Journalism Advice

3 Web Tools That Can Help in Idea Generation and Research

3 Web Tools That Can Help in Idea Generation and Research

Every writer has their tricks for inspiration or getting unstuck. For some it’s reading, jogging, or engineering breaks into the day with a Pomodoro timer. Others recharge by playing games like solitaire or  table top games.

But the modern internet itself holds some newer tricks up its sleeve for us. Looking up internet search data might seem like the domain of a savvy online marketer–but a few of these tools can be surprisingly helpful for writers too. Here’s a quick round up of three that are simple, free, and often overlooked.

  1. Use Google trends to support your research

Google receives over 2 trillion searches a year. A mind-boggling sum. With that is valuable data on what people like and what’s happening in the world. It’s insightful for any journalist, and fortunately, Google does not make this information entirely private. 

You can access popularity trends on what people are searching on Google Search trends. You can view the data over time, and even drill into how it’s trending geographically.  

Let’s say you’re writing an article on vegan diets. By searching “vegan,” you’ll find that it has been continuing to rise in popularity for well over a decade, but over the last three years, it’s plateaued a bit. You can even compare the popularity of searches. By adding “vegetarian” as another search parameter, you’ll find that it’s searched much less than “vegan,” perhaps suggesting veganism is more culturally popular. 

  1. Get to know SimilarWeb

SimilarWeb is another overlooked tool for journalists. It allows you to understand website metrics, like how many visitors a website gets, and where they get their traffic from. 

For example, to continue with the vegan theme, you’ll find that the vegan restaurant recommendation site, Purple Cow, is quite popular according to SimilarWeb. That can be used to make suggestions on which restaurant aggregator you want to include in your article, or who you might want to reach out to for expert opinions. 

With SimilarWeb, you can also find similar sites. For Purple Cow, it shows a variety of Vegan related websites. If you want to understand the landscape of a particular space and who the players are, this is an excellent tool to quickly do that.

  1. Remember related searches

When starting an article, you are likely going to brainstorm all the different angles and areas you can cover for a particular topic. You’ll Google search a topic, and read the first few articles to start coming up with ideas. 

There’s is a much easier way to brainstorm. After searching for a term, when you scroll all the way down on the Google search  results, at the very bottom, you’ll see related search terms. For “Vegan,” you’ll see “vegan lifestyle” and “vegan benefits,” and if you drill in further from there, you’ll see “vegan benefits for skin.” You can easily see how this can give you a number of angles to consider.

Surprisingly, we’re so used to looking above the fold at the top Google search results, that this has become an easily forgotten, but powerful feature on Google.  

Modern writers can benefit from borrowing techniques from others working on the web, and adding a few tricks like these to the bag, might just land you that next article.

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Journalism Advice