Your Guide to Never Run Out of Article Ideas
Before diving in, I want to take a moment to thank my friend JP Adams who helped me A LOT with the editing of this ultimate guide. Shout out to him! Now back to the article.
When you start a blog you have plenty of ideas to write about. Your head is full of compelling stories that you want to share with the world.
But soon your inspiration fades. Suddenly you struggle to find the next angle on an article or personal story to share in a post. You begin to think that all the ideas you once had have been written about or were never really good in the first place.
What good is it to be able to write a lot on a daily basis if you have nothing to tell the world?
This happens when you don’t plan ahead. You fail to set up a system to generate new ideas on a regular basis. You might not think of getting ideas as a proactive activity. Instead, most people think ideas come and go and that they don’t have control over the process.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Getting blog post ideas is a skill, and one you can learn and become better at.
In this ultimate guide, I will give you the tools to develop this skill to ensure that you always have something to write about. In fact, if you apply all the strategies I will show you, you will find yourselves with hundreds of blog post ideas!
If you’ve ever done research on the internet, you notice almost all articles on the subject are the same.
- 101 Blog Post Ideas That Will Make Your Blog “HOT”
- 101+ Blog Post Ideas
- 50 Blog Post Ideas That You Can Write About Today
- … and hundreds of others.
But really? Is that helpful? It looks like these articles are fighting each other to get the longest list. Look at these real examples:
They either make no sense at all or they’re so vague you have no idea what the author is talking about. In fact, some of their suggestions are okay, I will recommend some of those lists later, but you will discover it’s only one little part of the big picture.
This ultimate guide is different than the hundreds of list-articles you’ll find on the internet. I couldn’t care less about giving you the most flashy list of strategies or showing you all the options you could pursue. I want to give you the best methods. Methods that are tested and are proven to work.
You will still find a lot of different strategies in this guide. I don’t recommend trying to apply every one of them right away or you’ll feel overwhelmed. Instead, pick what you like best, what seems to be the most adapted to your industry, and focus on it fully before trying something else.
Let’s dive in.
1. Ask Your Readers
No strategy from this guide requires you to be creative and come up with brilliant ideas. Instead, we go to specific places to find remarkable ideas that your audience will love.
The first and most dependable strategy is to ask your readers. If you have hundreds of readers, that’s thousands of potential ideas that you haven’t been considering. Additionally, they are the life and blood of your business. They have deep needs waiting to be solved. Take the step to ask them. You’ll be surprised with how forthcoming they are with their struggles.
There are two ways you can get new ideas from your readers.
Ask Them in An Email. Today.
The first one is to send them an email today. The key is to ask the right question. Here is an exact email script I’m using. Take it and use it with your own list:
Subject line: What would you like to learn from me?
Before sending out new articles to you, I want to make sure we’re still on the same page and that I’m sending you the best material that matters to you.
Could you share what you’d most like to learn from me to help improve X?
It’s short, and effective. Make sure you replace X with the topic you’re helping them with.
This email is not only about getting new ideas from your subscribers. It’s also about building a long-term relationship. It’s about starting a dialogue with your readers about how you can add massive value to their lives and provide solutions that actually work to fix their biggest challenges.
Sending this email is a win-win situation. I highly recommend it.
Pro Tip: Keep up the conversation with people who will reply to your email. Start a dialogue. Discover even deeper insights about the problems they are facing. It will only strengthen your relationship with them and it takes just a few minutes.
I always try to reply to each email my subscribers send me. The results have been significant. I know their deep challenges and they feel like they know me personally. It’s worth it every time.
Automate Your Email In a Few Clicks
You can send the email above from time to time, but you can also automate it.
Every time someone subscribes on Become A Top Performer, they get an email from me similar to the one above asking them what they want to learn and a few other questions to help me get to know them better. This way, I get amazing insights and build relationships with my readers.
Every Email Service Provider (such as Mailchimp, Aweber, etc.) will give you the possibility to send a welcome email to new subscribers.
I use Mailchimp. Here is how to set up an automated email with a free Mailchimp account:
- Go to Lists
- Select the Signup forms menu for your list.
- Choose the General forms.
- In the Forms menu, select Final “welcome” email and you can write the welcome email.
