“Content is King”…”Create high-quality content”…”Blog regularly and consistently”…”Write for your audience”…”Content is Content.”
We’ve heard it all before, and I’m sure many of you are bored of hearing it.
But before we even think about how to write content, how to structure it and where to promote it, let’s go back to the very beginning of the process.
What should you write about? Where can you find content ideas?
Idea creation is one area that most people struggle with, but many people forget that the easiest and quickest way to find content ideas is on a website that we all use every day.
All you have to do is go to Google, think of the keywords or search query your audience uses around your topic and combine that with the various search “hacks” that are listed below.
On top of that, you should also look at the search results to see if you can improve the existing content that has already been created.
No expensive tools, no constant checking of your RSS feeds, no scraping the barrel to find ideas, no expensive tools need to be purchased.
Just use Google.
Word of Advice
When looking at the different search techniques below, there are 4 things to take into consideration:
- What keywords are relevant to your industry and apply them
- Think of how you can use a combination of the search hacks below to find unique content ideas.
- Look at the search results and the websites that are ranking to see if you can improve or repurpose existing content. There are several ways you can do that:
- Make it more detailed
- If it’s old or out-of-date, update it with fresh and newer content
- Change its format, e.g. create an audio (podcast) or video (vlog) version, make it more image-based (i.e. infographic), add interactive elements, create a whitepaper or an ebook, etc.
- Add your perspective by offering your opinion and back it up
- Make use of the search filter at the top of the search results: All, Videos, News, Images, Books, etc.
1. Search and Look at “Autocomplete”
Google’s autocomplete is where you find search predictions and “possible search terms you can use that are related to the terms you’re typing and what other people are searching for”.
As it is based on some factors, like the popularity and freshness of search terms, it can change over time.
Here is how you can gain basic ideas for content creation.
Notice how if you change the letter at the end of the search query, you get different ideas within the autocomplete features.
2. Search, Click on Result and Click on Search Bar Again
A small trick that most people don’t know about:
- type what you are searching for in the search bar
- look at the autocomplete available first time round
- click on one of the search predictions or press the return key
- click on the search bar with your mouse again
- you will find that the autocomplete is different to the first time round
Hat tip to Dan Shure for pointing it out on his blog.
3. Look At Related Searches at the Bottom
After carrying out the above, where you click on the search bar again, you can find an extended version of the “amended” autocomplete at the bottom of the search results.
The above demo illustrates a brilliant area for you to gain further ideas as well as synonyms and other keywords you can use to search further.
Here is another example of how you can use that feature below.
4. Use Asterisks as Wild Cards
Another unknown trick is to use asterisks ‘*’ as a wildcard directly in Google to give you further content ideas within your chosen search query.
For example, imagine you have a cooking blog and would like to create a series of blog posts about cooking rice.
But how many rice recipes can you write about? What kind of rice recipes is your audience even searching for?
Could you find some content ideas that you haven’t thought of before?
While you are experimenting with the asterisks, you can see that the Autocomplete will churn out different ideas along the way.
This happens as you click on the search bar after searching, as demonstrated in point 2.
You can even attempt to use asterisks across different places within the search bar for further experimentation.
5. Use ‘vs’ to Compare or Find Alternatives
People are always searching for comparisons or alternative solutions.
Using ‘vs’ beside your keywords can unveil a whole range of content ideas.
6. Demo of ‘site:search’
A popular search function for many people, particularly in SEO is the ‘site:search’ where you naturally replace ‘search’ with any domain you want.
This feature is particularly useful if you want to check if your domain (or a specific URL) has been indexed or not on Google.
It will also give you an idea of how many pages are indexed on Google for that particular domain.
But the ‘site:search’ also has other benefits when it comes to content ideas, which brings us to the next section.
7. Search for Specific Websites with Content About Specific Topics
If you combine ‘site:search’ with your topic or search query, you can gain insights on the type of content that particular site has written about for that particular search query.
The gif image below will demonstrate various examples.
And don’t forget to use Google Images too, if you are looking image-based content ideas.
8. Search for Specific Phrases by Using Double Quotation Marks
If you have a phrase in mind which you want to be an exact match, use double quotation marks “like this” when you search.
Notice how the search results are different with and without quotation marks.
9. Combine Keywords or Topics with ‘site:search’ of Popular Websites
If you think about how you can combine keywords with popular websites like Reddit and Quora, you can find some questions that people are asking around your particular topic.
Some are recent. Some are unanswered. Some are not answered very well.
Not only is someone waiting for you to write amazing content around it, but you might also just have the perfect place to promote it.
