You’ve probably heard this writing advice before: content is king, write 500 words a day, and commit to a regular posting schedule.
It’s frustrating advice because it’s so damned correct that it almost hurts.
The “secret” to enjoying success online has always been about producing great content. But that creates an uncomfortable problem for the small business owner aspiring to dominate his or her industry:
How on earth are you supposed to keep dreaming up great ideas to write about?
A plethora of well-known tactics will ensure you become a writing machine:
- You should always keep a notebook with you to jot down your ideas when they strike so you can remember them later.
- You should do as Hemingway did and finish every writing session mid-sentence so you can effortlessly pick up where you left off.
- And on, and on, and on …
And all of that is good advice. But what if it’s finding ideas to write about in the first place that poses the problem?
Read on, because we’re about to dive deep into the psychology of content marketing success.
Generating consistent (and usefully great) ideas for your audience is a murky science — even self-confessed “good writers” suffer from writer’s block. For small business owners who know they need to blog, that same block manifests itself through a little voice that glumly speaks up when you stare at a blank page:
I have nothing to say.
Wrong. You have far more to say to people than you realize. It’s just a matter of pulling it out of the deep recesses of your unconscious mind.
You’ll never run out of fantastic ideas to write about when you understand how your brain ticks. Want to know the best way to delve into the content goldmine of your intuitive mind? Treasure is buried deep, so play therapist with yourself now and then, and ask the deep and meaningful questions that unearth it.
Here are three questions that come right from my psychotherapist playbook — they’ll take you straight to the richest vein of content ideas that are already waiting right inside your own mind …
1. What questions is no one in your industry willing to answer?
If you want great content that magnetically attracts your audience’s attention, just answer this question.
Every time you realize there’s a question no one in your niche dares answer, you can be the person who finally does. Your audience will thank you for it, and your competitors will be left in the dust as you slaughter their sacred cows.
For example, the swimming pool industry used to revolve around contractors visiting prospective houses to pitch them a “quote” — usually with aggressive sales tactics. Not one of those contractors would answer the question of how much the construction of a pool really costs … unless they stood right in front of you.
Then one pool installation guy named Marcus Sheridan discovered the magic of the internet.
Marcus published an article that answered that question precisely, breaking down the formula for pricing out swimming pool installations. He shared with the entire world and instantly became number one in search engine results, thanks to thousands of people searching for that very answer.
No one else was willing to answer that question. But Marcus was, creating viral content that leapt ahead of the competition.
Swimming pools may not be your thing, but your industry has its secrets. Expose all the closet-dwelling skeletons you can find and you’ll never run out of incredible content ideas.
2. What does nearly everyone disagree with you about?
This one comes to you from Peter Thiel, billionaire founder of Paypal and super-smart Facebook investor. He uses this question to get entrepreneurs thinking about world-changing business ideas … and it works.
The question is designed to mine your brain for disruptive and uncomfortable ideas that challenge the status quo. By answering it, you’ll water the niggling seeds of doubt you have about concepts commonly accepted as fact in your industry.
Soon you’ll have grown a full-fledged content rebellion that says otherwise, and readers will flock to your flag.
Your audience will instantly identify you as rebel who doesn’t hold anything back. Question the unquestionable, and everyone pays attention — just like when I wrote a post about Why Lifestyle Design Will Make You Miserable.
Don’t be afraid that adopting a strong controversial stance will make you look stupid. You don’t even always have to be right. In fact, being bold and occasionally wrong wins you a lot more attention than being boring and always right.
In the event that someone vehemently contradicts you, simply thank them for contributing and remind them that dialogue makes us all smarter. After all, a public argument is fabulous publicity.
3. What do you believe will happen in the future that other people consider impossible or unlikely?
As a teacher in your chosen industry or niche, you have a depth of knowledge that your customers are in awe of.
Demonstrate that knowledge by becoming “futurist for a day,” making bold predictions about the future of your industry.
Your readers (like all humans) are horrifically paranoid about missing the writing on the wall. They don’t like to be late to the party or left behind. So put that writing out there for them, and you’ll win their interest.
Examples of these types of content ideas going viral are countless. Wired Magazine built a global media brand out of predicting the future. Not every prediction will be correct (in fact, most aren’t), but using your expertise to write bold and interesting opinions about the future of your industry will get attention.
When you offer a prediction that makes your reader proudly tell dinner guests what to expect in the next few years, you’ve got yourself solid gold for an article.
Don’t lose yourself by getting too “meta” …
All the copywriting principles laid out on Copyblogger are truer than ever. The questions above are simply designed to tap into the mother lode of great article ideas that already exist within you.
But by continually asking yourself the three questions above, you’ll get great ideas flowing. And, you’ll have an unlimited source that you can craft into brilliance.
So get to it, your audience is waiting …