Search Engine Optimization

SCAMPER your way to better SEO and content marketing ideas

SCAMPER your way to better SEO and content marketing ideas

There is a lot of content out there. And guess what? 99% of it is terrible. 

Then, there is that 1% of content – the really good to absolutely phenomenal stuff. 

Sometimes, that is hot news, like the recent Google Search leak, but there are also pieces of content that are so powerful, useful and memorable that just a single piece can propel a business forward.

Your job as an SEO and content marketer is to try to catch lightning in a bottle. Easier said than done. 

The solution to this problem is to generate unique ideas. Again, easier said than done. 

One tool that can help is the Value Proposition Framework (VPF). The VPF can help you understand your customer segments’ minds and generate ideas that are focused on helping them make their lives easier, solve their problems and achieve their goals. 

However, even with this value-orientated approach, it can feel like everything has already been done and is often done to a good standard. 

This results in reams of published content that bring nothing new. This may be OK if you drive traffic by other means, but it will never get you to the top of Mount Google. 

This is where SCAMPER comes in 

SCAMPER helps you examine your content ecosystem from various perspectives to develop radically new ideas. 

SCAMPER is another trendy marketing acronym for:

  • Substitute
  • Combine
  • Adapt
  • Modify
  • Put-to-another-use
  • Eliminate
  • Rearrange/Reverse

Each aspect challenges your current approach and encourages you to think differently. This is powerful as a lone-gun content writer but even more so when used to stimulate discussion with a team of conspirators. 

SCAMPER was initially designed to encourage creativity and problem-solving, but it can also be a powerful tool for aiding in SEO planning and developing a truly unique SEO strategy. 

Why SCAMPER, and why now? 

As of this writing, Google has just provided some guidance for struggling sites, as summarized in this piece by Danny Goodwin. 

The key takeaways are:

  • Continue creating high-quality content – do what you think is best for your readers.
  • Diversify your traffic sources and promote your content across multiple channels.
  • Build an engaged audience that comes to you directly or via email and social media.

We can summarize that further: 

Create high-quality content and promote it to your audience through social media and email (duh).

While much SEO chatter is currently focused on the big Google SEO leak, the big win in SEO or any marketing is to deliver value to your prospects that connect with your product offering. Content, in its many incarnations, is still the best way to do that. 

The only wrinkle here, seemingly further confirmed by the leak, is that you just have to make the most of that content by promoting it everywhere. It needs to be promoted so people (including Google) know and engage with it.

Any serious SEO professional will tell you that despite what Google may have said historically, you can’t just build it and expect it to come. You have always had to create and promote something great, so nothing new here. However, it does help us validate some aspects of the approach. 

The true purpose behind these efforts should be to create something that blows your audience’s socks off – something so good that it almost promotes itself. Build it, promote it, then it will rank and they will come (just make sure you have a well-optimized website so the foundations are ticked off). 

SCAMPER is a tool to help you think outside the (sand)box and create something truly unique and different that will stand out from the crowd – and that is half the battle! 

The SCAMPER method explained

The SCAMPER method was put together by Bob Eberle from a series of questions devised by Alex Osborn (the creator of brainstorming).

SCAMPER was initially designed to help create new products, but it can equally be applied to content marketing or even your overall marketing strategy. 

The seven elements of the SCAMPER mnemonic break down as follows:

  • Substitute: Replace a part of the product, process or concept with something else. This could involve substituting materials, ingredients, people or approaches.
  • Combine: Merge two or more elements to create something new. This could involve combining functions, features or concepts to form a new product or idea (much like Blue Ocean Strategy).
  • Adapt: Adjust or modify to serve a new purpose or to improve. This involves looking at existing solutions and finding ways to adapt them to the current problem.
  • Modify (or magnify/minify): Change the size, shape or other attributes. This could mean enlarging, reducing, exaggerating or altering certain features to create a different outcome. (I particularly like making things smaller in this time and attention-challenged world!)
  • Put to another use: Find new uses for an existing product or process. This involves thinking about how the current solution can be applied to a different problem or context.
  • Eliminate: Remove unnecessary or cumbersome parts of the product or process. This simplifies and streamlines by eliminating components, steps or features.
  • Rearrange (or reverse): Change the order or layout of components in a product or process. This could mean reordering steps, reversing roles or approaching the problem differently.

That is the general idea of SCAMPER and how it is applied to creative problem-solving. In the rest of this article, we will look at how to use SCAMPER to create helpful, people-first content that your prospects and Google love.  

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Using SCAMPER for SEO and content marketing

To use SCAMPER to integrate substitution, combination and adaptation to your content marketing, simply download the template below and work through the questions. 

Remember, these questions are just a guideline. I strongly advise doing this in a group and brainstorming to develop as many weird and wonderful ideas as possible. Then, discuss and critique those ideas; the ones that are still standing at the end will be the opportunities to pursue. 

