As a content marketer, sometimes coming up with new content ideas is extremely challenging. Never mind great content ideas that are going to move the needle for your website.
We’ve all been there. Everything is great when you first start writing for a website – there are a ton of untapped opportunities and brilliant ideas flowing.
However, after you’ve been writing for a website for a couple of years, things may begin to feel more challenging.
Leveraging the many content ideation tools available will not only help you address this challenge, but it will also ensure your topic ideas are backed by data.
12 Awesome Tools for Data-Backed Content Ideas
In this post, you’ll discover a variety of content ideation tools to use when brainstorming new content ideas and building an editorial calendar set up for success.
There are many ways to spike content ideas using SEMrush; however, one of my favorites is by using the new Topic Research tool. You can plug in a topic area or domain to generate related information and ideas.
By analyzing the most popular subtopics, headlines that are earning the most links, interesting/related questions being asked and more, you’ll be able to craft a post that truly resonates with your target audience.
This will also give you a solid idea of what sites and assets you’ll be going up against.
Use the filters to sort by:
Volume (for the most popular searches)
Difficulty (for quick-win opportunities)
Efficiency (for both volume and difficulty)
Additionally, you can save ideas to “Favorite Ideas” to go back to them later.
2. FAQ Fox
This content ideation tool displays the questions that people are asking around the keyword target at hand.
You can enter specific sites to scrape, or pick from suggested categories of sites to search from.
Essentially, the tool asks search engines to find what, why, how, and where in the titles and meta data that incorporates the keyword.
This tool is especially powerful for a few key reasons. It helps figure out:
How users are typing in questions and the language they are using
Questions that users aren’t finding answers to in search results
Answers to the questions with supporting information that can be leveraged to create the asset
In addition to searching across relevant forum sites and social media platforms, search your competitors’ sites to see what questions they are answering around a particular topic.
Quora is a fantastic community, especially to determine what type of information people are looking for around a particular subject.
The platform allows you to search by topic, and displays the most popular questions (or threads) around each topic.
Questions being asked on Quora can lead to some really great content ideas.
Additionally, once you’ve created the asset inspired by a particular thread, go back and share your article with high quality and valuable response.
This will help generate brand awareness, strengthen thought leadership, drive visibility to the new asset, and provide users with the information they are looking for.
Pro tip: To take a more targeted approach, run Quora.com in SEMrush to see the threads that are organically ranking in search results for your keywords. Threads ranking in the top 10 results on Google for your priority terms present an immediate opportunity for content creation, as well as distribution after the post is live.
4. Google Search Console
Consider the queries that are already driving people to your website.
Look at the top queries, impressions, clicks, and click-through rate (CTR) in Google Search Console to identify terms that are underperforming.
Queries with low click-through rates likely indicate that you need new pieces of content to better address the topics, or that the existing assets are lacking something.
For example, if there is a query driving thousands of impressions to your site each month but the CTR is less than 10%, there is clearly a lot of visibility to gain.
Start with these keywords, and you will likely see some quick-wins.
5. Google Keyword Planner
Keyword Planner is essential to discover new phrases that are being searched for, which can be used to generate new content ideas.
You can enter products and/or services closely related to your business, or a specific domain to uncover new keyword opportunities.
I’d highly suggest running your own domain, as well as competitors’ domains to uncover potential keyword gaps and areas where your site needs the most improvements.
From there, start digging into the keyword suggestions.
Remember, don’t ignore keywords with little or no search volume.
Zero search volume does not equal zero traffic. This has been proven time and time again.
In fact, low volume terms can lead to huge traffic wins!
6. Google Search Results
When evaluating the keyword opportunities that you’ve determined, go directly on Google and see what is currently ranking in search results. This will help ensure that your content ideas are set up for success.
What types of assets are ranking?
What sites are ranking in the top results?
Are there certainly commonalities in titles?
If so, what kinds? Are they mostly lists, how-to type articles, “what is” content?