10. Search for Specific Title Using ‘intitle:search’
If you have a particular keyword in mind and you are positive that it tends to be used in titles, the useful ‘intitle:search’ is perfect you.
You may notice that the search results will be different with and without ‘intitle’.
You can also go one step further by using ‘intitle’ multiple times for a different search result again.
11. Use ‘inurl:search’ to Search for Blogs and Forums
If you want to focus on blogs or forums, using ‘inurl:search’ is a useful feature:
You can also go one step further by finding particular pain points that your audience may have (h/t to Pat Flynn for that idea).
Search within Google or go into the forum and use the following phrases:
- “advice about”
- “I hate”
- “need help”
- “does anyone”
- “looking for”
- “desperate for”
- “can’t find”
- “question about”
I think you’ve got the idea but try to experiment with different phrases. And don’t forget to use quotation marks to search for that exact phrase if you are using Google search bars.
12. Use ‘OR’ to Expand Your Search (or If You Can’t Make Up Your Mind)
The ‘OR’ function is a very simple feature which is also useful if you can’t remember a specific topic, i.e. the time and place it happened.
As you can see in the demo above, the ‘OR’ has to be in capital letters.
But if you want to combine the two topics together, you can also do that using the next section below.
13. Use ‘AND’ if you Want Content About Two Topics
As above, it’s not the most groundbreaking feature but still useful nonetheless if you are looking to combine topics.
And like section 11, the ‘AND’ has to be in capital letters.
14. Search for particular URL using ‘inurl:search’ i.e. ‘inurl:blog’ or ‘inurl:forum’
The ‘inurl:search’ is very useful if you search specifically for blogs or forums.
Many websites have either “/blog/” or “/forum/” within their URL.
And this is a useful technique to capitalise on.
You can search specifically for these kinds of websites using ‘inurl:search’ and answer questions that people may have in a content form.
In the example below, you can see also ‘inurl:reviews’ is also used to find reviews.
15. Use Minus (‘-‘) to Exclude Searches with Particular Keywords, Categories or Topics
If you want to get rid of any unwanted topics, keywords or domains within the search results, the minus ‘-‘ character are perfect for this scenario.
Let’s say you want to write a blog about WordPress vs. Squarespace, but you want to exclude results which are showing the official wordpress.com and squarespace.com sites.
That is simple to arrange.
Or maybe you want to remove specific categories or directories like /tag/ within the search results and focus on actual pages.
Or perhaps you have a specific search query that is also a common brand, but you want to exclude them.
For example, if you are looking for a brand or content about ‘Matrix’ but NOT the movie, you find that the search result will indeed be very movie-oriented.
Well searching for “matrix -movie” will remove all (if not most) results about Matrix the movie, as you can see below:
16. Search for Content from Particular TLDs Using ‘site:search’ or ‘inurl:search’
In most cases, the correct top level domains will appear if you search in the language you are looking for.
Google is clever like that.
But if, for some reason, that doesn’t work, see below.
Don’t forget – searching for generic TLDs such as .com, .net or .io might return generic search results.
But searching for specific industries such as .ac.uk for universities, .gov for official government sites and in some cases .org for charities could unveil impressive results.
17. Find Out More information About a Particular Domain Using ‘info:search’
Using ‘info:domain’ will help you find a starting place to learn more information about that particular domain.
This feature will include links to the following search results about the domain in question:
- similar sites
- Google’s cached pages
- web pages that link to that domain
- list of all the pages indexed on Google
- find pages which contain the term “bbc.co.uk”
‘Info:search’ is also useful if you could not be bothered typing each search.
18. Use ‘filetype:pdf’ to find whitepapers or ebooks about a topic
Another feature which most people don’t utilise is the ‘filetype:search’ function.
In the example below, searching with your keywords plus ‘filetype:pdf’ can bring results which are naturally PDF documents.
And in most situations, interesting whitepapers and ebooks are written in PDF format.
You can search for file types in many different ways and you just never know what you can uncover.
19. Use ‘filetype:pptx’ to find PowerPoint slides and presentations
Similar to section 17 above, if you search with ‘filetype:pptx’, you can find PowerPoint slides.
And if you’re lucky, you will find presentations from high calibre individuals that are not always easy to find, i.e. university lecturers and scholars.
And as mentioned earlier, ther are many other file types to search for on Google.
The above should give you good ideas on where to start.
Don’t forget to use your keywords and topics, combine various search techniques and look at the search results to see what content you can improve.
And then get creating.
I would love to hear how you get on with the tips presented in this blog.
If you have found ideas or created a piece of content from using the search techniques above, I’d love to hear from you and see your content in the comments below.
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