Coming up with good content and relevant topics that are aligned with your target audience needs on a regular basis is no easy task. It’s easy to burn out when you are creating content. This is commonly referred to as “Blogger Fatigue” and if you have been creating a lot of content yourself with little help, you know what that is all about. This is where having the right content ideation tools can streamline the process of content creation.
Tools For Staying Organized
The first step to creating regular quality content is organization. Whether you keep notes on your desktop, on your smart phone or jot stuff down in a good ole fashioned mole skin or on a post it note, keeping your ideas organized in one place that is easy to access later is a common practice of most writers and creatives. There are other useful tools for keeping notes you may consider.
Aside from it’s killer UI and an intuitive desktop and mobile app, one of the best features about Evernote is how it allows you to carry your notes seamlessly from your desktop, mobile phone and / or tablet device. Simply open up the app on your desktop and reference all the notes you wrote down on your phone at a meeting without the need to transfer, copy or forward anything – it just works. I highly recommend getting the web clipper while you are browsing the web. When you come across a strange fact or inspiring article, capture it in your Evernote account to reference later.
Zotero (pronounced zoh-tair-oh) is a completely free browser-based tool that helps you organize, cite, collect and share all your research sources. As described on the Zotero website it is you “Personal Research Assistant” – and it lives up to that description. Rather than having to open up a separate application, Zotero allows you to do much of what you can do in Evernote, but much more geared toward writers / bloggers. Zotero, like Evernote also synchs across all your devices, so your notes follow you wherever you go.
WorkFlowy is much more than just a note taking app, it is “an organizational tool that makes life easier“. What is most brilliant about Workflowy in my opinion is that the creators paid attention to how humans organize and process information and it comes through a lot in how their application functions. I use Workflowy to organize my ideas for presentations into structured points with all of my citations and references in one easy to access place. Their responsive HTML5 web application can be accessed through any device with an internet connection and a web browser, which is a problem if you are trying to take notes somewhere that has limited internet access.
Tired of typing? Use Dragon Dictation easy-to-use voice recognition application to take the tedium out of blogging. Easily dictate your ideas when you are inspired and capture it in a text format. They claim it’s up to five times faster than typing on the keyboard and after using it, I would have to agree. More than anything else it allows you to freely walk around and capture the snippets that are worth documenting. There is nothing I hate worse than rushing to capture an idea and by the time I get my computer up and running or my notes pulled up on my phone and I start to type, I’ve lost the idea! Use this app and it will make fleshing out your core concepts a whole lot easier.
The guys at FIPLAB have really outdone themselves with the UI of NotesTab. Claiming that NotesTab is “Note taking finally done right,” – the app lives up to the hype in many ways. The latest version of the app improved icons and retina support, which is great for everyone who has the a retina-display MacBook and / or iPad. NotesTab is a native iOS, Mac and Windows based application, so no need for web access for you to take notes.
Tools For Content Curation
Once you have your content organized, sometimes you just want to share or curate other content for research or to share with your audience and peers. For this, I recommend the following tools:
One of my favorite curation tools at the moment is Storify. Their service allows you to search hashtags and keywords on Youtube, Google Search, Twitter, Chute, Soundcloud, Flickr, an RSS feed or you can input your own URL I recently used their service to create my recap of the 2013 SXSW Interactive and it made my post much more interactive and engaging while citing the sources. You can embed your Storify right into your blog post with a simple embed code, or you can export to HTML, JSON or XML if you want to do something more dynamic with your Storify. This is the ideal tool for conference wrap ups, because you can create a play by play of what happens using the conference hashtag. If you are not already doing this, you should be.
Scoop.it allows you to curate content around a specific topic, which can come in handy when you are doing client work. Use the Scoop.it dashboard to add sources from around the web in various formats (RSS, URLs, social media, etc…) as well as add relevant keywords and search parameters to filter your results. This service is very similar to Storify, with a few less social networks to pull from. Their premium service let’s you brand your Scoop.it with your own design, which could be very useful if your strategy was to curate and engage but not create a lot of content.
Curation Station is a Minneapolis startup that provides a subscription based web application used by brands like 3M, Marshalls and H&R Block. The software allows you to research, select content items that are aligned with your communication goals and distribute that content more effectively and at a minimal cost. This product is fairly pricing, and geared more towards agencies and inhouse teams of larger companies, with the starter monthly subscription set at $289 per month and the premium at $689 per month.
