Some people are afraid of spiders, some people are afraid of clowns (that’s understandable), while others are afraid of buttons (weird, but true—I knew one such person). I have a more rational fear: crazy rollercoasters, and drowning. Luckily, both are easy to deal with. I can choose what rollercoasters to ride on (unless my husband tries to trick me into one, which he did quite successfully Christmas 2013). For the latter, I know how to swim, but I avoid going far out at sea. What I can’t avoid, however, is the sea of content that’s all around us. Are we in danger of drowning in a sea of blandness?
Content is more important than ever. People love to read things on the Internet, and that’s why businesses devote so much of their time to publishing fresh content on their website, blogs, and social media profiles. The problem is that the majority of this copy isn’t very good. In fact, there’s only one word to describe most of the content on the web. Actually, there are more, but let’s keep this PG-13. A majority of the content on the Internet today is crappy. There’s nothing I hate more than crappy content, and Google isn’t a big fan of it either.
The Quality Content Days Are In
The days when you could stuff meaningless content with keywords, and wait for it to be stumbled upon by unlucky consumers, are long gone. Google is looking for content that’s original, high quality, and informative. If your business is still relying on generic or, to use our adage, crappy content, then you’re wasting your time.
So there’s the problem. You know that you need fresh, exciting content, but how do you create it when there are so many words already out there?
It’s not easy, but then when has anything worth doing ever been easy? Take my hand. I’m going to show you 25 ways to come up with fresh and engaging content.
1. Become The Customer
Today, we’re going to be looking at creating content from a commercial point of view, but it can help you with everything from writing a love letter, to creating a resume, or penning your life story. There’s nothing wrong with commercial writing. If that’s what you do for a living, embrace it and be proud of it. Your words can help someone discover and then buy a fantastic product or service that can change their life. Who needs a Pulitzer Prize?
To become a successful copywriter, you have to see things from the customer’s point of view. Let’s imagine your writing about a new bed. Don’t see it from the bed maker’s point of view (our beds cost from $899, and the mattresses come with extra deep rust resistant springs, and stain resistant fabrics – boring!), but from the customer’s point of view. Today, there’s nothing you want more than a new bed. What are you looking for? What will excite you about a bed? How about ‘our beds come with 20% added fun, our super spring technology means you can bounce up and down on it for the rest of your life, and it won’t let you down’?
2. Write From The Heart
To create good content, you have to believe in what you’re writing. I’m talking ethics here, so watch out. A copywriter has to be honest to be believable. Never try to push something that you wouldn’t use yourself. If you don’t smoke, how can you write compellingly about a cigarette brand? If you’re not married, how can you write about the joy of getting an hour’s peace on your own? You get the idea. Modern consumers are intelligent and sophisticated, despite what you may think after watching ‘Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?’, and they can smell falseness a mile away.
Before you start writing, immerse yourself in the brand. Get to know what’s truly great about it. Have you convinced yourself of its merits so much, that you want to rush to the store and buy one? The store can wait, it’s time to pick up the pen.
3. Question Everything
Children question everything. Why is the sun round? Why can’t frogs speak? Why is water wet? Why do I have to go to bed? Why was mom shouting at you? It’s one of their most annoying, er, I mean endearing attributes. You were once that way too, but as we get older we tend to go with the flow and accept things more. It’s time to rediscover your inner child.
I’m not talking about climbing back into your shorts and smearing jam across your face. Leave that for later. What you need to do is question everything. Why is this car dealership so great? Why do I need a new car? What difference will a new set of wheels make to my life? Once you find the right questions, you’ll be able to create high quality copy by coming up with the answers.
4. Learn From The Great Writers
It’s often said that there are only seven basic plots, and they make up all of the books ever written. That’s nonsense, of course, or else all books would be the same. Do you see the similarities between ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘Gone Girl’. If you said ‘no, there aren’t any’, then go to the top of the class. If you said ‘yes, they’re both about a woman’, then put the dunce’s cap on. Great writers know that there are an infinite number of stories waiting to be written. Every year, fantastic new books come out, that put a completely new twist on a perhaps familiar theme.
As it is for novels, so it is for Internet content. Just because you’re writing about a subject that’s already been covered, doesn’t mean that your piece can’t be unique. Never plagiarize, that’s writing poison. You’re an individual with your own personal take on things that’s different to that of anybody else. Now get typing, and get it out there. That’s what our great writers did, from Homer to Hemingway.
5. Seek Out Fresh Content
How many times a day do you see potential content? If you said less than a hundred, then you’re either not trying hard enough, or you never leave your bed. Content is in everything we see, and in everything we do. One of today’s SEO gurus and a principal member of Stone Temple Consulting, posted a useful Moz Whiteboard Friday Video on this very subject. Watch it and learn.
