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For most us, when you start blogging you have loads of ideas for things to create blog posts about. Then you get through that initial block of ideas and inspiration wanes a little. You find yourself having to really look around for inspiration before you write your next post. And then the blinking cursor of death comes when you have no idea what to write!! Luckily this doesn’t have to be something you ever experience with these ideas about how to keep your blog post ideas list full.
Why you need an editorial calendar
An editorial calendar is a posh way of saying a list of blog post ideas and a date when you are going to write them. You can get a whole lot more complicated with it but that’s the basic concept – what and when. I never used to have one but since I started batching and therefore being more organised I have found it a key part of growing the blog.
One of the top reasons is mentioned above – avoid the blinking cursor of death and the complete lack of a clue what to blog about. By having both a blog post ideas list and an editorial calendar you can look at things from a month view or even longer. You can see gaps, make sure you have a good spread of content and plan in your holiday content.
You can also easily extend your editorial calendar to schedule social media content. Say you post a quote, a question and a tip from your last post each week alongside curated content, older posts and some spontaneous stuff. You can add these repeating items to the calendar and know what content you need to create.
How to find blog post ideas
So the first step in the process of never running out of ideas involves creating that blog post ideas list. You can use a planner or journal, a tool like Trello (which is what I do) or anything else that takes your fancy.
Find your first topic
Whether this is the first ever for your blog or the first since you start using the system, it can seem intimidating. But you probably already have lots of inspiration around you. This might topics you have seen on social media and want to talk about yourself or questions people have asked and maybe even that you answered. Once you find that first topic, you have a start.
Change the direction or scope of the post
A good way to find loads of content is to change the direction or scope of a post, either your own or someone else’s. For example, I have a post in my SEO section that is an SEO Fundamentals post and covers everything in general detail then I have a series of smaller posts that cover topics within that bigger topic in more detail. Or you could change the direction and talk about the fundamentals of SEO to avoid, things not to do to rank your website, that kind of angle.
See if you can make it a tighter timeframe
We often like to write big, sweeping posts that encompass a topic entirely but sometimes it can be good to focus on a smaller period and go into more detail. So rather than writing about how to use Facebook for business, why not look at the 2018 Facebook changes and how it impacted business users?
Look at aiming it for a different audience
Most of our blogs will have more than one audience. For me, I have the bloggers who come for tips on blogging and on Pinterest but also business owners who want to know about social media and content marketing. So why not create an article for a different audience? I might write about how to use Pinterest for your blog to get page views for the first and how to market your Etsy shop with Pinterest for the second.
Consider a negative
Why something is a bad idea, an old fashioned idea or other negative outlooks might seem to be pessimistic, but they don’t have to be. The key is to show what is a bad idea, an outdated concept or why something doesn’t work then supply something that is good, up to date or does work.
Try a different format
This is something I need to work on – as a content writer, I go towards blog posts in written form above all else. But it can be good to swap it out and do other types of content too – video, infographics, presentations and even gallery posts with mostly images.
What if you are really stuck?
Saying that, you might still find there are times when you can’t get the spark, that nothing seems to fill that gap in your editorial calendar. That doesn’t mean you skip a week, simply use a few other tactics to find the right blog post ideas.
Ask customers / social media / email list
You can ask some or all of these for ideas, although you might not want to just ask them for ideas. Create a quick Google questionnaire and ask them things like their biggest problem with X (being whatever your niche is about) or what they want to learn about X, what they were surprised to find out about X or something similar. Get them to give you ideas!
Look at past best posts to see if you can apply above process
Going back to my SEO post, there are loads of smaller, more in-depth posts I can make from it. I can look at subheadings for ideas about articles I can expand on – is there enough to say to write a good quality piece on this one topic alone? And don’t forget to link the two when you publish.
Another one is to look at questions or comments on the post if you have them. Can you use what people are asking to write another post on the topic or as inspiration for a follow-up?
Look at industry leaders
While what we write is always unique to us, it is true that there are few truly unique ideas out there. So there’s nothing wrong with looking at experts and industry leaders for inspiration – I did when I wrote this post! I know how I find ideas, but I also wanted other concepts and systems to tell you about, so I did something research and incorporated their ideas along with my own.
Add a personal experience that is relevant
Most of the time we will have some experience in reality of our niche. So for me, that might involve content I have created, clients I have worked with or Pinterest tactics I have found to work (or not!) and these personal experiences can be a great source of blog post ideas.
Make an existing list into a bigger or more specific one
List posts a.k.a listicles are a hugely popular option for blog post formats on social media and Pinterest. And a popular idea is to make a new or expanded version of one. Say you have 15 gin cocktails on your blog – can you make a new one with 20 winter cocktails with gin? Or 40 of the most popular gin-based drinks?
Add a term to Google search and get ideas
Google’s search bar is an instant idea generator. Put in a term and look as you type to see what comes up. Check the questions that appear to see if you could use them to create a post. Look at the search suggestions at the bottom of the page. These are all based on things people actually search for.
Add the term to Pinterest and follow the coloured boxes for ideas
You can do something similar with Pinterest – type in a basic keyword and start selecting coloured boxes to follow lines of ideas. See what is popular, what particular niche or slant you could put on a topic or go all the way to the end of the coloured boxes and see what the topic looks like. Could you create a post around that?
Use tools to help
There are also tools out there that can help you find ideas. I don’t always use these much but there are worth checking out, especially if you are stuck. One little spark can get you moving again. Examples include:
Where to organise your ideas
Armed with all these ideas in a notebook, a Word doc or somewhere else, it is important to then have some kind of organisation system to keep track of them. Otherwise, there’s a risk that the big list of blog post ideas becomes too awkward to use and doesn’t help you. Here’s my process.
- Brain dump in Trello
First, I have a Trello board where I keep links to articles that inspired me, information about topics I want to write and other ideas. The cards are organised by the blog categories, so I can see what’s what. Sometimes I have a card with a checklist of concepts on it for each category and sub-category.
- Use a paper planner to help look at the month as a whole
Once I start looking at the next period to plan, I have a basic planner that I made myself which I use to look at the month as a whole. I add any major holidays or other events then look at how the content will balance. Post it notes can also work well here so you can move things around.
- Start adding to Asana with dates when you plan to publish
Armed with an idea of what and when, I then put them into the editorial calendar on Asana where I add the publish date. I have a template of the jobs to do for each post (graphics, keyword research that kind of thing) so I can make sure everything is done for each post.
Organised blog post ideas
For me, having an organised blog post ideas list and an editorial calendar means I don’t need to worry about what to publish. I work at least a month ahead although I did provisionally map out the whole year this January as an experiment – because I had plenty of content ideas ready to go onto the calendar. Find a system that works for you and never worry about that blinking cursor of death ever again!
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