Archives for April 2012

How to Generate Blog Post Ideas, Part 2

Last blog post I talked about my system for consistently generating dozens of ideas for blog posts and weekly newsletter content, and shared three resources you can use to find kick-butt ideas of your own.

This time I want to talk about three other good resources for idea-gathering:

1. Google Alerts

Google Alerts will allow you to monitor any topic or search term you choose; when results are found for that search term, Google sends them to you in an email.

You choose result type:  “Everything,” or, news, blogs, videos, discussions, books, etc., frequency:  once a day, as they happen or once a week, and how many: “only the best results” or “all results.”

This is a great tool for generating content ideas, but you can also use it to gather market and competitor intelligence, and who doesn’t want that?

Go here to set up your own Google Alerts.

2. Blogs in your niche

I love this as an idea generator, because it’s essentially killing two birds with one stone – you’re likely reading the blogs in your niche anyway, so why not gather some ideas while you’re there? Just pop over to a few of your favorites and note what’s being written about.

But don’t stop there – you’ll also want to pay attention to which blog posts get the most interaction in the way of comments and social shares.  This will give you an idea of some of the hot topics in your niche.

You’re not going to copy these ideas verbatim, of course, but use the material to spark your own ideas, and add these to your Ideas File.  You can then write about these topics from the opposite viewpoint, or go deeper into them for a more nuanced view, etc.

3. HARO Queries

HARO is an email list you sign up for to receive daily queries from reporters who need sources for their stories; it stands for “Help A Reporter Out.”

There’s a whole other blog post waiting to be written about how to mine HARO for sharing your expertise and getting publicity for your business, but today I simply want point out what a great tool it is for generating blog post ideas.

Why is this a such a great short cut for getting content ideas?  Because each HARO email alert will have several queries in multiple categories, and since journalists are looking for sources for these stories on a deadline, you already know they are super hot, timely topics.  Just a little tip from me to you.  ; )

Sign up for your own HARO email alerts here.


There you have it, 3 more excellent resources to add to your blog post idea generating toolkit.  And for still more idea gathering, you might want to check out forums in your niche, Tweetmeme for trending Twitter topics, Google Trends, or simply address questions your customers frequently ask .

So tell me, what are your go-to tips for coming up with blog post and newsletter topic ideas?  Please share in the comments, I’d love to know your tricks!

[Hey there, gorgeous. Did you know you can get my FREE weekly newsletter, with actionable tips, techniques, and how-to’s for marketing your business online, delivered straight to your email inbox each Tuesday? You betcha! Go ahead and enter your name and email address at the top right hand side of the blog now, and let’s get you glowing online.]

3 Content Creation Hacks That Work Every Time

If you have a blog, a newsletter, social media accounts you post to daily, or any other venue that requires fresh new content on a regular basis, you’re familiar with the never-ending hunger of the content beast.

The content beast is devoted to gobbling up the very best and meatiest content you can provide, but come next week, or next day, or next hour, that content eater wants to be fed again.

And creating this content on a regular basis is what prevents a lot of harried, overworked small business owners from engaging in content marketing at all, despite its many benefits.

I get it. It seems overwhelming.

But you’re smart – you know that for marketing and SEO purposes, positioning yourself as an expert in your niche online by providing juicy new content on a regular basis is a critical piece of your marketing pie.

What you need is a system.

Because here’s the thing:  great blog post or newsletter ideas don’t materialize out of the blue, like an inspirational lightning bolt from a Greek god/goddess — well, sometimes they do, but you can’t count on this bit of serendipity on a weekly basis – you need a system for coming up with ideas.

So I’m a gonna tell you what I do, then I’m going to give you the no-fail techniques I use that work like a charm, every single time, to generate fresh content ideas daily, weekly and monthly.

My personal system for consistently generating ideas for blog posts, newsletter content, guest posts, social media status updates, and so on, which can be adapted to any niche you happen to do business in, is this:

1. I keep an “Ideas File” – a Notepad doc is open on my computer at all times while I’m on the interwebs.  Anytime I see anything that sparks an idea – blog post, newsletter, newspaper headline, social media status update, video, etc. —  I paste the link to that resource into my Notepad doc and add a few notes about it.

