One of the greatest fears among copywriters is the block, the seemingly impassable wall that can bring even the most confident and skilled writer to his knees. Earlier this year, Paul covered many of the ways to conquer writer’s block in his post, “How to Avoid Writers Block – The Idea Bank.” In this article, Paul described forums, comments on your previous content, and active research as being the pillars of your idea bank, comparing ideas to bank deposits. But the only problem is that, by nature, these ideas come from your own research and hard work – just like the money you put into the bank. What if you could find a way to make that bank fill your deposit slips for you?
Avoiding writer’s block is as simple as focusing on well-crafted titles. Often, 90% of the process involved in generating an article idea is in the title. You only have around three seconds to grab a reader’s attention – and that three seconds will be spent reading the first five words of your article’s title.
Turning Existing Ideas Into Hundreds of High Quality Titles
As an activity, think of one broad topic that interests you and write it down. Take “business development” for example. On the surface, this seems like a very boring topic. But we can spice it up by using some creative thinking. First, ask yourself a series of questions about the topic, and answer them as honestly as possible:
- What audience would be most interested in this topic? business people
- What values are most important to this audience? ROI, saving time, remaining competitive, clarity, trust
- What problems does this audience typically face? compelling advertising, employee disengagement, technology advancement
Simply brainstorming about your target audience reveals a lot about how your articles should function, and how they’ll fit in your idea bank. Consider the article itself, and find some common traits that will link your ideas:
- If my audience values their time, the articles will need to be short and engaging.
- If staying ahead of the competition is important to my audience, my ideas will have to seem exclusive – as in “What Most Companies Forget About Business Development.”
- If technology fuels business growth, my ideas will also need to reflect how printed documents are still relevant in a digital world.
Brainstorming for Your Idea Bank
And, finally, we have come to the moment when it’s time to start filling up the bank with your ideas – strong ideas that will target a specific audience right out of the gate. Follow these steps:
1. Try to fit your topic into one of the most popular title templates if you need some ideas very quickly. The most popular and visible title formats are:
- How to – Describes a process that ends with the completion of a task.
- Top List – A list based article promising short, punchy content.
- What You Don’t Know About – Assumes the reader is familiar with the topic, but is doing it wrong.
- ______ Like a _______ – Think of these articles as pop culture fuel. Ex. “How to Live Like a Celebrity”
2. Use the Google Keyword Tool and Google Trends to do some research on your topic. Most web developers should be familiar with Google AdWords. But many seem to forget the “Categories” section, instead simply searching for a phrase in the keyword box. The category section is a gold mine of article ideas – all of which are getting high search volumes. For example, pick a category like “Cartoons” and look at the results. When I searched, the top four results were “spongebob games, lion king, the lion king, and buzz lightyear.” Let’s try plugging these ideas into our title formats and see what comes out:
- How to Find Spongebob Games Online
- Top 10 Quotes From The Lion King
- What You Don’t Know About The Lion King
- How You Can Look Like Buzz Lightyear
3. Write every title down, no matter what. You never know when you’re going to have to throw some content up on one of your sites. Organize your titles in a spreadsheet and don’t be afraid to come up with multiple titles for each keyword. Within an hour or so, you should have hundreds of great titles ready to be written.
So, you don’t have to be a brilliant copywriter to come up with hundreds of deposits for the idea bank. Companies like Demand Media, which generate thousands of titles every day, have been automating the content title creation process successfully for years. Without their algorithm, you’ll have to do the dirty work yourself. But you should spend the rest of your writing career churning out great content ideas with this approach. Now, if we can just find a way to tackle writer’s block halfway through our articles…