The Secret Backstory of Portent’s Content Idea Generator

”There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.” – Audre Lorde

At SearchFest on Friday, Ian Lurie debuted a fantastic new tool, the Content Idea Generator. I could tell you about how amazing the tool is and how influencers like Jonathon Colman shared it all over social media:


Instead, I’m going to tell you the secret story behind the Content Idea Generator and how you too can create awesome new ideas.

Origin story of the Content Idea Generator

In the beginning was Jaelithe Guillette, Portent’s Associate Director of Content. She wanted a way to make brainstorming easier and came across this link bait generator:

Screencap of the Original Linkbait Generator

It was a pretty efficient way to get a title. But Jaelithe wanted something flashier… something that would inspire greatness from even the most worn-out copywriter. Something that would explain the strategy behind each idea so others could mold the titles based on their individual goals.

Actually that wasn’t the beginning. We were first inspired by Ross Hudgens’s 2012 SearchLove presentation, “LinkBuilding by Imitation: How to Steal Your Way to #1.”

We realized that inspiration, actually, is all around. But that wasn’t the beginning either. You see, Hudgens was inspired by Austin Kleon’s Steal like an Artist which was in turn inspired by a variety of his favorite artists.

I guess Audre Lord was right. There are no new ideas. Here’s how you can make that work for you.

Old ideas felt anew

The point is that even our shiniest new tool isn’t an original idea. You’ve seen headlines like these before. You may understand some of the emotional triggers they are pulling, but you haven’t had time to do the research. All we did with the Content Idea Generator is take an old idea, transform it using Jess Walker‘s eye for design and use Christopher Bachmann‘s expertise to make sure the tool worked. Bryden McGrath and the rest of the copy team added writing tips; we made the tool flashy and fun. Oh, and you don’t need a login to get to it.

Your turn to steal

Jaelithe’s original idea stands. The Content Idea Generator is a great resource for creating crazy and wonderful titles. The Content Idea Generator is our gift to you and your team. Use it, learn from it, improve upon it. Here is a quick guide to some of the link bait strategy behind the titles you’ll find in the Content Idea Generator. We’ve borrowed these too (from Stuntdubl), but we think you’ll like what we’ve done with them.

Ego hook

Screencap of ego hook example

Remember how we used Jonathon Colman’s Vine up above? And Ross Hudgens’s presentation and Austin Kleon’s book? To be fair, we referenced these guys because they are excellent resources, but you have to know they are that much more likely to share our content because we gave them a shout out. What pickle experts do you know?

Attack hook

Screencap of attack hook example

By going on the offensive, you can spark interest. This hook requires a solid sense of judgment, though. Replace the first mention of “pickles” with the name of a celebrity or expert and you are good to go, as long as it doesn’t hit too close to home. “Why Anderson Cooper is on crack about pickles” is funny. “Why Whitney Houston is on crack (about anything)” is not.

Resource hook

Screencap of resource hook example

You know what a resource is. Provide one for your reader.

News hook

Screencap of news hook example

News hooks are all about hitting what’s happening right now and this title would be even better if you inserted a trending topic into it. Try “Why Pickles are the New Black at the Oscars.”

Contrary hook

Screencap of contrary hook example

Some people like pickles and some people hate them. If your title is set up to create a debate, you’ve got yourself a contrary hook. Readers want to click through to argue with the blog post or find out why they were right all along.

Humor hook

Any of the headlines above qualify here because pretty much anything is funny as long as you write about pickles. Remember that people like to share things that make them happy. Do you need an illustration or are you ready to steal create your own titles now?

Go forth and steal (wisely)

The Internet is based around sharing and building on the ideas of others. That is a beautiful thing. Remember, though, that it’s up to you to create something new out of old ideas instead of stealing them outright. And it’s always a good idea to credit your sources.

Have you used our Content Idea Generator for inspiration? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

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