Writing Kick-Ass Blog Posts: Make Idea Generation & Brainstorming Easier

by Annie

in blogging, content marketing 101, systematic

Image of lightbulb with red human brain inside

Turn on the brain and let the idea generation commence!

All this week, we’re taking an in-depth look at the process of content creation in the form of blog posts, which most budding Internet entrepreneurs will utilize in some fashion in content marketing. Today’s topic: how to find the time to get great content together and put it out there for consumption.

“Can’t think of anything to write about!” This was the plaintive wail from Amelie, my client on the other end of the phone. I’d heard it before — not just from Amelie, a newly-launched virtual assistant, but from other clients before her:

  • From Jason, the solo consumer bankruptcy attorney
  • From Dee, the legal researcher
  • From Marcie, the freelance designer

The list went on.

These are bright people, at the top of their respective games. What’s more, they are, each of them, excellent writers.

So, what the hell is going on here?

Why is it so hard to come up with stuff to write about in content marketing?

Truthfully?

It’s not.

Each of these people was suffering from what I’ll politely term a misapprehension. Some of them were, as we discussed yesterday in the larger context of blogging systems and time management, thinking of the whole shebang as one undoably large THING:

CREATE. BLOG. POST.

But it’s not, as we’ve seen. It’s a bunch of much smaller, much more manageable things (small-t).

And this thing is simply “brainstorming ideas.”

C’mon, admit it, that sounds a good bit better, right?

And to make it even easier, you can create specific systems that will help you generate ideas quickly and easily.

A Simple System for Blog Post Idea Generation

See, here’s the thing: Ideas come to you — they will come to you — every single day. The problem is that unless you’re not capturing them when they come to you, at that very moment, they wisp off out of your brain like so much smoke.

The trick is as simple as a plain text file. Create one and save it to your desktop. Call it something stupidly obvious like StuffIMightLikeToBlogAbout.txt.

Open that text file at the beginning of every day. Here’s the important part: KEEP IT OPEN! Don’t close it. Leave it right there, accessible and easy to get at.

Go about your day. When an idea hits, don’t dismiss it. Go type a few words down in that text file sufficient to describe the notion. If the spark for that idea came from another blog post, copy and paste the URL for that post in the file as well; you might want to link to it in the post itself.

Now, here comes the fun part. When you’re ready to create your blog’s editorial calendar for the next month or week, pull up the file and review what you’ve got written down there.

Then think about this: what kind of blog post should this idea turn into?

The Types of Blog Posts x Spin = Infinite Topics

See, there are many different kinds of blog posts. Consider what you’ve seen yourself in the blogosphere:

  • How-to’s
  • Personal stories
  • Reviews
  • Interviews
  • List posts & roundups of resources, other blog posts, ideas, actions, etc.
  • Persuasion pieces
  • News and updates

In addition to all these kinds of posts, you’ve also got the concept of spin — the fresh slant you put on the topic.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you want to write about this awesome new book you just read, and it’s right up your targeted readers’ alley:

  • You can write a formal review of the book, perhaps marrying this with affiliate marketing by using your Amazon Associate referral link (properly disclosed, of course)
  • You can interview the author
  • You can tell the story of how you found this book and why it means so much to you
  • You can take one key point from the book and argue for it. (Or against it. Or for it, and then against it, to show both sides of the issue.)
  • You can include the book in a roundup or list post covering a specific number of similar resources designed to solve a particular, specific problem.
  • You can do a news piece on the context of the book, or find statistics about other similar titles to show whether the subject is rising or decreasing in terms of consumer interest

Now, here’s an important point, which is why I put it in the special box thingie:

All your blog posts should be designed to answer the pressing questions of your targeted readers — your ideal clients. Keep that foremost in your mind whenever you brainstorm ideas and start creating your editorial calendar.

The “How Many Blog Posts” Game

Here’s another tip that has really helped me in the past: Once you have a list of several possible topics, see how many different blog posts you can make out of each individual topic.

For some reason, most of us come into blogging with the school-room “essay” mindset. We thing b-i-g and expansive. We make HUGE points. With supporting subpoints! And a conclusion! (Actually, the conclusion thing is a good idea, still.)

But for blog posts, you wanna think much, much smaller. You want bite-sized morsels, not a huge meal. Not even a complete dish. Bites. Little ones.

You’re looking, in essence, for something you can cover adequately in 300-600 words. (Unless you are writing what’s called foundational content – some folks call it “flagship content” or “pillar content” but basically it’s just longer pieces that are more timeless and ‘evergreen’ in nature, that cover a topic more exhaustively. This is the kind of post you hope gets bookmarked.) (Yes, this piece you’re reading right now  would qualify.) (I hope.)

So, if your topic is painting a room, break it down! Here’s my attempt:

  1. Choosing a color
  2. Why you don’t want to go with white walls
  3. When you DO want to choose white or cream walls
  4. The best brushes on the market
  5. “Green” paints
  6. Do the all-in-one primer + paint products really work?
  7. Review of a particular upscale paint (brush, automatic paint thingie — you know what I’m talkin’ about, right? I see ’em on infomercials all the time)
  8. Interview with a professional painter who does wall murals in people’s homes

Dude, I didn’t even break a sweat with that list, and I could think of four or five more, easy. And I know NOTHING about painting. (Except that I don’t like doing it.)

Don’t Fear the Process

If you can adopt a system that makes it easier for you (and creates a subconscious framework for the task that works like a psychological trigger), keep it simple, carve them up, and keep your ideal client’s needs in mind, coming up with blog ideas can actually be fun.

I’ve found that whatever I approach as work (as in ugggghhh, WORK) will definitely seem like work, but those things I think of as creative tasks? End up being … fun.

That may be just me. So what about you? How do you keep those awesome ideas coming? Share your tips in the comments!

 

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