What do the page tagging elements consist of?
How extensive are the assets?
What subtopics do they cover?
This type of analysis will help you come up with topic ideas that are aligned with the assets that Google has already deemed related, quality and worthy of ranking.
Search results that are made up of mostly education and informational content likely present an opportunity to create blog posts, while results that display product and services are better geared toward your main site landing pages.
Be sure to look at the People Also Ask, Searches Related to, and Google’s “Try searching for” suggestions, as these will also lead to some really great content ideas.
This goes back to my point about not ignoring keywords that show zero search volume. Often times if you run these suggestions (from People Also Ask, Searches Related to, etc.) in Keyword Planner, it will display zero average monthly searches.
However, Google suggests them for a reason. People are looking for this information.
This is one of my all-time favorite tools to use for new content ideas. Simply plug in a seed keyword, and the tool will provide hundreds of longer tail keyword suggestions.
The best part? You can pull platform-specific research for Google, YouTube, Amazon, Bing, Wikipedia, and many more.
When digging through the longer tail keyword suggestions, pick the ideas that make the most sense for you and your content objectives. Then, export this for a complete list of priority ideas.
Use BuzzSumo to analyzing top-performing articles across the web and trigger new content ideas. Similarly to other tools mentioned above, you can search by a specific keyword or domain.
It’s important to think beyond your own domain and search competitor sites as well.
With this tool, you can get a better understanding of what content assets (and topics) are generating the most shares and backlinks for your competitors.
This will help you realize content gaps on your own site, and the types of new assets you will need to compete.
9. Google Trends
In today’s search landscape, it’s important to craft content that addresses subtopics that Google associates with a keyword.
Google Trends helps understand searches that are closely related to the topic at hand, as well as the user intent behind these searches.
One of the best parts about this tool is that you can use it to determine the timeliness of a topic.
Is it a newer subject that is just heating up?
Did popularity around the topic spike a couple of months back and dwindle off since?
Is it a seasonal or annual topic? If so, when do people start searching around it?
For example, in the screenshot shown above, you can see that the average interest over time around Patriots’ games is greater than for Steelers’ games. This further proves that the Patriots are better than the Steelers. (Kidding! Sortofnotreally. 😂)
But, it does show that when these terms are being searched for is fairly consistent. You can clearly see when off-season is and when the season starts to pick up.
Looking at the trends over time will help you decide if the topic is worth addressing, and the best time to publish a new asset around the subject.
10. Answer the Public
Answer the Public is another valuable tool to find the questions that people are searching for around a particular keyword or phrase.
Type in a keyword, and you’ll be greeted with an awesome visualization of how people are searching around the topic.
This tool applies question-based modifiers (such as which, who, what, when, why, how, are, and where) to the beginning of the keyword and displays Google’s search suggestions.
It also searches with preposition-based modifiers (including for, with, to, on and many more), as well as comparisons like versus, or, and, like, etc.
The comparison data is especially useful if you are writing about a particular product or software. Versus style content can be extremely valuable to reach people who are deeper in the sales funnel, and already comparing potential solutions.
11. Social Media Platforms
Don’t forget to leverage social media as part of your content ideation process. While this type of analysis can be done across platforms, I find Twitter to be the most purposeful for content ideas.
With Advanced Search on Twitter, you can see tweets that include specific words, phrases, hashtags, mentions, and more to get a feel for the types of conversations people are having online.
Aim to better understand the language they are using, questions they are asking, challenges they are having, and the tweets that are getting the most engagement.
CoSchedule has a variety of offerings that can help take your writing to the next level; however, for the sake of this article, let’s focus on the free Headline Analyzer tool.
This tool is especially helpful once you’ve established some new content ideas, and are looking for ways to tweak them in order to maximize visibility.
You can enter text and get immediate feedback on how to tailor your headline to drive traffic, shares, and search visibility.
