You know those blog posts that share 267 topic ideas for your next piece of content?
This is not one of those posts.
There are lots of posts with topic ideas. But how — and where — do you keep track of those ideas?
That’s what today’s post is going to cover. Because what’s the use of saving content marketing ideas for a rainy day if you can’t find them when the storm starts?
The cursed cursor
We’ve all been there. It’s the day before your post is due. You’re staring at your screen as sweat beads on your upper lip.
“What should I write about?” you wonder.
Those “topic idea” blog posts are only partially useful when you need something to write about, because random blog post ideas may not resonate with your audience.
In other words, make sure your approach to the information you’ll share will resonate with the readers you’re trying to attract before you blindly adopt a topic idea.
It usually works better to generate ideas yourself. There are a handful of dependable sources for post ideas:
- Read your blog or podcast comments. Readers and listeners will share their questions and let you know if they’re confused about anything. Answer their questions in your next piece of content.
- Read comments on social media platforms. Study your own company accounts or accounts that belong to close competitors. Comments there will reflect the general questions your market is mulling over.
- Speak directly to readers. Take advantage of conferences to speak to readers in person. Or consider running a small focus group and speak to them by phone. Seek out the people who are in the audience you write for.
- Expand on your most popular content. Review your analytics to pinpoint the content that draws the most people to your site. Brainstorm ways to expand on the original topics — just be sure to link back to older articles in the new ones.
As promised, we’re not going to go into detail about how to brainstorm content ideas (although you’re welcome to share your favorite techniques in the comments section below).
Today, we’re going to cover how to capture ideas, tame them, and put them into a form you can reliably use.
Pick one method — only one
Here’s the most important piece of advice from this article:
The method you use for saving your ideas isn’t as important as this: use one method only. Don’t stash ideas in several places. Experiment with various systems, then pick one and stick to it.
It might be helpful to take a moment now and answer a question for yourself: are you a tactile learner or a digital learner?
Some people prefer absorbing information by interacting with physical objects. Capturing your ideas on paper can work great, and we’ll cover that later in this article.
In the next section, we’ll briefly review software and apps for capturing ideas. If you prefer the availability and flexibility of digital tools, this section is for you.
Digital tools for saving your content marketing ideas
The big advantage of digital tools is they’re available across many platforms, which makes it easy to note an idea whether you’re on a laptop, a tablet, or a phone.
The editorial team at Copyblogger uses a Trello board to track content ideas. We assign writers to our post ideas and add notes and links to the cards where they live. Trello allows you to easily add to-do lists and assign people to work on tasks. Here’s Trello’s look at their own editorial calendar system.
Save ideas in Evernote
One smart way to save blog post ideas is to create an Evernote notebook and stash them there. Evernote’s extensive tagging features allow you to cross-reference post ideas. (Some people prefer using tags over notebooks in Evernote.) You can even link between one note and another with the “Copy note link” feature.
Create an idea board on Pinterest
We’re all trying to use more images in our posts, so why not look for blog post images and save them to a private Pinterest board with ideas for the post you want to write? Some people even create whole Pinterest boards filled with blog post ideas. So meta!
Use a notes app on your phone
If you prefer to make quick notes on the device most likely to be in your pocket, consider using the notes app on your phone. Most notes apps give you access to their information through a computer as well, which makes it easy to move your ideas to your writing platform.
Set up a spreadsheet
If you’re the spreadsheet-type, they can be a handy place to store ideas. They’ll be easy to sort by whatever parameter you prefer: date, category, writer assigned, etc.
Map out your blog post ideas in a mind map
In The Prepared Writer’s Process for Creating Excellent Content Every Day, Katie the Wellness Mama said:
“Before I created my blog, I mapped out my ultimate goal and the content I would need to write to accomplish it. I created 300 post topics and planned how they all would eventually link to each other.”
Katie doesn’t say what she used, but I’m betting it was a mind map. Mind maps make it easy to note ideas and see the connections between them.
Tactile methods for saving your content marketing ideas
Studies have shown that people remember more of what they write out by hand. If that’s the case for you, tactile methods for capturing your content ideas will work best.
Keep a notebook
Whether it’s a leather-bound Moleskine or a 3-for-99-cents spiral-bound pad, carrying a small notebook for jotting down ideas is a great way to capture them when they happen. Here’s how you can make your paper notebook easier to search.
Use index cards
Libraries existed for hundreds of years using a card catalog system based on paper index cards. If it’s good enough to catalog thousands of books, it’s good enough to use for your blog post ideas. Consider using this system for keeping your cards organized.
How to attain content marketing peace of mind with a system for storing your ideas
No more sweaty upper lips for you.
Choose one of the methods above for capturing your content marketing ideas. Use it for a few weeks, and explore the links shared to ensure you’re using it efficiently.
Once you’ve found a system that works, embrace it and stick with it.
Honor your ideas, wherever they come from. Grab them when they hit you and get them down in your system of choice.
Saving your ideas frees up brain space — you don’t have to try to remember that content idea when you have a safe place to save it.
And that will clear space so you can have even more new content ideas.
What’s your favorite system for capturing ideas?
I know I’ve only scratched the surface.
What’s your favorite tip for capturing content ideas? Let me know in the comments section.