Pearltrees is a great way to visualize your content in the form of a structured tree of sources, URLs, images, etc… Their interactive interface makes it easy to drag and drop sources or add them via URL very easily. They also offer a plugin that let’s you add to your Pertree right from your browser. The possibilities for how you might use Peraltrees is only limited to your imagination. You could curate a list of resources for a blog post and organize them in the tree by relationship and hierarchy of importance. You might use it to create a mind map of ideas for a promotion or creative project or even to collaborate on a sitemap for a website.
On a budget? Delicious is probably your most cost effective option of the lot. More well known as a social bookmarking service, the experienced copywriter and content marketer knows Delicious is the road tested curation tool of the bunch. I have been using for years and regardless of whatever shiney new app pops up, I find myself going back to it to quickly curate links to articles I find interesting. The delicious browser bookmarklet makes it siper simple to organize your favorite pages from around the web into a centralized feed. You can tag your bookmarks to drill down into everything you have saved quickly. Delicious also has a great iPhone and iPad app to make bookmarking your favorite content even easier on the go.
Content Ideation Tools
Assuming you have your curation and note taking down, now it’s time for the content ideation tools. These can help you identify language, trends and hot topics within a specific industry or vertical market much quicker than sifting through news feeds and doing random Google searches hoping to dig up something relevant to the client or employer you are writing for.
Cognition has a unique Semantic Map, which it’s creators have built over the last 24 years. Whoah! Cool! It is currently the most complete and comprehensive map of the English language available on the planet. It can be used for semantic search, machine translation, document searches, search tools, context search, business analytics, and much, much more. This makes Cognition one of my favorite content ideation tools for uncovering topics, language and resources that are related to a particular industry or vertical.
Portent’s Content Idea Generator
Created by the team at Portent, the Content Idea Generator is one of the content ideation tools in this list that can be useful for fleshing out possible titles for your blogs / articles of you are running thin on ideas. This can be particularly useful if you are creating content for boring industries or if you have very little feedback from the client / employer you are creating content for. Simply enter in a keyword or topic and the tool will spit out a title that you can use as a starting point for your blogs. Unfortunately there isn’t a tool that will write the blog for you, but the people over at narrative science are working on that.
Yutongo is a great content ideation tool that helps streamline the process of documenting ideas with a structured, semantic approach. Aside from great organization, the real power in Yutongo is in it’s ability to collaborate with other team members on ideas for content, creative projects, event promotions or just about anything you can dream up really, it’s up to you!
Content Idea Generator V2
Created by the smart people over at SEOGadget, the content idea generator utilizes various APIs, including Topsy, Followerwonk and Google Insights to help you spot potential content ideas and hot topics to better inform your content strategy and audience needs. In addition to helping identify potential content ideas, it also helps you identify influential authors and prominent publishers associated with a particular keyword, which can help you with your outreach strategy when your content is ready to promote.
Google Suggested Search
As Wil Reynolds mentioned at Mozcon last year, one of the quickest ways to confirm demand while also getting potential content ideas around a particular keyword or topic is to use Google’s built in suggested search. This can be one of the most powerful content ideation tools in your arsenal if you use it with moderation and wisdom.
Please note, this should not become your editorial strategy, but rather confirm demand. Google uses popular searches to populate this drop down, so you are saving time doing keyword research in the process. If you haven’t already noticed this before, when you start to type in a set of keywords into the Google search bar, you will notice that a drop down of suggested searches will pop up. In many cases, these are all long tail content ideas you should be writing about.
WordTracker Keyword Questions
Wordtracker has a great tool that allows you to identify the questions that your audience is asking called “Keyword Questions”. The results generated by Keyword Questions tool provides a starting point for a knowledge-base or perhaps question and answer style posts.
Quora Web Search
Quora’s web search is another one of my personal favorite content ideation tools because it helps me quickly gauge audience needs across a wide range of industries. The tending and questions searches on Quora are really useful as well, providing you with an overview of “what’s hot” on any given subject matter you can imagine.
Regator Semantic API
Unlike many social search tools that pull from every firehouse available, Regator is focused on topical, high-quality content curated by humans. This is important because often all the noise of social search can get in the way of finding relevant topics to write about. With Regator you get high quality, semantic content that is topically relevant to your search query. With a “search”, “article” and “trends” search, you can identify some of the most authoritative blogs and related topics associated with a particular set of keywords.
With the right time management, organization and content ideation tools, you can streamline the development of your content. Spending time searching through notes, doing data entry multiple times across different devices, wasting time focusing on keywords that your audience doesn’t search for can all be avoided if you use the tools I have provided above. Didn’t mention your favorite content ideation tools? Leave a comment below and tell me about the tools you use!