- Don’t forget to check the Send a welcome email box, otherwise nothing will happen.
Your welcome message is now up and running and will be sent to any person who subscribes to your list.
If you’re using Aweber, you will find the explanations on their website by following this link.
2. Use Quora to Find Relevant Questions From Your Audience
What if you have zero subscriber or just a few dozen?
If you’re just starting out, reaching out to your email list won’t get you very far.
Don’t worry. There are tons of other ways to talk to your audience.
One of my favorites is Quora.
Quora is a Q&A website where you can easily find 5 to 10 topics to write about in a matter of minutes. Often I find dozens.
Questions are gathered into broad topics (and there are a lot of topics). All you need to find the topics that are relevant to your industry. Then look at the popular questions around those topics.
For example, let’s say your website is about helping introverts to be more comfortable and confident in a social environment. I will type introvert in the search bar, and find that there is an Introverts and Introversion topic that has about 100k followers.
The About box on the right tells me there are 4700 questions that have been asked on this topic.
This is Fantastic.
Quora does all the work for you. Quora gathers the people. The people ask the questions. Quora then aggregates all of the questions into subjects and allows you to filter those questions by popularity and engagement.
There aren’t many free lunches in life, but this is one of them.
Here is what I found in just a few minutes on the “Introverts and Introversion” Quora page:
- How would I know if I am an Introvert or Extrovert?
- What are the benefits of being an introvert?
- How does an introvert network successfully?
- As an introvert, how do I hold a conversation?
- What are the top myths about introversion?
- Why I am so shy?
- What’s the quickest way for an introvert to recover after a party?
Sooo many ideas! And it only took me about two minutes to find them. Some of them need to be reworked a little bit. Some are just perfect and can be used directly use as a headline for a post.
That was only for the Introverts and Introversion topic. On the sidebar, Quora will show you related topics:
Click on those and expand your research. Once you have found all the topics relating to your industry, you can follow them and receive notifications when new questions appear.
You can spend hours on Quora and find hundreds of new topics.
3. How to Use Reddit to Get More Blog Post Ideas
Reddit is another Q&A site. However, as opposed to Quora, Reddit’s community often shares personal stories and deep struggles. I LOVE finding topics in Reddit.
Let’s see a few examples.
I searched for introverts in the search bar and found the Introverts subreddit.
Boom! Tons of new topic ideas:
And these are only the recent questions that were posted in the last day. Stay active in the community and you’ll get a constant stream of new ideas.
Here is how to get the most out of Reddit:
- Search your topic and find the appropriate subreddit (just another word for subcategory or topic)
- Read only the self.subreddit posts (Look at the right of the thread title: this will make sure you get posts actually people have written vs. a blog reposting their latest article or sales page)
- Read the right sidebar, they’re often filled with most popular questions or even F.A.Q.
- Interact. Ask people to explain the emotional struggles that are underneath their personal stories. This can be hugely helpful.
- Post a topic yourself. This is a great way to see if a potential blog post idea is something people care about. Simply be genuine and explain what you’re looking for, and people will tell you. Look at this question I asked in the past: For non-statisticians, what is holding you back?. I received TONS of incredible insights.
4. Don’t Forget Forums, Facebook Groups, etc.
Quora and Reddit are amazing sources for inspiration. But if you need even more options, you can look in forums, Facebook Groups, LinkedIn groups, or Stack Exchange communities.
Each community is different and will bring you something new.
Forums. Write the keywords of your industry and add forums in a Google search. For example, a subtle keyword for introverts is INTJ, which is one of the category of the Myers & Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
If I write “INTJ forum”, I find http://intjforum.com/, which is an active forum with a lot of introverted people. Surely I can find even more ideas in this forum.
Even better, I can test these ideas by asking relevant questions, by providing help, and building relationships with people there. If I start to be active and helpful, I may even have the possibility to share my future articles there.
Facebook groups. Use your keywords in the Facebook search bar and click on the Groups tab.
Searching for introverts I found a group called Introverts with 18,200 members. Sounds good! There are a lot of smaller groups for introverts with a few thousands members that can be interesting as well.
Stack Exchange. Stack Exchange is a family of Q&A websites, each specialized in a specific topic.
You need to find the right Stack Exchange website for your own topic.
