We all have the same nightmare experience on a regular basis: you need content, you always need content, but the ideas just aren’t flowing. It is understandable, our brains aren’t continuous idea-generating machines that always function at top capacity. And even the most prolific writer is going to feel burnt out from time to time.

But what if you could be that idea-generating machine? What if you could hack your brain into thinking of new content ideas whenever you needed them, so you were never short of what to produce?

Well, I can’t promise that much. What I can promise is that these content brainstorming hacks are going to make it a lot easier to get past the block.

1. Set Boundaries On Your Brainstorming

You would think that having a boundless imagination would be good for your brainstorming, but that isn’t true. Some structure can be helpful, putting parameters around your brainstorming session and giving you a better blueprint to follow moving forward.

Try setting boundaries like how long you are going to sit down without distractions, how many ideas you are going to come up with before you stop, and even what categories the ideas are going to be in. This will help you to limit yourself, without casting your net too wide. Which can make it a lot harder to come up with viable ideas.

Featured tool:

StayFocused is a Google Chrome extension which is just perfect for setting boundaries. If you find yourself using the same site for brainstorming again and again, use StayFocused to limit that time and force yourself to be more productive.

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2. Go Keyword Hunting

Keyword research isn’t just for SEO! You can do keyword research to find ideas that you might not have considered before. You can look at both direct phrases, and related ones.

I also like to look at the auto-suggestions on Google, YouTube, and any other site that also has the feature. I find that I can often find out what people are interested in most based on those suggestions. Which gives me ideas to follow.

Featured tool:

SERPstat is a great keyword research tool that has it all: Competitor ranking report, position tracking, Google suggest search, etc.

I use SERPstat all the time, and usually come out with at least a dozen well thought out, planned topics to put on my editorial calendar. My favorite report is “Missing keywords” showing which keywords my closest competitors are ranking high while my site is nowhere to be found:

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3. Think Outside The (Text) Box

Have you been doing nothing but blog posts for the past however long? Then it might be time to think outside of the text box, and instead think in terms of other forms of media. For instance, you might be thinking of writing a post about the best PPC case studies of 2015. But why write about it, when you could create a graphic? Or record a podcast discussing it with someone else? Or make a slideshow?

The best part about expanding beyond a single form of media is the ability to repackage that content in multiple ways. That gives you a chance to reach new audiences with the same research, or to branch out to other websites. Here are many more ideas to create content that grabs attention and brings traffic.

4. Get Away From The Desk

Sometimes you just need a change of scenery to give you a fresh perspective and get the juices flowing. I come up with some of my best ideas when I am walking and listening to some instrumental music, or on a run. I have ever come up with an entire outline for a popular ebook I wrote while on a three hour hike while on vacation.

Just the act of moving away from a screen can be symbolic. Go and sit on the porch with a cool drink and a notepad. Or head out for a cup of coffee. Or get lunch with a friend or colleague. You will be amazed at how much better you are able to think.

5. Ask What You Want To Know About

We often have a tendency to write about things we are already experts in. And that make sense: you are an authority, you want to present an authoritative voice, so you go for topics you are well versed in.

But this tactic leaves us stuck in smaller pools of information to write about, and deprives our audience of learning something new they otherwise might have. Worst, it deprives us of learning something knew that we can become experts about.

Try expanding your horizons. Ask what something is that you’ve wanted to know, or you should update yourself on. Then learn something knew, and write about it!

Featured tool:

MyBlogU lets you create interview projects letting fellow members quickly submit answers and share their experience. It’s a quick way to create a solid piece of content while having it all written by a few niche experts.

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6. See What The Other Guys Are Doing

Competition is a great source of inspiration. Think of them as a dry run for any ideas that might be coming to you. See what they have posted, how people have responded, what your potential audience is interested in.

Obviously, you need to come up with your own spin and provide something of value to your audience. But it is a good place to start.

Featured tool:

Cyfe is a great way to monitor your niche without being overwhelmed. You can create a single dashboard to create multiple RSS feeds as well as Twitter search results and hashtags.

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7. Refuse To Be Negative

Being negative is the fastest way to completely derail all of your creative or productivity efforts. If you are feeling bad about your inability to come up with fresh ideas, you are going to dread sitting down to do it. If you are dreading it, you will put it off as long as possible. The longer you do this, the worst it is going to become.

You need to step out of the negative thinking, and start being positive. Tell yourself that you are going to come up with some good ideas. That the ones you do come up with are great, they just might need a little tweaking. That every idea is a valid one with potential.

Once you break out of that habit of bad thinking, you will see your process improving.

8. Go Through Old Content For Fresh Approaches To Similar Ideas

I mentioned repackaging content above, and that is always a great idea. But you can also look to old ideas for new ideas, such as updated versions, related topics, series, etc. Taking a look at what has been most popular in various ways is also helpful in establishing which pieces might provide a new opportunity.

Don’t just look at traffic to decide what is popular. Also look at social media shares, comments and backlinks. You will get a much better idea of what works, and what might have worked if it had been approached in a different way.

Have any brainstorming hacks to share? Let us know in the comments!

  • Ann Smarty is founder of MyBlogGuest, co-founder of ViralContentBuzz.com and brand manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. She started in the digital marketing 7 years ago. She is a bad marketer because she is a believer :)