Finding content for your blog is not impossible. There are many places to find ideas.
You started a blog for your brand. You knew it was time, and you knew how it would benefit you. And, at the start, the going was great; there were plenty of things to write about. That is, until writer’s block set in, and suddenly you were drawing a blank.
Somehow, it just got a bit more complicated.
How do you generate great blog content regularly without burning out? Inevitably, there will be an average Tuesday morning where you’ll find yourself staring at a blinking cursor, a blank screen, and a looming deadline. Right about then, you’ll wish you knew what to write about. Right about then, you’ll wish you knew how to go about finding ideas when you didn’t have any of your own.
Here are some tips to make the ideas flow.
1. Answer Questions
Wouldn’t you like to know what questions your readers were hoping you’d answer for them? If you have the time to look and listen, you’d find out that readers are actually telling you this very thing.
Questions on Quora
Quora is where people are asking — and answering — questions. It’s easily searchable by specific topic, so you can find your niche audience fairly quickly. By setting up your account and selecting specific Quora users and topics to follow that are relevant to your industry, any quick visit to the Quora site will bring up useful content. So, are there questions Quora users are asking that you could answer? Write about them on your blog.
Your Own Readers
Don’t ignore your own blog’s comments section, or your customer feedback. If a blog comment section turns lively, you’ve hit on a topic that you should definitely consider expanding in a fresh post and then going back and letting those readers know you’ve written a new post. This is particularly useful if you find yourself leaving long comments that might be better served pulled up onto the main area of the blog. And of course, it goes without saying that if you have customers that are asking the same questions about your service or product, there’s a clear need for a blog post to cover the topic. At the very least, it’s the start of a user guide or online FAQ.
2. Go Google
Google provides generous source material for blog ideas whether they intend to or not. In the process of supplying their customers (us) with data, they give us insight into the customers using that data.
Using Google Search for research, rather than just search, will garner you related topics that people are actively looking for. For each search you make, you have the opportunity to use the advanced search options and generate “Related Searches.” From these related searches, you can follow a rabbit trail and end up with as many blog topics as you have the desire to write. These searches will also tell you what to use for a headline. The related searches can be found in the “Show search tools” option in the left sidebar of a Google search page.
Google related-search will help you find new ideas.
Google Blog Search allows you the opportunity to search within blogs only, so you can quickly see what other bloggers are writing about, and what kind of comments they’re getting from those topics.
Google AdWords provides a keyword tool where you can input words and phrases for your industry or niche. The keyword tool will break your search terms down, allowing you to see which keywords you’d like to dig deeper into. By saving these keywords, you can find out what people are searching for on Google, and which terms are the most popular (and have the stiffest competition) with those buying AdWords. These keywords can give you ideas for SEO-friendly headlines, and such headlines quickly turn into SEO-friendly blog posts.
Google Alertsare especially helpful if you already have your email or RSS reader in your daily workflow. It’s easy to forget to do regular searches, or find the time to set aside an hour or two to perform regular online searches to see what’s new in your industry. By setting up a Google Alert, you can have those search results sent to your inbox or RSS reader automatically. Any time you can find a way to incorporate information gathering in your current workflow and keep things simple, you’re more likely to make us of it.
Google Alerts can come to your inbox or RSS reader, as this setting shows.
By their very nature, trends are going to be quick and hard to grab onto in time. Using a trending topic for microblogging (Twitter, Google+ post, Facebook post, Tumblr) is probably going to be the easiest way to capitalize on their here-and-gone nature, rather than a long and meaty blog post. However, you may still get an idea on a topic that you can tie into your industry.
Google Trends offers a “hot trends” section which lets you know what people are searching for right now. Current events are often in search trends. Your readers appreciate an expert who can speak their language and put a hot topic into context for them from a particular view. Think of yourself as a translator, and tell your readers what the latest news means for them.
And of course, within the Google+ network, you can finding trending topics that even indicate which direction they are trending.
Google Trends’ Hot Searches let you know what people are searching for right now.