The topics are mainly related to technology and education. I tried to search introverts or social but couldn’t find anything.
Instead, I tried with Google. You can type “keyword site:stackexchange.com” and Google will find all the Stack Exchange websites related to the keyword.
Unfortunately, all I could find is http://cogsci.stackexchange.com/, which is about Cognitive Sciences. It’s not all related to introverts and social skills, so I looked at the tags and found introversion, but then there was only 9 questions.
In the end, it appears that Stack Exchange is not the best place for this industry.
It doesn’t mean it’s not useful for any industry. For example, if your topic is productivity, there is a HUGE Personal Productivity Stack Exchange website.
Depending on your topic, sometimes what will work the best are Facebook groups, other times it’s Stack Exchange, etc. Simply give it a try, it will take about 5 minutes to get a feeling of how much your audience hangs out there, and then move on if it’s not the right place for you.
LinkedIn Groups. Finally, the last place I will mention is LinkedIn Groups.
Maybe you think that because LinkedIn is a professional social network, your industry (such as social skills) won’t appear. Well, you may be wrong, and you won’t know if you don’t try.
Let’s take the same example and write introverts in the search bar at the top.
That’s a lot of groups! And again, it brings new angles to the word of social skills and introversion.
There is no best place to find ideas on the internet. In the end, it will depend on your industry, your topic and your positioning.
However, with Quora, Reddit, Forums, Facebook groups, StackExchange and Linkedin groups, you have no excuse anymore.
5. The Power of One Idea Per Day
When people think of getting ideas for their blog, they usually think they need 100 ideas for articles. They need to have a huge log of blog post topics to feel like a professional.
But do you really need 100 ideas?
All you need for today is ONE idea for your next article. Fortunately for you, finding one idea is much more manageable than finding 100.
Even if you only get one idea per day, you will have more ideas than you can write about
But don’t worry. All your ideas won’t be outstanding. In fact, refining ideas and letting the bad ones go is critical to writing compelling content.
The 80/20 Principle says that if you were to write all the articles from the ideas you get, 20% of them would get you 80% of the overall results (e.g., readers, eyeballs or subscribers).
If you plan for this in advance, the results can be massive.
With one idea per day, you have about seven per week. Assuming that 20% of them are excellent that means you have 1 to 2 ideas at most per week that should turn into a real article.
Now, how do you select the top 20% of your ideas?
Using the strategies from the previous sections, I already have a list of ideas I’d like to write about, but usually these ideas are presented under the too simple form of a headline.
Every day, I will take 5 to 10 minutes to explain one idea. I keep it very simple and explain, as if I was talking with a friend, what I will write about in the article.
For example, here is what it looks like for my 9 Ways I’m Writing Every Day article:
Just a few lines and a few bullet points are enough. I didn’t even bother finding the 9 ways yet, maybe it will be 5, or 15, I don’t know.
What matters here is that when I explain the idea, it sounds credible. Sometimes you think you have a good idea, and you start explaining it, and… suddenly everything falls apart.
In fact, you realize you having nothing to say about it, or that it sounds like pure crap. You will only know if you start explaining.
I will show you the system I use to take care of my ideas in the last section of this guide.
6. Multiply Your List of Ideas by 10
By applying the previous strategies (asking your readers, going on Quora, Reddit, etc.) you should already have at the very least 10 new ideas ready to be written. If you’ve invested some time in your research, you should already have several dozen.
But let’s be pessimistic and say you could only find 10. Once the 10 articles are written, what do you do next? You already went through some of the biggest Q&A sites and forums online. So if you do it again, chances are you won’t find a lot of fresh ideas.
The solution is to write about the same topic.
The formula One idea = One Topic is not true.
The right formula is One idea = One Topic X One Angle. That means that if you have 10 topics and 10 different angles of approach, you will result in 100 ideas for blog posts. Woah!
Angles are different ways to look at something. How to find them?
