How to never run out of ideas for blog posts and be aware of latest developments in your niche

stay up to date

Being productive and producing great content for your blog is so important – which is why we’ve had a number of episodes so far that have been ‘writing challenges’ (see episode 2 and episode 7) but today we’re focusing less on what we ‘output’ and more on what ‘input’ we’re getting as bloggers.

I was challenged earlier in the year to consider this for my own blogging and realised I’d become a little dry and out of touch with my niches – so decided to do something about it.

This episode is completely built upon that experience and I hope it gives you some ideas on how to create some inspiring, informed and idea generating input streams for your blogging.

The more you’re learning, inspired and up to date – the better position you’ll be in to help those reading your blog!

In This Episode

You can listen to todays episode above or in iTunes or Stitcher (where we’d also LOVE to get your reviews on those platforms if you have a moment).

  • 5 reasons why setting up alerts and subscriptions can be a great thing for your blog
  • How to set up Google Alerts
  • How to set up Twitter Alerts
  • Other tools for setting up alerts, subscriptions and updates relevant to your niche

Mentioned in this episode:

Related Reading

Tell us What You Did Today?

I’d love to hear how you found todays challenge in comments below.

  • Did you already have an alerts/subscription system in place?
  • What new alerts and subscriptions did you set up today?
  • What tools do you use that were not mentioned in today’s episode – we’d love to check them out?

Full Transcript Expand to view full transcript Compress to smaller transcript view
Welcome to the ProBlogger podcast, episode 10 and day 10 of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. Today, your challenge is to create some alerts and systems to help you stay informed, up to date, and inspired to be able to create great content for your niche. Today’s show notes are at But first, a quick word from our sponsor, 99designs, the best place for new businesses to build their brand.

99designs makes it easy to get your next project off the ground with quality, affordable design. To get your logo, business card, mobile app, blog template, or more, visit and get a $99 upgrade for free.

Hi, I’m Darren Rowse and welcome to 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. We’re on day 10 of 31. Congratulations on making it this far; you’re almost a third of the way through. There are many factors to having a successful blog. Being productive and outputting great content is obviously one of them. We’ve already spent a couple of our days of this challenge focusing upon producing content.

Another really important area—in fact, I think it’s just as important in some ways—is not thinking about your output but thinking about your input. There’s an old saying that we’ve all heard, what you put in is what you get out. There’s some truth to that in this case of blogging. As I look back over the last 13 or so years of my own blogging, I can see a real correlation between the times that I was outputting my best content and the times I was doing the most reading, learning, and listening to others. I can also see a correlation between the times that I was struggling with ideas to write about, feeling dry, feeling burnt out. In most cases in those times, I wasn’t really learning, listening, reading, or getting good input.

Today is about creating a steady flow of great input to fill your cup and to become really aware of what’s going on in your industry and niche. I think the more aware you are of what’s happening around you and the more you’re learning and listening, the better position you’ll be in to create great content. That’s what today is about.

If you’re following along in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook, you see that today’s challenge is to set up alerts related to your niche. We’re going to do that and talk about that in a moment. I also want to suggest today that you go a little bit further and I’ll touch on that at the end of this podcast. Let’s touch on some of the reasons that setting up alerts can be a good thing for your blog.

The first one is that it’s going to give you a whole heap of ideas for blog posts. Seeing what other people are writing about, what other people are learning about, what other people are experimenting with as it relates to your niche is going to be a great source of ideas. I know that if I listen to a podcast from someone like Pat Flynn, it’s going to stimulate all kinds of ideas that I can then go away and write about. It will give me a whole heap of ideas to try in my own life, which may end up turning into blog posts as well. It’s also going to give us the opportunity for some of those link posts that we were talking about a couple of days ago on this podcast. Having a steady stream of relevant blog posts, news articles, and podcasts coming in is going to stimulate great ideas to create.

