Step one in producing good, compelling content is to gather information and ideas on what you want write about. You might already have a stash of information, white papers, or a mind full of ideas, but at some point – likely sooner than you think – you’re going to find yourself struggling to come up with topics. This is why you often see corporate blogs that start out with a bang, but then over time the posts get further and further apart. But don’t fret! The Internet is full of ideas on pretty much any topic across any number of media that can help you.

Here are 5 simple to use, free tools to make content creation a little easier:

1. Evernote – Set up a free Evernote account and setup a folder structure that allows you to organize saved content by topic. You can tag content to further organize within topics so that finding information of value to you is easy and fast.

2. Feedly – What is becoming the go-to backup for Google Reader users (now that Google has shut it down) is a fantastic, free way to organize and find information on the web. Create a folder structure by content topics and add RSS feeds to each folder. Spend time each morning and just after lunch (as you’re easing into or back into your work day) going through new feeds to find compelling articles, blogs, videos, etc. As you find them, save them to Evernote in the appropriate folder, and with the most suitable tags.

One nice feature of Feedly is that it recommends content sources based on what’s in each folder, so you can quickly build a cache of go to sources that can cover any number of topics.

3. Twitter #Hashtags – Hashtag searches are a great way to see what topics are trending on Twitter. You can also find new sources of information that people are talking about in near real-time. Here are three places – besides Twitter ( – you can search to find what Hashtags are popular and trending:

 4. Your Competition – I certainly don’t recommend copying what your competition is doing, but you certainly need to be aware of what they’re up to. What are they blogging about and how is it being received? What do they post on Facebook or Twitter? If you can gain a good understanding of how your competitors are doing content creation and their level of success, then you’ll be in a good position to create content that can capture some of their traffic.

Try creating a Feedly folder for each competitor, then create feeds for their blogs, site updates, and even their brand terms. You’ll be able to stay on top of what content they’re pushing on a regular basis.

5. Google Analytics/AdWords– What pages on your website are people frequenting now? What keywords are driving relevant traffic? If you can identify trends on what blog posts, videos, or other pieces of content are popular at your site than you can build on that success by creating similar content. Similarly, you can use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner to find out what keywords/phrases are getting the most traffic and visits across the web (in general). Start with a keyword, from Google Analytics, that you see is sending good traffic to your site, then add that to the AdWords Keyword Planner and it will give ideas for keywords that you should be using in your content creation efforts.

6. LinkedIn Groups – Chances are you use or have a profile at LinkedIn, and if you do you are most likely familiar with LinkedIn Groups. You should join some that part of your industry, and if you do you’ll likely discover that people are sharing good articles, blog posts, and industry insights. Find those discussions that are getting some good conversation and add value by expanding on the discussion via your company blog. This is a great curation strategy and one that can add timely dialogue to industry conversation.

These 6 resources always help me kick-start my content creation efforts. I’d have been struggling for topics long ago were it not for these. What resources do you find useful when you sit down to create content? Please share them below.