I have to say, one of the joys of working in marketing is the ability to write and share my own thoughts, expertise, and opinions on a weekly basis. I absolutely love writing and plan to do so for as long as my fingers can type.
Of course, it all looks more fun when you are first diving into blogging or authoring a book / ebook / whitepaper. Then the reality of actually staying on top of it hits, just as everything else in your job (or life) regularly falls into disarray and requires your attention.
Blogging in particular can be tough to keep moving forward. Work gets busy, life gets hectic, and before you realize it, a week or two has passed without a single post published.
What is the main sticking point for blogging?
Picking a topic.
Sure, prioritization is at play. Carving out uninterrupted time to write, edit, and clean up the post is an issue too. But in the end, I spend more time cooking up topics than actually writing.
A lot of writers have that same problem. Once you have a mission in mind, the journey is easy and fun. So how can we simplify the process of picking a topic?
Here are a few things to start with. First decide what type of post you want to write from the ideas below. Then it will be easier to pick a specific topic, after which the writing should be cake if you are like me.
Teach Them Something
One of the best ways to earn shares, links, and visits is to teach something that isn’t already covered ad nauseum across the internet. Heck, people still bookmark quality content that helps them fix a problem, and they are also likely to share via “dark social” (email, IM/chat, or another communications medium not found on social networks or similar sites).
In addition to the above reasons, it’s also important to remember how important long form questions are to search ever since Google rolled out Hummingbird. People now search in complete sentences such as “how do I…” or “why does…”
So select topics that teach something, but title it to respond to the most logical question a searcher might ask.
This is why you see so many of my posts that are structured as “How to…” or “Why does…” It helps Google and other search engines better match the question to the answer, which is only going to boost your SEO potential for long tail and semantic match.
Well look here, this very blog post itself uses this technique, doesn’t it?
Share Newly Found Data
Also along the lines of “educate them,” sharing data that is not already in the public domain can reap huge rewards. Perhaps the data is something you uncovered while fixing your own website. Or you found it as a pattern across your client websites.
Or maybe you just found a more buttoned down way of presenting data that is already available on the web, but hard to pull together otherwise.
This was the whole point behind our page on search engine market share by country – it summarizes data that you have to pull from several sources into a single view. We created that for you, and it is one of the best performing pages on our website.
Put Forth A Unique Perspective
Surely you have your own thoughts and opinions that differ from the typical thinking in your industry, be it on one topic or many. While you don’t want to push out messages that would damage your credibility, you should absolutely go against the grain when you have a great argument for why you differ in opinion.
This can be nearly anything. For example, a lot of people are saying that marketing is dead on Facebook because organic reach has fallen off a cliff. On the contrary, Jon Loomer stands up to that opinion and explains why it’s not the tool but the strategy.
Sure, he makes a living helping people use Facebook for business (potential bias), but he also knows more about it than most of us will ever figure out. I tend to trust his opinion, especially on contentious topics like this one.
On the other hand, you may think a new platform or marketing tactic is merely a fad that will fade before long. A lot of bloggers might cover the new idea saying it will change the world. Jump in and explain why you think they are wrong. Sometimes, a great debate will ensue and you may just make a new friend out of the person arguing the other perspective.
Tell A Story
Storytelling is a great trick to use for keeping your audience engaged. This goes beyond writing to speaking – think about how much more interesting it is to hear a story spelled out by a speaker aiming to prove a point. Most of us will stay engaged until the end to see how it turns out.
Stories can be anecdotal or real, or maybe even actual case studies from your own experience. Case studies are powerful in this way.
But don’t just do the corporate thing and create a piece of marketing collateral to hand out, obviously tailored to prove how much your customers absolutely adore you. Outline experiences where things didn’t work out as expected. Tell what you learned to help them avoid the same pitfalls!
Stories are amazing, and people like them. When stuck for a topic, think of a tale to tell, and maybe you’ll be off and writing without delay.
