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 31DBBB Day 11 Daily Task!
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.
Join over 14,000 other bloggers and Get your Copy Today.
Semi backfiring on me, this task. Instead of blogging topics I’m getting ideas for my Newsletter.
I think the most important suggestion here from my perspective is keeping an eye on categories. If you think very clearly of your blog as a Web site on a given topic and then carefully choose sub-topics that break down your main topic, you can’t go wrong. Come up with a handful of sub-topics from day one, sub-topics you want readers to be able to explore when they visit your blog. Soon you’ll be on fire not worrying so much about what to write about next but what categories are under-represented and keep your blog from being as well-rounded as you want it to be. Sub-topics can also be broken down…and so on and so on. It becomes an obsession.
Thank you for this post it really helped me on getting my blog started. I was having trouble coming up with topics and took your ideas and they really got me going and sparked my creative side. My blog is on sports so their is plenty to talk about it was just coming up with some specific things to actually post.
This is a great exercise in planning. I find myself looking for inspiration to slap me across the face – and thankfully it has done so often in the two months that I’ve had my blog. But I know that won’t sustain. Planning like this will be key to my success! Thanks for this tip.
ps. I’ve done one or two of these already – but not intentionally.
Love the 31DBBB challenge! Hadn’t done mind mapping in a while, and used to do it with staff to brainstorm program ideas. Thanks for the reminder! And yes, I find that doing this away from the computer is often better. When doing this with staff I had everyone stand up (if they could) and timed it (five minutes) while writing down the ideas on a white board as fast as possible, then connecting concepts.
About writing slumps: for me coming up with ideas is easier than writing about them. One way I discipline myself is to light an incense stick and force myself to write until it’s burned out. I’ve heard of others doing the same with a candle, or by writing while listening to a cd start to finish.
Thanks for presenting the nice facts and information.
As always i like your post.
I find it is best to sometimes plan out your blog posts ahead of time. Putting together an excel spreadsheet and planning out well in advance usually helps and triggering new ideas.
what a great ideas! mindmapping and last posts…. okey I’ll do it then…optimize the older posts are something new for me… i’ve never do it before…
Wow! Darren, this tip is very usefull ! With this technique everybody can find a lot of ideas to write posts ! I’ll try it soon! Thank you ! Massimo
Although we’ll get many post ideas, but is it Ok to stick to a single topic??
Mind Mapping is great way to push past barriers of writer’s block.
My partner and I use iMindMap. You can do a lot of cool creative things with design and color which help feed those imagination muscles.
And, in case you haven’t heard…”imagination is more powerful than knowledge…” Albert Einstein
Good task for today. I’ll be working on expanding what I have posted already. Very useful techniques.
Just found your site today. Looks very interesting, I learned some important things. Rhonda
We got a lot out of this task in terms of a lot of new fresh blogs to write about. I love it !
this could help :)
Great idea for coming up with new ideas for blog posts, I’ll have to try this exercise.
I also keep a running list of topics that I want to cover; and I always keep it on me so that whenever an idea pops into my head I can jot in down immediately.
Great post. Content can be hard to come up with if you have writer’s block, but I like the ideas you suggest. I find it easier to come up with content when working with a team, as two brains are better than one…
Thanks for the advice. It has certainly helped me with my new blog at http://www.blogs.chowjobs.com. ‘Looking forward to reading more of your blog.
Hello, I think your site is very useful. I learned some new things here that will help my own blogging. Gretta
An interesting post and hopefully I shall never have to use your great advice.
From a personal point of view, because I’m actually writing about my quest for real life encounters, I’m hopeful that I shall never run out of experiences to write about.
that’s useful to both blogger and reader .. make it easier and faster
Great technique for coming up with new posts! Never really thought of this one, but will start using it from now on!
I’m really surprised by how many ideas I came up with while doing this exercise. Some of them are not directly related to my previous posts, but just poped into my head while doing this. I had a small amount of things on my “Things to Blog About” list, but now I have 32 things on that list!
Thank you so much!
Some great ideas there. This is the best advice yet.
I like this exercise. Many years ago, I did a similiar exercise with my business to create many “legs” under my table. I’m sure this will give me a better directed approach to blogging.
I love this idea. I came up with ways to expand posts that I have made recently. Great to have a list to go to on days I don’t have an idea.
Great idea. Now I’m finding that I have way too many ideas to write about :) THough, I do find that planning out the topics is kind of a ‘recommended’ roadmap for me when a better idea pops up during the week! Steno pad is my method of keeping track of the ideas.
I read the editorial calendar post before I read this, so I’m a little backward. :D
I did the exercise for about 5-10 minutes and came up with twelve post ideas for my personal blog. I can only imagine how many other ideas I’ll come up with for my other blogs!
hi Darren, seems I’ve been left behind so far. what a shame! but trust me, giving up will never show up in my dictionary, that’s why I’m still here.
honest, I’ve always been excited reading EVERY post in this 31day plan, but it is this one that inspired me to comment, as you just read blogger’s mind and find out what problems they are facing.
yes, topics running out is a problem for me, not serious but I could feel it sometimes. this brainstorming post is really great and helps a lot. I’ve had about 70 posts in my blog and try my best to update in daily basis. btw I have a fashion blog. surely I will do the homework today after my commenting here. but also, I will fulfill your suggestion on category exploration, I trust this will help me extend my coverage without ruining the Elevator Pitch I made.
I wish someone had told me about this technique years ago. I couldn’t believe I came up with so many ideas in such as short time – 24 in 10 minutes, guess I got a bit carried away :)
On to the next task, thanks.
this is so cool! i love this lesson… :) i will be doing my task a bit later. i actually have written down a few topics i am going to blog about in the future… just in time with today’s lesson
This works for me as I am a visual learner… charts and pictures agree with me. I have been facing some difficulties generating post ideas of late. Came to realise that while coming up with ideas are relatively simple as compared to crunching out content for a particular post.
Gosh!! why didn’t I think of this a long time ago, seriously I make mistakes but this one will surely go down memory lane for me, thanks dude for this wonderful piece worth, $80
Another thing you could do is to take 5 good posts on other blogs that you read, and turn them around, and come up with a few more ideas.