Ideation Part 4: Make Your Ideas Readable and Shareable

February 26, 2014

Finally, when forming ideas, we encourage you to make your article more unique, creative, and shareable by using popular formats and tying in trending topics.

Find the right format.

In 52 Headline Hacks: A “Cheat Sheet” for Writing Blog Posts That Go Viral, Jon Morrow explains that great writers see what other writers are doing well and try to imitate them. Many successful articles follow the same format, like promising a simple way of doing something or listing tips and tricks. Using those same templates, you can come up with engaging titles and topics for any keyword.

For example, say your keyword is “water heater repair.” What formats would offer a great way to approach this topic?

“How To” Posts:

These posts give the reader a clear point to reading the article. By the end of this post, I should know how to do this. You can mix it up and add in a qualifying phrase. “How to Exercise” is a boring, obvious topic, but “How to Exercise without Moving off Your Couch” is worthy of a reader’s attention. Whatever you promise to teach your readers, always deliver.

  • How to Know if Your Water Heater Needs Replacing
  • How to Solve Common Plumbing Problems Without Getting a Headache
  • How Your Water Heater Raises Your Utility Bill—and How to Minimize the Damage

List Posts:

Readers love lists because the content is easier to read and digest. They are often easier to write as well because you only have to say a blurb about each point. Again, if you can add a phrase at the end to spark interest or make your list more specific—like changing “6 Stellar Resources for Students” to “6 Stellar Resources for Students in Online Classes”—you’ll have more people reading.

  • 5 Appliances to Check Before the Stormy Winter Hits
  • Is the Power Out? 3 Effective Ways to Heat Water Without electricity.
  • Go Green With These 4 Eco-friendly Water Heaters

“What” Posts:

This one is simple. Choose a subject related to your keyword and industry that people don’t know a lot about and explain it. Try to give more details than the description of the product or process, such as its benefits.

  • What a Hybrid Water Heater Can Do that Your Old Model Can’t
  • What You May Be Missing As You Renovate
  • What You Can Do to Cut Back on Energy Spending for Your Home

Read Headline Hacks for more ideas.

Tie in the seasonal, trending, and newsworthy

The Internet has become extremely social. People tweet and post as things are happening. Brands like Oreo have used this trend to their advantage, commenting on buzzy topics as they happen, and then relate them back to their industry or product.

While we don’t expect you to comment on events in real time, you can use this principle to make your article timely and fascinating.

For example, many blogs and brands tried to capitalize on the success of Breaking Bad’s final season. Forbes and Lonely Planet both used the show to create blog posts that were specific to their audiences, “Seven Leadership Tips from Breaking Bad’s Vince Gilligan” and “A Do-It-Yourself Breaking Bad Tour of Albuquerque.” These articles are effective because each brand took a subject that many people care about and applied it to their own industries, rather than mentioning Breaking Bad just to seem more hip.

For example, the Olympics are a worldwide, highly talked-about event, and the games are universal enough to fit in with a number of keywords:

  • Metal recycling: Eco-friendly Olympians: Recycled Materials Used During the Games
  • Custom T-shirts: 5 Ways to Make an Impression While Supporting Your Favorite Athletes
  • Gym equipment: How Olympians Train—and How You Can Follow Their Example
  • Home renovation: What the Construction of the Sochi Olympics Can Teach You about Building Your Home
  • Travel agency: 8 Olympic Cities That Are Worth a Visit

You can also get more specific to your keyword: check out Google News and fashion your blog post as a smart commentary on something happening right now in the client’s industry.

Beware, though: it’s really easy to get carried away with this. Don’t reference a TV show in your post just because you like it. Avoid controversial subjects. Remember that you have to tie in your keyword naturally and appeal to the client’s audience—after all, the client is sponsoring the creation of this content.

You’ve made it through ideation training! Don’t forget to check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

We hope these resources will be helpful as you come with ideas and starting writing articles. Have you used any of these methods for ideation? Tell us how they worked for you.

By Shannon Williams

Shannon Williams has been with Boostability, WritersDomain’s parent company, for a year and a half. As a content strategist, she speaks to clients about their content needs and helps refine the company’s products. Shannon graduated from BYU with a degree in English and editing. And, as if she doesn’t spend enough time in front of a screen at work, she is a major cinephile and an aspiring novelist.

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  • Cam

    February 28, 2014 at 10:21 am

    Hope you’ll see this question. One of the things that the editors and copy chiefs at the online newspapers and websites I work for are ALWAYS stressing, especially lately – “keep it evergreen.” Essentially, we are always encouraged to produce the type of content that will be just as enticing to click on in the fall as it will in the spring, content that will be just as relevant in a few years as it is today. I noticed how much this diverges from the strategy mentioned here and wanted to double check since that is so different from what all my other clients on the Internet are asking for these days.

    If we are encouraged to add “of the moment” type content (the Breaking Bad, the winter games current athletes etc) those articles are not nearly as likely to be relevant or useful for our clients in a few years. (In a year BB could be canceled, have jumped the shark and lost all viewers, etc. In a year the winter athletes of Sochi 2014 will be largely replaced by more current celebs and these articles are likely to get precious few eyeballs.)

    Just wanted to double check that you are not insisting on evergreen content and that you prefer current content that is buzzy instead? Thank you for your answer in advance!

    1. WritersDomain

      February 28, 2014 at 12:32 pm

      All of the ideation trainings and ideas, along with the example articles, are just that–ideas and examples. One thing we’ve been trying to stress throughout all of the trainings is that, aside from the “dos” and “don’ts” in the writing guidelines, we cannot list or explain every acceptable (or unacceptable) type of writing. “Of the moment” type content is a great (and acceptable) way to write–but it’s only one way to write. “Evergreen” content is another great way to write, and is equally as effective for our clients. The trainings and examples should help give you ideas, not stifle your creativity or channel your writing into one form or mode. Hopefully this clarifies!

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