Welcome to part three of my blogging series. So far, we’ve looked at why your business needs a blog and how to get started, as well as the anatomy of a great blog post.
Now that you’re off to a great start, we’re going to look at how you can maintain your blogging efforts and even build up momentum over time.
I know from the many messages I receive that people go into blogging with the best of intentions but, with a thousand and one demands on their time, maintaining a blog can quickly fall by the wayside.
How do you keep coming up with fresh blog content?
How do you know what is going to resonate with your audience?
And how can you plan blogging into your working week so that you are able to publish consistently great content on a regular basis?
Below, we’re looking at some of my favourite tools, techniques and strategies for coming up with fresh content week in and week out. We’ll also be taking a closer look at creating and sticking to an editorial calendar to keep your blogging on track.
Where your blog content ideas can come from
1. Write about what you know
Your business blog is an opportunity to showcase what you know in more detail so that you can help your customers understand more about your business.
If you sell products, you could feature blogs that talk about:
- Sourcing the products
- Your suppliers
- Key ingredients – their benefits and why you use them in your products
- Number lists for key events in the calendar, e.g. Five products that should be on your Christmas list, or Ten Mother’s Day gifts that show you care
If you sell services, many of the above approaches would still work. You could also blog about:
- Your business story – why the businesses started and what you’ve learned
- How the services you offer help clients
- The issues your clients face that make your services relevant/important
- Mistakes you’ve made and lessons you’ve learned
- The mission statement that informs your business
- Your goals – what they are and how you plan to achieve them
- Charities you support
- Behind the scenes of your business
- Client spotlights and case studies
As I’ve said many times before, the key thing here is to think about what you know that your customers would find interesting, helpful and relevant.
2. Listen to your customers
When it comes to creating blog content that will be read, your customers may well be telling you what they want to read without you even realising.
When you receive new enquiries, are there questions that people often ask? If so, you could write a series of blogs answering common questions (a bit like I’m doing with this blogging series).
When you post on social media, what are the topics that seem to strike a chord and get people talking?
A business coach who works with self-employed mothers with young families might notice that her customers want to know how to be more productive, how to make the most of their limited work time, how to price their products and services, how to manage their workload if one of their children is suddenly ill, and so on. All of these topics would make great blogs for that coach.
When you notice a topic that creates a buzz with your target audience, it’s a good idea to make a note of it. How do your products or services fit into this topic? What knowledge do you have that your customers would find useful?
If there’s something about your business that customers often praise in reviews, you could put a spotlight on this element of your service in a blog article. Why did it come about? How does it help customers?
Your potential customers may well be talking elsewhere about the topics they would love to see as blogs. One way to discover this is to check out online forums and message boards, including LinkedIn and Facebook groups.
Someone who runs a parenting blog, for example, could check out a message board like Mumsnet to see what topics have got people talking. I did a quick search and saw people seeking advice about kids starting primary school, age-appropriate bedtimes, how much to spend on presents and maternity leave as just a couple of examples.
Depending on the type of business, these could all make great blog topics.
You can apply the same process to any industry – just search for popular message boards and forums in your sector.
4. Track what’s happening in your industry
One way to position your blog as an authority within your industry is to blog about the topics, big and small, that are currently affecting your sector and your customers.
Has new legislation been passed that will impact on businesses or clients? What do you think about it? Can you help customers understand the legislation?
Perhaps there’s been a celebrity news story that connects with your industry, or new technology has been launched that could change how products or services are made or sold?
What are people talking about in industry groups on LinkedIn? Are there articles from people you view as influencers in your sector? This can give you a steer on the issues shaping your industry right now.
Again, these questions can all lead you to potential blog topics.
5. Target specific keywords
Is there a keyword or phrase for which you’d like to rank well but that sits slightly outside of the main keywords for your website?
Or, alternatively, is there a keyword or phrase that customers often use to find your business? A good place to check this is in the Performance>Queries report in Google Search Console as this shows you which search terms people have used to find your site.
By understanding what your potential customers are searching for, you can brainstorm some potential blog topics that fit with these keyword searches.
A property management company, for example, might find people are searching for how to secure a rental property with a guarantor, what insurance a private landlord needs, rental property maintenance or how private landlords are regulated. These would all make great blog topics because the property management company already knows that people are searching for this content.
6. Use Google Trends
Google Trends can be a handy tool that enables you to track the big topics that are trending worldwide as well as more locally. You can explore trending content within a range of categories such as Business, Entertainment or Sports.
In addition, you can ask Google to notify you about how specific keywords or phrases are performing. For example, you might want to know if people are talking about your business, your suppliers, your industry or your competitors.
Social Mention is another helpful tool for checking online trends.
7. Keep a swipe file
Copywriters, journalists and other writers often keep a swipe file. This can be a physical or virtual folder in which they store articles they’ve read and enjoyed, headlines that have inspired them to click through, inspirational content, how-to guides and much more.
A swipe file can be a powerful source of ideas but it’s important to never just copy and paste from your swipe file as you should always be striving for unique content to avoid a duplicate content penalty from Google and because plagiarism is never OK.
8. Try a topic generator
9. Follow-up on successful posts
If you have had a blog that really took off in the past, attracting more social shares and website visits than most of your other articles (you can find this information in Google Analytics), then you might want to think about how you could follow up on the blog.
Could you explore the topic from another angle or add more detail? Has your knowledge changed since you wrote the post? Are there any facts that need updating?
Your past successes can be a good steer on what your customers would like to read about on your blog.
10. Feature guest blogs
Do you know anyone in a field related to your business who has information and knowledge to share with your customers?
