Coming up with topics to write about isn’t hard.
Not hard at all actually.
The secret is to have a system in place so you can catch your bursts of inspiration and the feedback you get.
It’s all about preparation. If you fail to prepare, which I did for many years, then you will get ideas, but they will be lost in the clutter that is your mind.
With that said, here are a few simple tricks you can use to find good topics to write about:
There is no rule that says that thou shalt only produce content that is 100% unique, original, and genius.
It’s easy to think, with everyone talking about producing remarkable content, that you have to constantly create something completely new and “fresh.”
Yeah, that’s not going to happen, so don’t stress over about it.
What you have to teach or say has probably already been said, but what makes it unique is that it hasn’t been said by you.
You may not think that you have a unique voice, but you do, and even if you don’t, it will come.
With that said … a great way to get ideas for blog topics and web content is to simply browse the web and see what’s out there. Check out blogs, news sites, or even social sharing sites like Digg.com, and let the ideas flow.
Once you have an audience, you can simply ask what’s bothering them, frustrating them, or what they want to learn more about.
It doesn’t have to get more complicated than that.
I have more content than I can write about just from asking my readers what they need.
I’m doing my best to catch up with it all, but it’s going to take a long time, and most likely, I will never get to all of them, because I am constantly getting more feedback and generating more ideas of my own.
Once you get a system in place, which I will talk about in just a minute, you will have more good topics to write about than you can possible handle.
3. Social Media
Twitter and Facebook are great places to observe. Look at what people are saying about your topic. What kind of problems are they having? What are they complaining about?
Is there something you could do to address their problems, or even write a post about the problem itself and talking about your opinion and what you think a good solution may be?
This is not rocket science, and not every post you write will be a home-run.
Once you let go of the end result, the flood gates open.
Forums are a fantastic way to find out what’s going on in your niche. A simple search on Google for <your topic> + forum will yield thousands of results.
You can sneak around and see what’s going on, or you can jump in and see how the water is.
The possibilities are endless.
Once you start writing, you will get feedback, which will help you branch out and cover other related topics.
Let’s say I write a post about search engine optimization, which is a pretty complex topic; I will most likely get a handful of questions in the comments and via email, which will give me ideas for future articles.
Use everything you can get. If you’re running out of topics to write about, you probably aren’t trying hard enough.
If lurking on forums, hanging out on social media sites, and asking your readers isn’t enough, then a great source for ideas is your past.
Think back to what problems you had when you were starting out.
For example, something I had a lot of trouble with in the beginning was email marketing. I couldn’t find a good course anywhere.
All I could find were low-quality products, so I paid someone to mentor me 1-on-1.
Whenever I read books, on whatever topic, I get a flood of ideas. There’s something about reading a good book that stretches your mind.
I recently bought a kindle, so I’m constantly reading something, and it helps me think outside the box.
Another great way to get ideas is to look at the bestselling books on Amazon around your topic. Look at the table of contents for ideas you can “borrow”.
The table of contents has been thoroughly researched and meticulously planned so it will draw in people, and the topics covered are about subjects people care about. Use it to your advantage.
Put your personality out there and let readers know what your opinion is. You may alienate some people, while others become raving fans.
You cannot be everything to everyone.
I could talk about what I think about search engine optimization and if what’s being said is really true.
The only thing I’d say is to not start ranting about anything. There has to be a reason to your article, otherwise your readers will go “who cares?”
9. Keyword Research
A fantastic way to not only find topics to write about, and optimize your posts for search engine traffic is to do keyword research.
You can use a free tool like the Google Keyword Tool, but I prefer to use Long Tail Pro, because what might take me one day to do manually with free tools takes me under an hour with Market Samurai.
If you were into say … strength training, you might find keywords like:
- What is strength training?
- Benefits of strength training
- Strength training exercises
- Strength training for athletes
- Strength training for beginners
Some very good topics that start writing about, don’t you agree? This is how I build my niche websites: I start off brainstorming topics I am interested in. I then use Market Samurai to look at which topics are good and which aren’t.
10. Catch Your Ideas
Keep a small notepad and pen with you wherever you go, or use your cell phone to catch your ideas.
You may think that you will be able to remember whatever ideas you have if you’re out on a walk, but 30 minutes later, you will be left scratching your head.
Write everything down. Everything.
11. Get Organized
I finally got organized and started putting all the feedback and questions I got in a spreadsheet. It’s very simple; all I do is add questions and ideas into a column. That way I have a good overview of what is going on in the idea department, and what my readers want.
I then make those questions and ideas into headlines for future content. It may even spark ideas for future ebooks, products, or services.
Whatever you do, don’t try to figure things out in your head. It doesn’t work, at least not for me, and probably won’t for you either.
Wrapping It All Up
Writing for the world requires courage. You will feel like you don’t have anything to share, so you censor yourself because inside, you’ve already failed.
The way you get around this is to write without editing. Dump everything you have inside and then rewrite. Rewriting is where the magic happens.
No one writes a perfect draft. Be okay with whatever feelings you have, because we all have them.
What you think are your worst articles will surprise you when they start spreading like wildfire across the web, while the ones you were most proud of will fall flat right before your eyes.
Writing, like anything, is about self-exploration, not about being perfect.
There is one thing above all for me to generate new ideas: sports!
No matter if I’m running, swimming or riding a bike, I get many ideas during my training sessions. For example last week, I came up with over 10 different ideas to write about 🙂
However, the capturing part is a bit challenging, since I don’t carry a phone with me when running or swimming 🙂
Robert Dempsey says
I wonder if a little iPod touch or nano can record, or if there’s a tiny voice recorder you can get. That doesn’t help with the swimming though.
