Ever find yourself scratching your head, trying to figure out what to write about on your blog?
We’ve all been there.
It’s tough to come up with blog post topics week after week, and it’s not easy to keep all those ideas organized, either.
This week on Hit Publish, I’ve invited three Copyblogger experts to share their best advice generating a never-ending flow of blog post ideas.
Tune in to hear from Sonia Simone, Jerod Morris, and Demian Farnworth as we discuss:
- Sonia Simone’s ‘secret’ technique for coming up with a consistent flow of blog topics
- How to use an editorial calendar to keep your content on track and avoid annoying repetition
- Why going through life as a “black hole” will help you find content ideas wherever you look
The Show Notes
- WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin
- Demian Farnworth’s post, 6 Stats That Explain Why Adaptive Content Matters Right Now
- Loren Baker’s Search and Deploy podcast episode on capturing ideas
How to Generate a Never-Ending Flow of Blog Post Ideas
Voiceover: This is Rainmaker.FM, the digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free 14-day trial at RainmakerPlatform.com.
Pamela Wilson: Hi, it’s Pamela Wilson, and you’re listening to Hit Publish, where I cover simple ways to get better results with your online business. Today I’m bringing you some ideas to save you from that problem that crops up after all the initial enthusiasm for your blog wears off.
It’s that age-old question that every blogger must face: what should I write about today?
In today’s episode, you’ll hear a secret technique for coming up with a consistent flow of blog post topics, how to use an editorial calendar to keep your content on track and avoid annoying repetition of topics, and why going through life as a black hole will help you find content ideas wherever you look.
I want to thank you for downloading this podcast, and I want to thank Rainmaker.FM for hosting it.
Are you ready to generate a constant stream of blog post ideas? Let’s Hit Publish.
Hit Publish is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform, which handles all the technical elements of good online business practices, including design, content, traffic, and conversion. To check it out, head over to Rainmaker.FM/Platform right now, and get started building your online business.
We’re starting things off today with Sonia Simone, who has tackled this issue of finding new topics to write about head-on. She has been a major voice on the Copyblogger blog for years, and she knows that “What should I write about?” question all too well.
I got Sonia on the line and asked her, “What’s the best way to consistently come up with blog post ideas?”
Sonia Simone: This is maybe one of the most-asked questions by people who are starting to write content.
Pamela Wilson: The reason is because they’ve seen you do it for all these years. We all want to know your secret. That’s what it is.
Sonia Simone’s ‘Secret’ Technique for Coming up with a Consistent Flow of Blog Topics
Sonia Simone: There is a funny secret to this. It’s kind of a funny paradox, which is that the most productive writers — but you can also say this about musicians, songwriters, screenwriters, or anybody who’s making something up, making something out of nothing — are the ones who have the most ideas. You think because they have a lot of ideas, that’s why they’re so productive, but it’s not actually true. The reason they get so many ideas is because they do what they do every day.
When I say writing, just realize that I could mean podcasting, or I could mean making videos. This is not only necessarily about words on a screen. The more content you create, the more you will start to spark ideas.
The best thing I can tell you if you want to generate a lot of ideas is first of all, get yourself just a little daily habit of every day, write down five ideas for content. The most important thing about that is that it can be really stupid ideas.
You can say, “Okay, ten tips that my cat could give you about legal problems.” They can be really dumb ideas.
You have to give yourself permission to have those dopey ideas because most of the dopey ideas are just that — they’re dopey. It’s okay. Just let them be silly.
Every once in a while, though, one of those goofy ideas turns out to actually have something going on. You can create a really interesting piece of content.
The other thing is that you have a little creative part of your brain. Stephen King called it ‘the boys in the basement.’ Every creative writer I know not only believes this, but knows this from experience. You have a little part of your brain that’s in there all the time coming up with ideas. All it does is come up with ideas. The reason that we “never have good ideas” is because we don’t listen to those little voices. We train ourselves to ignore them.
When you sit down every day and sketch out — I would keep it really consistent — at least five ideas, and then if you want to do 20 that’s great, but a lot of days you’re just going to do five.
