If you’re having trouble generating blog ideas, these ten tactics that we use will ensure that you never run out.
Every so often, I’ll get an email like this:
It’s no secret that content marketing has been the biggest driver of our growth for the last year.
But honestly, coming up with post ideas has been the easy part for many months now.
That’s not by accident. We use an organized system (and lots of tactics that we’ve refined over time) to generate far more ideas than we have time to write about.
Here’s how we do it…
1) Read. A Lot.
I’ve written before about how much value I get from reading and learning everything I can about whatever it is we’re working on at the time.
But reading great books and blogs does more than help us run the business; it’s also the single greatest source of inspiration for new posts.
As an example, the idea for our popular post 14 Ways Our Remote Team Stays Sane Working From Home came from an Owner Mag piece I read about staying sane working solo.
If you read something new every day, you’ll never run out of ideas to write about.
2) Get Into the Habit of Taking Notes
We take notes on just about everything we see around the web. Different folks on our team have different systems, from Evernote to simple text docs, but everything gets dumped into our communal blog-focused Trello board.
Any time we get a post idea, we create a Trello card.
When we see something around the web that’s relevant to a post idea we’ve been thinking about, a note gets added to that card.
This helps us think about different perspectives and ways to make blog ideas better, and sometimes it changes the idea completely.
3) Talk to Your Customers
Ultimately, we all write for our customers. Or at least for the people who might one day become our customers.
If you’re doing customer development and talking to your customers — and you absolutely should be — then you’ll probably hear a lot about the different problems and challenges they’re facing, even when those challenges aren’t necessarily related to your app.
For example, when I talked to our customers, a lot of folks mentioned that our homepage video got them interested in trying Groove. They wanted to know how we made it, and how they could create a good explainer video, too.
By talking to our customers and solving problems for them — even if those problems aren’t related to Groove — we build deeper relationships with people and make them more likely to want to do business with us.
Our customers (and their challenges) will always be a huge source of content ideas for us.
4) “Copy” What’s Worked for Others
I don’t actually mean you should steal people’s work. That’s not cool.
But you can learn a ton from seeing what works for other blogs, and then putting your own unique spin on it.
I really like BuzzSumo for this. You can enter a domain, and it’ll show you what the most shared URL’s from that domain are.
So, for example, if you were interested in writing about content for startups, you might enter “groovehq.com/blog” into BuzzSumo, and you’ll get:
So now that you know that these topics resonate with people, can you offer an interesting, useful and unique take on any of them?
Now, what works for others won’t necessarily work for you. And simply writing about a topic isn’t enough to make a post a success.
But this is a great technique for building a list of vetted blog topics that you know people are already interested in reading about.
5) Do Keyword Research
To me, content marketing isn’t about stuffing keywords into a post.
I don’t like to play that game. First and foremost, content marketing is about delivering value to people, solving their problems and building relationships.
But doing keyword research is a good way to come up with ideas for the types of problems people actually want you to solve for them.
To do this, I sometimes start with a general topic I’m thinking of writing about. For example, remote working.
I head over to KeywordTool.io and type in the topic. The app spits out a big list of the different Google searches that people do that relate to remote working.
I scanned the results and found an idea that I liked:
That turned into The Pros & Cons of Being a Remote Team (& How We Do It).
6) Scan Social Media, Forums and Other Online Communities
If you know your customers, you probably know where your customers hang out online. Who their influencers are, the types of forums they frequent, what communities they’re involved in.
Those communities can be gold mines for blog post ideas. All you need to do is look at the types of questions that keep coming up.
One trick that works well is to go to reddit and find a subreddit that’s relevant to what your blog is about. For us, an example would be /r/entrepreneur.
Next, do a search in that subreddit for “how do you” — this will bring up a list of posts where people are trying to learn new things or solve challenges.
Instant blog post idea for a post about fear. Addressing those burning issues is a clear win, and it also gives you a great place to come back and share your content.
7) Do Stuff That Other People Are Scared to Do
People love reading about things that they’re scared to try themselves.
It’s human nature; before we try something risky, we want to know whether it worked for someone else first.
By taking those risks yourself and then writing about them, you get double the benefit: the upside from trying new things that could potentially grow your business, and the thought leadership that comes from writing about it.
Some of our most popular posts have come from doing things that scared the hell out of us at the time: turning down funding, killing big features, deleting our Facebook page and walking away from an acquisition offer.
In fact, this entire blog is focused around something that many people are scared to do: be transparent with their business.
8) Encourage Comments and Emails
Almost every single time we publish a post, someone comments asking for a post on a different topic.
I love this.
It’s a fantastic way to get blog post ideas that are already guaranteed to generate interest in a highly qualified audience: your existing readers.
9) Share Your Experiences (Even Small Ones)
There’s a misconception that you can only blog about big, significant things that you do.
That’s really not true at all.
You can literally blog about anything — and have people read and share it — as long as it’s unique, interesting and useful.
We get a lot of our blog ideas from very routine, pedestrian things that we do that we think other people and companies might want to learn more about.
Things like how we manage bug reports, A/B tests that didn’t work and why I write investor updates.
People like to read about these things because there’s a good chance they have to do them too. So if you can help people improve the way that they do things (even tiny things), or cause them to look at those things differently, you’ll add value to their lives.
10) Repurpose Existing Content Into Different Formats
Another big “myth” that I hear from a lot of people is the belief that once you’ve written about a topic, you file it away and never write about it again.
Sure, you could do that, but frankly, it’s wasteful.
And you’re doing your readers a disservice.
Different people like to consume content differently. Your Ultimate Guide to SEO might be really valuable to people who read it, but others who prefer lists and slideshows might never read it, even though they could benefit from it tremendously.
By taking a key point from a post and using it in other posts, you can repurpose existing content by simply reframing it.
For example, take our “You’re In” email that we send to every new customer.
Because it’s been so valuable, I really want people to see and steal this technique. So I’ve used it in posts about customer development, product videos, onboarding, testimonials and more.
By discarding an idea every time you write about it, you rob yourself — and your readers — of massive potential value.
How to Apply This to Your Business
If coming up with ideas is what’s standing between you and executing on a content marketing strategy, I hope this post helps you overcome that barrier. Steal any — or all — of these and pretty soon you’ll have more ideas than you can write about.
And even if you’re already blogging regularly, I hope this gives you a new way to think about sourcing and coming up with content ideas to keep your blog fresh, interesting and effective.