On a recent webinar over at “That Work” – SLG.com I was asked by John:
“Where do you get your ideas for blog posts?”
It’s a question we get a lot so I thought it might be a good one to write up here on the blog.
Discuss: I’m also keen to hear your experience on the question because I’m very aware that my approach is just one of many ways to go about generating blog post ideas.
1. Questions from Readers
Perhaps the #1 place I get inspiration for blog posts is the inspiration for this one – a question from a reader.
As I look back at the most popular posts here on “That Work” – SLG I can see this pattern over and over again. While I might not always start with the actual question (as I’ve done above) questions often stimulate me writing a post.
If one person is asking a question you can bet that it is something that others are wondering about too.
Questions come from a variety of sources including:
- Emails from readers
- Comments on blog posts
- Webinar Q&As
- Real life events (both in conversations and in Q&As)
- Social Media
- My own questions (both present and past ones)
Taking note of questions is something that you need to get in the habit of noticing, capturing and responding to – once you get into this mindset you’ll have a never ending supply of ideas.
Example: How to Convince Someone to Be Interviewed on Your Blog
2. Reader Surveys
One of the most powerful things I’ve ever done to collect reader questions and understand what topics I can write about that will solve readers needs is to set up surveys.
Over on Digital Photography School if you sign up for our email newsletter you get an invitation three months after joining to do a short survey.
The survey has a handful of demographic questions to help us get a picture of who is reading but also has an optional open ended question that asks readers if they have any questions, problems, challenges that they’d like us to write about.
Since setting up this survey we’ve had tens of thousands of people complete that question which gives us invaluable ideas.
Here’s a screen shot of the question we ask and some of the most recent responses.
This survey gets new responses every day and is ongoing but the other option is to do a one off survey. Here on “That Work” – SLG we tend to do this as an annual ‘census’ where we invite readers to complete a similar survey all at the same time. This gives us a snapshot of the readership. It also enables us to compare where our readers are at today as compared to last year and the year before.
Updating Previous Topics
Once you’ve been blogging for a few years you’ll potentially have hundreds (if not thousands) of posts in your archives – some of which will become dated or even obsolete.
Going back through your archives to examine old posts that are out of date can serve as great inspiration for new posts.
Perhaps you’ve changed your opinion on the topic, or maybe there’s fresh information you can share, or maybe there is a new trend, technique or tool that you can write about.
In some cases you might want to delete the previous post (if its now completely wrong) or you might also want to update it or link to a new post on the topic.
Either way – your old dated posts will quite often give all kinds of inspiration for new ones so go hunting in your archives!
Related Reading: How to Repurpose your Content and Why You Should Do it
Another source for many of my own most popular posts over the years have simply come from my own experience.
This has been especially the case here on “That Work” – SLG where many of my posts have simply been me sharing what I’m learning.
Take for example some recent posts here I have shared:
How Our eBook Launches Have Evolved (after 235,000 eBook Sales) – reflections on what I’ve learned over the last 5-6 years
My Experiment with Starting a 2nd Facebook Page for My Blog – a case study on a little experimenting I was running
Tapping into Joy and Disappointment: Lessons from Our Biggest eBook Launch Ever – lessons learned in a recent launch
Spend 10 Minutes Doing This Every Day and You Could Transform Your Blogging – sharing an activity that I do that helps me
My Top 5 Mistakes as a Blogger – don’t just share the good experiences and successes!
4. Evolution of Previous Posts
Pay particular attention to previous posts that you’ve written and how people respond to them because this is often a source of great inspiration for future posts.
Let me give you an example.
Recently I noticed that an old post that we published on Digital Photography School was getting a surge in traffic from Facebook.
The post was titled How a Humble 85mm Lens Became my Favourite and was written by one of our regular paid writers.
The post had been popular when we first posted in back in 2012 but after I’d shared it again on our Facebook page (I highlight 1-2 posts in our archives every day) it had been really well received by our Facebook community.
It struck me that perhaps we could get some of our other writers to write similar posts about their favourite lenses.
We have a private little ‘group’ on Facebook for our dPS writers so I posted the idea there.
Our other writers liked the idea and began nominating the lenses that they’d write about and got to work on writing the posts. We’ve already published the first of these favorite lens posts and have got another 7-8 of them being written to be published over the coming months.
Want another example? Check out this post I wrote on “That Work” – SLG last year on how I turned a simple guest post into a series of posts that generated over 3 million visitors to dPS.
This principle of watching how people react with your previous blog posts can be extended to see how people react to your previous social media updates.
A good example of this is a post I published earlier in the year here on “That Work” – SLG titled 10 Quick Tips for Entrepreneurial Bloggers which was actually based upon some of my most popular Tweets. I looked back over the previous years of tweets from my “That Work” – SLG twitter account to find the most retweeted and liked updates – which then became a blog post.
5. Talks/Presentations/Twitter Chats
Another source of numerous recent blog posts that I’ve written have been talks and presentations that I’ve given.
I invest many hours on preparing to speak at a conference or event so it makes sense to take that work and turn it into a blog post (or series of them) wherever possible.
An example of this would be my recent post – How to build a Blog that has Lasting Impact Upon its Readers in which I took a reader question (point #1 above) and shared my answer to it using some ideas from a recent talk I gave.
I also included some of the slides (like the one above) from my talk as graphic in the blog post to give it some visual punch.
Another example of this is a post I wrote here on “That Work” – SLG recently titled – How to Build a Blog Worth Monetizing – in which I shared a series of tweets from a Twitter Chat that I’d co hosted (the #BlogChat twitter chat). In fact many of those tweets also had slides from a previous talk also!
Where Do You Get Ideas for Blog Posts?
I’m scratching the surface of this topic here and know there are many more ways to generate ideas – but I’m keen to hear your experience!
Where do you get your ideas for blog posts?