Blink. Blink. Blink.
One of the most annoying things in business is a cursor that blinks on an empty page. Stare at it long enough and it will start to feel like the Chinese water torture method, constantly reminding you that you should be writing something.
That’s all fine and dandy, but what? What should you write?
Coming up with great ideas for blog posts is something that keeps a lot of marketers awake at night. If your company has a blog, you know exactly what I’m talking about. In the beginning, it was all smooth sailing. You had a ton of fresh ideas.
But time drains even the most imaginative of marketing brains. Before frustration takes full control, I want to remind you of two essential things:
- The cursor is innocent. Don’t lash out at it. Trust me, throwing your laptop off the window won’t help.
- Everything has a solution.
Still got your laptop in one piece? Excellent! Let’s take a look at that solution.
First, a primer on what a great blog idea is.
What Makes a Great Blog Post Great?
A great blog post is one that helps meet two types of goals: the publisher’s and the reader’s. If these things don’t happen simultaneously, the blog post can be good at most.
7 million blog posts are published every day. Seven million! That’s a lot of competition to fend off. Granted, not all of them are in your customers’ language or speak about their interests.
But you also have to take into consideration the countless other types of content your audience can consume: videos, live streams, newspaper/magazine articles, TV programs, vlogs, and so on.
The fight for users’ attention spans is fierce.
So you’d be tempted to think that, as long as you publish blog posts that meet their need for information or entertainment, you’re doing great. And you almost are.
You see, answering a real need that your readers have is, indeed, the first ingredient of a great blog post. But it’s not the only one.
A great blog post also has to meet your needs. Those needs can vary:
- Establishing authority as an expert in your industry
- Selling more products/services
- Upselling or cross-selling existing customers
- Increase the number of people who subscribe to your newsletter
- Lead people to a sales page
This list can go on indefinitely. But all these micro-goals have one thing in common: they ultimately have to help you sell more, either directly or indirectly.
Thus, answering the readers’ needs is not enough. Let’s say you sell online pilates classes. By some weird coincidence, most of your potential clients are cat owners. They would all be interested in how to get their cats to use the litterbox better and stop spreading the sand all over their bathroom.
However, that would make a bad idea for a blog post, even if your customers legitimately need help with this. As long as you don’t sell cat litter or litterboxes, or any other pet-related product, such a blog post won’t do anything for your bottom line.
To recap, a great blog post topic lies at the intersection between your customers’ needs and wants and your business goals.
If this seems to narrow your list of possible topics even further, don’t fret. All you need is a system and a few sources of inspiration. And I’ve got you covered on both fronts.
How to Consistently Come Up with Great Ideas for Blog Posts
Let’s get the system part out of our system first, shall we?
1. Plan in Advance
Very few good things come out of last minute panic. Great blog post ideas are rarely one of these things.
This is why you need to plan ahead. An editorial calendar is one of your best bets here. Spend some time coming up with ideas for the following blog post and write them down. You can use a spreadsheet or tools like Airtable for this. (Find editorial calendar templates here).
Ideally, your posts should be written at least one month ahead of the publishing date. This way, you’ll have enough time to edit and to create a promotion strategy for each of them. Plus, you won’t write something (anything!) at the last moment and end up with meh blog posts.
2. Keep an Ideas File
A Google Doc, a Trello Board, a spreadsheet or a tab in your editorial calendar can help here. Use it to jot down ideas whenever they spring to mind.
It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or a full blog outline, just an idea you can build on. Keep in mind that these ideas can also be nixed when you realize they don’t align with your goals or with your readers’ needs, so you can never have enough.
3. Ask Your Community
What better way to find out what your best customers want to read about than to ask them. You can use an email campaign, a social media post, or even a phone call to reach out to them.
It’s easy and it’s fail-proof. This idea works better if your community is very engaged with your blog in general. If that’s not the case (yet!), skip to the following point.
4. Ask Your Community What Keeps Them up at Night
Asking questions like this is a great way to shoot two birds with one stone. On the one hand, you come across as someone who truly cares about their customers’ wellbeing. On the other hand, you get valuable information that you can turn into great blog posts.
The key to this tactic is to ask the question right, otherwise you may get examples that have nothing to do with your industry. For instance, instead of asking “what keeps you up at night” try something more targeted like “what part of your marketing strategy is an on-going battle for you?”.
5. Get Personal
It’s easy to fixate on business topics. But sometimes readers want to learn more about the people behind the brand you’ve built.
For instance, at Cazoomi, our series about our team was a great success. We wrote introductory blog posts for a lot of our team members and our readers were delighted to meet those they have spoken to on the phone or via email.
6. Check Google Analytics for Insights
Take a deep dive into Google Analytics (or any other analytics tool you use) to see which of your blog posts have gained the most traction. Is it how-to guides? Personal stories? Listicles?
As soon as you can spot a pattern, all you have to do is replicate it. You can even turn some of your older blog posts into the format that gained the most traction.
7. Use Google Search Console for Extra Inspiration
This is another great way to get blog post ideas from your audience, but indirectly. Login to your Google Search Console dashboard and take a look at what people who landed on your website were looking for.
Specifically, look for disparate ideas that you can unify into blog posts aka those keywords that you don’t rank too well for yet. For instance, people may have looked for “pregnancy” and “pilates”. If you have a lifestyle blog, you may have written about those subjects separately, but not together. So what about a blog post about the benefits of pilates during pregnancy?
