“We need to be creative” but how?


Freia Muehlenbein

Technical SEO

For those of you who missed the good news: A couple of months ago Google announced its plans to downgrade so-called link farming sites to avoid the mass distribution of low quality content; including links for SEO purposes. Since then “content”, “quality” and “alternative link strategies” became the name of the game. Why? Because good content always has been and always will be the key to a successful link building strategy.

But how do we actually create this quality content? How do we come up with the ideas for successful campaigns and, most importantly, do we still work in SEO or are we slowly but surely all becoming PR people?

Below, you will find some simple but effective ways to generate ideas without feeling too much like you are working in PR (however, I wouldn’t mind some beanbags, table football, iPads, and funky energy drinks in my office)!

Creative Brainstorming

For the lazy ones…

The lazy or “very busy” ones among us can find a variety of online tools that can help you accelerate the idea generation process. Having tested a couple of idea generation tools myself, my overall opinion is to utilise the good old brain rather than online tools. However, to get you in that ‘creative’ mood and have a laugh I would recommend using Linkbaitgenerator.com. By typing in a keyword the tool generates content ideas at the touch of a button.

So, let’s try it for the keyword “SEO”: Whereas “10 surprising ways SEO will be different in 20 years” sounds like a story I could work with, “8 ways SEO could help you survive a zombie outbreak” is not exactly what the typical SEO specialist wants to read about or is it?

Other tools are:

Idea Generator



Apart from the above mentioned online tools you will be able to find an endless amount of prefabricated lists of content titles that, supposedly, always work in SEO (see example list below). Basically, you could randomly pick one of these titles and apply it to whichever keyword you want. Let’s say you want to do SEO for the keyword “infographic”:

The biggest infographic failures in the last 3 years

10 top tips how to create an infographic that will go viral

Have you ever seen a really good infographic?

5 things you shouldn’t do when creating an infographic

Your guide to successful infographic promotion

How to make money with infographics

The 5 worst social media infographics

Again, this method is good to create titles for guest blog posts but does it really help you to create THE idea that will generate the quality links you are looking for?

For the creative ones…

If you want to get more creative and really understand your client’s products and services, you should familiarise yourself with the idea generation techniques that I have listed below. Don’t worry if time is an issue. Creativity doesn’t require a lot of time but you have to be in the mood. Top Tip: Involve 1-2 people that are not working on your campaign that can give you the objective input you need.

Word association:

This idea generation technique is simple, but extremely useful. You start by creating a list of terms that come to your mind, that you associate with the brand or, for SEO purposes, the keyword. In the example below I spent a couple of minutes on creating a word cloud for the SEO keyword “dresses”. Rather than using word cloud tools such as wordle.net you can always get a flipchart, whiteboard or big piece of paper out. Make sure you take a photo afterwards to save your ideas.

There are no creative limitations here. Write down everything that comes to your mind even if it’s the term ‘transvestite’ that you associate with the keyword ‘dresses’.

In the next step you can either group the terms on e.g. post-it notes or make sense of them in your head.

Example 1: ‘Business dress’ + ‘no-go’ + ‘attractive’ = a style guide about business dresses for women that help a female professional look attractive and, at the same time, avoid the no-goes of professional clothing.

Creative Keyword Cloud
Largest and the Smallest:

What would the Guinness Book of World Records write about? Think about extremes, super-sizes and speeds. If your SEO keyword is ‘window cleaning service’ a potential story could be about the biggest windows or the biggest buildings in the world that have ever been cleaned. It could also be an infographic about how long it takes a window cleaner to clean a normal-sized window compared to a whole sky scraper. You could also start a competition to find the quickest window cleaner or the best-looking window cleaner of the year. You implement the campaign each year to make it more popular.

Ideas that would get you the sack:

Be controversial, be mean, be rude, be sarcastic! Don’t we all love stories that make us cringe or laugh? Unfortunately, some clients would not want you to take this too far but it’s always worth a try and worth a presentation slide in a client meeting. So let’s try this with the keyword ‘project management’. Your story could be “The best project manager jokes and why they’re true”. You could create a post that sarcastically evaluates some of project managers’ worst practices. There is a wide selection of sites listing jokes about every profession from which you can obtain the basis of your post: Rubbish jokes.

  • Our customers really love us, so they don’t care if our products are late and don’t work.
  • The nice thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression
  • Measurable benefits are real. Intangible benefits are not measurable, thus intangible benefits are not real. Corollary: Intangible benefits are real if you can prove that they are real.

Wouldn’t it be great if:

Here, you need to think about what the product or service would look like in an ideal/fantasy world.

Wouldn’t it be great if tap water was pink?

Wouldn’t it be great if mobile phones didn’t need to be charged?

Wouldn’t it be great if Blake Lively was my personal style advisor?

State the obvious: Create a list of clichés and maxims that you associate with your keyword.

Along the lines of “Germans always eat sausages” or “Brits eat chips with everything” you can play with preconceptions and untruths (clichés stated above are definitely true btw).

Bottom Line

Creativity can be learned! If you don’t consider yourself as being creative, you should research and test different idea generation techniques to see which ones suit you best. If you want to develop and train your whole team and move towards more PR and creative based link building techniques, it is also a good idea to organise a company training course (I strongly recommend Michelle Goodall – a creative head and online PR trainer). And now – let’s go out and kick Panda’s derriere!

Are you working on difficult SEO keywords? Feeling like there is no way you could ever think of something exciting to write about? Tell us about your creative link building dilemma and we will do our best to respond!