Here are 10 examples you can use immediately:
- List articles
- Personal stories
- Opinion pieces
- How-to guides
- Link roundups
- Post about products and apps you like
- Posts about books you’ve read
- Interview-based posts
- Expert roundup post
- Data-driven study
For example, let’s say I still want to write for introverts and tackle the topic of Job interviews for introverts. Here are 10 ideas based on this one topic:
- 5 Ways Introverts Can Manage a Job Interview
- How I Got 3 Dream Job Offers Despite Being a Shy Introvert
- Why the Job Interview Process is Broken for Introverts
- How to Succeed in a Job Interview When You’re Introvert
- 50 Blogs Introverts Should Follow
- The 5 Tools I used to Get a Job at Google as an Introvert
- My Review of “The Successful Introvert” book
- Discover How John Overcame His Shyness and Got a Job at Google
- 50 Introvert Experts Share Their Advice on the Job Hunt
- The Best Jobs for Introverts.
Now you might think, “Hold on a second Charles! Won’t my readers notice that I’m recycling the same idea?
See here’s the truth about learning. We all take in information in different ways. Some of us learn through reading logical steps. Others pick things up through examples. Some people learn best through listening. And still others use case studies that they can engage with.
By providing different angles on the same topic you are actually serving your audience better. You’re giving the multiple types of learners in your community many ways of solving a problem.
Solutions are a dime a dozen.
Compelling engaging angles on solutions that actually work… now that’s gold. That’s what people really want.
Now we have two ways to find new ideas:
- Finding new topics.
- Finding new angles.
Next I want to help you find both by looking over the fence at the best players in your industry.
7. Steal Topics From Other Blogs in Your Niche
Let’s start by finding new topics.
In previous sections, I showed you how to find topics on Quora, Reddit, or other similar websites. In this section we will take a different approach.
Instead of focusing on what your audience says, we will focus on what the gatekeepers of your audience say. The great thing is you can directly measure how successful their posts are and see what topics drove the engagement. Then you can take the most effective strategies and replicate this success for yourself.
Oh, and, don’t feel offended by the title of the section. We’re not stealing and being dishonest here, we are only looking for inspiration. You should never directly copy an article, or even a headline. Ever.
First, make a list of blogs that are in the same industry as you or have a similar audience.
With the industry of social skills for introverts, for example, I find Quiet Revolution. That’s the first blog I’ll capture on my list.
Second, find the most popular articles on the blogs. Sometimes the blog itself will have a Most Popular Posts section where you can find them, but it is more likely that this section doesn’t exist.
Instead, you can use BuzzSumo to find these most popular posts. Simply enter the website domain in the search bar and tada!
Buzzsumo will show you the most shared articles of the website. Take note of what themes and writing styles made these posts successful.
Let’s look at an example. I clicked on Want to Be Happy at Work? Care Less, and discovered an article talking about how introverts value themselves based on the judgment of others (their bosses, in this article). This can impact their work like and prevent them to give 110% while on the job.
An idea is a topic associated with an angle, and we just identified a new topic. Because our goal is not to copy but to get inspired by, we will deconstruct this new topic into plenty of ideas simply by changing the angle.
- 5 Ways You Can Stop Caring About What Others Think
- Care Less and Improve Your Dating Life
- From Broken to Successful: Discover the One Thing John the Introvert Changed to Upgrade His Life
We are not stealing the idea, the article or the headline of the original article. We simply take the topic and create our own fresh new perspective.
This was just with one article or one blog. Imagine if you can find 10 blogs (that’s easy) and 5 popular posts on each one (that’s easy too), that’s already 50 potential new topics that you can deconstruct into hundreds of new ideas by changing the angle of approach.
Let’s find more ways to think of fresh angles on old topics.
8. Steal Angles From Other Blogs NOT In Your Niche
I gave you a few examples in a previous section, but you can also profit from the imagination of hundreds of more creative people than me on the internet.
First, angles are what the list articles are usually giving you. You can find a ton in:
Instead of looking at blogs in your industry, this time we will use other blogs that are completely unrelated to your subject.
I hope (for your sanity) you’re not ONLY reading blogs similar to yours and that you have other interests in life.
Try this. Next time you read one of your favorite blogs, take one or two minutes to think about the angle they used on their topic.
Ask yourself: What is the topic? What is the angle? Is it creative, original and interesting? Then take one minute to write down how you could apply their angle to a topic you are considering for a blog post.
Here’s an example from life. I love reading a blog called Zen Habits by Leo Babauta. He has written more than a thousand articles over 10 years on the process of mindfulness and happiness.
