This post is based on episode 84 of the ProBlogger podcast.
In last week’s post I talked about the different types of writer’s block I’ve suffered from over the years, such as:
- having no ideas to write about
- having too many ideas to write about
- continually being distracted
- starting posts, but never finishing them.
This week’s post is all about conquering that first one: having no ideas to write about. I’m going to show you how you can come up with fresh ideas to write about, and keep your blog exciting and useful for your readers.
Solving a common problem
Running out of ideas is a common problem for bloggers. When you start your blog you may have dozens or even hundreds of ideas in reserve. But sooner or later that reserve of ideas runs out, and you start to think there’s nothing left for you to write about. Every idea you come up with has already been covered by you or someone else.
And the ideas you once had are replaced by questions.
“What can I write about that’s fresh?”
“What topics will have a lasting effect on my readers?”
“How can I stand out from everyone else?”
Some bloggers found the struggle so hard that they gave up blogging altogether. But the truth is there’s always something new to talk about, even if it means talking about an old idea in a new way.
Changing someone’s life
What topics will have a lasting effect on your readers? Anything that will change their life.
I’m sure you’ve all read at least one blog post that changed your life in some way. And chances are you started reading their blog more often as a result. So writing a post that will change other people’s lives is nearly always a good bet.
Not sure how to go about changing their lives? Have a listen to episode 11 of the ProBlogger podcast, where I talk about identifying the change you want to make and mapping out the journey you want to take your readers on.
Solving a problem
Another great way to come up with ideas is to think about the problems your readers are having and how you can help solve them.
Both ProBlogger and Digital Photography School were built around the idea of educating people and trying to solve their problems. And looking at my most successful posts, nearly all of them do just that.
But not all problems are solved through education and knowledge sharing.
Some people may feel they’re alone, or that no-one else is going through what they’re going through. And so writing a post where you admit you’re dealing with the same or a similar issue, and encourage them (and others) to share their story could help solve their problem.
Others may simply be bored, in which case an entertaining blog post may be just what they need.
Thinking about people’s problems (and writing posts that help solve them) not only gives you plenty of ideas but also creates a lasting impression. Solve their problem once, and chances are they’ll come back the next time they have a problem.
But how do you find out what problems you should try to solve?
Start with your own problems
If you’ve managed to solve a problem you once had, a blog post about what it was and how you solved it could help your readers solve it as well.
Even if you haven’t solved it yet, write a post about it. You could help others going through the same issues simply by making them feel less alone. And who knows? One of your readers may have the perfect solution.
Frequently asked questions
Whenever someone asks a question in a comment, email or conversation, make a note of it. Over time you may find some questions are being asked again and again by different people. Writing blog posts that answer them will help not the people who asked the question, but also those who didn’t ask the question (but still want to know the answer).
How are people finding you?
Look at the referral information your analytics program (e.g. Google Analytics) is collecting for you. Did anyone ask a question when they typed in their search term? If so, could you answer it (or at least talk about it) in a blog post?
(Unfortunately, Google no longer provides all the search terms people entered to find your blog. But what it does provide can still be quite useful.)
What are people looking for on your blog?
Do you have a search bar on your blog? If you do, what are people searching for with it? Again, your analytics program should be collecting this information for you.
Unfortunately, finding out what people are searching for within your blog isn’t quite so straightforward. But rather than try to explain how to do it here, I suggest you read a post I wrote about Google Analytics, which includes information on how to identify these types of searches.
There’s no harm in asking
The best way to find out the questions people have and problems they face is to ask them directly.
You can do it by running a survey, creating a poll, running small focus groups, and even emailing or phoning some of your readers. Just keep the questions open-ended so people can talk about their problem or issue in their own words.
Look at other sites in your niche
You probably know about other blogs, groups and forums that are related to your niche. Spend some time in them and see what people are talking about. Chances are you’ll come across a comment that gives you at least one idea to write about.
And don’t be afraid to use other people’s blog posts as springboards for your own. If some has written a post with seven tips for doing something, there’s nothing wrong with linking to it and saying, “I found these great tips in another post, and thought I’d give you a few more”.
Don’t forget social media
Social media is a goldmine when it comes to finding questions you can answer in a blog post. People are always asking for advice, and you can easily find the questions they’re asking simply by searching for keywords related to your niche.
Some final tips
As much as we’d all like these ideas to just pop into our heads, the truth is you often have to make the effort (and the time) to find them. So my first tip is rather than having to do it every time you write a blog post, put aside half an hour or so and try to come up with as many ideas as you can.
One blogger I know comes up with an entire year’s worth of blog post ideas every January. (She writes two blog posts a week, so that’s 104 ideas she has to come up with.) She even puts dates on them all to create her deadlines.
Which brings me to my second tip. Make sure you have a system for capturing all those ideas you come up with. It could be something as simple as a notebook you carry around with you, or something like Evernote or Dropbox. Just make sure you capture those ideas as you get them, because those ideas can be fleeting.
And those ideas can often pop into your head as you’re writing your posts. You may think of a tangent you could take, or something you’ve written could lead to a question you could answer in a future post. Or you might suddenly think of a completely different angle you could take with the same topic or material.
Just make sure you write them down.
Hopefully you now have some ideas about what you can do to come up with new… well, ideas.
I look forward to reading the results.
Photo by Kaizen Nguyễn on Unsplash