I don’t care how good a writer you are — if you don’t write about interesting and engaging topics, no one is going to care. That’s the importance of generating quality post ideas in a nutshell.
The good news is that with a solid understanding of your readers’ trinity of emotions, you’re already half way to producing great post ideas. If you followed the Action Step at the end of the last section, you will already have a few ideas down on paper.
But if not, don’t fear! The six methods I am about to share with you have helped me produce the vast majority of the 1,000+ blog posts I have written in my time.
1. Common Questions
This one is pretty self–explanatory — what common questions does your blog’s audience have?
Ideas are particularly easy to come by on this front when you are working on a commercial blog — just ask yourelf what the most common customer queries/complaints are. However, the same principle applies to all blogs — just replace ‘customers’ with ‘readers and subscribers’.
Let’s take a look at a practical example of the topic generation process with this method. I used to blog for a company that consults as a ‘relationship broker’ between large enterprises and independent service providers. In essence, they ensure that outsourcing agreements between such parties are successfully formulated and implemented . Here are a couple of headlines I came up with for that client that were based upon common questions:
- The 3 Outsourcing Methods (and Which One You Should Utilize) — the associated question is, “Which outsourcing method should I choose?”
- Outsourcing: 5 Mistakes You Must Avoid Before Choosing a Provider — the associated question is, “What mistakes must I avoid before choosing a provider?”
Once you understand this form of topic development you will begin to see questions in blog posts everywhere.
Here is a random selection of posts addressing common questions that I have pulled out from my RSS reader:
- How Do You Manage a Full Time Job and a Side Hustle?
- How to Launch a Successful E–Commerce Site with No Experience
- How Can You Make a Great Income by Selling Books on Amazon Kindle at 99 Cents?
Please note that the headlines of blog posts that set out to answer common questions do not have to be phrased as questions, although that is a popular style.
Common questions are typically the best and easiest place to start when generating blog post ideas. Addressing common questions is bound to be popular with readers, and coming up with ideas is initially very easy.
2. Unknown Benefits
A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them — Steve Jobs
Apple developed the iPhone on a hunch. They didn’t rely upon surveys or focus groups to determine whether or not it would be a successful product — Jobs intuitively felt that although the public didn’t know that they wanted it, they certainly would when they saw it.
In the same vein, creating blog posts that set out to benefit the reader in a way they hadn’t even contemplated can be hugely successful.
A good example of this is the LWB 100 — a list I created of one hundred blogs relating to my readers’ interests. A hundred blogs that I felt best epitomized the spirit and drive required in order to quit your job and build a better life for yourself. No one had asked me for such a list, and I don’t believe that a comparable list had previously been published, but both editions have been a huge hit, exposing my blog to a far greater audience.
However, for every LWB 100 idea I have had, there have been plenty of flops. That is the risk you take in developing blog post topics around ‘unknown benefits’ — you can never effectively predict their success.
3. Comments and Feedback
If you run a relatively well–established blog, you will find that your readers are often only too willing to serve up a helpful dose of inspiration.
This can be deliberate (i.e. someone can literally tell you what they want you to write about) or inadvertent (e.g. someone might tell you about something they are struggling with). Either way, these suggestions are usually highly relevant and valuable topic ideas.
It is always a good idea to engage with readers via comments and email (if applicable), but scouring feedback for topic ideas gives you yet another excellent reason to interact with your readership.
4. Breaking News and Current Events
Almost any topic you write about can be linked to breaking news or current events.
This can be done in two ways — you can literally write about breaking news related to the topic in question, or you can link current events with the topic itself.
So for instance, in my writing about WordPress, I will occasionally publish articles on new version releases. But what I also do is write up opinion pieces on new features, which is an example of using current events as inspiration for blog posts.
If you pay attention to what is going on around you, you will often be able to think up some pretty interesting and creative ideas relating to your topic.
5. Existing Posts
Whilst you should always look to write interesting and unique blog posts, you can also draw inspiration from what has already been done.
Your first port of call could be your blog’s archives — what posts can you find that have performed well in the past, and can you think of a post that adds to the topic in question, or approaches it from an different perspective?
You can also take to Google to source ideas. There is a spectacular amount of content out there so you should never be at a loss for inspiration.
6. Personal Experience
Presumably you are familar with the niche you are operating in. As such, there should be a bunch of ideas already floating around in your head, just waiting to be written about.
If you are truly passionate about the topic you are covering (and I hope you are), you will have little problem (at least in the short term) in coming up with post ideas. The key is to tap into your own trinity of emotions and discover what problems, fears and desires you have.
You will be amazed at how well posts that come from the heart can resonate with your audience. If you are well aligned with them in terms of your trinity of emotions, the clear connection you have with the subject matter is likely to bleed into your words. It’s pretty hard to manufacture that.
Storing Post Ideas
When it comes to post ideas, it is vitally important that you have a quick and easy way of storing anything you think of.
I use Evernote to store my post ideas. I have a folder for each of the blogs that I write for, and whenever I get an idea I put it in a new note. Because I can access my Evernote account from my laptop, my iPhone and my iPad, I am very rarely in a position where I can’t make note of an idea.
I recommend Evernote for a number of reasons, storing blog post ideas being one of them.
- Create a notebook (in your format of choice) for post ideas (I recommend Evernote).
- Draw from your ‘trinity of emotions’ ideas from the last section along with the methods discussed in this chapter and come up with a minimum of 20 post ideas for your blog.
- Give each post a three star rating based upon its likelihood to engage your readers in terms of their trinity of emotions.
- Sort your list by their ratings and you now have a draft editorial calendar for your blog!
- Set yourself a reminder to repeat this process periodically. You should always have a sizeable surplus of blog post ideas, as this means that you will only ever write about the most compelling topics.