I’ve been asked a few times recently where I get ideas for this blog. I think it’s a common question most people have when they first start out blogging. I had the same question myself and often enough still do in all honesty. It can be a challenge to come up with three or five or seven new topics each week, but there are things you can do and places to look to help generate ideas for posts.
Ideas can really come from anywhere. It’s more about recognizing what would make for a good topic than actively looking for something to write about. For example yesterday morning I had an unpleasant experience with the automated response when I placed a customer service call to Qwest. I certainly wasn’t looking for a blog post idea when I made the call, but I looked at the call in relation to what is usually written here and was able to see how it might make for an interesting post. Whether or not it really was interesting I’ll leave to you, but interesting or not that call became an idea for a post here.
Another place I’ve found ideas is forums. If I’ve come across the same question a few times it seems like it might be ripe for a post. One common question has been how to center a web page and answering that question was easy enough to turn into a post. Sometimes the question is asked once, but leads to some good discussion in a thread and the thoughts there get me thinking about a topic that eventually finds it’s way here. Forum threads and posts are a natural source of ideas.
Read, Read, And Read Again
The three most common ways I find ideas are:
Yes reading. Read anything that interests you about your topic. You can sometimes use someone else’s idea and write it from your own perspective. An idea you see on a related blog may spark an idea for a new topic. The more you read about your subject the more it should get you thinking about your subject. And the more you think about it the more you should start seeing ideas in your everyday life.
Read anything and everything. And not just industry related blogs and articles. I’ve found the ideas for many posts in newspapers or in magazines unrelated to anything this blog discusses. Read from a variety of sources. Learn to see how seemingly unrelated articles and stories are related to your topic. In fact when you read things that most in your industry aren’t reading you can often be the first with a news story or find yourself with an original idea no one else has covered.
Sometimes you might read actively looking for ideas. When you do or when you’re just reading in general, train yourself to find ideas. Read with a highlighter or take notes on what you read. Learn to become an idea magnet.
There will probably be some standard topics everyone in your industry covers. This blog is often focused on seo and within seo there are some ideas that you can always write about. Keywords and link building are two that come to mind. You can even write an seo tutorial and turn it into a series of posts. Tutorials and How To’s will always make for interesting blogging fodder.
News makes for good posts. When something new happens in your industry write about it, though know that you won’t be the only one. If you can get the story out first it can lead to others using your post as the resource when they in turn cover the latest.
Prepare Yourself So Ideas Can Find You
More than anything the key is to learn as much as you can about your topic. As you learn more about your subject ideas will begin to show themselves to you when you least expect it. You can be walking down the street and notice a store logo and realize that it would make a good example for that post you were thinking about writing on branding. You can be eating at a restaurant and decide their menu is an interesting design and talk about why. You can bump into an old friend while out shopping and have him or her become a business contact and turn it into a post on random encounters leading to sales. It’s less about finding an idea than it is in seeing an idea in ordinary things.
I like to keep lists of possible topics and make notes about them when I can. I’ll bookmark any web page that seems like something I may one day want to write about and jot down random thoughts as they occur. Many won’t ever find their way into a post, but many will. Three pages I bookmark may end up as the research for a post. Random thoughts combine into something coherent and become a post. Not all post ideas come full blown. Sometimes you need to let an idea simmer for awhile before you can write it. Sometimes you need to marinate ideas into blog posts.
Ideas really can come from anywhere. And the more you blog the easier it will be in general to spot what might make for an interesting idea for a post. The most important thing is to immerse yourself in your particular topic and start to see how things relate to your topic. It won’t necessarily come right away and we all go through times where the ideas don’t seem to be there. But the longer you blog the more you’ll find that the ideas for posts come to you instead of you having to go looking for them.
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It’s frustrating that some weeks i find it very difficult to come up with things to blog about, But other days i can’t type fast enough to get all the ideas onto the net.
Most of the things i blog about come from either seeing someone else blogging about it and me thinking “i could write about that” or reading a post on a forum and thinking “wow, there is a lot of misinformation about this topic” then i blog to, i hope, clear it up for people (or at least give my own misinformation a chance).
I do enjoy that feeling i get when i think of a subject that i suspect will deliever a fair amount of backlinks and visitors. They tend to be the “list of things” type posts.
Some people feel that listing things is blog filler, But you can draw a crowd sometimes simply by listing a bunch of things they like all in one place.
One thing you can also do to facilitate blog post ideas coming is to write a lot. You’ll then know what you have and what aspects of your topic you have not covered. This, of course, requires extensive knowledge of your industry, but that’s one of the major requirements for blogging, anyway.
I, for one, was just posting about anything I felt like it for several weeks. Untill I got some work to do, that’s when I skipped a couple of posting days.
Lately, I noticed that I think about any more or less amusing event in my life as an opportunity to blog. Too bad my blog is about improving the Web, or otherwise I’d be blogging day and night.
You know, maybe I should have some ‘read and research’ kind of days, when I just seek for topics to cover.
When I first started I know I had a tendency to want to cover everything about a particular topic. If I wrote a post about link building I was trying to say everything that could be said. Of course that’s impossible.
Yuri I think you’re right that the more you write the easier it gets. Over time I suppose I’ve developed a style or voice for this blog and it’s become easier for me to see ideas that fit with what I write about. It’s become easier to spot ideas that are blogworthy in ordinary things.
I’m also finding it helpful to keep notes on ideas as I get them. I used to be somewhere away from the computer and start writing a post in my head only to lose eveything by the time I sat down to write. I try now to always have something with me to write or record my thoughts wherever I am and be able to come back to them later. A lot of those ideas will never make it here, but many will.
Matt I probably should do it more, but lately I’m really just thinking about writing something that I find interesting. I figure if I’m interested in it others will be too and I’ll be able to write a better post because I’m more excited about the topic. I’ll let everyone else judge if it’s been successful, but it seems to me like it has been.
I’ve been blogging for close to 10 months now and I’ve been able to see my progress over that time. There’s certainly always been a mix of post quality during any time I’ve been writing, but I do think the overall quality has improved. It’s not to imply that I’m anything so great, but rather that the more you keep blogging the easier it becomes to find ideas and be able to write about them.
I’m no different than anyone else though, in that some days it’s just harder to come up with something to say than other nights. Tonight was one of those nights for example. I was tired after a long day and since I had posted twice yesterday I took the night off. I try not to do that, but it does happen.
I found it is quite impossible to keep up to the highest possible post quality. It is like trying to run 10 miles at 100m speed. Not gonna make it beyond 100m.
So I am pretty content at sometimes producing an average, but still good, post. I simply know that a better one is somewhere ahead.
Frankly, I am not thinking of dropping the post-a-day schedule and switch to the ‘write-first-post-second’ schedule. This should probably relieve me of the posting schedule burden, but allow me to write both longer and shorter articles, when I feel like it. I’d imagine this variety might be suitable for my readers as well.
Not sure how inconsistent posting schedule might affect my readers’ attention, though.
err, ‘am now thinking’. Where’s that “Edit” button? 😉
I think that’s just part of how it all works. Not every post can be the best one. I look at it more as improving the overall quality of the posts. I think my average post now is better than my average post from six months ago and I hope the trend continues into the next six months.
Some ideas take off and others no so much. What’s interesting is that some of the ideas I think aren’t really the best often turn into the best posts. And some of the ideas I’m most excited about end in a rather bland post.
Yes, I have noticed this “phenomenon” too 🙂
But then again, the quality isn’t about the topic, it is about what and how you write 🙂