3. Build Libraries
Great minds have great ideas, and there’s few better places to find ideas than in the writing and voices of others.
You can make a digital library using an RSS Reader; the more well-organized the better. It’s the best way to stay on top of what your favorite bloggers and information sources are saying. This isn’t about stealing other’s ideas. It’s about validating or challenging your own, finding inspiration, and writing your own content.
Reading books regularly is also necessary for the serious blogger. You need to get pushed out of your own mind in order to fight your way back in by writing. Books are ideas, and new ideas are disruptive. Disruptive gets the creative juices flowing. A good blogger writes. A great blogger also reads. Read books associated with your industry voraciously. Blog about the book itself, if nothing else.
4. Mingle With The Trendy Crowds
It’s very likely you have a presence on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and are using it to promote your blog. Facebook and Twitter have their own versions of showing which topics are trending and popular based on your settings and who you follow; these will work similarly for you as blog content much like the Google Trends hot trends does. The best thing about using the trends on a social network is that this is where your fans and followers are, and this is what is catching attention right now. It is less easy to capitalize on a broad internet search trend than a trend on a social network.
Twitter trends are found in the left sidebar, and can be tailored based on who you follow, or not at all.
Other popular social networks, like Pinterest, easily show you what your audience is interested in as long as you’ve planned your social following practices well. You can use Pinterest, for example, for your own interests and follow those boards that interest you only. Or, you can follow the boards of known fans or related niche audiences and see what’s popular among them, discerning what kinds of images they are drawn to.
5. Tell A Story
Everything you consider writing can be told as a story. What makes a great story?
A great story hooks the reader immediately (which often means you’ll have to be a brutal editor of your own words because wordiness kills the hook). A great story has anticipation, a feeling of “what’s next!” and a resolution that doesn’t leave the reader feeling cheated or angry. A good story makes a person feel something, whether it’s laughter or empathy or some other emotion. Have fun with your story, or be serious.
People love stories. Tell them one. Tell them a story as a series, or to generate leads. Just tell a great story.
You Have A Story
You have a story to tell. It’s the story of your business, the daily things that happen in it every day. It’s the teachable moments where you learned something about yourself or your readers. Whatever it is, your story is personal and inspirational, and should be told in that way. Use what you know best: your business, your hobbies, entertainment — what story can you tell that your audience will nod their head and think “I know exactly how he felt.”
They Have A Story
You have a story, and so does everyone around you. Have you asked them to share their stories with you?
Interview other bloggers or industry leaders. You’ll get great content, learn something, and attract a few of their fans to read what you wrote. Generously link back to the interviewee’s website and social media accounts, and promote the blog post.
Respond to other bloggers’ posts. Write well, don’t start a flame war, and avoid responding to well-known bloggers for promotion sake only. Make sure it is a post you really want to comment on, and have something valid to add to the conversation. Link and attribute properly so your readers can find the original work.
6. Look Within
If you’ve been blogging for several years, it’s a pretty good guess that you have early posts that embarrass you terribly. As a blogger, you got better; it’s hard to look at the old posts without wincing. Writing style aside, what about the ideas? Are they still valid? Have you changed your mind, or expanded your opinion? Your old blog posts are a gold mine of ideas you might not remember you had. Recycle by rewriting. Make them better, make them the best, make them relevant, and make them pull their weight again.
And, when all else fails, have a system in place that forces you to work. It might be a system to generate headlines (writing the headline before the rest of the post is a good habit to get into). It might be a system to quickly scour your library and write a post on the themes you see in the posts of the day. For example, you might come up with 10 “stock” headlines that you can easily adjust for different topics. Perhaps they are “5 Ways To _______ Your _______”. Whatever you decide, set up your system, fill it in, and force yourself to write.
A blog is a powerful tool, but a poorly written or seldom updated blog is almost worse than no blog. It tells those who find your site that you’re no longer in business, not around, or not worth serious consideration.
Guest Author: Julie Neidlinger is a writer at Todaymade.com
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