How to Come Up With a Year's Worth of Great Blog Post Ideas - In a Day
Run out of ideas for what to write about on your blog? Have no fear. This 5-step plan will leave you with so many ideas for blog posts that you'll have a new problem: deciding which ones to write first.
It happens to everyone.
At some point, you run out of ideas for what to write about on your blog.
This can make you question yourself. Is it time to give up on blogging? Have you finally run out of ideas… forever? Are you just a washed-up blogger?
None of those things are true. You just have to learn a few new tricks.
This is actually really easy. Maybe even fun. And you can definitely come up with an entire year’s worth of awesome blog post ideas in just a few hours.
Not just any old blog post ideas, either - awesome ones. Ideas your readers will love, that support your business goals, and that make you feel like you’re really getting somewhere with your blog.
For starters, let’s knock down this idea that a year’s worth of blog posts is a big deal. It’s not.
Most companies with an active blog publish about once a week. Which means we only need 55 blog post ideas for a full year of posts.
If your company publishes a post every other week, your work is even easier: You need only 28 blog post ideas. If you publish twice a week, you need 110.
Pretty straightforward, right?
So let’s dive in. Get ready to be up to your ears in blog post ideas.
1. Define your audience.
If you’ve been blogging for awhile, you may already have a really good idea of who your ideal audience is. Maybe you’ve got well-defined personas – a full workup on exactly who your readers are.
Or maybe you don’t have that information. Either way, before we start cranking out blog post topics, let’s think about who these topics are for. The whole point of content marketing is to attract and engage your readers. And so while I could just give you a year’s worth of blog post titles by rattling off a slew of headline formulas, that would miss the point.
And the point is to serve your audience first, and your needs second. This is the crux of what makes content marketing tick. You’re not creating sales collateral, you’re creating useful content for your readers.
The idea of putting your audience’s needs ahead of your own business needs is on many content marketers’ radar: 67% of B2B content marketers and 68% of B2C content marketers say they “frequently” “focus on creating content for our audience versus our brand”.
Of course, to create content that serves your audience, you have to define who they are. In content marketing-speak, this is your primary “content persona”. But you also need at least one “negative persona” - the type of person you are not writing for.
I advocate having both types of persona, simply because it’s so darn easy to fall into trying to make content for everybody. By picking even one negative persona, you will drastically clarify who your real audience is. Even if you have to define them as “angry people who have no money and hate my industry”, that actually helps. You cannot be all things to all people, as the saying goes.
2. Figure out your primary keyword or primary topic. Then develop a list of 50-100 keywords you’d like to target.
As you may know, the days of optimizing web pages for static keywords are over. The search algorithms now “think” more in terms of topics.
But we need to know your topic.
Think of about 3-5 ways to describe what you do or offer, in three to five words or less. Use a free keyword tool to see what’s a related term, or just do a Google search, then scroll down to the bottom of the search results page and look for the “Searches related to” section.
If you can afford it, consider using one of the paid keyword tools like Moz or SEMRush. These sites can give you an exhaustive keyword list, and even tell you how competitive it is to rank for different keywords. Also, don’t forget your own keyword information – both Google Analytics and Google’s Search Console can tell you what you’re already ranking for.
You can also go to your competitor’s websites and see which keywords they are targeting. Of course, just because one of your competitors is using a keyword doesn’t mean you have to. But it’s fun to flesh-out a keyword list by cherry-picking from competing sites. And if you happen to have a bunch of ideas for blog posts while you’re reviewing your competitors’ keywords, all the better.
If you want a power tool for this competitor research, check out SpyFu. You’ll feel like a kid in a candy store.
Speaking of being a kid in a candy store… don’t spend too much time on keyword research. Ideally, you already had a good keyword list before you started working on blog post ideas. Developing a keyword list is really a separate task, but as it is so intimately related to developing blog post ideas (or any content format) I am including it here.
Just don’t get lost in the keyword maze. A list of 50-100 keywords/topics is enough to get started.
3. Figure out what your audience wants and wants to know.
You may already know very well what your audience wants to know. If you do, start writing those questions out, in the exact same language your readers would use.
If you don’t know what they want (or want to check your assumptions), head over to Answer The Public and enter a few of your topics/keywords.
Then head over to Quora and do the same. Look for simply-stated questions that you can answer thoroughly – either in a blog post or in a video. Write all of them down. Each one is a blog post idea.
Then head over to Google again, and make a few strategic queries. Do this by using your keywords, then adding a phrase in quotes like “how do I” or even just “how”. You’ll trigger Google’s “people also asked” box, and that will give you even more questions.
The questions you’re finding are basically keywords, just “long tail keywords” (keywords of three words or more). But you can go a long, long way with content marketing simply by answering common questions your audience has.
The poster boy for this technique is Mark Sheridan. He spent the early days of the Great Recession saving his pool company just by answering one customer question on his blog every night. He’s got a book out about the technique called “They Ask, You Answer”.
If you spend even two hours on this question search, and you keep the idea of finding blog post headlines/ideas top of mind, you should be able to come up with at least 30 blog post ideas every hour. Two hours in, you’ll have 60 blog post titles. And probably a lot more.
4. Plug those keywords into a few headline formulas.
Here are 50 possible headline formulas:
- 5 Common [Your Subject / Keyword] Mistakes - And How To Fix Them
- 5 [Your Subject / Keyword] Mistakes Even the Best [What People Who Did This Are Called PLURAL] Make
- The 7 Deadly Sins of [Your Subject / Keyword]
- 5 Mistakes Beginners Make With [Your Subject / Keyword]
- Do You Make Any of These Common [Your Subject / Keyword] Mistakes?
