In 4 Steps: Test and Refine Content Ideas in Advance

Jan Tissler Updated on 20.10.2020
7 Min.
Content ideas
Last updated on 20.10.2020

If you are planning an elaborate content, of course you want to know beforehand how good your idea actually is. And whether it is worth the effort. In this article I will show you how to do this. The good thing about it is that you refine your content ideas at the same time and already win the first potential readers or viewers.

Maybe you have already experienced it yourself: You create what you consider to be enormously good content, you invest a lot of time and effort, you publish it and then ... nothing. Complete silence. Maybe one day a visitor will get lost on it. But there is no trace of the hoped-for masses, the desired range, the surely believed success. 

Or maybe your content seems to be successful at first glance because your video has many views or your blog post has many views. But in the end you realize that it still didn't pay off for you. Because to measure the success of your contentother key performance indicators are usually important: After all, you are more interested in measuring figures such as your turnover or the satisfaction of your customers.

The reasons for failure can be many and varied. Maybe your content strategy is wrong. Then you have to think very fundamentally about who you want to reach - and with what and how this can be achieved. Or you have completely forgotten, your Schedule content distribution from the outsetso that your content does not reach the potential audience in the first place.

Basics about Content Marketing

This article is part of a complete series about content design. It explains Jan Tissler step by step how to make your websites and content more successful. See all posts by Jan in the overview.

Step 1: Basic questions

Especially with elaborate content, it therefore makes sense to check the idea during the planning stage. With the following tips you can at least better estimate the possible success. Of course, no one can give you a guarantee of success.

Through these preliminary researches you will also find out which questions, which point of view and which content formats are most suitable. So you optimize your content idea even before you have even started with the actual work. It is important that you approach your analysis objectively and soberly. You might find a topic particularly interesting and you are excited about it. But in the end, the decisive factor is of course how relevant it is for the target group you want to reach. 

Some questions you should ask yourself at the beginning before you start thinking further:

  • Does this content idea help one of your business goals? And if so, is it an effective way to achieve it? How important is this goal?
  • Does existing content give you an indication of whether the idea could be successful? Think about a content auditto collect such information. This may also show that you should perhaps improve and expand an existing content. A look into your statistics tool is of course helpful here. SEO Tools can additionally show you which contents would only need a little push to bring them from the desert of search result page 2 to the oasis on site 1.
  • Will your planned content become obsolete quickly? If so, is there a way to turn it into an "evergreen" that remains interesting in the long run or only needs to be updated occasionally? If not: Is it still worth the effort?
  • Do you have the resources to implement the content idea and keep it up to date if necessary? This does not only include your time expenditure. Also ask yourself who can create any necessary elements such as an infographics. Or who can translate the contribution if necessary.

The answers to these questions may then show you that a topic is not worthwhile. Or at least they give you clues as to how you could approach it better.

SEO Audit Tools
SEO tools relentlessly show the state of your website

Step 2: Keyword research

In the next step you want to refine your content idea further. First of all it says here a comprehensive keyword research on. You'll find out two things:

  1. How popular is my topic?
  2. What exactly is searched for on Google & Co.

Point 1 gives you an estimate of how many users you could reach with your content. Point 2 gives you an indication of where you should develop your idea further. In order to get ahead in search engines, YouTube, etc. for a keyword, it doesn't help much if your content is about an obscure topic or just niche technical terms. An exception can be made here if this rare search actually fits 1:1 to your very specialized product or offer.

In doing so, also consider the important point of the "search intention": What is the likely goal of the users? Do they mainly want to inform themselves because they are still at the beginning of their research? Or do they already want to buy something? Of course, this has a considerable influence on your planned content.

Instructions for search engine optimization (SEO)

How such a keyword search works, has Dominik Stein been explained here at wp unboxed explained in detail. See also his Instructions for the SEO Audit.

Step 3: Competition analysis

With your insights from the first two steps, it is now time to take a look at the competition in your subject area. After all, you won't normally be the first person to write or talk about something today.

Depending on the content format you're looking for, you can look at Google, YouTube or Amazon Kindle, for example, to see what's already there. A tool like Buzzsumo helps you to estimate the reach of an article or blog post (the search for German language content is only available with a paid account).

When doing your research, also pay attention to how popular these topics are. For example, if you see a lot of ads in the search results on Google, it seems worthwhile. If you don't see any ads at all, you've either made an incredible discovery or your topic isn't as relevant as you thought.

