Ideation Part 1: Discern the Right Focus on a Keyword
February 24, 2014
When you first select an article to write, usually you will only be given a keyword and the industry of the client. Sometimes you will have additional keywords and special instructions which may help clarify the keyword. These keywords are terms that the client has chosen to highlight, so it’s important that we use them correctly. Once you have a keyword, you must come up with a pertinent topic and an engaging direction or angle for your topic. Generating ideas can be challenging when you only have “dentist” given to you. This post will help you come up with article ideas. We call this ideation.
To help us explain the process of turning keywords into topics and engaging articles, we’ve invited in a special guest: Art.
(While we hope the following analogy will be useful, we also know that it may oversimplify the process of choosing a topic based on industries and keywords. It is meant to give general guidance and not be specifically instructive.)
Each painting represents a mental map, or the ideas that you present to the reader. It is a composition made up of other elements. You are free to use your own colors and create your own composition—just make sure that the end product does its best to engage, interest, and teach the reader.
The following artists were given the “keyword” (or “key element”) mountain. Let’s see how each artist decided to tackle it.
Artist #1: Good idea. This artist understands that the keyword doesn’t have to be the sole focus in his painting (or article). This picture features an entire landscape, and the trees and river help situate the mountain. The relationship of all the elements bring a richness and beauty to the composition that wouldn’t exist otherwise. As a writer, feel free to branch out into other subjects that relate to the industry. In your article, you can talk about related subjects in the industry that will enhance the keyword you’ve been given.
Artist #2: Good idea. This artist chose to focus more on the keyword itself. She focused in on the mountain so the viewer can see the flowers and grass in detail. If you choose a topic exclusively about your keyword, however, your topic has to be more in-depth. If you have the keyword “dentist,” don’t use a topic like “What is a Dentist?” or “How Do I Become a Dentist?”
Artist #3: Good idea. This artist branched into an intersecting industry: backcountry skiing. This painting depicts a skier carving down a snow-covered mountain. The artist shows how the shape of a mountain affects the way snow lays on it and how the skier must interact with the natural forms of the mountain in order to successfully navigate to the bottom. In keeping with our dentist correlation, you might choose the topic “tooth tattoos.” It is important to remember that with intersecting industries, you need to focus more heavily on the industry you were given.
Artist #4: Bad idea. This artist chose to think about her keyword rhetorically or in a personal anecdote. “And then they brought me a mountain of fries on a blue plate.” Points for creativity, but this type of article will be sent back. Stay away from anecdotes, and don’t think about the keyword in an abstract manner. Paying attention to the industry will help you come up with a topic that is beneficial to the client.
Artist #5: Bad idea. This artist took the keyword and went way too broad. Her picture, which should be representing “mountain,” includes the entire earth—so we can barely see any mountains. With the keyword “dentist,” writing about the medical field in general won’t put enough focus on our client’s work. Branching out is good, but do not widen your angle too far.
Artist #6: Bad idea. On the flip side, you don’t want to focus so close on a subject that’s not the given industry. Artist #6 painted a mountain goat, and a very cute mountain goat at that. However, by focusing in so much on the goat, the viewers forget that the goat is even on a mountain. Use details, but make sure the keyword still has a presence.
Artist #7: Bad idea. This artist drew an oversimplified mountain range. Remember your audience—the equivalent of a children’s picture won’t cut it. Don’t insult the intelligence of your readers by stating the obvious. What does this look like in writing? “When visiting a dentist, you need to have an appointment.” Or, “People visit dentists to have their teeth cleaned.” If your content says what is already pretty obvious to most people, it won’t be as engaging.
These examples illustrate only a general overview of good and bad ideas. There are so many ways to generate great ideas (and bad ideas!) for engaging content, it is impossible to enumerate them all. Writing is an art and requires a certain level of intuition. Learn from the resources provided, and then follow your instincts!
*All paintings were done by Kellie Hardin–one of our in-house writers!