15 ways to find viral blog content ideas
by Agnes Gaddis
In this article, you’ll learn 15 ways to find the creme de la creme of blog ideas for your brand. Any of these can help you when you’re hitting a wall with writer’s block.
Even the most successful marketers and creatives sometimes experience creative blocks. This is why they create systems. Neil Patel, Melanie Deziel, and Brian Dean are some examples of top marketers who use systems. We will delve into some of the successful systems they employ for generating blog content ideas in this article. I almost always use these ideas whenever I need to come up with blog post topics. Gone are the days of generic, slot-in-your-keyword-type blog ideas generators.
In the end, knowing how to generate blog content ideas that have the potential to go viral will help you become a better content marketer.
1. Check out your competitor’s best backlinks.
Plug your competitor’s domain name into a tool like Ahrefs or Spyfu to get a list of their content and pages that have the most backlinks. Let’s see how you do it in Ahrefs.
Since your competitor could be directing links to this page manually or by guest posting, this might not be the most accurate indicator of quality. Nevertheless, you might get a few blog content ideas.
- Go to Ahrefs site explorer and enter the competing domain.
- Use the Best By links report, adding an HTTP 200 filter.
- Use a prefix (e.g moz.com/blog) to limit your results to blog content.
- If the topic is highly relevant to your own audience, present your own twist. You can reach out to websites that have linked to your competitor and offer them this new post. See how to do that in this Ahrefs article.
Alternatively, you can offer to write a guest post on the host website that presents a better version of their current article. Explain briefly how you plan to improve that piece in your pitch.
Following our review of two ways to uncover blog content ideas from competitor insights, let’s move on to the five methods.
2. Create super-targeted content on an existing topic
One of the best ways to attract new customers and leads is through targeted content marketing. What this means is that instead of a post that has been overdone like “the definitive guide to guest blogging”. How about “the definitive guide to guest blogging for affiliate marketers” or “the definitive guide to guest blogging in 2022”? Specificity of this kind requires that you know your audience well and have access to current, relevant information.
When using the time-based approach, you have to consider whether your blog idea is time-dependent. For example, SEO guidelines are always changing, making guest blogging time-dependent. A guide to baking brownies isn’t time-dependent.
Steps to making your content super-targeted:
- Find an existing successful piece either from your own blog or from competitors
- List out your customer personas (without being too specific). Identify which customer persona might need this information the most.
As an example, this article I wrote for Influencive should have been written for students looking to create freelance income by the side. There are too many articles online about niche research. To make it targeted, the headline should become:
“The college student’s guide to choosing a freelance niche”
Of course, then this article is predictably going to contain much more specific information for students looking to build freelance income.
- Alternatively, if an existing piece of content is successful, you can simply modify it based on the current year, such as email marketing in 2022.
3. Use Brian Dean’s skyscraper technique
With so much competition when it comes to content, it’s more true now than ever that brands need to go big or go home. The skyscraper technique is about building something that’s much larger than what your competitor built. Sure it’s time intensive but it works.
- Find an existing successful piece either from your own blog or from competitors in terms of shares, backlinks (or both).
- Examine the successful article. Then replicate by 2x, 3x or even 10x. For this to work, you’ll double down not just on content but also on any accompanying media. If a video was embedded in the original piece, you’ll have to embed 3 or more videos in yours.
So if my competitor’s headline was
“13 examples of brands winning with content marketing, and how they do it”.
I could create better content by playing with the headline as such:
“27 examples of brands that attribute their success to content marketing (plus strategies they use)”
4. Dominate the SERPs with long tail keywords
One of the critical SEO factors for ranking high is understanding user intent. It is why a lot of people only read content but do not turn to customers. Because the writer hasn’t optimized for what the reader wants.
So compare two articles each optimized for keywords, “real estate CRM” and “best real estate CRM 2021”. For the most part, visitors who land on the first article aren’t going to be as qualified as those who land on the second article.
The most effective way to optimize content for user intent is to use long tail keywords. That is, major keyword + context. For example “land use planning” vs “principles of land use planning”.
- Reverse engineer a competitor’s top keywords/content using tools like Keyword planner’s domain search, Ahrefs, SEMrush.
- Use Google’s autocomplete tool to expand on one of these keywords.
- Use Google’s Keyword planner, or a tool like SEMscoop to work this keyword further.
- Expand even further until you get a low competition keyword. Alternatively, you can check the “people also ask” section of Google to find a low competition question based keyword.
