5 Best Tools for Content Marketing Ideas

Content Marketing Tools & Trends Article
20 mins

It’s natural for a content marketer to take pride in their ability to devise content ideas off the cuff but you can’t rely upon your own inventiveness alone to formulate the optimal content plan.

Focus too heavily on entirely original content ideas and you will end up with a content schedule that’s skewed towards your personal interests and strengths as a content planner and creator. To achieve the perfect balance between originality and breadth of content, you’ll need to back your brain up with some digital marketing tools.
In this article we’re going to talk through five of the best tools for generating content marketing ideas – learn how to use them all and you’ll stand to dramatically improve your content operation.

Answerthepublic.com – for content inspiration

This ingenious free tool can guide you towards thousands of content ideas, by showing you the questions web users in your country are asking surrounding a certain topic. Just head to the Answer The Public homepage, enter the keyword and nationality of your choice and click the ‘Get Questions’ button to access an eye-catching graphic showing the most searched queries related to your topic. In theory, this will show you exactly what the public wants to know about within your subject area.

Answer The Public sources its info from Google Search autocomplete suggestions, to provide you with a list encompassing the most common who, what, when, where, why, which, are and how queries relating to your keyword.

There’s no need to download an app, you can export your results as a CSV file, and best of all, the service is free!

Another interesting Answer The Public feature is a report archive, under ‘See existing reports’, which allows you to see results generated by the people who used the tool before you. This feature provides a fascinating glimpse into the subjects other content marketers are looking into – a novel way to pick out trending topics within the content industry, just ahead of the curve.

Google Trends – for data insights and graphics to support and inform your content

Speaking of which, there’s no better provider of trending topic data than Google Trends.

Considering the fact that both tools draw their information from the same source, Google Trends differs quite radically from Answer The Public. The emphasis here is on topics, rather than question-type search queries.

Since this tool is relatively complex, we’re going to break it down feature-by-feature:

Featured insights

This is first thing you’ll notice when you access Google Trends with your Google account. The featured insights panel shows cherry-picked insights into search volume surrounding trending topics in the country specified.

At the time of writing, UK users can see a pie chart showing search volume on each of the Strictly Come Dancing judges, a graph showing search interest in the 2016-2017 Premier League football season over a number of days, and plenty of other stories stretching back over the preceding weeks.

You can click on any one of these stories to find more detailed insights, visualised in a variety of ways. For example, within the Premier League 2016-2017 listing you will find:

  • Search volume and question type queries on the subject of the transfer window
  • Most searched clubs on transfer deadline day
  • Search volume and question type queries on the subject of the Premier league’s opening day
  • Most searched Premier League clubs globally (shown as a table and an interactive map)
  • Most searched Premier League managers
  • Top Premier League queries
  • Trending queries
  • Topics

Featured insight listings can be filtered by nationality and category (all categories, business, entertainment, health, sci/tech, sports and top stories).

Stories trending now

Just below the featured insights section of the Google Trends homepage, you’ll find a list of the latest trending stories, titled stories trending now. The table lists the top stories of the minute in real-time, as emphasised by the refresh button at the top-right of the table. Each story also features a graph charting interest in the story over the last 24 hours, plus a link to a reputable news provider’s coverage of the topic. Keep scrolling down the page and more listings will keep lazyloading, evidently until the tool runs out of suitable stories to deliver (today’s count: 239).

By clicking on any listing you can access more information and resources, including a graph showing interest and press coverage over time, links to previous coverage, a graphic showing interest by sub-region (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland), a list of trending queries related to the topic (scored on popularity as a percentage of the most searched query), and links to related topics. The data visualisations offered can all be turned into an embed code for use in your content.


Google Trends isn’t just a tool for tracking the latest hot topics – it’s an archive of topics and the way in which web users have engaged with them since 2004. Type a keyword into the search bar at the top of the Trends homepage to get started.

You will now see an interactive graph, showing your chosen topic’s search volume over a period of time. You can change the data sample used to generate your results according to four parameters: region, timescale, category and search type. The search type option lets you choose between web search, image search, news search, Google Shopping and YouTube search.