Get recommendations to:
Identify the type of headlines that convert (lists, how-tos, questions, etc.)
Find the right word balance to catch your audiences’ eye (uncommon, common, emotional and powerful words)
Optimize the character length for engagement
In this extremely flooded online marketing landscape, it’s becoming more important for content marketers to focus on quality over quantity. And, this means identifying the right content topics.
Craft new content that is highly targeted toward your audiences, keyword objectives, and broader business goals.
Take advantage of the many content ideation tools available to you.
You will come up with amazing content ideas that are backed by data.
You can think of Tobiko as a kind of anti-Yelp. Launched in 2018 by Rich Skrenta, the restaurant app relies on data and expert reviews (rather than user reviews) to deliver a kind of curated, foodie-insider experience.
A new Rich Skrenta project. Skrenta is a search veteran with several startups behind him. He was one of the founders of DMOZ, a pioneering web directory that was widely used. Most recently Skrenta was the CEO of human-aided search engine Blekko, whose technology was sold to IBM Watson in roughly 2015.
At the highest level, both DMOZ and Blekko sought to combine human editors and search technology. Tobiko is similar; it uses machine learning, crawling and third-party editorial content to offer restaurant recommendations.
Betting on expert opinion. Tobiko is also seeking to build a community, and user input will likely factor into recommendations at some point. However, what’s interesting is that Skrenta has shunned user reviews in favor of “trusted expert reviews” (read: critics).
Those expert reviews are represented by a range of publisher logos on profile pages that, when clicked, take the user to reviews or articles about the particular restaurant on those sites. Where available, users can also book reservations. And the app can be personalized by engaging a menu of preferences. (Yelp recently launched broad, site-wide personalization itself.)
While Skrenta is taking something of a philosophical stand in avoiding user reviews, his approach also made the app easier to launch because expert content on third-party sites already existed. Community content takes much longer to reach critical mass. However, Tobiko also could have presented or “summarized” user reviews from third-party sites as Google does in knowledge panels, with TripAdvisor or Facebook for example.
Tobiko is free and currently appears to have no ads. The company also offers a subscription-based option that has additional features.
Why we should care. It’s too early to tell whether Tobiko will succeed, but it provocatively bucks conventional wisdom about the importance of user reviews in the restaurant vertical (although reading lots of expert reviews can be burdensome). As they have gained importance, reviews have become somewhat less reliable, with review fraud on the rise. Last month, Google disclosed an algorithm change that has resulted in a sharp decrease in rich review results showing in Search.
Putting aside gamesmanship and fraud, reviews have brought transparency to online shopping but can also make purchase decisions more time-consuming. It would be inaccurate to say there’s widespread “review fatigue,” but there’s anecdotal evidence supporting the simplicity of expert reviews in some cases. Influencer marketing can be seen as an interesting hybrid between user and expert reviews, though it’s also susceptible to manipulation.
About The Author
Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He previously held leadership roles at LSA, The Kelsey Group and TechTV. Follow him Twitter or find him on LinkedIn.
When used creatively, XPaths can help improve the efficiency of auditing large websites. Consider this another tool in your SEO toolbelt.
There are endless types of information you can unlock with XPaths, which can be used in any category of online business.
Some popular ways to audit large sites with XPaths include:
In this guide, we’ll cover exactly how to perform these audits in detail.
What Are XPaths?
Simply put, XPath is a syntax that uses path expressions to navigate XML documents and identify specified elements.
This is used to find the exact location of any element on a page using the HTML DOM structure.
We can use XPaths to help extract bits of information such as H1 page titles, product descriptions on ecommerce sites, or really anything that’s available on a page.
While this may sound complex to many people, in practice, it’s actually quite easy!
How to Use XPaths in Screaming Frog
In this guide, we’ll be using Screaming Frog to scrape webpages.
Screaming Frog offers custom extraction methods, such as CSS selectors and XPaths.
