There are a lot of blogs out there. In fact, there’s enough blog content out there that even if you started right now, 2015 would be long gone before you finished reading it all. And every day, companies are starting blogs and adding fresh content to them.
So with countless blog posts from every industry about any topic you can think of, how can you possibly write something worth reading? Well if you’re still reading this, then we’re already proving that it’s possible.
While it’s almost certain that every topic has already covered by someone, it doesn’t mean everyone has read it. That means it’s going to be your responsibility to find your audience, and feed them ideas that they’re not already reading on a regular basis. That may sound like it’s easier said than done, but it’s really not.
The trick isn’t to be a great “ideas person,” but rather to have a nose for what’s interesting. That’s what makes the stuff of great journalists, and it’s what makes a great content marketer, too.
So where do you begin?
#Step 1: Explore
Like we said before, there’s already a whole sea of good (and sometimes just awful) content out there. Almost every subject imaginable has been tapped into—and maybe even seemingly dried out. Your first job when thinking of a new great blog idea is to explore what’s already out there.
Leading content marketers will almost always say the same thing: Steal! It sounds like you’re going against everything that they taught you in grade school, but you’re not. The truth is you’re going after the subjects that are proven to draw interest.
When you see an idea you like on another blog, grab onto it! Just because someone has written about the keys to writing a great blog doesn’t mean you can’t write about it too! Sometimes the best inspiration comes from seeing someone perform their craft well – you just need to create better content than the original.
It’s like seeing a great jazz musician perform and then resolving that you can never play the same Miles Davis tune they played because “that would be stealing.” You’re both contributing to the improvement of the craft, so embrace your inspiration, and allow yourself to take it to the next level.
Just don’t plagiarize. No illustration can justify that kind of behavior.
#Step 2: Dig
The greatest part about creating your own blog is the freedom to write about whatever you choose. When you’re particularly fond of an idea that you come across in your explorations, don’t stay at the surface. Dig!
When someone writes 500 words about a topic, even 2,000 words, they’re not exactly exhausting a subject. There’s always more to dig into, and often blog posts just begin to scratch the surface, surveying a whole collection of ideas. Take one of those ideas that you love, and really try to squeeze the juice out of it.
Say you want to write for an audience of brick and mortar retail owners, and you’re interested in writing about iOS-based POS services. Maybe you’ve come across a great blog post that writes about “The Five Best POS systems for iOS.” You can dedicate an entire article digging into the benefits and shortcomings of just one of those systems: “The 10 Things You Need to Know About Square POS”
Or, maybe you read an article considering the benefits of these systems—something like “12 Reasons to Switch to an iOS-based POS.” If that article only dedicates a few paragraphs to chargebacks, you may find that that’s a subject you could expand on for a full 1,000 words (and it would be something your audience would benefit from reading!).
#Step 3: Find Feedback—and Take It
In this glorious age of instant publishing, YouTube, and social media, we’re all also very aware the phenomenon known as “comment sections.” Riddled with intense, insensitive, and simply incoherent remarks from all corners of the Internet, comment sections are terrifying as an author. But they’re quite empowering as a third-party observer.
As you’re out exploring and digging, trying to find the perfect way to put your spin on a hot subject, you have access to some of the best test markets money didn’t buy. For all of the ridiculous feedback that comes from commenters, there are goldmines of useful feedback to be harvested from articles that have already been written.
Whether you’re seeing how popular a subject by how much it’s getting shared, or seeing comments on how a point is outdated or overlooked, you’re being handed the tools for a successful blog post. Use them.
There’s no sense in doing all this exploring and idea harvesting if you can’t learn something from other people’s mistakes. Don’t just latch onto an idea because you like the sound of it. Dig into what you know works and find ways to bring out your own brand of creativity and knowledge.
Coming up with good blog topics doesn’t have to be a matter of wracking your brain on how to reinvent the wheel. Be empowered by the fact that you have an interesting take on what’s already being talked about. Learn how to get past the surface and grapple with new angles. Your audience is excited for what you have to say.
(original photo by Jeff Sheldon)