Second thing is that it’s just going to help you to be aware of any breaking news in your industry. For some of us, that’s more important than others, those of us who are writing on topics that are news-related, it’s really important to be really up to date with industry developments and news. I know on Digital Photography School, it’s important that I know if a new camera has been released because I don’t want to refer to an obsolete camera in an article. It could be quite embarrassing. Setting up alerts is really important.

The third thing (and it’s really related to this) is that it helps you to present as a credible source of information or an expert in your industry. Again, if you’re not aware of the latest developments in your niche and you do something embarrassing, then that hurts your credibility.

The fourth thing is that setting up these alerts and inputs can actually help you to network and build relationships with other bloggers. If you’re reading them on a daily basis, you’re more likely to comment and reach out to them on social media as well. That can lead to all kinds of mutually beneficial relationships and even collaborations. 

The last thing that’s really good when you set up alerts and make sure that your inputs are all on track is that it’s great for reputation management. If you get an alert when someone is talking about you, you’re able to build on that relationship but also if they’re talking about you in a negative way, you’re able to respond, you’re able to fix any misconceptions that they might have about you or what you’ve said or what you’ve done, and you’re able to manage your reputation. At least be aware of what other people are saying.

Today, the challenge is to set up some news alerts in a variety of ways. Firstly, we’re going to talk about Google News Alerts. Google News Alerts were really quite popular a number of years ago, everyone seemed to use this service. But over the last year or two, it’s kind of disappeared a bit. I think it’s probably died a little bit with the death of Google Reader and RSS reading, which you can still do.

Google News Alert is still something that you can set up and use, you don’t need to use RSS to do it. Just go to You need to be logged in to your Google account but you can set up an alert for any word. You want to be a little bit careful with how broad a word you put in, but over time you can refine them to narrow your search a little bit. There’s a whole heap of different ways that you can refine the search that you do. Typing a word, you might type in a word like wedding photography if you want to keep abreast of what people are saying on that particular topic.

You can refine how you’d like to be alerted. You could be alerted by RSS feed, via email, or you can be alerted as the alerts come in or you can set another time frame so that you don’t get all day alerts coming in. You can set up the language, the region that you want to track. You can set up whether you want to just be alerted from other blogs or news sites, a whole heap of different factors that you can choose there. 

There are a few things that you could set up in your Google alert. Firstly, you could do an alert for your name and this is important to manage what other people are saying about you. For most of us, you won’t get too many alerts on that front unless you do something really bad but it’s good to know when other people are talking about you in that way.

Your blog name might be another thing that you could use as well. Probably, most of us will want to set up alerts for the main keywords that relate to our niche. In my case, I started out with the word photography. Now, I very quickly learned that photography was too broad a search term so I had to narrow it down. Photography tips is one of the alerts that I get. Over time, you’ll begin to see how many alerts you get and whether it’s too broad or too narrow. Any keyword that relates to your niche is going to be interesting to at least start with. 

There’s a whole heap of other ways that you can set up great inputs as well. On Twitter, you can set up a Twitter alert. There used to be a whole heap of great services for this and Twitter changed their API so some of them don’t work anymore but even just using the Twitter search function is quite good. If you go to, you get actually the more advanced tool on Twitter and you can do all kinds of really interesting searches. You can search for exact phrases, you can set up searches and then include to show results with words that you don’t want to see, you can do searches for hashtags in different languages, you can set up searches that mention certain accounts that come from certain locations and time-specific searches as well.

Once you’ve done that search, you can see the top results or you can see the live results. I know a number of bloggers who just have a few searches and they just leave tabs open and go in and tap into the live results throughout the day. Twitter also lets you save searches so you can very quickly get back to a specific search that you might have set up. This is what I do with different terms that I have. During the day I can delve very quickly into searches for particular phrases. This is really useful if you know that there are common questions being asked in your industry.

For instance, I came across one wedding-related blogger who had set up search terms for things like, where can I get a wedding dress or such terms of asking for recommendations from people on Twitter. She set it up with specific locations in mind because she wanted to reach out to people in her location. She set this search up and then every day, she was presented with people asking this specific question that indicated that they were shopping for a wedding dress in her location. That’s really powerful if you have a solution for that. There’s a whole heap of creative ways that you can use Twitter alerts.

