18 ingenious [and free] ways to source blog content ideas that’ll wow your audience.
Last updated: Oct 12, 201829 Comments
Ask any author and they’ll tell you that writer’s block is one of the most annoying, frustrating and debilitating things.
But for business bloggers, not knowing what to write about is arguably an even bigger problem.
Authors can wait their writer’s block out; businesses can’t.
As a savvy business owner, you’re aware that blogging is just about the most powerful and cost-effective marketing tool at your disposal.
There's a lot riding on your content. You know that content marketing is your best play, but what should you be writing about exactly?
Clearly you can’t just pluck a topic out of thin air.
You need inspiration.
You're desperate for content ideas for your website.
And the more you stress, the worse it gets.
I know the feeling. You let your mind wander and start to gaze into the future.
It’s not just this week's post that you’ve got to worry about… you’re going to have to come up with content ideas time and time again.
Plus, to make things even worse, you’ve got a million and one other jobs to do that can’t wait.
All business owners are under constant pressure to create quality content, so today I’m going to solve that issue for you once and for all.
The goal of this post is to teach you how to get ideas for blog posts constantly. And not just any old ideas; I'm talking about interesting blog topics that'll capture your audience's attention.
And by using clever techniques that are based on data, we'll remove the guesswork from your content strategy and move you from ‘I think’ to ‘I know’.
Here are 18 techniques to help you continually source ideas for blog content.
[And these methods will work no matter what niche or market you’re in.]
1. Start ‘newsjacking’.
There’s nothing more powerful than topical content. Being current can really amplify your messages and make them much more relevant and effective.
Take a look at this ad by Virgin:
Pretty clever, isn’t it?
There’s a dead simple way to come up with blog topics that are making the news – just use the ‘news’ tab when you perform a Google search.
You may not have noticed the tab; it often goes unseen. But it’s a goldmine for content ideas.
Let’s suppose I want to write a blog post about email marketing.
Email marketing is a popular subject matter that’s been covered time and time again, so coming up with a fresh perspective is tricky...
… or was.
Fire up Google and enter the term ‘email marketing’, just as you would with a normal search:
Results always display in this fashion, with the ‘All’ tab selected by default. However, what we want to do next is click on ‘News’:
What you’ll see next is a different selection of results:
You’re now looking the latest articles on email marketing. Now you’ve got a selection of potential topic ideas that you know are 100% current and therefore relevant.
Also, here's an extra tip: set up Google Alerts so that you’re emailed whenever there’s some industry news.
2. Leverage Amazon.
Amazon is the largest online retailer in the world and we can use their data to come up with plenty of content ideas.
Simply look through the different departments and filter the results by ‘best sellers’.
Your next job is to look for something relevant to your genre.
Here’s an example:
If I wanted to blog about email marketing for business (or something of a marketing nature), I can select ‘books’ and then ‘Business, Finance & Law’.
Now I can see a bunch of popular books that I could potentially use as a starting point.
This one looks a good fit and it’s been popular for a long time (with 1224 days in the top 100 books), so I know it’s a topic people are interested in:
Perhaps I could write a post on the best habits for writing effective commercial emails?
3. Transform your old content.
If you’re struggling to come up with good topics for articles, why not see if you can improve the posts you’ve already published?
If you've been creating content on your website for a while, you'll have noticed that it doesn't take long to accumulate a sizeable archive of old blog posts.
For most people, blogging is something you’re continually learning about.
If you’re into blogging and are reading about the latest strategies, then the good news is you’re likely to pick up a lot of content marketing and SEO tricks over time.
The bad news however, is that this means the majority of your old blog posts are probably outdated, unfashionable and generally not fit for purpose.
What can you do about all those old articles, the ones that are past their best?
It seems a waste to leave old pages to rot, so don’t give up on them just yet.
With a few little tweaks, you can transform your unwanted and popular posts into killer pieces of content that attract traffic, leads and customers.
Or if you've got some posts on a related theme, why not turn them into an ebook?
Thanks to tools like this one, it's never been easier.
4. Use a content analysis tool.
I’m a big fan of Buzzsumo.
And in terms of idea generation, it’s saved me many a headache.
If you’re serious about content marketing then I’d invested in an annual membership, but you can still see some results for free.
