This post is an excerpt from the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook
Ever run out of things to write about on your blog?
If your answer is yes – you’re not alone.
One of the biggest challenges facing bloggers with blogs that have been around for longer than a few months is to come up with fresh content on a regular basis.
Today your task in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog challenge is to do an exercise that will identify a range of post ideas that you can use when stuck for an idea in future.
The key with this process is not to put yourself under pressure to come up with completely new and out of the blue ideas for every post you write. Instead – this process taps into what you’ve recently written on your blog and helps you to identify ways to extend those ideas.
The beauty of this is that you actually end up building a sense of momentum on your blog where your posts build upon and relate to what you’ve previously written rather than just writing a collection of posts that don’t really build in any one direction.
Here’s the mind mapping method that I’ve used (note: I’ve talked about this previously so it could be familiar to some).
1. The Set Up
Get a whiteboard, piece of paper, note book, tablet pc or something else to write on (there are also various mind mapping tools and software options out there – but I find a pen and paper can work just fine) and draw five circles across the middle of the page. In each circle write the titles of the last five posts on your blog (if you want to do this more comprehensively go back further and do it with more posts).
2. Extend Your Previous Posts
Now take each post in turn and spend a few minutes brainstorming on ways that the post could be ‘extended’. Most posts that you write will be able to be ‘extended’ in any number of ways including:
- picking up a question or idea that a reader asked in the comments on that post
- exploring the opposite point of view from the post
- taking a ‘news’ post and writing an ‘opinion’ piece about it
- taking a ‘theoretical’ type posts and writing something that helps people to ‘DO’ it
- expanding upon ideas glossed over in passing in the previous post
The list could go on – really it is about finding ways to take ideas in a previous post and expanding upon and extended them.
For each idea draw a line out from the circle, draw a square (or use a different color) and write the idea inside of it.
The key at this point is to let yourself be as creative and outside the box as you want. Any idea is allowed at this point.
Let me take an older post of mine (why you should use AdSense on Your Blog) and show you how it might work:
At this point I’ve got 7 potential new posts to write that extend upon my original one – coming up with them took me 2-3 minutes – if I were doing this seriously I’d give it more time and come up with 20 or so posts.
These ideas are logical next steps for readers wanting to explore this topic – some of them based upon actual questions by readers. Do this with the other four posts you’ve written and you’ll have plenty of ideas for new posts to cover in the coming week or two.
3. Extend Further
You might want to stop this exercise at this point if you feel you’ve got enough topics to keep you going – however while you’re in a brainstorming frame of mind – why not take it a step further and think about how you might extend the topics you’ve come up with. The beauty of thinking forward even further is that you could quickly come up with a further 10 or so posts and be able to map out the next few weeks of blogging.
Lets do it now with the post above – just for fun (click to enlarge).
You can see that I found some posts easier to extend than others. This is OK as not every post is in need of a follow up one – while others will have multiple next steps (some will even have a longer series of posts that you could run).
You can take this exercise as far as you’d like into the future (you get the idea I’m sure so I won’t keep going).
From the example above you can see that I’ve come up with 15 ideas (not bad for 5 minutes of brainstorming) – some of them for multiple posts (series and ongoing weekly columns). Do it with more than one post and you will find that you’ll often come up with more posts than you can actually use on your blog.
The key when you do it is to let your creativity run wild (because it can take you in some wonderful directions) but then to be ruthless in culling ideas that don’t actually add anything to your blog. Remember – everything that you post on your blog either adds to or takes away from your blog’s perceived value – so not everything that you come up with should make it through to the front page of your blog.
Your Task Today
Your Task Today is to come up with a list of at least 10 future topics to write about. At this point your list should be not much more than the topic or title of your post. If you’re feeling inspired you might like to choose one of them to begin to shape into an actual post – but don’t feel you need to do that yet. Tomorrow we’re going to take the list of topics and help you to take them to the next step by creating an editorial calendar for your next week of blogging.
PS: Another Approach to this Exercise for New Blogs
I know that some bloggers doing the 31 Day challenge have very new blogs and perhaps don’t have too many posts in their archives to base mind mapping upon. If this is you – you can take the same principle but instead of making your five starting circles previous posts – make them ‘categories’ that your blog might cover.
For example if your blog is about personal finance you could make your starting circles sub topics of that overarching topic. They might be ‘budgeting’, ‘saving’, ‘investing’, ‘credit’ and ‘Career’. Once you’ve got your categories or sub topics – you can then pick up the exercise at step #2 with extending those sub topics into post ideas or topics within the sub topic.
Update: Share your ideas and see how others are doing over at the forum post for the!
This task is a sample of one of the tasks in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook – a downloadable resource designed to reinvigorate and revitalize blogs.
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