As an example, just yesterday I was in a famous coffee shop. I won’t give their name away, but they treat you like a star, and the drinks don’t cost big bucks. When I went for a second cup, the barista smiled at me and said, ‘I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten your name?’ I’d never been there before. Later, she brought my drink over and called me my name as if I was an old acquaintance. I thought to myself, ‘what a great example of providing exceptional customer service by creating familiarity, I must use it in my writing’. And now, my friend, I have. Content is everywhere.
6. Shun The Sequel
It’s easy to churn out the same thing again and again, but if you do that your writing’s going to be staler than last week’s bread. Sequels are the enemy of creativity, and I should know because tomorrow I’m writing ’25 more fresh content ideas, revenge of the content’. No, I’m not. It’s a temptation that every copywriter faces. Why not stick to writing about the same subject every time? Why not simply change the words around a little? Because by doing that, you’re diluting and lowering the quality of the content. Remember, content quality is key to achieving high search rankings.
7. Read A Lot, Learn A Little
Do you read other articles on copywriting, and marketing? You should. Every time I read, I learn something new. I devour the articles and blogs on sites such as Moz and Mashable. The great thing about them is that the best ones are always well written, and interesting to read. You’re learning at the same time as you’re having fun. It’s like being back at school without having the dread of a double math lesson looming on the horizon. There are great content writers out there, follow their work, learn from it, and one day you can be a great content writer too.
8. Become An Inventor
Are you full of great ideas? My husband is one of these types of people. He is a problem solver, just loves to think of new ideas, and I think he would be a great inventor. In fact, he has something on his mind now that would solve probably millions of people’s problems. It’s just getting off the ground with the idea that is hard. When you create fresh content, the great thing is you can come up with any idea and produce it simply through writing. So, don’t be afraid to invent. Try to create something completely new every time you write, and one day you’ll succeed.
9. Brain Storm Your Content
Do you share your ideas with your audience before you commit them to paper (or screen)? If not, then you’re missing out on high quality feedback that’s freely available. You probably already have writer or marketing contacts via social media platforms or email. It only takes a moment to run titles and ideas past them. The most important thing about feedback is to listen to it, not ignore it. By taking on board suggestions that your peers make, you can create content that’s as fresh and exciting as a cross between Game Of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Lost and Mad Men. I don’t know how that would work (drug running advertising execs running around an island with swords?), but I know that it would be fresh and exciting.
10. Keep Up With The News
What’s the best thing about the news? The clue’s in the title. It’s new everyday (even if you’re watching Fox). By tailoring your content so that it relates to a current news story, you can make it up to the minute and relevant. Again, that’s going to score you points from that mysterious Google algorithm. Do you want an example? I’m here to help. Kira Kazantsev has just become the third Miss New York in a row to win Miss America. It doesn’t take much to work that into a story about how the New York economy is recovering from the recession, or it could be linked to a product or service that’s associated with NYC. ‘It’s great news for the city that never sleeps, if you’re having trouble sleeping, you need our new bed with super spring technology’. Something like that.
11. Travel Broadens The Mind
We all love our vacations, right? Whether you holiday in the States or travel abroad, you’re sure to pick up lots of interesting facts. Work them naturally into your writing, to spice up your content. I’m going to Japan soon. In Japan they used to use conch shells to communicate across the battlefield, how much easier would it have been if they’d had social media? There’s a content idea right there: ’10 ways a ninja would use the Internet’.
12. Hire A Professional
This blog is all about coming up with fresh content ideas, you know that, you read the title. It doesn’t mean that you have to write them yourself. We all have different skills, so don’t feel ashamed if you don’t have the ability to write the content yourself. Don’t be scared to hire a professional copywriter, and always seek out the best. High quality professional copywriters are battle hardened professionals. They laugh in the face of a 3000-word report on fruit consumption in North America. They can make your rough ideas shine like a brilliant diamond around the neck of Scarlett Johansson at the Academy Awards.
How do you find the best quality content writers? There’s a lot of average writers out there, remember the crappy content? The best way to get the writer you need is to approach a reputable writing company, they’ll take time to find the best content writers in the world today.
13. Tell A Story
Business and marketing are exciting subjects, really they are, but it may not come across that way. If your content is too reliant on statistics, facts and figures, you’re going to go from brilliant to boring in twenty seconds. Forget the figures, and tell a story. Grab your reader’s interest. They can be as excited by a blog about fresh content ideas, as they can by the latest Lee Child novel.