This tool can be a tremendous help in demonstrating a variety of phenomena, such as spikes of interest in a certain topic following a significant event, or popularity patterns linked to seasonality. The visualisations it creates represent individual strands of the human story – our preoccupations in line graph form.

You’ll also notice that you have the option to add a separate topic to the graph, to create a comparison. If we were betting men and women, we’d hazard a guess that the most widely requested comparison at the moment would be Hillary Rodham Clinton vs. Donald Trump.

You can use this tool to compare up to 5 different topics at once. Global interest heatmaps and related query listings for each topic are listed further down the page. All graphics listed on the Explore/Compare page can be shared, turned into an embed code, or downloaded in data form as a CSV file.

Trending searches

This feature lists the most popular search topics by day. Scroll down to the bottom and click ‘Load more’ to inch your way back through time. Each listing features a link to coverage from a quality news source, plus a link to the Google Trends Explore page for the topic. Your home country will be set as your default nationality for this feature, but you’re free to pick another from a dropdown menu near the top of the page. There are also options to subscribe to the Trending search feed for whichever country you like, plus an embed code generator.

Google Trends has even more options to discover that can lend a whole universe of data-based accompaniments to your content – but we really must leave you to find those for yourself. Let’s move on to a separate Google tool that offers something entirely different for content marketers.

Google Keyword Planner – identify the search marketing opportunities within your site

The Keyword Planner within Google AdWords is ostensibly a tool designed for use with your AdWords campaigns. It certainly is that, but it’s much else besides.

Open up Keyword Planner in AdWords and follow the instructions to generate keyword suggestions based on your website content. Next, head straight for the CSV export feature.

You’ll now have your mitts on some genuine monthly search volume figures for a long list of keywords, all of which have been added based on the content of your website. There are two columns (besides the keywords themselves) that should really interest you here: Avg. monthly searches and Competition. The two columns, respectively, will tell you how many people are showing interest in the various subjects that relate to your business, and roughly how much focus other AdWords users are placing upon promotion in those same areas.

Use this information to identify content ideas that will interest as many people as possible – and if the competition is low in the keyword areas you choose, that’s a huge bonus.

Brandwatch – exploring around topics

A little while back we wrote a blog post on how to bootstrap a start-up without funding. We suggested basing some of your early research and planning on an app called Brandwatch, which lets you search for the sub-topics web users are reading and writing about surrounding a certain keyword. From a new business’ perspective, it could allow the entrepreneur to gain a comprehensive view of the factors under consideration by other start-ups, simply by searching “Starting a business”. The resulting data is more comprehensive and authoritative than an editorialised guide could ever be.

In a content marketing context, Brandwatch is a handy tool for identifying the interesting and under-reported angles which radiate from your root topic. This could provide the inspiration for a whole new article, or simply for extra sections of content that will help you create a more definitive piece.

Ideas generators – your wild card option for content inspiration

Last and probably least, we ought to mention ideas generators. There are loads of free content marketing ideas generators out there that let you search for content ideas based on certain themes, keywords or audiences. Here’s a relatively successful one.

Ideas generators are unpredictable at best, and downright unusable in the worst cases. You won’t identify an authoritative, intelligent content plan by such means – but you may find an occasional shot of inspiration. Give it a try!

Using these tools together

Used in combination, the tools we’ve discussed in this article form a peerless content marketing suite that will almost certainly be a credit to your content plan. Here’s how we would use them all together:

  1. Answer The Public – find out about the questions web users are asking surrounding your subject area. Feed this information into your content planning decisions.
  2. Google AdWords Keyword Planner – use the Keyword Planner to identify additional keywords to add into your content plan. Where possible, insert popular or low-competition keywords from your Keyword Planner suggestions into existing content briefs in your content plan.
  3. Google Trends – use information sourced from Google Trends to illustrate or act as the subject of your content. Make use of the option to embed graphics.
  4. Brandwatch – use this tool to find extra angles to explore in your various content items. These angles (or sub-topics) can be used to flesh out existing content, or as the basis for entirely new pieces of content, depending on the amount of newsworthy info that’s readily available on the subject.
  5. Ideas generators – if you are struggling to identify ideas to round up your content plan, or if you have extra time and resources to play with, try searching for your chosen topics using an idea generator.


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