- 5 Guaranteed Ways to Fail at [Your Subject / Keyword]
- 10 Reasons Your [Your Subject / Keyword] Has Failed
- 10 Things That Keep [What People Who Did This Are Called PLURAL] Up At Night
- What Do [What People Who Did This Are Called PLURAL] Struggle With The Most?
- 3 Things No One Ever Tells You About [Your Subject / Keyword]
- 3 Things I Wish I Know About [Your Subject / Keyword] When I Was Starting Out
- The Epic List of [Your Subject / Keyword] Resources
- 10 Books Every [What People Who Did This Are Called SINGULAR] Should Read
- 5 TED Talks Every [What People Who Did This Are Called SINGULAR] Should See
- 5 Apps Every [What People Who Did This Are Called SINGULAR] Should Try
- 10 YouTube Videos Every [What People Who Did This Are Called SINGULAR] Should See
- 10 Free [Your Subject / Keyword] Tools You've Probably Never Heard Of
- The Ultimate List of [Your Subject / Keyword] Tools
- The 10 Best [Your Subject / Keyword] Blogs
- 10 Podcasts Every [What People Who Did This Are Called SINGULAR] Should Listen To
- 5 Gifts For the [What People Who Did This Are Called SINGULAR] In Your Life
- 3 Conferences Every [What People Who Did This Are Called SINGULAR] Should Attend
- The 10 Most Important Things That Happened in [Your Subject / Keyword] In The Last Year
- How to Do [Your Subject / Keyword] In 2018
- 10 [Your Subject / Keyword] Trends to Watch For in 2018
- What 2018 Taught Us About [Your Subject / Keyword]
- The 10 Best Blog Posts About [Your Subject / Keyword] Published This Year
- 10 Best Practices for [Your Subject / Keyword]
- The Best [Your Subject / Keyword] Tactic No One Talks About
- 5 Brilliant Ways to Do [Your Subject / Keyword] Better
- 10 [Your Subject / Keyword] Tips You'll Wish You Knew Sooner
- 10 Ways to Spice Up Your [Your Subject / Keyword]
- 10 [Your Subject / Keyword] Tricks That Just Might Get You Promoted
- 10 Unexpected Benefits of [Your Subject / Keyword] [#3 Will Make You Laugh]
- 3 Things You Didn't Know [Your Subject / Keyword] Could Do
- How to Get More Results from [Your Subject / Keyword]
- 10 [Your Subject / Keyword] Tips You Need To Know
- 10 [Your Subject / Keyword] Hacks Every [What People Who Did This Are Called SINGULAR] Should Know
- 10 Simple Ways to Get More Out of Your [Your Subject / Keyword]
- 5 Essential Skills Every [What People Who Did This Are Called SINGULAR] Must Have
- 10 of the Best-Kept Secrets In [Your Subject / Keyword]
- This is Why People Love [Your Subject / Keyword]
- Is a Career in [Your Subject / Keyword] Right For You?
- 5 Insanely Simple Ways To Succeed At [Your Subject / Keyword]
- 10 Awe-Inspiring Examples of [Your Subject / Keyword]
- These Are The 3 Most Underrated Ideas in [Your Subject / Keyword]
- 15 Ways to Improve Your [Your Subject / Keyword] In 10 Minutes Or Less
- The Definitive Guide To [Your Subject / Keyword]
- 15 Ways to Stretch Your [Your Subject / Keyword] Budget
- 10 Fantastic [Your Subject / Keyword] Hacks
Even if you only like 10% of the headlines these formulas give, every keyword you run through these formulas will generate 5 headlines for you. So run 11 of your keywords through these formulas, and you’ll have 55 headlines. A year’s worth of blog post ideas.
If you generated about 60 blog post ideas from the questions approach, and another 55 from the headline formulas, you’ve already got two years worth of content ideas.
But we’re still not done.
5. Take your list of websites that are either competitors or sites that you know your ideal audience visits. Run it through BuzzSumo.
You’ll see something like this:
It’s a list of your competitors’ most-shared content over the last year. You can also reduce the time frame, filter content by format, and see who’s shared their content.
Or you can plug in a few of your keywords and see what comes up for those searches.
So what are you going to do with this information? You are going to steal. Go snitch headlines ideas, headline phrases – you name it from these lists. Don’t steal exact titles, of course, but it is okay to rephrase them.
If you spend even half an hour at this, you’ll probably generate at least 30 more blog post ideas. Then spend another half an hour expanding your search. Plug in the web address of major publications in your industry. Or just plug in the address of any site you like – and lift those headline formats for your own use.
Voila: Another hour of work, and you now have yet another year’s worth of blog post topics.
As you’ve now got three years worth of blog post topics, we’ll stop. Having a list this long means you’ll be able to ruthlessly cull ideas. But even if you can cut your list down to 55 ideas, I don’t recommend you lock yourself into those ideas for the rest of the year.
Leave yourself a little room for inspiration. Many super-smart content companies do this. They plan their content in a general arch or strategy for the year, but they leave 10-20% of their editorial calendar open, just so inspiration has some room.
Besides, now that you know how easy it is to generate a ton of blog post ideas, you’ll probably be coming up with new ones all the time.