There are many tools out there that are recommended for this process, but I have always found Google Alerts to be the best. It provides the most useful features you could hope for, and sets the hook for gathering data you can use to adapt your content.
Here are some ways that you can use Google Alerts for content marketing.
Google Alerts: Basics "Google Alerts" is a free Google's tool that sends you email alerts of the latest relevant Google results based on your search terms.
There are 5 options to set up:
1. Your search term This is where you'll provide your search terms. Mind that you can get really creative here as it supports major advanced operators general Google search engine does. Learn Google operators here. Also get some creative ideas on how to use them here (download the cheatsheet as well.)
2. Result type You can search through news, blogs, videos, discussions, books or everything. Since we are talking about content brainstorming here, "Everything" might be the best option here (to get varied results), but keep experimenting!
3. Update frequency You can receive alerts daily, weekly or as it happens. Your choice depends on how often you need to brainstorm and create content.
4. Result quality and quantity This is a vague option but I've had more luck with "Best results". Again, this one is worth experimenting with.
5. Deliver to: email / RSS Since I have trouble finding time to check my RSS feeds, I've had more luck with email updates. You can't escape it when it comes straight to your inbox!
Mind that you'll see the result preview each time you search, so you can experiment with various options and search queries a lot before creating an actual alert.
Content Brainstorming There's nothing more inspiring than a post idea coming straight to your inbox: You just scroll down the list of results, scan search snippets and done: You feel enlightened!
Here are a few tips for you to craft a great brainstorming Google alert email:
1. Monitor Questions In Your Niche You are probably already using sites like Quora or Yahoo Answers to keep an eye on what people want to know in your niche. For those already well visible on the web, you might even be using it to watch out for any mentions of your brand. But there is a way to expand your focus and see what questions are being asked anywhere, especially since Google began running forum and message board results on a higher priority a few years ago.
Set an alert to find any questions that are asked around the web that are relevant to your niche. Then use the chance to give the answers to market your content.
Example: ["how to * blog" OR "why * blog"]
(* will be substituted by any phrase that happen to be found by Google: Great for random brainstorming!)
2. Monitor Trends New brands, concepts and designs are frequent. Some are long lasting, and some are a flash in the pan that die out before they really gain a footing. Either way, you should be looking to base some of your content on what is trending, both as a major niche and a subgenre of your own. It is a quick way to give yourself a shot in the arm by focusing on a popular item sure to attract attention, but also a way of finding additional niches that might be beneficial to you in the future.
Generic search example: [~diets]
(~ will tell Google to search for all possible synonyms of [diets] like [eating], [nutrition], [food], etc, so you'll see random relevant results in your niche)
More ideas focusing on "popular":
- ["best of * health"]
- ["popular * movies"]
- ["social * trends"], etc
3. Monitor Your Favorite Author(s) Mind that watching active and popular bloggers in your niche doesn't mean you are going to copy them. Remember that we are talking about brainstorming! Write reply-type posts if they are asking a question (and link to them), argue and discuss (and link to them), expand upon some points they slightly mentioned (and link to them). Remember linking is still one of the best ways to build relationships. Next thing you know it, you'll notice power bloggers you are linking to share and promote your articles!
While there's no way to force Google to search by author inside Google Alerts, try this trick:
Example: ["danny sullivan" -intitle:"danny sullivan"]
(This will force the author name in the body of the article)
Going Advanced Getting a weekly email full of cool content ideas is already an effective brainstorming tactic. But since you have already started playing, why not try a few advanced ideas.
1. Get organized and motivated Here's my personal trick. If I get an email update with some nice idea I feel like giving a try, I will not remove the email message or mark it as read until I write that article. That's a cool "get things done" tactic: I want my Thunderbird inbox to be empty and I want that so much that I will force myself to write that article!
2. Turn your Gmail account into a content brainstorming dashboard Gmail filters and advanced operators will help you any time you feel stuck.
- Are you too busy for regular email ideas but still need to brainstorm from time to time? Create a filter that will force emails from:email@example.com to bypass inbox while being collected in a separate folder. Whenever you need an idea, simply go and search that folder!
- Do you need additional motivation to go through alerts and write an article? Create a filter to star your Google Alerts automatically and only unstar those you are done with.