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Google and Bing Search Hacks to Brainstorm Content Ideas (Cheatsheet)

search to brainstormContent brainstorming is hard. The most obvious question we always face is: Where to start?

To me the answer is obvious: Whenever in doubt, go to Google!

This article describes my tricks searching Google to find what to blog next. It can be used in any niche (scroll down to the actual cheatsheet with the niche example)


Google is my go-to search engine. No matter how much it freaks me out, I’ll still go to search Google. It’s like FireFox: I won’t quit it even though it gives me so much headache. It’s the matter of habit: I feel comfortable on FireFox searching Google :)

And yes, Google has some cool tools and operators I can’t live without:

1. [] limits your search to that site

The scenario: Identify some site(s) that are awesome at featuring daily tools, hacks, apps and search it each time you need a tool in that niche.

Example: [ christmas]

[] limits your search to that site

Additional reading: 2 FireFox addons to access SITE: search easier

2. [“word1 * word2”] substitutes * with another word (or a few words) in a phrase

Example: [“which * are you”]

wildcard search

3. [filetype:] limits your search to the document types you specify

It’s a very useful search if you are looking for eBooks, cheatsheets and booklets.

Example: [filetype:pdf beginner’s seo]

[filetype:] limits your search to the document types you specify

4. [related:URL] will find more pages of this kind.

Example: [related:]

The main factor Google uses to identify “related” pages is by co-citation, so it’s helpful when you want to find more tools that usually end up in one list. It’s a great search trick when you are looking for “roundup” content inspiration (“XX Best Tools…”)

[related:URL] will find more pages of this kind.

5. [~word] will search and highlight the sysnonyms of the given word

That’s a nice one if you want to broaden your search a bit.

Example: [~money trends]

Synonym search

6. “Sites with images”

This is not an operator but a search option you can access by clicking “Search tools” above the search results. It will pull image thumbnails into the search results that is huge for brainstorming search:

"Sites with images"

7. “Related searched”

Another search option that allows you to broaden your brainstorming scope is by pulling more “”Related searches” above your search results:

"Related searched"


Bing supports SITE: and filetype: commands listed above and it also offers a couple of unique interesting operators.

8. [contains:] shows pages that link to the files with specified filetype

Example: [guest blogging contains:pdf] – this search returns articles that link to related PDF documents: a good way to discover new linkable assets to spice up your own piece or brainstorm a linkable asset of your own :)

Bing search [contains:]

9. [inbody:word] limits the search to documents that mention your search term in the body

This operator is priceless when you want to find articles that *mention* the tool versus articles about the tool.

Example: [inbody:myblogguest -intitle:myblogguest]

[inbody:word] Bing search

The Brainstorming Cheatsheet

(You can download this table here)

I want to brainstorm: What should I search Example (sample topic: charity)
The awesome list of related tools (Step 1) [] to find at least one tool (Step 1) [ charity]
(Step 2) [related:URL] of the tool you have found so far (Step 2) [related:]
(Step 3) [inbody:toolname -intitle:toolname] to fine more roundups and articles mentioning the tool you have found (Step 3) [inbody:gamesforchange -intitle:gamesforchange]
The awesome list of eBooks (step 1) [word (ebook) filetype:pdf] (step 1) [charity ebook filetype:PDF]
(step 2) [word (ebook) contains:pdf] to find more lists like this linking to pdf files (step 2) [charity ebook contains:pdf]
HOW TO guide (but not too sure ob what) (step 1) [how to * word] to see what guides already exist

(in some cases, this can be [how to * ~word] to broaden the search to synonyms). Also enable “Related searches” to get more ideas
(step 1) [how to * charity]
(step 2) [word filetype:pdf] to find related guides and research papers. (step 2) [charity filetype:pdf]

Now that you tried the tricks from the cheatsheat, put it aside and start playing more. Real inspiration comes with random, yet smart searches!

Also, don’t forget to check my IMN column and this specific article: HOW TO: Create content brainstorming dashboard

Post image: smart photo stock

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  1. 10 Responses to “Google and Bing Search Hacks to Brainstorm Content Ideas (Cheatsheet)”

  2. Hi,

    This a great post to discover topics. But what about discovering the content your audience really wants to read and that will help you help them become customers?

    Would love to know your thoughts.

    By kevin Gallagher on Dec 20, 2012

  3. Great article. I didn’t know about many of these. Thanks.

    By Jim Taylor, CRE, CPE, CPMM on Dec 20, 2012

  4. Kevin, there’s no one answer for that except for test test and test. Offer your audience all kinds of content and measure the response!

    By Ann Smarty on Dec 20, 2012

  5. Great tools! I didn’t know about some of these and I could really use them. Thanks for sharing.

    By Felix Lee on Jan 1, 2013

  6. Hi Ann,

    Love having all of these in one handy place. Thanks for the tip about “[contains:]” in Bing. Very useful. Thanks!

    “Hacks” like these are better than candy.

    By Jesse - Cajun Copy on Jan 5, 2013

  7. Hey Ann , great post , now I know why you come up with great content ideas so quick.

    By Ebrar on Jan 11, 2013

  8. Thanks for great article.I didn’t know much about it.Your tip “[contains:]” in Bing is very useful.

    By Taswir Haider on Jan 21, 2013

  9. Love having all of these in one handy place. Thanks for the tip about “[contains:]” in Bing. Very useful. Thanks!

    By amir on Apr 8, 2013

  10. This is a new (and great) way of looking for content ideas! I’ve always stuck to looking at other blogs and social media posts for inspiration, but this is also a great method to look for content ideas.

    It’s also neat to learn all the different tricks and features Google has.

    Thanks for this awesome article!

    By Karen Yu on Jun 4, 2013

  11. A very handy little cheat sheet, thanks. Google search offers some great ways to filter down your results.

    I think however that for really great dynamic content in this day and age you really have to get a deep understanding of the demographic you are aiming your content at. Creating something of value that reaches the right people might be harder to determine but is infinitely more valuable.

    By Brian Ramsay on Jan 5, 2015

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