- Check out your low-competition keyword to see who has created content on it. You want to pick a keyword where you can easily get the edge.
5. Interview subject-matter experts
You can leverage other people’s experience to create E-A-T content. Yet, if you rely too heavily on this strategy, you will be sharing your chance to build expertise.
Overall, it is a win-win situation since these experts can gain some brand awareness and possibly links to their website without actually writing content. You will also spend less time creating content because you will be using the insights from your interviews. With that said, here’s how to get insights via expert interviews.
- Do your own research on the topic. Basically, you’ve read an article (or two) and brought up some questions that wouldn’t be a waste of time for an expert. It’s a wise idea to make your questions technical, but not too technical as to be confusing to the final user (reader).
- Don’t ask more than 3 questions. Experts are busy people. When you ask too many questions, they would likely ignore you altogether.
- Clarify the reason why you’re asking the question. In your email, make it clear right away.
- If any of your subject matter experts provide answers that are too technical, dig deeper to get clarifications. This requires understanding the subject matter beforehand. Use open ended questions e.g. What do you think people usually misunderstand about SEO?
6. Just tell a story (personal, fictitious or third party), and then present takeaways
Simply telling a story is a great way to get your creative juices flowing. This is a secret to beating writer’s block as a writer. A while back, I read an article about Cisco’s experiment that proved that content marketing plus a strategy can revolutionize product launches.
I wanted to retell the story in my own way, presenting my takeaways. So I repurposed it into an article for Influencive and that article has been shared 347 times. As a writer, I’ve found storytelling to be a very effective way to add an element of surprise.
You can use any of these story arcs from Neville Medhora to create a fictitious story about your content theme.
As you can see, the stories don’t have to be personal. Even if you don’t know much about the theme or topic, you can share takeaways for others from someone else’s experience.
Chris Von Wilpert of Content Mavericks used this technique to create a viral post that landed him high paying clients (Hubspot, Sumo, etc.). He spent months researching Hubspot’s growth strategy and presented it in this viral post. He then marketed it to SAAS executives at Hubspot, Sumo, etc. How do you do the same thing? Note that you may not achieve the same results, but you’ll be a better content marketer overall.
Steps (based on Chris Von Wilpert’s system)
- Research the top companies in your niche. Make a list of five.
- Create a Facebook poll on a niche-specific group or a Twitter poll asking your intended audience to select one company from the list.
- Deep-dive into the company’s strategy (majorly as it relates to something you do).
- When telling the story. Think about nothing but the story – no takeaways yet. Focus on telling a good story.
7. Identify unicorn content, replicate it
We know some cool ways to add new twists to our competitor’s successful content. But let’s turn our attention inward. There will undoubtedly be a couple posts that have performed a lot better than the rest. These posts are called unicorns, and the rest are called donkeys. You want to reverse engineer these unicorns.
It’s the strategy I almost always employ if I’m looking to create some value through guest posts, since I’m not super-familiar with my host’s audience. So instead of sending over some random content idea, I want to come up with a better version, complementary or unique twist to one of their successful articles as it relates to what I’m qualified to write about.
Larry Kim says, “Unicorn content ranks high on Google and blows out key performance indicators”. That is, they drive a sizable portion of site traffic. But what if you don’t have unicorn content? Look to your competitors.
- Using your Google Analytics dashboard, identify your most trafficked pages if you have unicorn content. To see what pages drive the most traffic to your site, check out the landing pages report. Old or new, it doesn’t matter.
- Use the top pages feature in Ahrefs to find your competitor’s highest visited pages.
- Use any of the approaches we mentioned before to create a better, complementary or unique version of it i.e. skyscraper, subject-matter experts, long tail.
- You can also create a complementary version of the article by picking out one or two related searches for the keyword. Alternatively, you can take a point or subheading in the article and give it its own time to shine.
8. See keywords with maximum engagement on Reddit
Well I’m not a fan of Reddit. But there is a tool that allows you to check out the most discussed keywords on niche-specific subreddits. You should try it out. It’ll even show you the monthly search volume for each of these keywords. You can also see the different contexts in which the keyword was used.
- Check out a relevant subreddit.
- Note the keywords that have a high search volume.
- Create content using these keywords. This is an easy way to create content based on trending conversations.
- By reading the questions and threads that come up consistently, you can narrow it down further and provide more context to your keyword.
