“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”
– Mark Twain
Twain is right. Words are words, and aside from new entries to the lexicon like “fleek” and “yeet” (<shudder>) in place of “thou” and “thine”, we’re using much the same vocabulary as we did centuries ago.
Truly unique ideas are hard to come by, too, but here’s the thing: you don’t necessarily have to have a unique idea, you have to have a unique approach, point of view, or personal experience that makes an old idea new again.
Whether you’re a writer looking for inspiration or a business owner hoping to use a professional article writing service to create a unique piece of content for your website or blog, I’ve got a few ideas that should help you breathe life into an internet that often feels filled to the brim with same old, same old.
Shake Up the Angle
If you try to write 100-percent unique content using the same brainstorming and research methods every other writer uses, you’re going to struggle. The world is filled with low-level content because those types of articles practically write themselves. They require very little research, and therefore provide very little value.
Flip the script by changing up how you look at the topic at hand:
- Look for long-tail related search terms. Long tail keywords are keyword phrases that are at least three words long and that offer specificity, like “content marketing tips and tricks” instead of “content marketing.” Google is helpful for that—just type in your main keyword or topic and see what Google’s autocomplete feature comes up with.
- “Listen” on social media. Check out your competitors’ social media pages, search for relevant hashtags, visit groups dedicated to your topic, and see what the people have to say. It’s one of the easiest ways to surreptitiously survey real people saying real things about what really matters to them—it’s essentially market research without the gasp-inducing price tag. Social listening also has the advantage of being an agile tactic. You can gather information quickly and put that data to work just as fast, seriously slashing your turnaround time and transforming your strategy sessions into living, breathing entities.
- Collect audience feedback/input. This is a more direct form of market research. Send an email to your followers or create a social media poll asking the public for their thoughts on a given topic. “If you could ask your podiatrist any question, what would it be?” “What do you wish people knew about what it’s really like to be a mom?” “What did you like least about the last marketing book you read?”
- Make an old topic new again. Perhaps there’s an article out there on wine pairing that everyone refers to as the gold standard. Thing is, it was written in 2008. A lot can happen in a couple decades, and tastes and trends evolve. Twenty years ago, people would get a case of the vapors if you suggested pairing red wine and fish; today, sommeliers love to serve a light and juicy Pinot Noir with fatty, succulent salmon. Use modern data and current trends to spin an outdated article into something that reflects progress and, even better, your POV.
Play with Different Formats
Title, intro, subheader, subheader, subheader, conclusion. It’s the go-to format for writing articles, and it works, but it’s also so prevalent it’s starting to make my eyes glaze over. When you shake up how your article is put together, it’s inevitable that you’ll shake up the actual content, too.
Make each subheader a well-known quote instead of a short, generic phrase. Use HARO to gather expert insights, then build your article around that input. Instead of talking about what your readers should do, tell them how they can do it. Frame your info using a series of dos and don’ts. Create a Q&A (also great for boosting search engine optimization). Write a definitive how-to guide. Pretend you’re writing a letter or a review. Turn things personal and open with an anecdote. Doing the unexpected can get you noticed, and that’s important when you’re trying to turn a good idea into a way to make money online.
Spy on the Competition—And Then Outdo Them
You’ve probably heard the old adage “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” but I like to believe that if there isn’t a way I can outsmart, out-ideate, and outwrite the competition, I can hire someone with the writing skills to get it done.
The key is to know what your competition is up to so you can go one step better. Try sifting through the search results for your topic to see what’s already been covered, then tackle the gaps. Your goal? Create the most comprehensive content available.
To do that, use tools like MarketMuse and SEMrush to inform your ideation process. MarketMuse is an optimization powerhouse, but instead of optimizing for keywords, it focuses on topics. You enter the general subject matter and MarketMuse will give you the top-ranking pages for that topic, topic suggestions that will add depth, and so much more. SEMrush is known for its SEO capabilities, but it will also generate topic ideas and analyze content at a given domain.
Take a Total Left Turn
It’s hard to come up with something fresh when everything you’re reading is staler than three-day-old popcorn. When everyone in the real estate industry is writing about the same staging techniques and negotiation tactics, it’s time to get your inspiration elsewhere.
Stop reading blog posts and books from within your own niche. Dig into the biography of Robert Ripley, the man behind Ripley’s Believe it or Not and embrace the strange. Take a class on Feng Shui. Fall down the rabbit hole of evolutionary philosophy. Follow a complete new set of people on Twitter. Give your brain an intellectual jolt and see what comes out.
Above all, get out of your own head. Shut down writer’s block. Refuse to get too comfortable. Brainstorm your readers in mind and never settle for anything but high-quality content, and you’ll soon find that learning how to write unique articles makes everything feel shiny and new again—yourself included.