When you get in that habit, the boys in the basement start saying, “Hey, she’s actually listening to us. We should come up with some more ideas.” They will start to come, and it sounds really woo-woo or spooky or crazy, but I know a lot of writers and artists, and this is very, very consistently the way that they keep the ideas coming is just keep doing the work. Keep asking in your mind to give you some ideas, and the ideas will start to flow.
It might take a little while to get the pump primed, and that’s okay. But once it is, you will have lots and lots of ideas, and you will be much less stressed on this topic of how to come up with your ideas.
Pamela Wilson: I love this idea that just by paying attention, just by saying, “Okay, I’m receptive, and I’m listening, so bring them on. Bring them on because I’m listening,” that’s a great way to make them flow.
Sonia Simone: Yeah. It really is.
Pamela Wilson: What do you think about Sonia’s technique? I love the idea that the more you write, the better the ideas will flow. Later in this episode, I’m going to share the tool that I’ve just recently discovered that’s helped me to write, I swear, about 500 percent more than I was writing before. Stay tuned, and I’ll share that in just a bit.
Our next guest is Jerod Morris.
Jerod, until recently, was heading up the Copyblogger blog on a day-to-day basis, and there’s one tool that he used to keep things organized and keep track of the status of all the content Copyblogger publishes. It’s an editorial calendar.
The concept of an editorial calendar comes from the newspaper and magazine world, where editorial topics are often set weeks and months in advance of the publication date. I asked Jerod to tell us more about editorial calendars and how they’re used in the online world and also why they’re essential.
How to Use an Editorial Calendar to Keep Your Content on Track and Avoid Annoying Repetition
Jerod Morris: There are many reasons, and the first one — the most important one — is that an editorial calendar really helps you stay organized in terms of keeping your published content in line with your overall business goals. Without alignment here, your content marketing program is not going to be successful. You’ve got to understand what the overall goals are and how your content fits into that. Having an editorial calendar that you pay attention to regularly, that you update regularly, that is a fully integrated part of just what you on the content side, is going to help you do that.
The second reason is that it allows you to get a snapshot view of what content is scheduled, what you’ve already done, and what’s upcoming so that you can make subtle but important adjustments. For example, maybe you use the same headline style five posts in a row. With a good editorial calendar, you’ll be able to see that, and you’ll be able to adjust that. Or maybe you’ve used the same type of post too often. You can say, “Hmm, we’ve been doing too much of this, maybe we need to mix in a little bit more of that.” You can see these patterns and then decide if they’re good or not and if you need to adjust.
Without an editorial calendar, all you can do is really look at the old content that you have already out there, but I think having the stuff that’s published, the stuff that’s upcoming, everything in one view, really helps you to get more of a clear picture so that you’re delivering what you really want to, to your audience.
Third, it just allows you to stay prepared. If you have a hole in the calendar next Wednesday where a post should be, seeing it today rather than realizing it next Tuesday gives you a lot more time to fill it in properly. An editorial calendar allows you to do that.
This is also true with holidays. Because you should have holidays listed on your calendar and know which ones you want to post on, which ones you don’t. Like, say, maybe for Veterans Day, you want to just post a thank you but not have a piece of promotional copy. Having it listed on your editorial calendar allows you to plan around this. Leave it blank, or write whatever kind of content you want.
An editorial calendar fills a lot of macro and micro needs. Again, on the macro level, it allows you to make sure your content is in line with your business goals. Then even on that micro level, you can make sure that what you have going out tomorrow is what you want, and you have the ability to adjust, if necessary, with that snapshot view.
Pamela Wilson: Jerod is definitely a fan of editorial calendars. I’ll put a link to the WordPress editorial calendar plug-in in the show notes for this episode so you can check it out yourself.
Last up today, we have Demian Farnworth. Demian is a prolific writer, and I asked if he would share with us what process he uses to come up with the topics he’s going to write about.
Why Going through Life As a ‘Black Hole’ Will Help You Find Content Ideas Wherever You Look
Demian Farnworth: Yeah, it’s a great question. I think my default setting is to be aware and observe everything that’s around me and to be extremely sticky, I guess, and not too particular about what I read or watch, and constantly do what I call ‘passive curation,’ where I’m just constantly storing things in my head.