9. Use the Explodingtopics tool
A great way to rank high for a topic and garner traffic fast is to spot trends that are just coming up. That is, when they aren’t yet super-competitive. This means you will drive easy traffic (at least in a short time). ExplodingTopics is a tool by Brian Dean that makes it easy to find those trends that are just starting to get popular.
- Pick out a relevant category, e.g. tech, finance, marketing, etc.
- Pick out a timeframe. Since you’re looking for trends, the shorter the better.
- Note some of the regular or exploding topics and see which of these have a moderate search volume but high growth rate.
- Search your keyword on Google to get some context and create content based on search intent.
10. Check out viral podcast titles on ListenNotes
ListenNotes helps you find some of the best podcasts out there. You can see each podcast show’s rankings using the metrics, LS (listen score) and Global rank. The higher the listen score, the better.
- Check out the best podcasts on Listennotes. This is updated based on listen scores. Sort by added date to see recently updated podcasts
- Pick out one or two episodes from the best, and use these to form your own blog content ideas.
- You might have to listen to the podcast episode to get some context.
11. Survey your audience and ask them questions about their content preferences
One great strategy content marketers use nowadays for selecting great blog content ideas is Twitter polls. This is a smart idea since you aren’t left racking your brain about what type of content your audience would like to see. Because your customers tell you themselves. You could also conduct these polls via emails using Google forms. But Twitter polls make the process of getting insights from your customers very easy.
Ask a question on your Twitter either as a poll or an open-ended question about what type of content they’d like to see from you. Open-ended questions would offer you more context. But you might want to try both approaches. The open ended questions will give you a wealth of blog ideas to select from (if you have a large, engaged following)
12. Suss out trends using Google trends and Twitter
Twitter hashtags show you what people are engaging with. Google trends shows you a keyword’s popularity over time. Combine both of these two tools and you would get some fantastic keyword ideas. With Google trends, you can even compare two similar keyword ideas and see how they’ve performed within a specific time period. It’s really an underrated tool.
- Go to Ritetag to see what hashtags are currently trending based on a broad keyword that relates to what you do.
Pick out hashtags with a good number of retweets.
- Go to Google trends and put in your hashtag. Check under “related queries”, using the “Rising” filter, and you’ll see one or two trending keywords that’ll get you high quality traffic.
13. Create topic clusters around a major keyword
Popularized by Hubspot, the topic clustering model advocates creating and linking clusters that are relevant to one main pillar content. And this works because it’s a way to create topics that match search intent and leads down the purchase cycle.
Hubspot’s Anum Hussain and Cambria Davies experimented with a select group of topics in 2016 to prove how effective content clusters were. They found that the more interlinking they did, the better the articles all performed in the search engine results pages.
Backlinko’s updated Google SEO guide is an example of topic clustering done well. While this page might not get a lot of shares, it ranks 4th currently for the term “Google SEO” and drives 590 unique visits per month.
- Group all your content by topic.
- Create a pillar page on one major topic. Make sure that your pillar page covers almost everything there is to know about the topic.
- When you’re creating sections and subheadings for your pillar page, ensure you’re using Latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords and questions that relate to the main theme.
- For each section of your pillar page, brainstorm one or two standalone blog ideas that can further expand on it.
- Then write content on those topic clusters, linking out to and from your pillar pages and to other relevant topic ideas in the clusters.
14. Check out viral ideas on Youtube and re-format them
Similar to generating content ideas from Listennotes, you can get great content ideas from Youtube by using the view count filter.
- Using a broad or longtail keyword relevant to your business, do a quick search on Youtube.
- Use the sort by view count filter to see the most watched content.
- Then use the “This year” filter.
- Reframe these topics for your own audience using any of our previously discussed methods. You can even present the same content in another format, e.g. blog post, Twitter thread, Pinterest infographic, podcast etc.
15. The Content Relaunch
As part of your content strategy, you should work on revitalizing and updating 3 – 5 year old content that has performed well in the past. The relaunch works because these content types and formats have been proved to work, and will most likely work again, when updated with updated information.
1. Use Animalz’s Revive tool. It’s a free tool that studies your content and sends you a list of posts that have significantly lost traffic over the years.
2. Refresh these posts by updating them with new information.
Yes. There was a time when content ideation used to be a headache for me. Nowadays it’s fun. Using any of these ideas, you’ll also be able to generate top-quality blog content ideas within minutes. Is there a technique or tool you’d like me to mention here? Let me know in the comments.
December 10, 2021
November 30, 2021