Curate Quality Content
One of the best time savers I’ve found when stretched for getting a post done is sharing good content from other writers. This can come in multiple formats, but typically shows up as a list post of links, maybe including a high level overview of what to expect.
A lot of businesses in the inbound marketing and related industries do this. Off the top of my head, I know that Moz, Scoop.it and SEMrush do this on a regular basis. I’ve also done this in the past during especially hectic weeks where I simply couldn’t take the time to write out a good post myself.
Is it cheating? Depends how you look at it.
We curate a ton of content already on social media, so it is pretty easy to do by pulling the “best of the best” from Twitter, Facebook, or elsewhere. And in some cases, these posts do very well. Try it if you think it might work for you, and be sure to test whether it provides additional value when sent out to your email list.
Build On An Existing Topic
This is one that I’ve seen done a lot. In fact, for some industries, it’s all you need to do to create a good post.
In a past life I wrote about fantasy sports, and would frequently take another analyst’s opinion then build on top of it. They liked it because I mentioned their name and linked to their content / website.
There are two angles on this one – build on someone else’s topic or build on your own previous analysis. Maybe you wrote a case study a year ago and have learned more in the past 12 months – give an update and link to the original write up.
Stories are great like that – even when the story has an ending, there’s always the possibility of a sequel (just ask the movie industry about that one). If that sequel teaches a whole new lesson, or even discounts the original conclusion, it has value.
Don’t be short sighted and think that you can’t cover a topic again because you have covered it previously. Sometimes, that is the best way to go.
Make An Unexpected Analogy
Tell me something – don’t analogies often make for great tools to help you connect one idea with another? I use analogies all the time during customer meetings or sales calls. Especially for topics like SEO that can be tough to grasp, analogies simplify the discussion to the most important benefit or use of a technique (and can often add humor to an otherwise serious topic, if the analogy is pretty far-fetched but relevant).
And when you make an unexpected analogy, it often results in some pretty good interest. Take the Ron Swanson Guide to Content Marketing for example – pure brilliance! Engaging, shareable, entertaining, and just plain good content.
And in the spirit of “drink my own Kool-Aid” – see what I just did there? I curated someone else’s great blog post. Double whammy!
When In Doubt, Just Show Your Personality
I’ve noticed something that is pretty concerning with blogging – impact vs. effort is never what I expect it to be.
What does that mean? No matter how much of my heart and soul I pour into a blog post, the performance is a complete crapshoot at times.
I’ve spent days pulling together the perfect blog post, only to have it fall flat after hitting “publish.” Why is that?
Could be one of many issues. Maybe the post was so buttoned down that there was no room open for discussion. Maybe the topics wasn’t as great as I thought they were.
Or maybe, as is the case more often than we might want to admit, my personality didn’t shine through properly.
Seriously, some of my best performing posts of all time were rush jobs. You know what I mean – you look up to realize it is Friday at 11 a.m., and you promised yourself you would get SOMETHING out there before EOD on Friday. And you have no topic, and no time really.
Not too long back I wrote a blog post about content curation with exactly that situation hanging over me. I hacked that post out in less than an hour and had it live over lunch. After publishing, I was just happy to get it done.
Of course, out of the blue it was syndicated to Social Media Today, shared extensively across both sites, and even found/promoted by none other than Mari Smith herself, both in her newsletter and on Twitter.
And here I was thinking that I was just happy the blog post made it out there in the first place. Maybe I should start writing more rushed posts, because other posts have turned out similarly after being pushed out in record time.
So what do you do to make your personality shine through? What else could you do?
Picking a good topic for a blog post can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be that difficult. Start with a general approach, then dive down into specifics. It will help you get moving, and just might make the writing easy and quick.
How do you start brainstorming topics for your own blog? Does it work for you? Would the above ideas make it come to you faster? Or are there other ways you’d do it? I’d love to hear your ideas as well so feel free to share below.