How to Come Up With Blog Topics: Untapped and Underrated Resources
- Written by Valentin Barbu Valentin Barbu
- Category: Marketing Marketing
- Published: 21 October 2013 21 October 2013
Coming up with that many blog topics may seem like a hefty task, but don't abandon the blogging ship just yet: I've got a list of resources you can leverage to inspire incredible articles.
That's right: all this time you were desperately seeking subject inspiration, you had it right under your nose (or, more aptly put, on your desktop).
You likely receive several emails every day from clients, colleagues and peers asking for help with a basic task. If you spend just five minutes answering that email, but answer it on ten different occasions, that adds up to a lot of time spent repeating yourself.
Next time a notification goes off reminding you to publish a blog, and your idea well is running dry, browse through your sent mail. Look for instances like the one mentioned above, where you're providing basic information repeatedly. Those subjects are the golden ticket of blogging ideas – the simultaneously save you time and answer the questions people are clearly wondering about.
Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Cause I'm thinking this tactic lays the foundation for squeezing out one more blogging benefit: establishing authority in your niche. Who wouldn't want that?
Your Former Self
This strategy requires you take yourself on a trip down memory lane, and recall the simplest of tasks which once seemed overwhelming.
Here's an anecdote to help paint the picture:
I just recently jumped into the world of Joomla through the process of creating a personal website. So far, I've had one major takeaway: It's outrageous how long it takes to learn something the first time around (I.e. Displaying a module) compared to how easily and naturally it comes with a little bit of practice.That's the tricky thing about our brains: once we learn how to do something, we forget we ever didn't know how.
When you get on a bike, do you think about those hours you spent scraping your knees and wishing training wheels were socially acceptable? Of course not, because you're busy cruising the open road. But those hours did happen, and that task did take time to master.
Although you (probably) haven't built a business around bike riding, I'm willing to bet you've acquired a lot of hard earned skills along the way to success. If you can take a step outside yourself and assess those taken for granted skills, you can use your blog as a channel to pass them on to others.
Back to my Joomla experience: I recently experimented with installing an Instagram feed on my site. It's a fairly elementary process, but it did take a little finagling.
A few days later, it came time to publish my monthly contribution to the Joomla Community Magazine. I took my own advice and created a tutorial of the process, so others could skip a little of the implementation headache and learn how to install a feed with a basic walkthrough, complete with screenshots.
The response to that article has eclipsed any other piece I've written for the JCM, because it provides just the kind of basic Joomla instructions people are often looking for when they read each monthly release. Don't underestimate the value of simplicity in blogging and educating – sometimes simple is just what your audience wants.
Your RSS Reader
My RSS reader and I have a love-hate relationship. If I don't check it for a few days, I'm immediately crabby when I open it up to find 1500 unread articles. Conversely, those 1500 articles are a Godsend on days that my blogging creativity seems to have taken an unannounced vacation.
Incase you're unfamiliar with an RSS reader, Wikipedia defines it as "is client software or a web application which aggregates syndicated web content such as news headlines, blogs, podcasts, and video blogs (vlogs) in one location for easy viewing.
Within your RSS reader, you can subscribe to dozens of publications and categorize them by interest, author, or any other segmentation of your choice.
Here's a snapshot of my "Social Marketing" feed in Feedly (my preferred reader):
Why is this valuable?
The best bloggers are two things: informed, and creative. This continuous stream of information and news via RSS helps me be a little more of both those things, and has inspired my daily blog topic more times than I can count.
If you're not already subscribing to a RSS Reader, I can't encourage you enough to sign up for one today. Not only will you be better informed because of it, you'll have on-going access to a personalized and organized feed of content ideas. When a big story breaks in your industry, you'll be in-the-know and can speak to that hot subject matter on your blog.
I recently opened my RSS reader to the (seemingly) apocalyptic news that Google had officially announced it's blocking of organic keyword data to marketers. I jumped on the opportunity to write an article on how marketers could handle the switch – and the post received more than 4x the traffic of my average article.
It's not because the article was better than my others, or because I magically became a publicly recognized blogger overnight; it's because I made use of my free RSS reader.
Your Coworkers and Employees
Just like your inbox, peers are an incredible resource for hidden gems of blog topic ideas.
If you have a sales team, they're sitting on an enormous mental library of invaluable information about what makes people decide to purchase or abandon your product. They're also well-versed in answering critical questions for prospects and customers.
In short, they know what makes your kind of people tick. So why not leverage that insight as a fountain of content ideas?
If your company is anything like mine, people are constantly working against the clock and operating near or above capacity. This type of fast-paced environment is incredibly rewarding to work in, but it doesn't necessarily foster a casual two hour discussion on how someone else can help you write better blogs.To pick your colleagues brain without picking apart their time, create an easy process or system for sharing ideas.
One trick is to establish a process in which sales reps can forward frequently asked questions to your inbox, where you can set a rule to have all emails of that nature funnel into a "Blog Ideas" folder which you can look to in times of content need.
Another is to have a whiteboard (or virtual board on a system like Trello) where coworkers can drop ideas without spending too much time.
Whatever system you establish, stick with it for a few weeks and see if it's working (Are you actually receiving ideas? Are your coworkers comfortable with the process?) If it's not, don't be afraid to go back to the drawing board and try something new until you find the system that satisfies all parties.
Your Word Count Tool
I always like to save the best for last, and this tip is no exception. No matter how much you enjoy blogging (and I really do!) there will invariably be days you're just not into it.
On those days, you pretty much have to suck it up and write anyways. I know, that's not the sentence you were hoping to read – but you and your blog will be all the better for it.
Nonetheless, there is one glimmering light at the end of the tunnel on those rough days.
Going back to best practices, your blog posts should be in the vicinity of 500-1500 words. Let's say you've got 700 words down, you've made it about halfway through the topic you want to discuss, and you're absolutely out of creative juice.
Rather than granting yourself a pardon and leaving the post to complete on your next publication date, effectively wrap up the concept you're discussing. Maybe it's tip #2 of your originally planned "5 Tips to Save Time on SEO".
Then, comb through the title and intro to your article and reposition it as "Tips to Save Time on SEO: Part I of II".
By creating a mini series, you'll generate excitement among your audience as they look forward to the next post. Behind the scenes, you'll save yourself the headache and embarrassment of posting a mediocre article you had to force out.
This tip is a great fall back to save your sanity a few times a year, but must be used sparingly. On top of that, you should never take it as a Get Out of Jail Free card and assume it's OK to publish poorly written or <500 word articles.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully it helps get you thinking about out-of-the-box places for writing inspiration. I look forward to reading your incredible posts!