As we saw in my complete guide to guest blogging, featuring well-written, properly targeted guest blogs on your website can be a fantastic way to expand your content and reach new audiences. It also means you can publish content on your blog during weeks when you’re too busy to produce your own.
If someone does blog for your site, you might want to talk to them about writing a reciprocal blog to be featured on their website.
11. Have a look on Amazon
The bestselling books on Amazon can give you some great insights into topics that people are searching for right now.
Imagine I wanted to write more articles about blogging but was stuck for ideas. All I would need to do is go to amazon.co.uk and then choose the Best Sellers category and enter ‘blogging’ into the search bar.
This brings up a list of books about blogging, each indicating the number of reviews and star ratings and the publication date.
At the time of writing this article, the highest rated book published within the last year is the seventh edition of Blogging for Dummies. All I need to do is hit the ‘Look Inside’ button (marked in red below) to see the list of contents in the book:
This gives a huge range of topics from ‘Blogging ethically’ to ‘Finding your niche’ or ‘Building community with blog comments’ as just a few examples.
The fact that this is a best seller right now tells me that people might want to read articles about each of these topics. From this, I could think about topics related to blogging ethically (how to research a blog, why linking to your blog sources is great for authority, etc.) or finding your niche (how to make sure your blog stands out from your competitors).
There’s no need to read the actual book. The aim is to take inspiration from what you know people are interested in so that you can put your own spin on it.
12. Search popular hashtags
Another way to generate new blog content ideas is to take a look at the hashtags that are trending on social media.
On Twitter, you can do this by clicking on ‘Show more’ at the bottom of the What’s happening panel (if you’re on a desktop) or clicking the search icon on a mobile device and then choosing Trending.
Of course, this list of trending hashtags is constantly being updated.
You might find it easier to use RiteTag to look for popular topics. Simply enter the broad topic you want to blog about in the search bar and see what hashtags come up.
For example, someone who runs a blog about allotments will see that popular hashtags for allotmenting include #ecology, #rooftop and #growyourown. The blogger could capitalise on these trends by writing about growing your own veg, turning a rooftop space into a vegetable garden or the ecology issues that can affect popular crops.
As well as currently trending topics, RiteTag will show you hashtags that would work well long-term, so you could potentially develop a series of blogs around these topics.
You could take your research a step further by popping over to Twitter and searching for the popular hashtags. This will tell you what people are currently saying about this topic.
I just looked at the #growyourown example above and saw that people want to know how to grow your own salad veg or broccoli or even more exotic, expensive herbs like saffron. These would all be potential topics for the gardening blogger of our example.
13. Check out Jon Morrow’s Headline Hacks
I believe that it’s been nearly ten years since Jon Morrow of Smartblogger wrote his free download, 52 Headline Hacks – A ‘cheat sheet’ for writing blog posts that go viral.
It remains a popular and widely referenced guide that gives you a list of 52 different styles of headlines around which you could build a blog post.
- How to [blank] without [objectionable action]
- 7 [adjective] facts [person/audience] should know
- 10 things [group] do differently
- [Question/problem] How to fix it
- The ultimate guide to [blank]
Morrow gives practical examples such as:
- How to build a sales machine that works while you sleep
- How to make lavender lemonade to get rid of headaches and anxiety
- How to double your writing speed without lowering its quality
- 5 ways to ground yourself when you’re feeling overwhelmed
And so on.
These headline hacks can be helpful prompts when you need inspiration.
Creating an editorial calendar for your blog content
By working through the suggestions above, you will hopefully come up with a list of potential topics that are suited to your blog.
As we explored in my article, Why your business needs a blog (and how to get started), your next step is to decide how often you can commit to publishing a blog. If you will be writing each article, how much time will you have available? If you plan to outsource the writing, how many blogs a month/quarter/year will your budget cover?
Once you know how often you plan to publish a new blog, you can start mapping out your content. You could do this for the next month, quarter, six months or even a full year. It’s surprisingly easy once you have a list of potential topics.
To help you, I’ve created an editorial calendar for you to download and use.
As you’ll see, this calendar includes the following information:
- The date you plan to publish the blog
- The copy deadline for the blog (usually at least a day before you plan to publish)
- The author (i.e. the person in your team or guest blogger writing the article)
- The topic of the blog or even the potential title
- Notes about key points to include in the blog
- The focus keyword or phrase
- The target audience (if you have several different audience personas)
- The offer or call to action to include at the end of the blog
- What hub article the blog needs to link to, if you’re using the ‘Hub and spoke’ model
- Special days, events or campaigns the article will tie-in to (for example, Christmas, the anniversary of launching your business, a national awareness day that’s relevant to your company)
If you decide to publish one blog per month, you only need to come up with 12 topics to fill your editorial calendar for the next year.
As you’re planning out your editorial calendar, it’s important to think about how each article will tie in with your wider goals for your business.
Will you be promoting a specific product, service or offer in the lead up to Christmas? If so, it would make sense to publish a blog that supports this. For example, a company selling responsibly produced ‘zero waste’ products might publish a blog about 10 thoughtful zero waste gifts for a greener Christmas.
By looking at the bigger picture, you can find logical points in your editorial calendar to plan in specific content. With date-relevant content mapped out, you can then fill in the gaps with evergreen content that will be of interest to your audience all year round.
Blog content ideas: A quick recap
I hope this guide helps you to come up with fresh blog content week in and week out. Here’s a quick recap of 13 places to find content ideas for your blog:
Over to you to see what blog content ideas you can come up with using the sources above.
Don’t forget to grab your free blogging editorial calendar here.
Keep checking back for the fourth and final part of this blogging series where I’ll be taking a deep dive into promoting each new articles and getting as much mileage from your content as possible.
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