That’s more than 1 article every 3 days. The man is a machine!
This guy certainly knows something about getting new ideas and writing new fresh content. Let’s see what we can learn.
I know that Leo Babauta is writing a lot about health, so I did a search with the word Health and found 32 articles that contained this word in their headline. For example:
Topic: Eating healthy.
Angles: Different every time. And that’s only 5 examples out of the 32.
Every time he brings something new for his readers. Let’s extract the angles.
The first article is called The Building Blocks of a Super Healthy Diet (with a sample meal plan).
The angle is: Guidelines about TOPIC. Breaking down the guidelines into building blocks, and also giving a meal plan (similar to a case study).
With the topic “Job interviews for introvert people” you get a new article: The Building Blocks of Interviewing for Introvert People (and how John applied them in real life).
Sometimes it won’t work. If I pick 9 Fail-Proof Tips for Eating Healthy at Social Gatherings and apply it to the topic of productivity, it gives me: 9 Fail-Proof Tips for Being Productive at Social Gatherings. That sounds kind of weird.
But other times, it will do wonders. For example, the last angle makes me thing of writing on a certain topic for people at different level: For beginners, for experimented people, or for experts.
Zen Habits is a blog I like and read. Make a list of the blogs you read, and think about their topics/angles.
9. Repurpose Your Content
If you still don’t know what to write about… Well, I don’t know what I can do for you, ha ha! Except… maybe with this last tip.
You don’t always need to find new ideas. In fact, in some cases, it’s not even the right strategy.
Every time you write something new, you take a risk. Will your readers like it? You can try to anticipate this, as we will see in the next section, but it’s hard to be completely sure of it.
If you’ve been writing for a while you have successful posts. The posts that lots of people shared. The post with the most comments. It’s worth considering how you can replicate that success.
Start with this question. Is the article as deep as it could be? Probably not. It’s a blog article, not a book.
I used this strategy on a blog post that was 10,000 word long. I still found ways (and it was actually easy) to repurpose this content and rework it to be more in-depth.
For example, if you wrote a list article called “9 Ways to do X”, then you could potentially write 9 new articles about those 9 ways. Expand each section with more stories, more examples, specific experts, data, more information, maybe a step-by-step guide, etc.
Also, remember. Not everybody read your original article. You have new readers that never saw it. People rarely reread old content. Offer the same compelling solutions in a different format.
That’s the last strategy I have for you. In fact, I could go on and on with more tips and tactics, but that’s not necessary.
I selected the best strategies so that you can focus on what works best. My goal is not to overwhelm you. I selected the best strategies that will deliver fast results.
Now you need to take action. Pick one strategy (if you don’t know where to start, start at the beginning) and apply it. See what works, and do more of it.
In the rest of the guide, we will talk about how to validate your ideas, so that you don’t write something for nothing. Then we’ll discuss how to organize them into a system, so that you don’t find yourself overwhelmed.
10. Use BuzzSumo to Validate Your Ideas
Chances are that if you used a tactic from any section above, there is at least one person interested into your idea. You found the idea because someone asked a question, or maybe because another blogger wrote a successful post about it.
It’s not an idea that popped in your mind and that nobody cares about. This puts you ahead of SO many bloggers.
But still, some ideas are better than others. How do you know if just a handful of people will be interested or if the whole internet will rush on your website to read your words?
First of all, why not ask your readers again? You can send them an email asking if they would be interested to hear about your topic.
Even better, you can ask them what they are struggling with about the topic. This way, you can see if it attracts people’s attention or not and write a better article based on their replies.
Here is an email I recently sent to my list:
A regular question readers of Become A Top Performer ask me is How to stop feeling overwhelmed.
What does it mean to be overwhelmed for you?
How does it affect your everyday life?
What prevents you to stop feeling overwhelmed?
What would your life look like without this feeling?
Feel free to answer only the questions you want, or to go above and beyond the questions.
People wrote me back with amazing insights, which will allow me to make a much better article. It’s a win-win situation because:
- I don’t waste my time writing an article nobody cares about.
- My readers don’t receive content they don’t care about but instead something that have been tailored for them.
You can’t email your readers for every article you write.
