Where to Find Content Ideas for Your Web Site

If you feel overwhelmed at the thought of writing pages and pages of content for your Web site, take heart. There are lots of ways to get ideas for content, including brainstorming, looking at your competitors’ sites, using your own offline materials, and listening to what your customers want.

Brainstorm to develop Web content

The best source of original content for your Web site may be yourself. You and the other people in your Web-site business are authorities in one thing: your own business. You know the most about your Web site’s goals, products, services, clientele, methods, expertise, history, personnel, and so forth. You might discover that a lot of that information would be interesting and useful for your site visitors.

For example, you could ask the founder to write a three-paragraph history of how the company got started (or have someone interview him and write it up). Or you might write about your operations or your facilities like a tour guide, complete with pictures. When you write about your company, industry, and products, it's easy and natural to include lots of keywords, which benefits your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. You probably have a wealth of interesting information about your company and its products and services that could be turned into Web site content.

Brainstorm other kinds of content ideas, too — at this stage, accept any idea that could be useful and engaging to your target audience. Make a list of all possible articles, stories, topics, tidbits, quotes, and so on. Don’t stop at just what you’re able to create. Consider things that you could write as well as subjects you could find someone else to create. You’re just idea-gathering now, so be as creative as you can.

Look at competitors for Web content ideas

One of the best ways to fill content holes on your Web site is to do some competitive research to see what others in your industry are writing about. You want to see what they're doing right, where they're missing the mark, and what you could add to your site that they haven’t even thought of yet.

Travel your competitors’ Web sites like a user and discover what they have to offer. In particular, look at the landing page that is competing with your own for the same keyword. Notice its content as well as the various supporting pages linked from it.

When you go through your competitors’ sites, you’re essentially looking for anything they have that gives them an advantage — any special content that appeals only to a certain sector or that is attracting links. You are not using their site as a blueprint to copy, but venturing off your own Web site and seeing things from a visitor’s eye that can alert you to holes you would have missed otherwise. You can get ideas for original content that can be just as good as, or better than, your competitor’s.

Use your offline materials for Web content

One shortcut to creating Web site content is to pull from what you already have. Review everything your business has ever written to see if it can be repurposed for your Web site. Brochures, flyers, catalogs, articles, manuals, tutorials, online help resources, and even customer correspondence may contain volumes of helpful content. Do you have a user manual or instructions to go with one of your products? Consider replicating it online in HTML. The same goes for marketing materials, text on packaging, or other printed collateral. The writing may need to be updated, but starting with content makes your job much easier than starting from a blank page.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) can be a popular Web site feature, and they're very useful in helping users find the information they need. If your company maintains a support staff for customer assistance, they may already have an FAQ list started that includes the right answers. If you work for a company, ask around to find out what your various departments already have documented that could be polished a bit and used on the Web.

Listen to your customers to create helpful Web content

You want your Web site to serve your customers and target prospects, so try to address what they’d like to know. Talk to your customers. Ask some questions. Also talk to your support people to find out what customers ask about frequently. You may find great ideas for articles to add to the Web site (and help out your support department as a bonus). If you have a site search, you can mine those queries as well. What is of interest to one customer might be valuable to more, particularly if variations on the same keyword phrase keep popping up.

You might also check blog sites for your industry, your area, or your target demographic (whichever of those apply) to see what people are talking about in relation to your keywords. You can use Google’s blog search and type in your keyword phrases, your company name, or other pertinent search terms. You can get some excellent ideas for Web site content by listening to what’s being talked about. Just make sure that the ideas relate closely to your Web business so you don’t dilute your themes with unrelated content.

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