One of the best skills a content creator can have is the ability to find and write effective featured article topics.
Thankfully, quality content is making a comeback. Google has started to demolish the era of clickbait, thin content, and articles which promised a lot but delivered little.
Also, longreads are gaining in popularity. People are getting sick of the endless modern cycle of scrolling and liking. As we learn more about the destructive mental impact of social media, we increasingly seek out quality, featured articles which will enrich and entertain us.
As an article writer, how exactly do you find the type of featured article topics which readers and editors love?
Refresh Rather Than Rehash
Have you ever noticed a strange similarity to a lot of online content?
Often, it’s fairly easy to tell that a writer’s research process consisted of reading three similar articles on the front page of Google, combining ideas from several, and changing the wording enough to keep their editor happy.
That type of article might be ‘good enough’, but it will never be great. It will never inspire readers to bookmark your site and come back for more. To share it with their friends on social media.
So how can you avoid the tempting trap of rehashing what’s gone before you?
- New source material. It’s all to easy to stick to Google as a primary research tool. It’s just so easy. But if you want to find a featured article topic that is truly fresh, you need to look elsewhere. What is the latest academic research on a topic? What are people talking about on social media in relation to it? What do the latest and best books have to say? By looking away from Google, you bring a fresh perspective most writers won’t take the time to find.
- Your personal experience. One way to ensure that your featured article is truly fresh is to bring your personal take to the table. This is only right for some publications, so make sure this is suitable before pursuing it too much. However, your own wealth of experience is something no other writer can copy. Readers also resonate more with content that contains genuine personal reflection and experience.
- Primary research. It’s easier than ever to get good quality primary source material for article creation. Think about the following two potential featured article titles – ‘5 Delicious Foods To Try In Barcelona’ VS ‘5 Barcelona Chefs Share Their Favorite Foods’. The first is bland and generic. The second is original and brings a lot more credibility to the table.
Ultimately, readers are smart. If they care about a topic, they will have read a lot about it. If your featured article doesn’t bring anything new to the table, it will be received badly. Be sure to be fresh in order to be featured.
Which Featured Article Topics Have Worked Before?
Of course, there is a balance to be struck between being fresh, and being tried and tested.
Basically, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t hurt to paint it in a new and original way.
Often, the best featured article topics combine aspects of what’s worked in the past with a new angle.
How exactly can you put this into practice?
- Reader feedback. Say you are thinking of pitching to a particular publisher. Why not make your pitch more effective with data from their real readers? If you look at articles which have picked up a lot of comments, or a lot of shares, you instantly understand what works for that audience. If you can offer a fresh take on something that’s proven popular in the past, editors are a lot more likely to consider your pitch.
- Categories. A lot of websites and blogs categorize their content. This can help readers to find the right articles for their interests, and also reflects the traditional style of magazines. By looking through a publication’s categories, you can gauge if there is a fit between your own interests and their popular topics. Showing a thorough understanding of how a website or blog categorizes its content also shows you’ve done your homework, giving your featured article topic a better chance of being accepted.
- Ask. Often, even our most rational and thought out ideas turn out to be wrong. In today’s world, it’s super easy to get feedback. You can create polls in Facebook groups or use services like Pick Fu. You don’t have to guess as to what people will like. Ask them! Having data like this also shows your featured article topic is going to be more of a sure bet.
Think of excellent featured article ideas as being like a Venn Diagram. One circle is what’s worked before, One circle is your unique ideas and experience. The crossover area is where the golden ideas are.
Look Ahead To Anticipate The Featured Articles Of Tomorrow
Writing for major publications is a lot different than writing for your own blog.
Often, content has a long lead time. It will go through several stages of editing, and will be put on the calendar a long time in advance.
By looking ahead, you can generate featured article ideas that are suitable for the readers of tomorrow.
So how do you polish off your crystal ball and find effective article ideas for the future?
- Trends. If you use a tool like Ahrefs or some social media analyzers, you can see how people’s interests in certain areas change over time. If you can write a topic about a growth area, you show that your ideas aren’t yesterday’s news.
- Events. What’s happening in the future? Will there be political or legal changes that spike people’s interests in a certain area? Are there new products or services on the horizon that people will want to learn more about? Without getting too technical, a framework such as PESTLE can be your friend here.
- Books. Have you noticed how the release of a book can trigger a ton of article content that is similar? Go to Amazon, or any other bookstore which offers pre-orders, and look ahead. Are there any major books coming out in the future? Can you think up featured article topics to coincide with these? This is a great way to get ahead of the trend before hordes of hungry writers catch wind of it.
If you’re really struggling to come up with a topic for a featured article, look to the future. You may well tap into a fresh vein of inspiration you wouldn’t have otherwise had.
Final Thoughts On Finding Featured Article Topics
Ultimately, finding featured article topics is a process. Now and then you will strike gold quickly. Most of the time, you need to brainstorm from many different angles. You’ll inevitably find more bad ideas than good.
However, if you stick with the process, you’ll turn up a gem eventually. Whether pitching to publications, or writing for your own website, a quality article beloved by readers is a true asset.
Why wait to find your next idea for an epic featured article? Pour that next coffee and get brainstorming!