Customize content idea

In any case, you should not be discouraged if you find many search hits and the content already seems to be very successful. On the contrary, this may show you that you are on the right track. Above all, it means that you may have to invest in your planned content for the long term and your success will not come overnight.

For example, you can look at the best search hits on Google and ask yourself how much more extensive, helpful or multimedia your planned content could be. Keep in mind that you will probably have to offer much more than your competitors. Among experts, this is referred to with terms like Skyscraper Content , 10x content explains: You have to stand out with your content like a skyscraper.

At the same time, make sure that the existing content is actually implemented in such a way that it appeals to the target group you are aiming for. Because the same topic can be treated very differently - and that in turn will reach different people.

Blog Categories
The categories in our magazine address different target groups

But you might come to the conclusion that the topic of your content idea is already so well covered that you can't add anything to it with your resources. Even in this case, there are several ways to customize your content idea:

  • Think about whether you could instead deal with a single question from this area or a sub-theme. The goal is to make your content more specialized.
  • Check out the reactions and questions you see in comments under a blog post or under videos. Do you find there other approaches to what you could do differently or better?
  • Check if you can add a different viewpoint that is not available in the other content. Example: Your topic is often covered by marketers, but you are a web developer and therefore have a completely different background.
  • Or you decide to change the medium and format: For example, instead of a blog post, you could pan to a video to.

So if there is already a lot of competition, your basic question should always be: Can I add something to the already existing offers that is either much better or different enough?

Step 4: Further approaches to improve your idea

At this point, you may need further inspiration for your content. Either because you want to strike a new path with your idea. Or because you want to expand your idea to provide the best content for the question.

Forums and groups

For example, look for forums, Facebook groups, subreddits, and other places where your audience can talk about the topic. Ideally, this will give you more ideas and a good insight into which questions are really the most pressing. You might even find new keywords and search phrases that will take you back to step 2.

Ask your customers, fans and followers

Another good way is to ask your existing customers, newsletter readers, website users and social media followers. This can be in the form of a short survey on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn be. Or you can make it very easy for them and ask them if they are interested in content idea XYZ - with a click on "Yes" they can then subscribe to a suitable distribution list.

You can also ask directly which problems you should treat and explain there. This will also give you further insight into how your target group actually thinks and what they are concerned with. This will help you to answer the questions of your intended readership as precisely as possible.

Let the lean startup method inspire you

Or you can let the idea of the "Minimum Viable Product" from the lean startup approach stimulate. For example, before starting its service, Dropbox created a landing page with a video showing the planned functionality. A product did not yet exist at that time. However, the startup could test whether it was on the right track based on the reactions.

For example, if you have planned an extensive white paper, create a landing page for it, explaining your idea and the possible contents. Give users the chance to leave an email at the end. In this way, you not only validate your idea, but also collect readers before you even start writing.

Another bonus: You can again ask these interested parties what information they would like to see in the white paper. You will then receive further data to improve your idea. It may even be useful to promote this landing page on a trial basis, for example with Ads on Facebook or Google. About a A/B test you can also test here whether some formulations work better than others.


Among content experts, good planning is more important today than ever. The amount of content on offer is simply overwhelming. With any text, graphics or videos you won't win a flower pot (aka customers) anymore. By the way, it's not necessarily about writing the longest article of all. Especially for your target group a series of shorter articles might be the right thing. Or a video series or a PDF download or an Instagram Story...

Ultimately, you will not be able to avoid experimenting with your content ideas and formats. Because it is usually not expedient to simply copy the approach of others. After all, you never know exactly to what extent the approach of a competitor is suitable for you. In fact, you often don't even know whether your competitor has really been successful, because the actually decisive key figures such as the achieved turnover are usually not public.

Experimenting here can also mean that you plan several formats for one and the same topic from the outset. If you have a detailed article for your Corporate blog you can also make a video for YouTube or a free webinar (and publish your slides on Slideshare afterwards). That way, you'll not only have multiple uses for your work. You've also made it more likely that your content will be discovered.

Find content ideas: What questions do you have for Jan?

Feel free to use the comment function. Do you want to hear about new posts on online marketing for agencies and freelancers? Then follow us on Twitteror Facebook , or subscribe to our newsletter.

Jan is an online journalist and digital publishing specialist with over 20 years of professional experience. Companies book him as an author, consultant or editor-in-chief. He is also the founder and one of the editors of UPLOAD magazine. Photographer Author's picture: Patrick Lux.

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