Coming up with ideas is hard. How often have you sat scratching your head trying to think of something new to cover on your blog? If you’re a dedicated writer, it’s probably a monthly, or even weekly occurrence.
In this guide, we’ll look at some clever ways you can come up with fresh ideas, while at the same time making the most of the posts that are already on your blog.
Let’s get started.
Take a look at what worked in the past
The first thing to do if you’re struggling to come up with new ideas is to take a look at your greatest hits.
Go through your past blog posts and using whatever analytics you have available, take a look at your top posts in terms of views, comments and social shares.
This list will show you what your audience is interested in, and it’s a great jumping off point to start coming up with new posts.
The first thing you can do is look at popular content and decide whether it will benefit from a refresh.
If your blog is more than a few years old, you probably have some articles that were popular when they were first published, but that are now out of date.
For these out of date posts, you can either decide to a) write a complete new post covering the same topic, but including up to date information, or b) edit and update the existing post and then change the date so it appears as new on your blog.
You can also get fresh content out of these successful articles by changing the format you use. For example, why not consider creating a video or an infographic out of an old blog post?
This can be a fun and (relatively) easy way to start experimenting with new formats. Video in particular is an increasingly popular platform, so why not check out our guide to making low cost videos and try something new?
And don’t forget – it’s straightforward to turn your list of blog posts into a list of popular topics, so make sure you do that as well. Look at the themes of your successful articles (you’ll probably notice at least some overlap) and then think of other interesting topics that fall within those themes.
Finally for this section, you should also look at popular posts to see if there’s any aspect of an article that you can cover more in depth. Identify any areas that you’ve had to mention in passing due to space restrictions, and decide if you can cover these areas more fully in a dedicated post.
Take a look at what didn’t work in the past
Looking at popular articles to get new ideas may seem obvious, but it also pays to look back at your least successful articles as they can be a fertile ground for new content as well.
The first thing to do is identify why your least popular articles didn’t succeed. Reasons can vary, but if you’ve put time and effort into researching and writing quality blog posts, you’re unlikely to find many articles that failed just because they were “bad”.
It could be that your early articles didn’t pick up many shares and views simply because you hadn’t built up an audience yet. If that’s the case, you can refresh them in the ways suggested above and present them as new to the audience that you now have.
Alternatively, you may have taken the wrong approach with the article and created a piece of content that’s good, but which doesn’t actually appeal to your audience. In this case, you can compare it to your most successful posts to identify differences in style and tone of voice, and then, if possible, rework it so it meets the needs and expectations of your readers.
Or it may be that the topic you covered was good, but the way in which you covered it wasn’t up to scratch. People tend to like in depth posts that help them achieve something, or that they find entertaining in some way. So if you find the idea was good, but the execution was poor, then that’s an idea you can use for a new, improved post.
Research what people want to read
While reusing and repurposing content is great, it’s also important to develop fresh ideas. A great way to do that is through audience research.
By understanding what existing and potential readers want to see on your blog, you’ll more easily be able to develop ideas that appeal to them.
So how can you conduct audience research? Well, if you have an established blog, a good place to start is your comments section. What are your loyal readers saying? What questions do they ask? If there are common themes to the challenges readers are asking you about, then that’s a good source of blog ideas.
Another great way to come up with ideas from your readers is to ask them what they want to see from your blog. Creating a short email survey and asking people to complete it (by emailing it to your subscribers, sharing it on social media, and including it in a blog post) is a great way to see what you do right, what you could do better, and it’ll also let you see what kinds of article people are most interested in.
You can learn more about using surveys to improve your blog in this guide.
Of course, the above methods are all well and good if you have an established audience, but what if you’re just starting out and need fresh ideas? Let’s look at a couple of ways of coming up with ideas that work whether you have an audience or not.
The first is keyword research. If you want people to find your blog via search engines (and of course, you do) then keyword research is vital – it’s the only way you can be sure that you’ll create articles based on topics that people are actually searching for.
Keyword research is a huge topic, and we can’t cover it in depth here. So instead, make sure you take the time to read our beginner’s guide to keyword research and put it into action.
Another clever way of coming up with fresh ideas is by developing “personas” for your blog readers.
Personas are a quick and easy way of grouping your readers together in broad demographic groups to help you understand who they are, what they like and what they want to read about.
Exactly what personas you develop will depend on the type of blog you’re running and who you’re trying to reach. And was with keyword research, it’s a huge topic that we can’t cover fully here.
But we do have a guide to creating personas that you should take the time to read. (The article focuses mainly on marketing personas, but it’s easy to adapt the method to your blogging needs.)
Finally, another great way to come up with content ideas is by monitoring what other blogs in your niche are writing about.
Now, that doesn’t mean that you should go out and copy your rival’s articles word for word. It does mean that you should keep regular tabs on them to see what topics they’re covering and what approach they’re taking.
So set up bookmarks, sign up for newsletters and keep track of what’s going on. And remember, blogging doesn’t have to be competitive. It’s actually a good idea to build relationships with other bloggers because they can give you tips, advice and even send visitors your way.
It’s also a good idea to make use of a tool like Buzzsumo to help you track down popular articles that you may have missed.
Hopefully you should be well on the way to developing a whole host of ideas to keep your blog juices flowing. But if you still need more inspiration, why not check out our guide to writing tools that can help improve your blog?