What should you write about? Start by asking why people go to your website or any website. People are searching the web looking for either answers or entertainment. And if, after reading that, you spontaneously said to yourself, “AHA! I shall create short videos giving people information they need sung by kittens or baby goats in pajamas” you’ve probably just created the next internet trend. (That is some genius level thinking, right there.)
I almost always recommend to my business author clients that they have a blog. Some already do. Many have a blog that is neglected. If they are starting a new blog, I tell them they need to put up three posts (minimum) before they hit publish. When I tell clients they need to put up posts on a regular basis, I hear, “But I don’t know what to write about!”
They know what to write about; they just think the topic ideas they have aren’t worth writing about. They undervalue their knowledge. They think certain topics are too trite to discuss. Your blog’s target audience may be at a certain level. If you’re writing academic theories for nuclear physicists, then yes, certain topics will be too basic. Those theories would go in journal articles and white papers anyway. For most of us, there are surprisingly few post ideas that are too simple. If you’re having trouble, make sure your overall blog topic isn’t too narrow. Most of us have many things we do in our business. Blog ideas that don’t fit in your main offerings can easily be placed in their own category.
Here are three sites that will help you:
Quora: Imma gonna tell you right now that you don’t go to Quora for the real answer. You may, occasionally, find some very good information there, but anyone can supply an answer to a question–there are no qualifications, no vetting. Caveat emptor.
Here’s how Quora works: Someone goes on the site, asks a question, and then people answer it. Readers “upvote” answers. That means the “best” answer is the one with the most upvotes which may or may not be the “right” answer.
Fortunately, we are not going to Quora for answers. We want to look at the questions people are asking. A quick search on your blog topic will bring up questions that real people are asking, along with the answers. The answers, right or wrong, can suggest blog content. While you’re not going to copy and paste the right answers, you can include the idea and create your own content around it. The wrong answers are ripe for a “myth busters” type article. But you’re really interested in the questions more than the answers.
There’s no limit to how many questions you can check out (and answer) on Quora. The next two sites limit how many searches you can do in a 24 hour period but they give you questions that people are asking based on real searches.
UberSuggest: Neil Patel is the King of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). His site is a treasure trove of information on SEO techniques and marketing. (He likes to use video content, which is telling me something big, but I’m ignoring it because I am NOT a video girl. Hoping resistance isn’t futile.)
Ubersuggest is a keyword tool. It tells you how many people are searching on a keyword (or keyword phrase) each month. It also gives you related keyword phrases. There are two “best of all” sections in Ubersuggest. Once you’ve done the initial search, there’s a section that shows you other articles and blog posts on that keyword phrase. It’s an easy way to see what others are writing on that topic. The second “best of all” is a section of question suggestions. These are questions people ask on your topic. Copy them down and each one can become a blog post. We like Neil.
AnswerThePublic.com: This is a fun site because it will have you turning your head like a dog watching a card trick.
You type in a topic and it creates a spoked list (think of a wagon wheel) of all the who, what, when, where, how, why questions about your topic. Click the little “List” icon to get the information in a format that won’t sprain your neck. You can copy and paste or download a CSV file (spreadsheet) of all the suggested questions.
Some of the questions won’t pertain to your topic at all. Some will be things that do (or could) that you hadn’t considered. That’s the real value in using this tool. You could sketch out your own spoke diagram to create questions, but AnswerThePublic pulls their data from the questions that real people are typing into the search bar. (Check to make sure the search is set for the country you are writing for. I write for people in the US. I’m currently in Portugal. My first set of results was geared towards people in the UK.)
Scroll down the page. The initial search you see uses the “asking” words. But they also do a search using prepositions (near, with, for, to) and comparisons (like, versus, or), and alphabetical. If you’ve ever spent time on Google or Amazon typing in your topic and then individual letters starting with “A” and going through the letter where you finally give up to see what autosuggest gives you, you’re going to LOVE this tool.
One More Way to Find Blog Content Ideas
Let’s add one more category of sites to this list: social media groups. Public social media groups (as opposed to private, paid groups) attract a lot of newcomers to a field. You will see the same questions come up time and again. Many groups now have files with information that address the most common questions, whether it is a basic FAQ or, in the case of several groups I am in, so many hours of information that they are organized by module and could easily be sold as a course. Join groups on Facebook, LinkedIn, or any other platform where your audience hangs out and pay attention to the questions people are asking. Social media is a content goldmine: real people give you content ideas every day.