2. I set aside at least one hour each week to get really quiet and do some serious brainstorming for content ideas.  Early in the morning at my desk with a strong cup of coffee, a legal pad, and the patio door open seems to work best for me.  (The key is to treat this hour each week like a firm it’s-written-in-ink-in-your-day-planner appointment with yourself.  )

3. I commit an hour each week to go through the resources below and “idea-gather;” again, making a note in my Notepad doc of every idea that comes to me while doing so. These content creation “hacks” have served me well, and I bet they’ll do the same for you.

That’s it — that’s my current “system,” which I constantly tweak, but which works extremely well for me.

Tried-and-True Methods for Generating Heaps of Compelling Content Ideas

I’m going to take the broad topic of “small business marketing” through the paces of the content creation hacks below to show you how I do it.

1.  Magazine Headlines

One of the best ways to spark ideas for blog posts your audience wants to read is to grab a bunch of magazines in your niche and read through the headlines, a handy little shortcut I wrote about in more detail in How to Create Blog Posts Your Target Audience Wants to Read.

Publishers spend thousands of dollars and do exhaustive research to figure out which stories will generate the strongest response among their readers, so why not piggyback on that research to gather some ideas for your own business/blog/newsletter niche?

Want some examples?  I thought you might.

From Entrepreneur (online), I spied these headlines:

• Need Ideas for Your Business Blog?  Here Are 50

• How to Create a Social Media Marketing Schedule

• How to Adopt a Sales Mindset

• In Amish Country, A Lesson in Niche Marketing

My creative juices are already flowing with ideas for a blog post and a couple of social media status updates I can do, using just the headlines here.

2. Alltop

Alltop bills itself as “an online magazine rack for your favorite topics.”   Essentially, Alltop aggregates the latest stories from the best sites and blogs that cover a particular topic.  They then group these collections, or “aggregations,” into individual web pages, and display the five most recent headlines of the information sources as well as their first paragraph.

From the “small business” topic page on Alltop, I found these interesting stories (among hundreds):

• How to Grow a Business with Little Cash

• Don’t Confuse Passion with Competence

• Do Your Services Pass the Sniff Test?

• The 5 Biggest Email Marketing Mistakes

• 7 Low-Budget Small Business Marketing Ideas

• How to Write A Business Story Pitch

3.  Amazon

There are hundreds of ideas hiding in plain sight inside Amazon you can riff off of for your own content ideas.  Here’s what you want to do here:  search on your topic in the books category, then pick a few books in your niche from the returned results.  Once you get there, click on the “Look Inside!” option on the book cover image.  Once there you can cruise through the Table of Contents of said book, and let the idea sparking begin!

I searched the Books category on “small business marketing,” which returned 5193 results.  Gold mine!  : )

From the book “Duct Tape Marketing” by John Jantsch I see these chapters in the Table of Contents:

• Identify Your Ideal Client

• Discover Your Core Marketing Message

• Get Found Online in Your Town

From the book “Book Yourself Solid” by Michael Port, these:

• Why People Buy What You’re Selling

• Develop a Personal Brand

• The Book Yourself Solid Web Strategy

I’ve already written about getting found online in your town a little and I know it’s a topic I want to produce more content on, so that’s going into the “Ideas File,” ditto “Why People Buy What You’re Selling,” because I find the psychology of business and sales so fascinating, and it would make for a great blog article.  So there ya go, I just got at least two ideas for blog posts from spending just 10 minutes on this exercise.

Now don’t you know that if I spent an hour going through the chapter titles of a few more of those 5193 books on small business marketing, I’d come up with dozens more ideas? You betcha, and you can do exactly the same thing.

There are several other resources I use regularly to generate ideas for content, which I’ll talk about next time on the blog.  Until then, why don’t you give these three methods a try and see what you come up with?

What are your tried-and-true methods for coming up with great content?  Share them in the Comments!


[Don’t have time to do this yourself, but want an editorial calendar of solid content ideas for your blog and newsletter for the next 60-90 days?  Check out the Content Coaching/Strategy Session option on the Work With Me page!]