Just bang in a topic on their homepage and you’re away:
See which pieces of content have performed well to date, and look for any spin-off topics.
Take a look at this result:
This story about reducing email marketing costs earned over 12,000 shares, so it was a pretty popular piece.
Maybe I could write a post about the best ways to reduce email marketing spend?
And for a different option, why not check out DrumUp?
DrumUp mines through content in real time.
Basically, it's another tool that does the hard work for you.
But I've had a play and the example stories they share are very highly matched to the keywords I entered.
This makes it a great place for knowledge reading as well as for blog ideas.
Plus, the awesome thing about this tool is that it can also help share the content for you.
5. Look at eBay.
People buy stuff on eBay, so why not investigate your topic area and see what’s going down?
I’ve now got a couple of great ideas from the first two results alone (email marketing for small businesses and email marketing best practice):
6. Check out YouTube.
YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine, so enter your topic theme and see which videos people are watching:
You can see that the fourth video, on how to start email marketing, has had over 27,000 views. This tells me that actually getting started with email marketing is a common concern and might make a good article.
7. Open up Wikipedia.
Wikipedia will give you a lot of related topic ideas to explore. Just enter your term into their search bar:
Then you’ll see plenty of descriptions, terms and similar themes to analyse:
The description in the first paragraph above has given me the idea of writing about customer loyalty.
We could also write a post on email marketing that brings in some of the topics mentioned in the series on the right, such as referral marketing.
And this is before we even dig around the ‘History’ section.
8. Look at what your competitors are doing.
It’s never a good idea to copy anyone and you should never plagiarise content, but we’re talking about something different.
It’s called competitive intelligence.
It’s important to know whether any of your competitors have created any popular pieces of content.
If they have, then you should analyse it intensely.
- What was the topic?
- How well was it written?
- Did they include many images?
- Did it generate lots of social shares?
- Does it rank highly for commercially valuable keywords?
- Does it miss anything out (are there any knowledge gaps that you can fill)?
- Are there any spin-off topics that you can take advantage of?
The quickest and most effective way of analysing a competitor is by using a tool like Buzzsumo.
This time, instead of entering a topic into their search bar, enter a competitor’s URL.
So let’s say my competitor was MailChimp.
My first move is to enter the MailChimp URL into Buzzsumo:
Hit ‘Go!’ and look at the results.
MailChimp is a pretty big business, so I had to sift through a few more sales pages than you might with smaller competitors, but I did find loads of interesting topics that they’ve written about.
Here are a couple of examples:
9. Fire up Quora.
In case you haven’t heard of Quora, it’s a popular question-and-answer website that’s been around since 2009.
The premise is simple: if you want to know the answer to something, you can post a question and wait for someone to answer.
[And the question can be on anything.]
We can enter a topic and see which questions people are asking about that subject area.
The logic being, that if people are asking questions about something, they’ve got some sort of problem in that area that you can help with:
You’ll have to register an account, but it’s free.
Then just enter your broad topic into the search bar and you’ll be offered relevant options:
When you’ve clicked on your topic, you’ll see a load of questions [and the relevant answers]:
We’re not really interested in the answers. What we’re looking for are questions with a lot of views - because this tells us they’re common problems.
You can see that the question at the bottom, about how start-ups should approach email marketing, has had 1,000 views.
So perhaps a blog post might be in order?
10. Use Google’s ‘related searches’ info.
Looking at Google’s ‘related searches’ is a great trick for making sure your on-page SEO is up to scratch; but it’s also useful for extra blogging inspiration.
Your first move is to search for your broad term:
Then scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the related searches:
When I search for the term ‘email marketing’ there are a number of relevant angles I could consider for a post.
The 3 potential topics that stand out are:
- Email marketing best practices.
- The benefits of email marketing.
- The best email marketing software.
11. Nose around any forums.
Forums are useful in the same way that Quora is.
You want to know that your post is going to be a hit before you spend valuable time on it.
So why not find a relevant forum so that you can discover real problems from real people?
When I Google the term ‘email marketing forum’, this result shows up pretty early on in the results:
I can click on the link and see what people are talking about and the kinds of questions that they’re asking. I don’t even have to register.
Straight off the bat, I can see a couple of fantastic ideas for articles:
12. Use blog comments.
It might take a little bit of detective work, but head to a popular blog in your industry and find an article with some comments.