The Bonus to Using Question Sites
Many of the questions are naïve. They are asked by people who are not yet in the field or who are very new. Sometimes the people are young; sometimes they’re older but don’t know the vernacular. (Hell, I’m checking things on Urban Dictionary at least once a day.) Sometimes the questions are more sophisticated. It may require more advanced information which is great for showcasing the depth of your expertise. The good news is that it’s all stuff real people want and need to find out. Even if you don’t use a specific question, it can lead to an idea that sets you on fire.
These questions help you in two ways:
First, they remind you what it was like for you when you were just starting out. You may have forgotten what it was like to first navigate your field: the acronyms that get bandied about, strategies or processes that are commonplace, even resources that you hit all the time without blinking an eye. For example, when I’m editing, I’m hitting the AP and Chicago stylebooks, as well as Grammar Girl. In my world, Mignon Fogarty, Grammar Girl, is a rock star. But if you haven’t been writing for very long, you may not have heard of her.
What are the sites and resources in your field that you can share with your readers? There are certain sites that you hit on a regular basis, your go-to sources that consistently supply the information you need. You can create articles that define a list of commonly used acronyms in your field or that talk about your go-to sites and what each site’s strength is.
If you have a lot of resources, you can classify them by category. For instance, in my field, most people know you can self-publish both print and eBooks using Amazon. They may not know six other platforms where you can have your book printed, all with different benefits and quirks. They might not know that there are 20, 30, or more places to publish an eBook besides Kindle. I could do a round up or list post on publishing platforms. I could do another round up article on editing companies and softwares. I could do a round up article on the best Facebook groups for freelance writers. And so on.
Second, the questions teach you that no topic is too simple. A blogging idea doesn’t have to be something that would rock Einstein back on his heels. Many times we dismiss a blog or article topic because “everyone knows that.” NO. Not everyone knows that. Once you’ve been working in a field for a while, you start taking your base knowledge for granted, often without even knowing you’re taking it for granted.
What were the questions you had when you were starting out? What did you think was a big deal when you were new and through experience have found it’s very simple?
I’m in a lot of writers groups on Facebook. Time and again, I see people ask how much it costs to self publish a book. The answer is anywhere from zero (except for your time) and unfortunately, up to $15,000. Newbies get ripped off in many industries. I ended up creating a blog post and a free pricing and resource guide for self publishing that answered those questions.
Where do you see people wasting money or time or being taken advantage of in your field? Write one or more blog posts on these topics and if you get ambitious, create a content upgrade or lead magnet to address this. People will appreciate it…and you.
Stop Dismissing Blog Topics as “Too Basic”
The truth is nothing is too basic for the person who doesn’t yet have that information. Sometimes people want to know something as mundane as the tools you are using. They see someone who is successful and want to duplicate as much as possible in order to follow that path to success. You might think, “Well, there are at least three different apps you could use for this. I just happen to use x.” That doesn’t matter to your followers; they want to use what you’re using. It reassures them that they are on the right path.
Think of the things you learned “the hard way.” Maybe they were simple… once you figured them out. If you hear yourself saying, “I wish someone had told me before NOW” you’ve just come up with a new blog post. Anytime you want to slap your forehead (I call them V-8 moments) because you’ve discovered the obvious, you’ve got a blog post.
Even experienced people can learn something new from you. More often, it’s something they knew and forgot about. (Just me?) But there is new information on most things on a regular basis. Share that new info.
You can adjust your content for all experience levels. Your posts can hit people at different levels. You can do this with individual posts, creating content for beginners, intermediate level, and experts. You can put it all in one post by using headings. You might not label the subheads, “Beginner, Intermediate, Expert.” You might say “If you’re just getting started; For the Experienced User; For A Truly Deep Dive.” But you can cover all levels of your audience if you need to.
One more thing to make sure you never run out of topic ideas: Use a planner or editorial calendar. The easiest way to blog consistently is to have a supply of topics close at hand when you sit down to blog. When you use a planner, you can create monthly or seasonal topic themes which help make your content marketing more efficient. You can group your content ideas to create a series (which hopefully increases readership of the other blog posts), or create a piece of cornerstone content and easily see related posts that you can use to create internal links. Keep track of holidays and weird special days that may inspire you to write a one-off blog post. Keep up with the news, both within your industry and outside of it and see if you can tie into a trending topic. A planner or editorial calendar gives you one safe place to jot down all your new blog post ideas.
Blog content is all around. There’s no reason to ever run out of blog ideas. Someone always has a question. And you can help. Go write something.