14. Look To The Future
There’s one sure way to create fresh and exciting content, and that’s by looking to the future rather than dwelling on the present. Are you writing about a new social media platform that’s being launched. Don’t talk about how many users it has at the present, look at how it’s going to transform the way we live in ten year’s time. Go for the big story. The great thing about writing about the future is that it encourages you to unleash your imagination, and you can never be proved wrong. Unless you’re one of those authors who wrote about how robots would take over the world in 2000. That’s actually going to happen in 2016.
15. Learn From The Past
Look to the future, learn from the past—by now you must be feeling dizzy. By learning from the past, I’m not talking about copying things that have been done before. You can use the past as a reference point for the present. Contrasts are always an interesting starting point for content. For example, 43% of people using online dating sites actually met up in 2005, but now that figure is around 66%. What’s caused the leap? Whatever the answer is, it can be content gold.
16. Go Fishing
Do you love Twitter? I do. Not only is it one of my best marketing tools, but there are little things that make it fun. You can see what’s trending right now, tailor it to different cities, and different countries. Basically, Twitter can show you what the world cares about at any given time. The results may scare you, but there you are.
Once you know what people are excited about, you can work that into your content. It means that people will be interested in what you have to say, and your content is at the cutting edge of what’s happening today. You could write about national constitution day for example, and talk about how rules and regulations influence our lives.
17. Excite Yourself
Are you excited about what you’ve written? No? Then press that delete button and try again. Deadline be damned, if you want to write fresh content, you have to be excited by it. Whatever you write, always ask yourself how you could inject a little more pizazz.
18. Hold On To Your Ideas
Do you find that while you’re writing about one subject, ideas on other subjects keep coming into your head? That’s good! It shows you’re well on the way to becoming a content king or queen. But what happens if you forget that idea? It’s lost forever.
The great poet Coleridge once woke from a drug fueled sleep (that’s how poets behaved back then) to find that he’d composed an epic poem in his head. He remembered all 300 lines word for word, and it was the best thing he’d ever written. He set down to commit the words to paper. After 54 lines, he heard a knock on the door. What happened next? All we know is that ‘a person from Porlock’ was there. After they’d finished their conversation, Coleridge had forgotten every word of the poem to come. The poem, ‘Kubla Khan’, remains brilliant but unfinished to this day. Don’t let a person from Porlock rob you of your great ideas. Write down every idea, good or bad, that comes into your head. You now have a treasure trove for future content creation.
19. Build A Brand
Content writing is a great way to build brand awareness, if used correctly. To do this, you have to fully understand the brand that you’re writing for, or about. Let the business influence your writing, so that your words complement and enhance the corporate values they already have.
20. Enforce A No Waffle Zone
We have a million distractions in our life today, but people still love to read. What they don’t love to read is waffle. If you’re droning on about some academic point, they’ll start to think about what they’re going to eat later, or who might make the Superbowl this year. Go back through your work with a fine tooth comb, and cut out the words that don’t need to be there. In this way your content will be lean and fresh.
21. A Picture Tells A Thousand Words
A good starting point when you’re writing on a subject, is to hop over to Google, and find images on the subject. Pictures speak to us in a more direct way than words ever can. What are the pictures saying to you? What emotions are stirring? Put these emotions into your content, and if you feel yourself flagging, look at the images again.
22. Go The Extra Mile
If you think that writing is something you can do as a hobby, then you’re never going to succeed. Commit to it. Write as much as you can, and build up your writing muscle. Don’t succumb to distractions, and by that I mean that you should never have a radio on while you’re working. Before you know it, the rhythms of the latest Miley Cyrus song will have seeped into your writing, and nobody wants that. Be prepared to go the extra mile, and your content will love you for it.
23. Let The Keywords Sweep You Away
Keywords are still important, but they have to be used naturally and in the context of high value content. A great way to find relevant keywords is by using a tool such as Wordstream or the Google Keyword Tool. Long-tail keywords are another clue as to what people are really excited by and looking for. Never build content around keywords, but you can use these keywords to inspire a fresh take on established ideas.
24. Reverse The Perspective
If you ride rollercoasters, do you feel fresh when you’re turned on your head? Not really, but your content will do. By reversing the perspective you can take your readers on an exhilarating rollercoaster ride. Instead of writing ‘5 ways that quality content can grow your business’, why not create something much fresher by writing ‘5 ways that bad content will destroy a business’?
25. Make It The Last Thing You Ever Write
I don’t want to get morbid here, but none of us know how much time we’ve got left. Do you often wonder how prisoners on death row choose their last meal? I think I’d have to choose something that took a really long time to eat. Or maybe a cheese omelet. What would you write if you knew that it was the last thing you would ever write? You’d really put your heart and soul into it, and make it as good as it possibly could be. You should do this with every single piece of content you write, and always finish with a bang!