If you’re producing blog content on a regular basis, you’ll probably know the frustration that comes when your next deadline is coming up and you have no idea what to write.
Even with a robust strategy in place, you’re bound to hit a creative lull sooner or later – so how do you come up with new ideas when your mind is drawing a blank? Here are five ways to help you overcome your mental block and decide on a great subject for your next post.
Define your goals
First off, decide what you want out of your next blog post. This is a particularly useful step if you’re coming up with lots of ideas, but none of them seem to be worth writing about.
Your content marketing efforts should always be driven by a specific set of goals, but sometimes you can end up focusing on too many targets at once, and dismissing potential blog ideas simply because they don’t tick every box.
Start small, and try to stick to only one main objective per blog article – this way, you won’t spread your writing efforts too thin, and if a particular post hits any secondary targets, it’s a bonus rather than an expectation to meet.
Are you aiming to create content which will rank highly for your target keywords? If so, research the search terms in question, figure out what your users are actually hoping to find, and design your blog post to be the ideal #1 search result for their needs.
Perhaps you’re looking to build natural links or create social buzz around your site? Focus on delivering content which your readers will want to share with others. You should pick a subject which will appeal to a broad audience, but still offers value for your target customers.
Maybe you’re looking specifically to drive conversions and leads? Try producing guides on how to use and get the most out of the products you’re selling; or if you’re providing services, offer a behind-the-scenes look at work processes that your potential customers might be confused about.
Who are you looking to target with your blog articles? Perhaps you want each post to zero in on a particular audience segment? If you know who you’re writing for, you’ll know what they’ll be interested in reading about and you can start generating ideas from there.
Look at what other people are creating
One of the simplest ways to get out of your content rut is to research recent posts from other bloggers and businesses. After all, if your big-name competitors are blogging about it, it’s probably something worth talking about.
Sounds like cheating, doesn’t it? To be clear, we’re not suggesting you copy their content and pass it off as your own; instead, you should be putting your own spin on the subject they’re discussing and the points they’re making.
Say a well-known and respected figure in your industry posts an opinion piece on their site; you could offer a rebuttal of their points if you think they’re wrong, or extrapolate on their thoughts based on your own experiences and opinions.
Another approach is to take insights from several other respected blogs and combine them into one single post (with a little commentary of your own). There’s two big advantages to this – firstly, you’re actually offering unique and helpful content for your users, since they’d have to spend a lot more time reading each one of your sources in full to get the same information.
Secondly, by featuring each blogger and linking to their posts, you’re giving them free publicity and indicating to them that their opinions are valued and respected. They’ll be inclined to return the favour and will hopefully share your post with their audience, helping it get more traffic and exposure.
Find out what’s going on in your industry
Keep an eye out for any recent developments within your area of business which you can report and comment on. To help you find new stories, set up Google Alerts for your target keywords, and use social media listening tools to uncover the subjects which resonate with your followers, industry figures and the wider community as a whole.
Timely content generates more user engagement, and is also more likely to be shared, increasing the reach of your post. By addressing current issues, you’re also demonstrating to your readers that you’re a switched-on, forward-thinking company and you’re a good choice to do business with.
Holidays, celebrations and national events can also present opportunities for timely content, but with more universal appeal than most industry news pieces. With annual events, you’ve also got the option of recycling the same subject next year. (We’ll talk more about recycling blog subjects shortly.)
However, relevancy is key – if your post doesn’t connect your business to the event in a meaningful way, why are you posting about it? You should also bear in mind that everyone else will be releasing their own holiday-centric content at the same time, so your blog runs the risk of getting lost in the noise.
Answer your customers’ questions
Another way to use external research to find new blogging subjects is to identify the issues that are affecting your customers and fans, and the questions they want answered.
Listen out on social media (and/or simply ask users to send their questions into you via email, DM or a landing page with a contact webform), then offer personal responses to your users’ questions in your blog posts.
You even use these queries as springboards for detailed tutorials and how-to features, which you can further enrich by including video demonstrations within each post itself.
Not only will you be providing valuable information to all your readers, you’ll also be showing your fans and followers that you appreciate them and want to support them. It’s great for developing loyalty amongst your social following, and for demonstrating your expertise to potential customers – both of which will help you bring in more conversions in the long term.
Of course, it all depends on being honest and sincere in your goal to help your readers. If you’re just using these kinds of posts as an excuse to plug your products, or you’re not being impartial in your advice, users will pick up on it and ignore your future posts.
Focus on popular subjects from past blogs
If you’re struggling to come up with new subjects, why not reuse subjects that have worked for you in the past?
Take a look at your traffic and engagement metrics for your previous blog output, and see which posts went down well with your readers. Are there opportunities to create more content around the same subjects? Maybe you can approach the same theme from a different perspective, or develop your older content into a more detailed format which better matches your current blogging style (also, have a look at our other post talking about strategies for your old content).
Avoid lazy rehashes, though – remember, your content is there to serve your users, and it’s better to promote legacy posts than to just offer up essentially the same article a second time.
Perhaps times have changed and your older posts contain information which is no longer relevant and accurate. You can’t afford to be giving out bad advice (especially if the older post is ranking highly in search results), so it’s wise to create a follow-up post built upon the latest up-to-date information.
Best of all, if you edit your old post with a link directing users to the new post, you’ll be taking advantage of the search visibility your old post has built up, and getting all that juicy traffic over to the new blog article (as well as helping Google understand your new post provides a better result for their search users).
However you choose to brainstorm blog ideas, be sure to write them all down in a spreadsheet (or whatever works for you) so you can plan out your blogging schedule more effectively. Keeping track of subjects which have already been used for blog posts – and which ones are yet to spawn posts of their own – will help you identify when you’re running low and avoid any 11th hour brainstorming dashes.
Don’t forget to record the ideas you’ve rejected too, and why you’ve rejected them. This way, you won’t be retreading old ground in future brainstorming sessions, and you can re-evaluate old ideas if they become more viable later on.