One of the requirements for a sustainable content marketing campaign is the aptitude for generating topic ideas. It may sound easy, but at some point, you’ll realize that this can be harder than producing the content itself — whether it’s a blog post, podcast or any form of visual content.
Smart marketers capitalize on tools  that randomly generate titles based on keywords. There are also content research tools like BuzzSumo  that can help you identify what’s trending in your niche. While these can help you obtain rough ideas on what your next piece will be about, they rarely provide you with usable titles that are worth publishing.
Brainstorming Content Ideas
Take note that you need a strategic approach  when generating topic ideas. But before you finalize and start working on any title, be sure to ask yourself the following questions first:
1. Have You Done Anything Similar Before?
Some content marketers are guilty of reusing the same idea for multiple content pieces, especially if they contribute to different publications. If you’re really struggling to come up with something new, then you may revert back to old topic ideas.
Reusing a previous title idea can be advantageous as long as you’re doing it knowingly. Otherwise, you may disappoint subscribers who religiously follow your blog.
The first thing you can do is to explore the topic from a different angle or furnish it with a new set of actionable steps. If possible, you can also present it using a different format to appeal to new audiences. Old data-rich posts, for example, can be repurposed into infographics, which garner three times more engagement  on social media.
2. Are There Sufficient Resources Online?
If you answered “no” to the previous question, then you probably lack comprehensive knowledge on the topic you chose. Sure, diligent content producers can relate to anything with extensive research, but it’s very difficult to instill value to new content if there aren’t enough information sources online.
Unless you have firsthand experience on a subject, make sure there are abundant research materials available before you get started. To establish yourself as a credible, authoritative brand, you should only provide 100 percent accurate information that’s validated by studies and other resources. And if you really need to delve into a topic, then be prepared to purchase reports and studies from certified research firms.
Additionally, make sure you only reference the most recent sources available. A simple trick is to filter results through search engines and content research tools  by date instead of relevance.
3. Is There Similar Content Elsewhere?
Let’s face it — all content marketers have at least considered copying ideas or “borrowing inspiration” from other content producers. With millions of websites publishing content every second, it’s hard to come up with something that’s truly unique.
Although it’s fine if you don’t have first dibs on a new content idea, you should aim to make your version better in every single way. This is doable if you can update old data, add more information, or incorporate additional visual elements. But if you can’t do any of these, then you should ditch the topic and start anew. This involves getting links from authoritative websites that linked to the original content, making the technique highly beneficial for SEO .
4. Can You Offer Original Views and Add Value?
Take note that content marketing is now much more difficult than ever. If you keep on repeating everything that other publishers already shared, it’ll be impossible to cut through the content noise and make your brand stand out.
In addition to making your content better, assess if you can offer your original views to elevate its value. You can apply the information yourself to gain deeper insights and expound actionable steps. Finally, the content should also align with your brand’s voice — something that fosters familiarity between you and the online audience.
5. Can You Be More Specific?
Another way to be more unique is to dissect a topic into smaller pieces and focus on those individually. For example, if you initially wanted to cover influencer marketing , you can shift your focus on subtopics such as researching potential influencers, writing your outreach email  and tracking relationships with brand advocates.
Every topic can be narrowed down with a little creativity and resourcefulness. Apart from finding subtopics, you can also tailor your new content to a different audience type. Play around with demographics such as age groups, employment status, income level, and location. This can unlock new topic possibilities with the same set of ideas.
6. Do You Have the Best Content Type in Mind?
In an interview  with Mention, Rand Fishkin of Moz says that content marketers should explore new content types if they want to stay relevant.
“Content marketers are going to have to be more unique with the types of content they create,” says Fishkin. “They’re going to have more niche — serving smaller and smaller interest groups, but doing a better job of serving each of those.”
The good news is, brands don’t need a huge amount of capital to start diversifying their content arsenal. For example, simple visual content like infographics, quote cards and data visualizations can be created with a tool like Canva . It is a drag-and-drop platform that offers templates, icons and other features that can help you create shareable images within minutes.
Most modern smartphones are also capable of recording short video clips for social media. According to Cisco , videos will account for 80 percent of all online traffic by the year 2019. So rather than planning another blog post, consider writing an explainer video script instead.
7. Will It Come with a Catchy Headline?
The final touches of a topic idea involve crafting a captivating headline that’s searchable, audience-oriented, and compelling. After answering all the previous questions, make sure you can wrap everything up in as few words as possible.
According to Kissmetrics , the perfect headline is only six words long because readers tend to focus on the first and last three words. But since this is nearly impossible to pull off consistently, aim for anywhere from eight to twelve words. Ideally, you should use numbers and power words  to make the headline more interesting.
Team Session  Photo via Shutterstock