There is no doubt that when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO) content is king. But all of us who write blogs have experienced the frustration of coming up with fresh ideas for our next posting. Being creative is often more than challenging – it can cause you to question your very sanity. Okay, a slight exaggeration but we all have had those moments.
To prevent further meltdowns (not to mention writer’s block), we have developed this initial list of ways you can discover content ideas for your blog that will drive traffic to your site. Adapt these suggestions as applicable to your own blog content writing.
Review Blog Comments
Unless you are just getting started, you likely have comments on your blog. See what your readers are talking about most and give them more of that type of content. Take a particularly interesting comment and turn your response to it into a blog post. Invite other readers to weigh in on the subject. Keep tabs of which “side” people support and announce a “winner” on a specified date. This will engage your readers and give your blog personality. And it will be fun so readers are likely to share the post with their friends which will drive more traffic to your site.
Answer a Question
Depending on your particular industry, this can be a great way to quickly become an expert and authority site for readers. You can set aside one day each week to answer a question posed by readers. You may be able to find a recurring question in blog comments or by allowing readers to submit them directly to you. Give a shout out to readers who posed the questions. By acknowledging your readers you are showing them it is not all about you. You will build community through this type of interaction. And readers will share posts that mention them directly.
Join Social Networks
One of the best ways to see what your readers and customers are truly interested in is to join the same social networks they use. Follow conversation threads to see what common themes are and identify those topics that are most controversial so they get the most comments. What are the current hot buttons in your industry? What is your position on those? These will change on a regular basis so keep an ear to the ground to know what is trending at any given time. Google+ Hangouts in particular can provide a bevy of content ideas.
Analyze Social Media Shares
If you are using Twitter, Google+, Facebook or other social media, see which of your postings get shared the most. Are you able to turn one or more into a blog post? For example, if you tweeted a link to a cool news article and the link was retweeted to hundreds or thousands of other users, determine how you can best integrate the article (with link of course) into fresh content for your blog to start a new conversation. You can do a review of the article, respond to it, or simply use it as a conversation hook. Keep an ongoing tally of your social media posts that are getting shared. It’s possible that one of your older posts will suddenly become relevant again.
Read Daily Headlines
What is going on in the real world? Can you use any of the current cultural, political, or local news stories to your advantage? For example, if you are a legal blogger for a divorce attorney, is there something you can say about the most recent celebrity couple going through a divorce that will interest your readers while promoting your own position? You have a wealth of headlines and stories you can piggyback on to jumpstart your own content. Just make sure the original story is from a credible source. Obviously you can do the same with industry news. But it can be more fun to parallel industry news with cultural or entertainment happenings.
Consider Other Online Content
What is the latest YouTube craze? Can you incorporate that in some way into your blog? What about a story that has gone viral? Look for online content that has made an impact and see if you can discuss the content or its impact in some way that directly relates to your readers. You can also read other blogs and respond to them in your own. And if you can get another blog to respond to yours, you can easily start a virtual debate that will keep readers engaged.
Share Personal Stories
Again this needs to relate to your business purpose. But you will find that readers like to get into the head of writers. This makes you seem real to them. And the more real you are, the more loyal they become and are willing to share your content with their friends. When you share your personal stories, they will feel encouraged to share theirs and so begins a great conversation. You don’t want to get too personal – maybe share a conversation you had with a friend that your readers will be able to relate to. Always provide relevant information – stories out of left field can cause readers to scratch their heads and question their loyalty to you.
Revisit an Old Post
Long term bloggers may be able to do this with great success. Review posts from a few years ago. Find one that is particularly interesting. Is it still relevant today? What has changed? Are there specific lessons learned you can share with your readers? Maybe it is a list you want to revise and expand. Or perhaps it is a success story that has recently turned into a big failure. Other than avoiding duplicate content, this can be a great way to take a fresh look at a compelling topic.
Check Out Competitors
Learn what your competitors are talking about. Are they having success with a particular type of blog content? Try it yourself to see if you can replicate their success. This does not mean you should copy their content – you are simply looking for content ideas. Add your own voice and personality to everything you do. Maybe you have never tried to write blogs that include lists but you read one a competitor wrote that you liked. You can use the same format when you write your next blog post.
Subscribe to Authority Alerts
Your inbox can be a treasure-trove of information. Identify the very best experts in your field and subscribe to their email alerts. Many provide daily tips and articles that you can use to get your creative juices flowing. Never duplicate what they have written. Instead, see what they have overlooked and continue the conversation. Don’t agree with something they have said? Make your position on the subject your next blog post. If you do agree, perhaps you have a case study that describes why you hold a particular view on the subject matter.
Interview an Expert
Undoubtedly you will not be able to do this overnight but if you can accomplish several interviews throughout the year, you are ahead of other bloggers. You can redefine who an expert is to include readers who have been particularly successful in an industry-specific area. Doing a combination of both shows you are obviously looking for best practices to share with readers, regardless of their origin. This gives your blog a personal and comfortable tone that readers will respond to more favorably.
This is always an interesting experiment. What is going on in your industry at the global level that you can make applicable for local implementation? And vice versa. There is plenty of information available in every industry. However, the challenge can be in making information useful. Application of information is often the biggest obstacle for business owners and other readers. If you are able to do that, you can definitely become a star blogger. Readers want to know how they can use specific concepts and strategies in their own business. So tell them. Be specific so the implementation process is clear. Provide clear examples they can use for their success.
Take the Direct Approach
Of course you can always just ask your readers what they want to see. Sometimes this will be obvious in the comments they leave. If not, you can ask them directly or request they complete a survey. Readers respond differently to surveys (i.e. not all like them) so give them the option of simply leaving feedback on your site. Rank suggestions in order of most frequently mentioned and plan to write about them in the near future. Don’t allow too much time to elapse or your readers will lose interest.
Since blog posts that readers don’t share are useless for SEO, your writing needs to be engaging and on topic. This means coming up with fresh ideas on a regular basis. Keep an electronic journal and use social bookmarking to track ideas that you might be able to use at a future date. Stay tuned for Part II which provides additional suggestions for finding content ideas. And let us know if any of these ideas work for you!