond duplicating the competitor content and links. Your content can be:

  • A more elaborate version with more info
  • An updated article with a more recent data
  • A consolidation of numerous topics but from the same idea
  • A more in-depth review of ONE of the topics discussed
  • A hybrid article combining info from multiple popular pages

The added value of coming up with a better version: you can create an email outreach campaign asking these link sources to link to your article instead.

You can also follow the same process when doing broken link building from sources like Wikipedia.

In closing, as the content marketing craze goes wilder, the tougher it gets for websites to be relevant. However, “authority” still flows through the “creatives”; that said “new” and “fancy” don’t necessarily translate to creatives.

Traditional methods founded with the user in mind are still effective. I don’t know about you, but I’d take Marilyn Monroe’s “Last Sitting” over Lindsay Lohan’s version of it 100% of the time.

Glen Dimaandal
Glen Dimaandal
Glen Dimaandal is the founder and CEO of SearchWorks.Ph. He has been doing SEO since 2008 and is consistently featured in mainstream media and industry conferences. His core skills include SEO, SEM, data analytics and business development.
Glen Dimaandal
Glen Dimaandal
Glen Dimaandal is the founder and CEO of SearchWorks.Ph. He has been doing SEO since 2008 and is consistently featured in mainstream media and industry conferences. His core skills include SEO, SEM, data analytics and business development.