Fortunately, there is an amazing tool to determine if a topic will be popular or not. We already talked about it, it’s called BuzzSumo. Enter the keywords relevant to your article and see what are the most shared articles containing these keywords.
If you type your keywords and find nothing of interest, that’s probably because nobody cares. The chances that you’re the first one to write about a popular topic are rather small.
For example, if I type introverts job interview, here is what I find:
Seems like there is more than a few successful articles on the topic, which means I can go on and be sure that this topic will be a successful one.
Now, if I try introverts overwhelmed loud (remember we found a question about introverts being overwhelmed by loud people), BuzzSumo returns… absolutely no result. This might not be a good idea at all.
Now, a small careful note: Not finding results in BuzzSumo doesn’t necessarily mean nobody cares about the topic. It might be because the keywords you chose aren’t the best ones. In our example, I’m no expert in the topic, so I don’t really know the language of the audience.
If you feel there is a strong demand for a topic but don’t find anything on BuzzSumo, don’t despair. That’s just a tool and it’s not the end all be all. When in doubt ask your readers and trust your instincts.
11. Build a System to Keep Track of Your Ideas
I gave you a lot of strategies to find new ideas. But how are you supposed to organize them all? How to make sure you don’t forget them?
In this section, I will show you how you can build a system to organize your ideas in one place.
First of all, you may not want to have a very sophisticated system. If you want something very simple, you can use a swipe file that contains all the headlines you can think about.
But as you get more ideas, start writing your articles and get a few works in progress at the same time, it can become overwhelming.
Here are some problems you might encounter:
- At what stage are you with each idea/project? If you’re writing multiple articles simultaneously (if you have a buffer, if you wait for the reply of a blog for a guest post, etc.), it’s easy to lose track of where you are with each one.
- You had an amazing idea, but the headline doesn’t tell you much about what you thought at that time. Indeed, there isn’t much information in a headline. When you get the idea, it’s clear in your mind, but two weeks later?
Here is how I’m avoiding these issues and keep track of my ideas:
On the left, I write the Projects. Each project is a folder on my computer that contains several files:
- Developing the idea: This file contains an explication of an idea. Indeed, most of the time the headline is not enough to capture your whole idea for an article. That’s why I take a few minutes to explain what my idea is, so that I don’t forget in the future.
- Outline: The first step is to write a detailed outline.
- First draft: Containing the first draft of my article.
- Second draft: During the editing phase, I always rewrite the first draft by opening a new document.
- Research: This contains all the elements for the research.
- Final version: The polished article that’s ready to be published.
Because I’m using Google Drive, I can directly put a link to this folder. It makes things really handy.
I’m also using colors to describe the stage of the article:
- Black: The project was started but abandoned. The idea wasn’t that good.
- Red: I’m writing the first draft.
- Yellow: I’m doing in the first phase of editing the first draft, before I even start the research. I don’t always do this step. Only for the most important articles.
- Pink: I’m doing the research.
- Orange: I’m editing the article based on the research I made.
- Blue: Almost finished, I need to polish it, re-read it, add pictures and links.
- Green: The project got published.
It makes really easy to keep track of your articles, at what stage you are, and what’s left to do.
In the end, I have more clarity and don’t always have to think about what I need to write. Writing is hard enough without making it more complicated.
On the right, you can also notice that I use a list of headlines as well. Most of the time, I get ideas on the go and don’t really have the time to create a folder and a file to explain my idea in-depth, so I write the headline and leave it here.
Yep, sometimes I will forget what my brilliant idea was, but it’s not such a big matter. I try to have an abundance mentality and think that I anyway already have more ideas than necessary.
12. Your Next Step
Woaahh… This guide was long. Lots of strategies, tips and to-dos.
I don’t expect you to read it from A to Z in one shot and to leave with everything you need to know. There’s too much in it for that.
Instead, my hope is that this guide will serve you as a reference every time you lack ideas for your blog, that every time you can come back at it, pick a strategy and use it to get new ideas.
To make things even easier for you, I created a 1-page cheat sheet that summarize the strategies so that you can remember them in seconds. I also made a PDF version of the guide, so that you can read it offline and keep it with you.
Originally published at www.becomeatopperformer.com.