How to Generate Blog Post Ideas and Plan Your Content
Don't let an initial lack of post ideas put you off blogging!
It seems like the most daunting thing about starting a blog; how is it possible to keep coming up with fresh content ideas on a regular basis? Doesn't the well of inspiration run dry eventually?
I've been running a couple of blogs for the last 2 years and with both of them I can say there have been times when I've struggled to come up with new ideas, but right now I've found some good strategies that help me to keep posting regularly (once a week on this blog, and two or three times a week on my other blog!).
Generating Blog Post Ideas
Follow & read other blogs
The best way to get to know the hot topics and discussions in your industry is to start following some of your peers/competitors and companies who also write about your niche. Of course, I'm not recommending you copy anyone else's ideas, but getting inspiration about topics and seeing ways you can add your own perspective on a discussion is great for blog content ideas!
Here are my 16 favourite business blogs I'd recommend following!
Social media hashtags & topics
Do some hashtag searches on Twitter to find what other people are talking about in regards to your industry. You may end up finding people asking questions that you might be able to answer in a blog post, or again gaining inspiration for what you could write your take on.
Talk to people at networking events
Get out there into the real world and talk to people in your industry, or even just other business owners in general. Sometimes the best inspiration comes from really unexpected places and people; when people talk and ask questions sometimes this can jog ideas in your mind too!
Read Books in your field
Get on Amazon and find some interesting, thoughtful books to read through when you need a break from the screen. Getting deeper insights into a certain topic or skill can only make you smarter, and may give you some unexpected flashes of inspiration too.
Content Aggregation sites
Try flipping through websites like Stumbleupon, Medium, Huff Post or Reddit to find topic ideas to write about. I also really love Pinterest for this as well; once you're following enough people in your niche, your feed should be full of inspiration! You could also try sites like Yahoo Answers or Quora to find commonly asked questions that you could help answer in a blog post.
Join discussions in Facebook groups
Lord knows I think Facebook Groups are fantastic for business, and generating ideas is no exception! There are always some interesting discussions going on and people asking questions that you can help to answer in your blog posts. Just make sure you join the right groups for your niche, not only that contain your peers/competitors, but that also contain your target customers as well.
Ask People what they need help with
Sometimes the easiest way to see what people want to read on your blog is simply to ask! Gather a group of your target customers, or maybe post in a Facebook Group with those people, and ask what their biggest struggles are and what they need help with! Simple.
Brainstorm FAQs & what your clients need
All while you're blogging it is so incredibly important to keep your target customer/audience in mind at all times. Try to get inside their mind and think what they really need to know about your product/service/industry, and what their questions might be when contacting you.
Creating an FAQs blog post not only is great content for your site, but it also saves you time writing out answers to every individual... now you can just send them a link to your post!
Write Experiences & anecdotes
One of my favourite blogs is Made Vibrant by Caroline Kelso; she writes about all things self improvement, productivity and freelancing, but her posts always come from her own anecdotes and day to day experiences, making her content always fresh and totally unique from anyone else!
Organising Your Ideas & Planning
Whilst some people like to write ideas in a notebook, I prefer a digital approach to stay organised. I've talked before about how I use Trello as an editorial calendar for my blog and newsletters, and I go into more depth in that article, but for now I'll give an overview of how I save my ideas and plan my posts...
Create a trello board & download the app
The first step is to set up a Trello board with the following lists:
Then you can download the Trello app on your phone and keep it on your desktop, and whenever you get a brilliant wave of genius and you want to note down an idea, just open the app or browser and add the idea as a card in the 'Ideas' list.
If you do this on your phone, it will sync to your desktop, so you can be out and about noting down ideas and they'll be there ready for you when you get home.
Capture ideas & outline when I have time
Then once you are home at a desktop and you have 10 spare minutes, you can go through your ideas and write a basic outline for each. For me this literally just involved writing the main headings and subheadings of the post and leaving it at that!
At this point I'll usually also label the card with a colour code to say whether this is 'To Do' or 'In Progress' (ie. half written in my blog drafts).
Check out the anatomy of a successful blog post!
Plan month by month to prepare
Once you have a good list of outlined ideas, I then start moving the ideas across to the 'To Do' list in a priority list of what I want to get published sooner. And when I'm planning my month of content I will then give the idea cards a date and move them into the 'May 2017' list, or 'June 2017' list, for example.
I can then view the board in Calendar view if I want to, so that I have a visual idea of what my month's content is going to look like. Once a month is over I will simply 'Archive' the list and start again!