8. Use Integration Solutions
Google Analytics, along with other analytics and reporting platforms from the solutions you use, can paint a picture of your buyers’ journey.
The only problem with it is that’s fragmented and a bit too dim. In Google Analytics, for instance, you can see the traffic source and the exit point, along with the pages people visited while on your website, but you rarely have full insights into what made potential customers drop out of their buying journey.
When you use bi-directional integration solutions, you get insights on a whole new level. Allow me to explain.
One of the most popular integrations on our platform is Mailchimp for Salesforce. Through it, you can connect your marketing automation solution (in this case, Mailchimp) with your CRM, ERP, or both (Salesforce). You can view customer data from both of them in a single, unified dashboard and get insights like never before.
For instance, you could see which of your email campaigns (in Mailchimp) ended up with the most purchases (in Salesforce) and which blog posts were clicked from your emails. This way, you’ll have a 360-degree view of your customers’ buying journey and you’ll know at which stage you need to intervene.
Integration can also be a powerhouse of great blog post ideas. By learning which of your blog posts were most read (through email marketing or social media) and which of them were the gateway to conversions, you essentially have the recipe for the ideal blog post. And you can replicate it again and again, until the data in your integration platform tells you that it’s time to change it up.
9. Piggyback on Current Trends
Is your editorial calendar empty? No worries — it happens to the best of us.
If you need a blog post idea FAST, try something that ensures you’ll get tons of readers: writing about current events and trends. You can use platforms like Google Trends, BuzzSumo, or AnswerThePublic to find out which topics are getting the most traction online today.
Write fast enough and you’ll see your analytics account explode.
10. Interview an Expert
Is your brain tired? Use someone else’s!
Reach out to experts in your industry and ask them for an interview. You can even get their input on which questions should be asked.
Bonus points: this blog post idea comes with the added benefit of having another “investor” (the interviewee) who will definitely share it with their community. More traffic for you and, potentially, even more leads!
11. Accept Guest Posts
If your blog is popular enough and has some authority in your domain, you may receive requests to publish guest posts. Go ahead and accept them, but not before checking the quality of the article and, of course, making sure that it doesn’t advertise or link to a competitor of yours.
Just like interviewing someone, accepting guest posts will bring you traffic from additional sources, so you’ve got nothing to lose.
12. Do a Content Gap Analysis
You can do this automatically with tools like Ahrefs. Essentially, you would be researching what topics in your industry aren’t covered by your direct or indirect competitors.
For better results, add an SEO component to the mix. For instance, you may notice that all the good blog post ideas have already been covered by your competitors. But if they don’t rank too well, it means that that content can be improved upon. Oftentimes, this means writing more and writing more in-depth on a certain topic.
It’s a pretty neat way to stand out from the crowd, right?
13. Use SEO Tactics to Get More Blog Post Ideas
You can use free tools like the Google Ads dashboard or Keyword Surfer or advanced paid SEO tools (you’d be spoilt for choice here!) to find keywords that may spark new blog post ideas.
This tactic is quite easy: tap a short-tail keyword that’s essentially your industry into the search bar of the tool of your choice. You will receive a very long list of keyword suggestions. Some of them can be the seed of your next blog post idea. OR:
14. Google Your Next Awesome Blog Post Idea
You’ll love how simple this is: go to Google. Type in a “seed” keyword or the title of a blog post that your audience loved. Skim through the results until the bottom of the page when you get to the “Related searches” section. (It might also be called “People also ask” depending on how your query was phrased.
You’ll get quite a few ideas in the same vein. Want more? Click on any of these suggestions and you’ll be able to repeat the process.
Here’s how this looks for our “pilates during pregnancy” example above:
15. Use a Content Idea Generator
Yes, there are tools that can do this for you automatically. This is one of them. It’s free and it will generate hundreds of rough blog post ideas from one or more words.
Let’s be clear: the keyword here is “rough”. Typically, none of the results it generates is usable as-is. You will have to refine it. And you will have to discard most of the ideas you receive. Still, it’s a great nudge in the right direction.
16. Use “Days of the Year”
There’s a day for pretty much anything. This website tells you what you could celebrate every day of the year.
Use it to find days that are relevant to your industry and mark them down in your editorial calendar. You can also use it to find additional inspiration in a day that seems too ordinary to even be mentioned.
17. Play the Devil’s Advocate/Argue for the Other Side
Let’s be honest: you can rarely come up with blog post ideas that have never been used before. What you can do is write on the same topics from a different perspective. Sometimes, even on the same blog.
For instance, if you’ve written about the best practices to organize a fundraiser for a nonprofit, you can write a blog post titled “Biggest mistakes when organizing a nonprofit fundraiser.”
Andy Crestodina from Orbit Media calls this approach “the evil twin”. You’ll love it not only because it can be a virtually endless pool of new blog post ideas, but also because the research on the topic is already done, so it will be very easy to write it.
18. Let Autocomplete Take it Away
Start with a few words and let Google’s autocomplete spark your next great idea. This approach has the advantage of prompting you with ideas that users are interested in.
What about you? How do you come up with blog post ideas? Share your thoughts with the Cazoomi community email here now.