It’s entirely possible to use other means to scrape webpages, such as Python. However, the Screaming Frog method requires far less coding knowledge.
(Note: I’m not in any way currently affiliated with Screaming Frog, but I highly recommend their software for web scraping.)
Step 1: Identify Your Data Point
Figure out what data point you want to extract.
For example, let’s pretend Search Engine Journal didn’t have author pages and you wanted to extract the author name for each article.
What you’ll do is:
Right-click on the author name.
In the dev tools elements panel, you will see your element already highlighted.
Right-click the highlighted HTML element and go to Copy and select Copy XPath.
At this point, your computer’s clipboard will have the desired XPath copied.
Step 2: Set up Custom Extraction
In this step, you will need to open Screaming Frog and set up the website you want to crawl. In this instance, I would enter the full Search Engine Journal URL.
Go to Configuration > Custom > Extraction
This will bring up the Custom Extraction configuration window. There are a lot of options here, but if you’re looking to simply extract text, match your configuration to the screenshot below.
Step 3: Run Crawl & Export
At this point, you should be all set to run your crawl. You’ll notice that your custom extraction is the second to last column on the right.
When analyzing crawls in bulk, it makes sense to export your crawl into an Excel format. This will allow you to apply a variety of filters, pivot tables, charts, and anything your heart desires.
3 Creative Ways XPaths Help Scale Your Audits
Now that we know how to run an XPath crawl, the possibilities are endless!
We have access to all of the answers, now we just need to find the right questions.
What are some aspects of your audit that could be automated?
Are there common elements in your content silos that can be extracted for auditing?
What are the most important elements on your pages?
The exact problems you’re trying to solve may vary by industry or site type. Below are some unique situations where XPaths can make your SEO life easier.
1. Using XPaths with Redirect Maps
Recently, I had to redesign a site that required a new URL structure. The former pages all had parameters as the URL slug instead of the page name.
This made creating a redirect map for hundreds of pages a complete nightmare!
So I thought to myself, “How can I easily identify each page at scale?”
After analyzing the various page templates, I came to the conclusion that the actual title of the page looked like an H1 but was actually just large paragraph text. This meant that I couldn’t just get the standard H1 data from Screaming Frog.
However, XPaths would allow me to copy the exact location for each page title and extract it in my web scraping report.
In this case I was able to extract the page title for all of the old URLs and match them with the new URLs through the VLOOKUP function in Excel. This automated most of the redirect map work for me.
With any automated work, you may have to perform some spot checking for accuracy.
2. Auditing Ecommerce Sites with XPaths
Sometimes, stakeholders will need product level audits on an ad hoc basis. Sometimes this covers just categories of products, but sometimes it may be the entire site.
Using the XPath extraction method we learned earlier in this article, we can extract all types of data including:
And much more
This can help identify products that may be lacking valuable information within your ecommerce site.
The cool thing about Screaming Frog is that you can extract multiple data points to stretch your audits even further.
3. Auditing Blogs with XPaths
This is a more common method for using XPaths. Screaming Frog allows you to set parameters to crawl specific subfolders of sites, such as blogs.
However, using XPaths, we can go beyond simple meta data and grab valuable insights to help identify content gap opportunities.
Categories & Tags
One of the most common ways SEO professionals use XPaths for blog auditing is scraping categories and tags.
This is important because it helps us group related blogs together, which can help us identify content cannibalization and gaps.
This is typically the first step in any blog audit.
This step is a bit more Excel-focused and advanced. How this works, is you set up an XPath extraction to pull the body copy out of each blog.
Fair warning, this may drastically increase your crawl time.
Whenever you export this crawl into Excel, you will get all of the body text in one cell. I highly recommend that you disable text wrapping, or your spreadsheet will look terrifying.
Next, in the column to the right of your extracted body copy, enter the following formula:
In this formula, A1 equals the cell of the body copy.