Another thing you can do on Twitter is to set up Twitter lists. You might have 10 different bloggers in your niche that you want to follow and you can put them all into a Twitter list so you can very quickly click on that list during the day and see what those 10 bloggers have been saying. I also use a tool called Sprout Social to manage my Twitter and it allows me to monitor 10 keywords. Those keywords can relate to my brand but they can also be other things that I’m tracking and you’ll find there are other services around that allow you to do that too if you Google them.

Few other things that you might want to set up today to help you to have alerts, but also think about the input coming into your life because it does impact your output. Firstly, you might want to set up an RSS reader if you don’t have one. I know many bloggers even three, four, or five years ago, almost every blogger had an RSS reader. Most of us use Google Reader. Of course, Google stopped that service, but there are still many services around. The most common one is Feedly and you can subscribe to other blogs in your industry. You just need to remember to go and check your RSS reader.

Another tool that I know many bloggers use is Bloglovin which enables you to follow your favorite blogs and discover new ones. There are other tools and RSS readers around as well. Another thing you might like to do is set up a Facebook interest list. This is similar to Twitter lists in some ways. You can create a list of pages and people on a specific topic.

If you just log in to Facebook and look down on your desktop and look down on the left-hand side in the sidebar, you’ll see a category for interests. Most people don’t even know it’s there but it enables you to add specific pages or people and then name that list. This is a really quick way to dig into that particular topic on any given day.

You can also share those lists. You can mark them as public, you can mark them as friends, or you can mark them as only me so different people could see that list, too. You can also search for and follow the interest lists of others. There’s a lot of interest lists that have already been curated. In the photography space, I know there are heaps of lists on photography, so you can just follow what someone else has already done and that gives you great input.

Another thing that I’ve been doing a lot lately is listening to podcasts and it’s worth every now and again, just going into iTunes and doing a search for podcasts in your industry and niche. I know on my afternoon walk—I walk for at least half an hour, sometimes an hour every day—I will always be listening to podcasts and that’s a great input for me. There’s plenty of tools like Flipboard and other news-reading apps that allow you to follow certain topics as well. It doesn’t really matter what the app is that you choose. The key is to use it. To get in the habit of that, you probably want to set up an alert in your calendar. Now’s the time to go reading and to go searching for these types of things.

Two final words of advice on today’s challenge: don’t overwhelm yourself with input. It’s so, so easy to spend all of your time monitoring, reading, listening, getting input, and then to spend no time outputting. You want to get the balance right. The last tip I’ll give you today is to not just set up alerts for industry-related topics or subscriptions to industry-related news feeds. You also want to set up something that’s going to energize you and motivate you. You might be really energized and motivated by your niche and other blogs in it but consider going outside your niche as well into other areas of interest that you might have and personal development areas as well; things that will keep you healthy and functioning well. 

For me on my podcast walk, I always listen to blogging-related podcasts but also throw in from time to time health-related ones, others that relate to more general topics of entrepreneurship and topics of creativity. I find that if I listen to a mixture of podcasts and read a mixture of blogs that I’m picking up things from other industries that relate to blogging too but I also improve myself. I know if I’m functioning better as a human being, both with my health and thinking, and I’ve got other areas of my life that I’m enjoying, then I’m much better as a writer.

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s episode. This is such important stuff and I can’t emphasize it enough out of my own experience of getting dry and not filling my cup. If you really find yourself some great information to subscribe to today and set up some alerts, you’re going to come up with all kinds of ideas for content, you’re going to be better informed, and then able to produce better content for your readers. That has a massive flow-on effect in terms of how you’re perceived by your readers and also the impact that you have on their lives.

I’d love to hear how you found today’s challenge. What did you subscribe to? What alerts did you set up? Please share what you did today at our show notes that

Lastly, I want to thank 99designs, the sponsor of today’s show, who’s been so helpful in getting this podcast up and running not only because they’re a sponsor but because they helped in practical ways to provide me with a service for getting great artwork for this podcast.

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