That would be worth checking out. I know that I have missed many ideas, because I never had any decent way to capture them.
Mike Reeves-McMillan says
You can record on an iPod Touch if you have an external microphone (I bought one for cheap off an auction site and it works fine). I understand the 4th generation ones have a built-in mic. The 5th generation Nano does too.
That’s great news! Thanks for the info!
Robert Dempsey says
Great points here Henri. I always have my iPhone with me loaded up with Evernote. I can take a quick voice note before I forget the idea. That then syncs up with my Mac, and I write the blog posts from there.
I’ve also started carrying a sketch pad around everywhere I go. I find that I’m more likely to pull this out and mindmap my ideas while they’re flowing. After a while you get used to people looking at you funny as you write in the middle of dinner out.
Having a sketch pad is great. I have one of those mindmap/brainstorm moments at least once a day, where I just start writing down all the ideas coming into my brain.
Sometimes the ideas don’t pan out, but when they do … 😉
“Writing, like anything, is about self-exploration, not about being perfect.” This statement took me a while to “get.” I think writing is like any skill or art- it’s about the progress as you make as you go along.
On topics to idea gathering, I like to carry a pocketsize notebook and pen with me when ever I go out to capture ideas. Sometimes it’s idea that comes out of nowhere, or an observation, or a discussion I have with a friend.
That’s pretty much the system I have in place. Sometimes I just bring a small, scrappy piece of paper with me and a pen and that’s all I need.
I feel like there are too many ideas swarming around my head and it’s hard to get them all down!
I can’t imagine ever having the problem of the “idea well” going dry.
I’m still looking for a better way to organize these ideas than what I’m doing now.
Organization is key to taming the beast that is idea overwhelm.
Nice post and I especially like step 11 and wrapping up:)
I tend to voice record ideas when in the car or travelling.
Thanks for sharing.
Recording your ideas is great. The reason I don’t like it is that I have to transcribe the ideas afterward. Ack!
Pasi Vahtola says
Hi Henri. Definately motivated me on writing. I’m a novice in writing maybe because I think that way.Never even tried. Next week I’m going to have a product from my local health food store for a review vlogging and blogging about it… :).
Also learned the idea thing 😛
Thanks for inspiration and pump it up.
Good luck, Pasi.
And thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!
A great way I get ideas is just being aware and thoughtful of every experience I have throughout life.
Whenever I talk to someone, watch other people, and really look deep into their conversations I can get great ideas! The trick is having something to write it down, or else as Henri said “they will be lost in the clutter that is your mind”
So true, thanks Henri.
Henri, I love the balance of this article. You covered everything from ideas to how to organize them and also how to optimize what you write. Very clear as always 🙂
It has always been a challenge for me to write articles, mainly because English is not my first language. What you mentioned is so true for me… the paralyzing thought that I am not original enough, that stopped me from writing down my ideas, or giving them up because I found them while web surfing searching for some inspiration, funny how being too much in one’s head can work against one.
I found that writing articles is like a habit that needs to be formed… don’t think too much about it and just do it.
I love carrying a small notebook with me. I get inspired from so many places, stories, though listening to NPR while driving is the most challenging for me… so I have a voice recorder too 🙂
Have a great Year Henri, and everyone!
Eric | Eden Journal says
Great tips. I sometimes go through my Google Analytics to see what keywords people are using to find my site. Sometimes these make great topics to write about. One of my favorites that I found was “It’s hard to smile when you’re not okay.” It’s a great way to target some of the folks that are hitting your site from the search engines.
That’s a good one. I actually just started thinking about doing that yesterday. A nice coincidence to have you mention it here.
Codrut Turcanu says
I’d say the second tip is my favorite because when you have an audience you cannot afford to ignore their problems. So you owe to yourself to start connecting them via Twitter, email (or their preferred method, not yours!) and ask questions
EXAMPLE: what makes you upset about blog commenting (if your niche is blogging related) and what would you change instead?
This starts the conversation and provides you with new material for writing, promoting and even selling 🙂
The other methods Henri shared will just follow… what do you guys think?
This article came about at a great time, for me at least. I have, for quite some time now, been seriously considering starting a blog. Unfortunately, when I try to think of what topics my blog will focus on, I come up empty handed. I have so many interests, I don’t see how I could focus on just a few of them. Another obstacle I’ve noticed has been my tendency towards perfection. It often makes me stop something before I really even get started. As a regular peruser of a number of blogs, I have noticed that the general public is far more forgiving and understanding than my mind tends to believe. These tips are greatly appreciated. I will definitely be able to put them to use in my near future. Thank you.
I don’t think I’ve ever responded to a comment that wasn’t on my own blog (it just seems intrusive) but I had to respond when I read your comment.
I totally didn’t know what I wanted to blog about when I first started just 6 weeks ago. That’s why my topic is fairly wide. However, the theme I chose runs through all my posts.
My first post I explained why I chose the theme I did and wrote about my struggles with perfectionism and how it had stopped me, for a long time, from doing what I wanted with my life.
Take care and I hope to see your new blog up soon!
I can completely relate. I felt the same way before I started this blog, and I feel the same way even though I am where I am.
It’s just one of those things where the mind goes crazy and overwhelms you. The best cure for me was taking action, writing, and seeing what felt right.
Henri, I have struggled in the past with the feeling like I needed to write only 1000% original ideas. But does that even exist? Everything has been written. It’s Ecclesiastes, man. There is nothing new under the sun. But there are MILLIONS of ways of looking at each of those things.
The SURF option has proven to be very effective for me, and I’m finding the ASK option to be pretty enlightening!
And even if you think your way of looking at things isn’t original, so what? Write about it anyway and see what happens.