A few weeks ago, I wrote about post frequency. I mentioned the fact that since my blog’s index page displays excerpts of the 10 most recent posts, I try to get one week’s Saturday Six off the front page by the time I post the next one. So that means about 10 posts a week.
A lot of people ask me where I get the ideas for the blog posts I write, especially since I try to write up to 10 posts a week.
Here’s are the sources I most often rely on:
1. National and Local News Sites
Specifically, news sites like CNN.com, CBSNews.com, MSNBC.com, Time.com and other mainstream media sites. There are so many topics and so many stories posted there, it’s almost inconceivable that there isn’t something worth talking about. Then there are local news sites like our local paper or local television stations. I also visit sites from a few local stations elsewhere that have impressed me in the past and look for stories there worth mentioning. I don’t just copy and paste their content — which would be copyright infringement — but I may summarize the key points, link to the full story, then write a post about my take on the story itself.
Since several of my readers are in my Facebook feed — you do have a Facebook fan page for your blog so that you can cross-promote, don’t you? — I like to watch there to see what people are talking about. If enough people are posting comments about the same post, or if I see that a topic that is getting a lot of shares, it might just make a good topic for my blog. (I can then post the link to my blog on Facebook to get more eyes on it.)
Like Facebook, Twitter is a great place to find potential blog fodder. You can see what’s being tweeted and what’s popular enough to be retweeted. You can also do a search of hot topics and even hashtags if there’s a particular subject you’re interested in exploring. As you scroll through your Twitterstream, you can click “favorite” to bookmark tweets that you might want to revisit. I can’t think of a time in the past few months that I have spent five minutes watching my Twitterstream without coming up with at least one post idea.
4. Discussion Boards
I belong to a handful of online discussion board sites that vary in topic. The one I’ve belonged to the longest focuses on The Price is Right, and it actually has inspired a post that’ll come along on Tuesday. But nearly every conceivable interest has a discussion board already dedicated to it, so it’s a great place to watch for interesting trends.
5. Real-Life Problems
A piece of mail I received the other day and the answers I received when I called about it became a post about an out-of-business video store suddenly trying to collect long-forgotten late fees. A brief scare in which I thought I lost my checkbook turned into a post about password security. Taking notes about what’s happening in your world away from the computer can often fuel posts for when you sit down at the keyboard.
It’s a place where you’re supposed to find comfort and spiritual growth. But growth often means conflict. And conflict can make a great post. Religion is often a hot-topic, and there’s almost no limit to the variety of subjects church can inspire.
7. Other Blogs
Do you use a blog reader these days? If not, it might be time to start. It can help you find interesting blog posts from people you know all in one place. And don’t forget to check your inbox: you can sign up for email alerts for different blogs so you’ll be notified any time a new post appears. Most blogs have either an RSS feed available or the email update option. Spot a topic you’re passionate about, then write a response piece on your blog that explains why you agree or disagree with the other blogger’s position. Be sure to link to that blog. It gives the other blogger a reason to link back to you, too.
8. Comments on Your Blog
About once every two weeks or so, I’ll get a comment that requires a response long enough to warrant its own post. I’ll usually leave a shorter comment and point out that I’m preparing a post for a more complete response. In the post, I’ll link to the earlier post that prompted the comment and I’ll usually quote the comment that inspired the response just so someone who entered the “conversation” late won’t feel left out of the loop. Comments are a great resource for blog ideas because you already know the subject matter is something your readers were passionate enough to respond to.
9. Keyword Searches
Check your Google Analytics or any similar kind of stats program you have on your blog and see what keyword searches brought people to your blog. If you can fit the subject matter that would contain such keywords into a post that would work for your blog, then write one. In my case, I blogged about a real-life problem of receiving someone else’s mail and going out and buying an “Addressee Unknown” stamp. Later, I found out that the keywords “addressee unknown” were bringing people to my blog. So I wrote an updated post after researching exactly why the stamp doesn’t always work and what you should do to make sure that misdirected mail doesn’t keep coming back to your mailbox. Had I not checked the keywords, I probably would have never written that follow-up post; because I did, I have even more content that people who are searching those keywords can use.
10. Your Workplace
Care must be taken here, because you don’t want to write anything sensitive or get personal enough that your employment could be in jeopardy. But at the same time, the kind of work you do and how your customers respond to it could make interesting pieces. There’s a good deal of interest in the behind-the-scenes goings-on in television, and because I’ve worked in the business for 20+ years, I have occasional stories to tell. There are many more I’ll tell one day when I’ve moved on to something else, but for now, I’m storing ideas for the future.
11. Your Audience Demographics
Take another trip to your Analytics page and look at who is reading your blog. I’m also using SproutSocial to connect my Twitter account and Facebook fan page to see who is connecting with me. Is your audience more male or female? Younger or older? Where are most of them from? What commonalities do they have? When you have that answer, look for issues that are affecting that group that you happen to be passionate about and write posts about some of them. I did that with a series called “Turning 40” when I was turning 40: the largest age group in my blog stats are people within the 40 range, so that series got a lot of hits and it still does even though I haven’t added a new post to it in a while. (I need to work on that.)
12. Your Failures
We all have shortcomings. Do you have some that you’ve overcome and learned a great deal from in the process? If so, those instances can make a great post because you’re sharing what you’ve learned with others. You may even help them find inspiration out of a similar situation. It’s worth noting that there’s an excellent chance you’ll never know that you made such a difference, but that’s okay: what’s more important is that you actually did.
13. Your Pet Peeves
This may be the easiest source of blog post ideas. What ticks you off? Andy Rooney made a career of talking about things that ticked him off at the end of each week’s 60 Minutes. Grammar issues tick me off, and I’m glad to say that people who feel the same way make the grammar category fairly popular among the categories I write about. If it’s your pet peeve, it’s surely someone else’s, too. Writing about it may help you make a connection.
That’s my list.
I recently read a comment that suggested that if your subject is something you’re passionate about, you shouldn’t have any problem coming up with blog post ideas. I can’t disagree more: sometimes you can be so passionate about something that you can’t decide what to write about next. Even novelists who love their stories get blocked on how to proceed next.
The trick isn’t attempting some sweet spot of passion so that the ideas never slow to a trickle, but rather engaging different sources for inspiration when the ideas do start slowing.
Your Turn: Where do you get your blog post ideas? Are there any sources you rely on that I didn’t mention?
Patrick is a Christian with more than 26 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.