Use the comments for idea generation.
I searched for ‘email marketing blog comments’ and came across an interested post on the best email marketing blogs for newbies [try it with your own keywords]:
At the bottom were a bunch of comments.
Often, once you’ve sifted through the ‘nice post’ comments, you’ll find an interesting point of view or a question that grabs you.
How about something on current email technology?
13. Email your leads to see if you can help.
This one is a no-brainer, but not many businesses do it.
If you’ve already got an email list, then simply email them and ask what their biggest problem with [insert topic] is right now.
See if they respond.
A dream you dream alone is a lonely dream. A dream you dream together is reality.
Your email list should consist of people who are interested in your areas of expertise, so it’s valuable market research.
The great thing about this approach is that you’ve got a good chance of getting positive feedback [in the form of social shares or blog comments] if you’re actually specifically helping someone out.
Not got a list? No problem.
Why not get in touch with a past client? The strategy works just the same.
14. Head over to Reddit.
Reddit is essentially a news website, full of entertainment, social and business stories, where registered community members can submit content.
It’s quite popular, despite the horrendous design.
And it’s actually a useful traffic generation tool, but we’re going to use it to help generate a blog post idea.
Start off by entering your topic at the top of their homepage:
Click on a sensible option (in this case it’s ‘email marketing’) and you’ll have a wonderful resource of potential ideas:
What about a post on the rules and laws behind email marketing?
Or how to email a new client, and why your approach should be tailored to them.
15. Tap into the potential of Udemy.
There are over 40,000 courses on Udemy. It’s a growing business and we can leverage their power.
Head to their homepage and you’ll see a massive search bar:
Enter your term and let’s go…
What you’re now looking at is a [long] list of courses that people have been on relating to your subject area.
You can see how much they cost, how many times they’ve been bought and how popular they are.
Again, this is a case of logic:
If someone has paid for a course on autoresponders and growth hacking, we know for a fact that there is a need for information on those two topics.
16. Use Google’s trusty keyword planner.
Sign in to Adwords [sorry, that’s compulsory], enter your broad topic area and press ‘Get Ideas’:
Make sure you click on the second tab, called ‘Keyword ideas’:
Look at the second group of results and you’ll see a list of similar themes:
Using the email marketing example again, I might decide to write a beginner’s post on email marketing - since the term ‘what is email marketing’ gets 1,900 searches every month.
I could also focus on newsletters, campaigns or tools (1,300, 1,000 and 1,600 searches per month respectively).
17. Use Facebook groups.
There are Facebook groups on every topic under the sun.
And there loads of posts within these groups from people who are genuinely struggling with some sort of issue that you could potentially help with.
Enter your topic into Facebook’s search bar:
Some groups will be closed, meaning that you’ll need to request permission to join them first.
Others will be public and you’ll be able to see the discussions in them:
When you find a good group, locate the ‘Search this group’ option:
Enter terms like the below [and keep the quotation marks in]:
- “help with”
- “need help”
- “tips on”
- “advice with”
- “question about”
- “support with”
You’ll be met with real-life pain points that your audience is facing.
18. Look at resource pages.
Resource pages are web pages that link out to content on other sites.
They’re gathered in one place to make it easy for a reader to get everything they need from one piece of content.
As such, they’re great for coming up with blog post topics.
There are a couple of ways to find a resource page that fits your niche. The first is just a straightforward search using the term ‘best [topic] resources’.
So that would mean searching for ‘best email marketing resources’.
However, here’s a useful Google hack. Try searching for:
Here’s how it would look in practice for the term ‘email marketing’…
From the results, I found a site with a load of great email marketing resources:
There were a couple of resources that would make for a great article.
We could write a post about how an email marketing campaign needs to be personal; or one on the power of autoresponders.
Again, the logic is simple. If a website has a resource page on your topic, then it’s effectively publicly recommending all of those links.
Now you’re set… so get writing.
Never again will you have to worry about what to blog about.
Your content marketing strategy just got a shot in the arm.
Do you want to be current?
Do you want a constant flow of blog ideas that make money?
Is it nice to know that you’re on the right path before putting the work in?
Then put these content generation techniques into practice.
Why not leave a comment and let me know which method you think will work best for you?