The more active part of that creative process is where I’m given an assignment by Brian Clark, which is what happened with my Google+ series and my native advertising series, and then for 2015, I’m focusing on adaptive content.
In that sense, I’m given the assignment, and then I go and try to read all I can about that particular subject and start putting that content together, shaping it, and organizing it, and then seeing how the entire narrative of the series is going to go. I do that through the process of researching and then sitting down and actually whiteboarding it, or I have large pieces of white paper mapping it out and thinking about it. That’s how I go about researching. I’m thinking of post topics that I’ll be writing about.
Pamela Wilson: It sounds like some of it is very deliberate because you’ve been asked to write about a topic, but it sounds also like you’re kind of a sponge that’s absorbing things and trying to pull ideas from what you see around you. Would you say that’s accurate?
Demian Farnworth: Yeah, but I would consider it more like being a sinkhole.
Pamela Wilson: What’s the difference between a sinkhole and a sponge in this case?
Demian Farnworth: I like the metaphor better than a sponge because, of course, ‘sponge’ is overused. The sinkhole is that sort of mysterious thing that just kind of sucks up everything around it. It just appears mysteriously and starts sucking. Everything just starts collapsing inside of it. I’m a moving human black hole or something like that.
Pamela Wilson: Okay, everybody. Be careful when you stand next to Demian because you might get sucked into his sinkhole and end up in a blog post.
Demian Farnworth: Yes. Like I say, anything is material.
Pamela Wilson: Yeah. That’s a great idea, and that’s a great way to go through the world with a mind that’s open to ideas that could potentially become material. Why not?
Demian Farnworth: Yeah. You never know. I often sort of get stuck.
Sometimes, for example, like the Google+ series, I had all the sort of normal content that I wanted to talk about, but I needed this overarching theme, a kind of hook. It was just a roundabout way that I came across it, and it’s one of those things — just this lightning-bolt moment. You can’t plan that, and you just have to be ready and prepared for that.
Pamela Wilson: What was your hook for that post?
Demian Farnworth: The hook for that is Hunter S. Thompson — the gonzo journalist from the ’60s and ’70s — and his idea of, “Screw being objective. I’m going to insert myself into the article and be part of the news that I’m reporting on.” That was the same idea as Google+ as the identity platform, and it was hoping to get rid of anonymity. That was the connecting point.
Pamela Wilson: Oh, that’s neat. You came across that, made the connection, and that gave it a theme, it sounds like.
Demian Farnworth: Yeah. It allowed me to write my opening and throughout, Hunter S. Thompson was sort of the shadow that swept across all of the rest of the series.
Pamela Wilson: Nice. Pulled it all together.
Sonia, Jerod, and Demian recommended techniques, like Sonia’s “write more often” advice and also tools like Jerod’s editorial calendar plug-in and Demian’s research techniques.
It does all start with writing more. I really like 750words.com.
I found that this site has been a huge help to get me to write more often. I found it a little over a month ago, and the only goal of the site is to encourage you to write 750 words every single day on their private, password-protected website.
I love how it sends me a daily reminder to get my 750 words in, and when you’ve written consistently, you start to get things like badges and virtual pats on the back, and those little things keep you motivated to keep doing it.
I hope you feel better prepared today to come up with blog post ideas and to keep them organized on your website. Take a moment to explore the links in the show notes for this episode and get more help coming up with post ideas and also keeping them organized.
Here are my questions for you this week.
How can you block out time to write a little every day?
If you’re on the Rainmaker Platform, you already have an editorial calendar because it’s built in. If you use WordPress, install that WordPress editorial calendar plug-in, if you don’t have it yet. It is one of the most important tools a blogger needs to have on a website.
As I always say, don’t be afraid to hit ‘publish’ on those post ideas. Get your message out there. Don’t be shy.
This is Pamela Wilson, and I want to thank you for being a devoted, hardworking Hit Publish subscriber. Help others to find Hit Publish by heading over to iTunes and leaving a rating or a review or both.
Goodbye until next time, and remember to take action and Hit Publish.