What to Blog About?
In the previous post, I wrote about why we should start a blog LINK.
Here in this post I will talk about what to write about it and where to find ideas.
Start by asking yourself a few questions.
Question 1: What does your audience need?
Start by describing your reader; actually write this out. What is his name (make one up)? Where does he live? What does he do for a living? How many kids does she have? What are her hobbies? What does she want out of life? What does she search for or read when she’s online? Where does he get that information (Google, Facebook, Twitter, websites)?
Do a search in Google images for a male or female head shot picture, and look for one that looks like your reader (as you picture him). Type all of this in a word document and paste the picture up at the top. Print this out and put it on the wall by your computer and review when you’re writing your blog.
This will help greatly with coming up for topics to write about. It will help you stay focused. You can run your idea past this person and imagine what they would say, or how they would react, or would they be interested.
Question 2: What are you passionate about?
You want to pick a topic you will be interested in. You may end up writing 500 blog posts, or more in the next couple of years. You need to think if this is a subject you love so much that you could devote that much time and energy to it.
Make a list of all things you love to do. Then take each of those and break them down further. For example, if you love fishing, you could break that down into; lures, reels, poles, lakes in Minnesota, trout fishing, deep sea fishing, fishing in Guam…If you pick a topic like fishing, it will probably be too general and you won’t stand out in the crowded field of blogs. There is a fine line between picking a topic that is too general and one that is too specific. If you drill down too far you may run out of ideas after two or three posts.
Question 3: What do you want to stand for?
Do you have really strong beliefs about something like politics, religion, world hunger, or diabetes? Voice your opinion and get it heard. If it interests you, chances are there are others it will interest too. Some people you attract may take the opposing view. They may argue their point in the comments section. This can be a good thing. Some of the most popular blogs are written by people with strong posts that cause a commotion when they are published, and stir up a lot of interest. If someone gets out of hand, you can delete their comment before it even displays, and if they are really bad, ban them from your blog. So don’t fret it.
Question 4: What are you trying to sell?
If your motivation is selling a product or service, then write posts related to that. Say you sell tulip bulbs, you can write about the history of tulips, how deep to plant them in Florida, what kinds of soil do they like, touring a beautiful garden in Seattle…At the end of your blog posts you can have a “call to action” for your readers to check out the tulips you sell.
Just as it’s important to know what to do, it is important to know what not to do.
1 – FOCUS – Your best bet is to stick with a blog topic with a narrow focus. Most people when they follow a blog expect to see a consistent theme in the posts. If one day you talk about training your poodle for the local dog show and then next you talk about wines from Chile, they won’t know what you are about. It may take you a while to get to that place, so it is ok to experiment in the beginning when your traffic is low. Over time you will find your voice and know what to talk about.
2 – TWEAKING – It is tempting when you start your web site that you want to constantly tweak everything; the color scheme, the fonts, the logo, should I have a sidebar, what should I put in the footer, what should I put in my favicon…
Worry about that stuff later. In the beginning you want to write, and write a lot. Being distracted with web design is a form of procrastination, or what Steven Pressfield calls resistance LINK. It keeps you from writing. You say to yourself, “I’ll write that post, but first I need to research how to use Photoshop.” And you go off on a tangent, looking up books on Amazon.com to teach you Photoshop, and researching new computers cause yours isn’t fast enough. Say no to all of that. Do one tweak a month, that is enough.
What should I write in my blog?
Rule one: Write content that is interesting to your target audience and fits your objective. Write blog posts that will interest your audience. Earlier we talked about describing your reader. To you, that imaginary reader is real and he/she will tell you what is interesting to them. It seems easy enough, but in the beginning it is difficult. Don’t lose sight of that, it is your only rule.
You will want to keep a list of blog post topics handy in a spreadsheet or a file folder to use in the future. Try to keep a list of at least ten things to write about. Run through that list when it comes time to write and see which one interests you. Maybe something happened that week and one of those topics will be timely, making it easier to write.
Create categories for you blog topics. For example, if you want to write about coaching little league baseball, you could have categories like hitting drills, organizing practices, dealing with argumentative parents, learning the rules of the game…When you brainstorm ideas, these categories will help you. Some people find that scheduling a category for a specific time also helps. You could write a post on rules of the game for week one, hitting drills for week two, and so on, and follow that method every month. Replace a category with a new one when you run out of ideas.
Rule two: I haven’t thought of a rule two yet. If there is one, please let me know.
14 Ways to Find Blog Topics
After you pick your blog niche, how do you come up with ideas for content? Most of what people search for on a given topic can be broken down into the following categories. Pick one of these categories and write it on a blank piece of paper or type it as the heading on a Word document. Then start brainstorming ideas. At this point, don’t filter out any ideas that you think might be bad, or that no one would be interested in it. Jot down anything that comes to mind. Store this document in a folder (paper or electronic) called blog ideas. Refer to it when you’re at a loss for what to write about. Make this a monthly task.