To help make this easier, I have created a simple SCAMPER SEO Template you can use here:  

Step 1: Topics 

You can start with a list of articles, keywords or ideas. To generate ideas, you can use an ideation tool like the Value Proposition Canvas or simply conduct keyword research. 

Step 2: Landscape analysis 

Then, when you have your keywords or topics, you will want to search those keywords and topics and review what is out there. There may be clear patterns, or you may find it helpful to do an SEO SWOT analysis to help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of what is currently ranking. 

I would typically recommend looking at the first 10 elements on Page 1, as it would have been called, but the SERPs are a lot more dynamic now, so just review the first 10 links and/or features and go from there. 

Step 3: SCAMPER 

We can now run through SCAMPER and use the questions to help us develop new ideas for making our content different, so it stands out and adds extra value. 

Substitute

  • Many aspects can be substituted to create something new. It could be the language or angle covered or more practical elements like video, images, gifs, downloads, tools, etc. 

Example: Substitute a series of written instructions with animated GIFs. 

Guide questions:

  • What keywords or topics can we substitute to attract a different audience?
  • Can we substitute the format (e.g., blog post, video, podcast) to engage our audience better?
  • What tools or resources can we replace to improve content quality or efficiency?
  • Can we substitute case studies from one industry with examples from another?

Combine

  • You can often create something entirely new by merging existing elements – the intersection of these two creates uniqueness and value. 

Example: Combine an infographic with a detailed blog post. 

Guide questions:

  • Can we combine two or more popular blog topics into a comprehensive guide?
  • How can we merge multimedia elements (e.g., video, infographics) with written content to enhance engagement?
  • What if we combine user-generated content with our professional insights?
  • Can we integrate industry reports and expert interviews into a single content piece?

Adapt 

  • Adaptation in content creation means repurposing content for different contexts, mediums or audiences.
  • For example, turning a popular blog post into a podcast episode or creating an infographic from a case study. This approach maximizes the value of your content and broadens your audience.

Example: Create a YouTube video covering the same topic as your most popular blogs (remember, good ideas are the hard part, so make them work in all formats). 

Guide questions:

  • How can we adapt trending topics to fit our brand’s voice and message?
  • Can we repurpose a successful content format from another industry for our audience?
  • What content ideas from competitors can we adapt to better suit our audience’s needs?
  • How can we adjust our content to be more culturally relevant or timely?

Modify

  • Modifying your content means updating it with new stats, trends or use cases to improve its quality and relevance. 
  • This keeps your content current and valuable and boosts your reputation as a reliable, top-quality source.

Example: Modify a listicle into a comprehensive guide or add detailed statistics to illustrate your case better. 

Guide questions: 

  • How can we modify the structure of our content to improve readability and SEO?
  • What small changes can we make to our content to better match user intent?
  • Can we modify the tone or style to be more engaging or authoritative?
  • How can we enhance our content with additional data, research or case studies?

Put to another use

  • Repurpose existing content in new ways to reach different audiences.

Example: Turn a webinar into a series of blog posts. Turn a blog post into a series of Instagram posts. 

Guide questions:

  • How can we repurpose old blog posts into new formats (e.g., ebooks, webinars)?
  • Can we turn our frequently asked questions into a series of blog posts?
  • How can we use our internal data to create compelling case studies or reports?
  • Can we use customer testimonials and reviews in our content?

Eliminate

  • Remove unnecessary elements to streamline your content and make it more effective.

Example: Eliminate jargon and overly complex explanations. Focus on distilling the key points to give the most value in the least time! 

Guide questions:

  • What unnecessary jargon or complex language can we remove to simplify our content?
  • Can any sections of our content be cut without losing value?
  • How can we streamline our content to focus on key messages?
  • What multimedia elements are slowing down our page load times and can be removed?

Rearrange/reverse

  • Change the order of your content or reverse the usual approach to gain new insights.

Example: Start with the conclusion and then explain how you arrived there.

Guide questions:

  • Can we present our conclusions or key points first to capture immediate interest?
  • How would our content look if we reversed the usual order (e.g., start with the end)?
  • Can we rearrange our content to follow a different narrative structure?
  • What if we approach our content from a beginner’s perspective rather than an expert?

Some thoughts before you SCAMPER off 

SEO is not getting any easier or cheaper to execute effectively. 

While Google can’t truly tell the difference between good and great content, your users can, and those user signals help Google determine what should rank highly.

The SCAMPER method offers a structured yet flexible approach to brainstorming and developing new content ideas that are both creative and effective for SEO. 

By systematically applying Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to Another Use, Eliminate and Rearrange/Reverse to your content strategy, you can consistently generate fresh, engaging and SEO-friendly content. 

Remember to integrate keyword research and SEO best practices at each stage to maximize the impact of your content in search.

SCAMPER content marketing template

You made it this far, so you may as well download the template:

Contributing authors are invited to create content for Search Engine Land and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the search community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

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