A blog can be an extremely effective platform for entrepreneurs who are looking for an innovative way to promote their brand, or a fulfilling career path for anyone considering taking up blogging full-time. Here, digital strategist and author Natasha Courtenay-Smith explains how to generate ideas to produce good content – the key to a successful blog.
Having a few tricks up your sleeve when facing the blank screen can really help unblock that creativity. Here are six that work for most bloggers:
Research your readers
Understanding what’s going on in your readers’ worlds is the key to making your blog resonate with them. There are two easy ways of doing this:
Use Google’s keyword planner to check search volumes of specific words in your niche. This will tell you what your potential audience is actually looking for. Research this using both short search terms (e.g. Chicken Soup) and longtail ones (such as ‘What is the best ingredient for a warming winter chicken soup?’). You can also use Google’s Trend tool to find out if specific keywords such as ‘chicken soup’ are increasing or increasing in popularity.
Then add all the popular terms to a spreadsheet. Go through the spreadsheet and use it to generate ideas based on keywords that must appear in your blog post titles. The longtail phrases may even be good blog post titles in their own right.
Ask your clients/audience what they are looking for. You can do this on social media via surveys that you send to clients/customers, creating them with online tools such as Survey Monkey. You can also directly ask people in your network what they would like to read about if you were to write on this or that topic.
Look at your competitors
Blogging is like any other business – it pays to keep an eye on what the competition is doing, and when you’re stuck for ideas, it can serve one up on a plate! So go through other blogs in your niche and have a look at their content. Write down some of their headlines, content forms and regular articles that you love. Note any posts that have gone viral.
Now think about how you can reposition this for yourself. How can you talk about these topics in your own voice? Remember, you can take inspiration for your content from anywhere, and you may be inspired by your competitors, but ultimately your content needs to be unique for your followers (and to avoid falling foul of plagiarism!).
Write about what you think about
If you’ve chosen a niche that you are passionate about, you are going to have lots of ideas and knowledge in that area. You’ll be thinking about your niche constantly with all sorts of thoughts flitting through your head from ‘Wouldn’t it be great if x’ to ‘I hate the way everyone thinks x’.
I guarantee you that these can generate twenty great ideas every single day that could be developed into blog post titles – all you need is to learn to spot and capture these ideas as they flit through your brain and not let them vanish as random thoughts often do. So use the notes app on your phone and really observe what you think about and the ideas that you have.
Write about what other people ask you
When you are an expert in your field or really passionate about something, other people will often ask you about it – and they’ll either want your advice, want to hear more about what you’re doing or simply be keen to hear your latest thoughts and comments.
So it’s simple – notice what they ask you and turn it into a blog post.
Hijack the news
Most niches have some kind of news websites, forums or magazines that feed people’s appetite for whatever’s new and buzzing. The great thing about using the news for inspiration is that you gain additional authority by appearing to be at the cutting edge of what you are talking about. We talked about this in Chapter 4 on personal branding and my key advice when it comes to using the news is to:
Produce your own simple take on the news
Move the news on
Provide an alternative or opposite view to the current one.
Remember, no idea is truly new
Don’t get stuck with the thought: ‘But it’s all been done before . . . ’ So what? Content is like fashion, and all ideas come around again. Genuinely new content ideas will be few and far between and will probably revolve around being the first to hijack a current news topic in a particular way. It’s about presenting your unique take on things, on your own unique website and in your own unique way.