1. Conversations – Make it a habit to listen to what topics people are talking about. Jot these down. These ideas may not be directly related to your blog, but you can use them as inspiration. For example, say most people today are talking about the horrible, winter weather. If your blog is about training for marathons, then write a post about how to train when the weather is bitterly cold, or sidewalks are packed with snow.
2. Magazines and Newspapers – Read these and pay attention to what is making the front page headlines, or page one of each section, and the cover of the magazines. Also note the way the headlines are crafted. You would only use these as ideas for your own blog; don’t copy them. Say you read a headline in today’s business section about the effect of rising interest rates on mortgage rates and your blog is about travel. How in the world could you use that? Well, you could compare cost of living in the U.S. to other countries, compare what $200,000 buys in Atlanta to what it would buy in Portugal.
3. Frequently Asked Questions – What are the most common questions people ask you on your blog, that come up in the comments section, that you overhear from others, or that people ask you directly? Whereas a lot of websites would turn these into an FAQ section, you can use these as either blog posts, or categories for blog posts and write multiple posts on those topics. If your blog is about movies and people always ask you for a recommendation or your top ten, then come up with a Friday Night pick each week, or top 10 favorite sports movies.
4. Lists – Lists are popular posts. Posts such as, “Top 100 Greatest Action Movies of All Time,” or “My Seven Favorite Recipes for Chicken on the Grill,” are direct and easy to read and fulfill a reader’s need for information on a topic such as: “What cool action movie can I rent that I’ve never seen before?” Ideas for these lists can come from your reader’s comments or questions, or you could imagine what kind of questions they would ask. Ask your imaginary reader. It sounds crazy, but it does stimulate your thinking.
5. How to’s – Blog posts that answer a question, can generate a lot of traffic to your site. Posing questions like “How to Fix an Extension Cord” or “How to Remove the Dashboard on a 1997 Toyota Camry” can be helpful to people, but you want to make sure they are pertinent to your blog focus. Sometimes, creating one of these posts can stimulate a lot of conversations in the comments sections, as people may have a different viewpoint on how it should be done.
6. Annual Reviews – How about an annual wrap-up review like “My top 12 blog posts from 2013,” or “The best electronic devices of the year.” These are especially popular at the beginning or end of the year, but people also refer to them throughout the year when they are interested in purchasing something or finding other people’s opinions on good information.
7. Links to Other Sites – Do a summary of your favorite sites; either ones you use all the time, or ones you came across recently. Not only will they be interesting reading, but you will be creating external links to other sites which could generate more traffic to your site. As an example, you could list (with links) your top ten favorite men’s clothing retailers with upcoming sales, or the most interesting web sites of the week…
8. Product Reviews – If you recently purchased something, why not document your thoughts on it? How was it packaged? What was the purchase experience like? How are the instructions to assemble and use the product? How well does the product perform? How long will it last? Are you happy with the purchase? These are questions others will like to know the answer to before they purchase it. You can also link the product to an affiliate site and make some money, but this can also cloud other’s opinions of you. I would recommend you only do this for products and services you recommend and use yourself.
9. Resources Used – There are so many resources out there right now. It is impossible to know them all. When you stumble upon something useful, note it and share it in a blog post. Don’t just try the other sites that everyone uses, give a new site or product a try and let others know what you think. Recently I came across a blog post where the writer revealed ten new sources for free pictures to use on my blog. I had never heard of any of these sites and the pictures were great…very useful.
10. New Hobbies/Goals/Habits – When you explore a new hobby/habit/goal, document the process and use it in your blog. Tell your readers why you decided to pursue this course; what books you are reading; what courses you’re taking; how good are these resources; what did you learn; what did you work on this week/today; what have you struggled with; and on and on. You could easily do a blog post a day for a month on this one topic and then update it quarterly or annually. It is like doing two things at once; writing your blog and learning something new.
11. Amazon – Head on over to Amazon.com and take a look at the most popular books. Look for books in your area. These popular books could be great blog topics for you. If possible, see if you can review the book’s table of contents (usually you can when you look at the book’s details there is a screen on the left you can review select pages from the book). If you can see this, review it for further ideas on blog topics. Again, not to steal ideas from someone but to stimulate your thinking on what topics would be of interest right now.
12. What is Popular on Google/Facebook/Twitter – Use the following tools to find topics that are popular right now on the big sites like Google, Facebook and Twitter. See if any relate to your blog, or can you make them relevant and write about them.
13. Problems/Interests of your target Audience – Revisit your old friend – your avatar and think about the problems they face daily, what is on their mind, what are they interested in? Chances are these issues and interests will be popular with a lot of people and will result in a lot of search traffic to your site, if you write about it.
14. Future plans – Finally, what future plans do you have for your blog? Do you plan to write a series? Head down a new direction? Go to a conference? Re-design the website? If so, why not blog about it? Others may be facing the same situation, or be interested in how you attack it or what you learn from your experience and want to return to your site to read about it.
As you can see, there is no shortage of ways to find something to write about. In fact, I humbled myself in learning all of the ways to find subjects for blog posts that I’m not using. I learned a few things that I can use. I have no excuse for not writing more often.
If you have any more ideas, please send me a comment below. I would love to hear how others get their inspirations.