To scale your efforts, you can have your “keyword” equal the cell that contains your category or tag. However, you may consider adding multiple columns of keywords to get a more accurate and robust picture of your blogging performance.
Over the almost 16-years of covering search, specifically what Googlers have said in terms of SEO and ranking topics, I have seen my share of contradictory statements. Google’s ranking algorithms are complex, and the way one Googler explains something might sound contradictory to how another Googler talks about it. In reality, they are typically talking about different things or nuances.
Some of it is semantics, some of it is being literal in how one person might explain something while another person speaks figuratively. Some of it is being technically correct versus trying to dumb something down for general practitioners or even non-search marketers to understand. Some of it is that the algorithm can change over the years, so what was true then has evolved.
Does it matter if something is or is not a ranking factor? It can be easy to get wrapped up in details that end up being distractions. Ultimately, SEOs, webmasters, site owners, publishers and those that produce web pages need to care more about providing the best possible web site and web page for the topic. You do not want to chase algorithms and racing after what is or is not a ranking factor. Google’s stated aim is to rank the most relevant results to keep users happy and coming back to the search engine. How Google does that changes over time. It releases core updates, smaller algorithm updates, index updates and more all the time.
For SEOs, the goal is to make sure your pages offer the most authoritative and relevant content for the given query and can be accessed by search crawlers.
When it is and is not a ranking factor. An example of Googlers seeming to contradict themselves popped this week.
Gary Illyes from Google said at Pubcon Thursday that content accuracy is a ranking factor. That raised eyebrows because in past Google has seemed to say content accuracy is not a ranking factor. Last month Google’s Danny Sullivan said, “Machines can’t tell the ‘accuracy’ of content. Our systems rely instead on signals we find align with relevancy of topic and authority.” One could interpret that to mean that if Google cannot tell the accuracy of content, that it would be unable to use accuracy as a ranking factor.
Upon closer look at the context of Illyes comments this week, it’s clear he’s getting at the second part of Sullivan’s comment about using signals to understand “relevancy of topic and authority.” SEO Marie Haynes captured more of the context of Illyes’ comment.
Illyes was talking about YMYL (your money, your life) content. He added that Google goes through “great lengths to surface reputable and trustworthy sources.”
He didn’t outright say Google’s systems are able to tell if a piece of content is factually accurate or not. He implied Google uses multiple signals, like signals that determine reputations and trustworthiness, as a way to infer accuracy.
So is content accuracy a ranking factor? Yes and no. It depends if you are being technical, literal, figurative or explanatory. When I covered the different messaging around content accuracy on my personal site, Sullivan pointed out the difference, he said on Twitter “We don’t know if content is accurate” but “we do look for signals we believe align with that.”
It’s the same with whether there is an E-A-T score. Illyes said there is no E-A-T score. That is correct, technically. But Google has numerous algorithms and ranking signals it uses to figure out E-A-T as an overall theme. Sullivan said on Twitter, “Is E-A-T a ranking factor? Not if you mean there’s some technical thing like with speed that we can measure directly. We do use a variety of signals as a proxy to tell if content seems to match E-A-T as humans would assess it. In that regard, yeah, it’s a ranking factor.”
You can see the dual point Sullivan is making here.
The minutiae. When you have people like me, who for almost 16 years, analyze and scrutinize every word, tweet, blog post or video that Google produces, it can be hard for a Google representative to always convey the exact clear message at every point. Sometimes it is important to step back, look at the bigger picture, and ask yourself, Why is this Googler saying this or not saying that?
Why we should care. It is important to look at long term goals, and as I said above, not chase the algorithm or specific ranking factors but focus on the ultimate goals of your business (money). Produce content and web pages that Google would be proud to rank at the top of the results for a given query and other sites will want to source and link to. And above all, do whatever you can to make the best possible site for users — beyond what your competitors produce.
About The Author
Barry Schwartz is Search Engine Land’s News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on SEM topics.