Publishing content regularly on your blog is essential. For one, fresh content gives people a reason to return to your blog and a reason to share your content with others.
But what do you do when you’re completely out of ideas? Or the few ideas you have, you don’t feel inspired to write about?
In this article, we’ll explore several ways to come up with new ideas so you never run out.
Start with seed topics
When you want to grow carrots, you start with seeds. Similarly, when you need new ideas, start with seed topics.
What is a seed topic?
It’s a topic that acts as a starting point. It’s a topic idea that you can grow and produce many more topic ideas from. Some plants grow from a single seed and can produce thousands of seeds once they reach maturity. You can do the same (as we’ll explore shortly) with seed topics.
Think first about the main content categories on your blog and think about your audience. Write down any supporting topics that come to mind.
I’m planning to write soon about email marketing, so I jotted down the following seed topics related to email marketing:
- email marketing
- email autoresponders
- email series
- email campaigns
- email software
- email service providers
- email newsletters
- email newsletter ideas
- email marketing ideas
Your starting list of seed ideas might be shorter, or it might be longer than mine. There’s no right number.
Aim for as many topics as you can think of, but focus on those that are useful for your blog and your audience.
At this point, it’s more useful to think of somewhat high-level topics. An example would be email service providers. High-level topics are broader, and you can later come up with many subtopics beneath them.
For now, skip over narrow, specific topics. For example, email service providers for small businesses with fewer than 10 employees. Specific topic ideas will come up later in the process, but for right now, broader ideas are more useful.
When you first start to run out of topics, write down at least 3 more. 10 more is even better. It may not come easy, but often the better ideas are the ones you have to work harder to come up with.
Grow your seed ideas
Now that you have a list of seed ideas, it’s time to expand on them.
There are a number of different tools and approaches to do that. Instead of applying these in a step-by-step process, think in terms of having a toolbox of approaches. When you have a toolbox, you can choose the best tool for each job. That’s how I recommend that you approach this.b
As with anything, learning how to expand your topic ideas is a skill that improves with practice.
With each seed idea, consider using one or more of the following tools or approaches to expand it into multiple ideas. Collect these ideas in a spreadsheet (Google Sheets works well for this).
Look up the seed topic on Wikipedia
Wikipedia is a good source of synonyms and related terms for many topics. Chances are if you look up one of your seed terms on Wikipedia, you will find a dedicated page where you can glean other ways of describing your seed topic, along with related topics.
Let’s start with email marketing as an example.
Several parts of the article stand out as immediately useful:
- a sidebar that tells us this article is part of a series on Internet marketing
- the mention of several types of email marketing
- a discussion of some of the advantages and disadvantages of email marketing
- mention of permission marketing, laws and regulations regarding email marketing, and mention of email spam
- mention of drip marketing, autoresponders and market segments
Depending on how broadly or not this blog is focused, we might use some or all of those things to add to our list of topics. Assuming a narrow focus, mainly on email marketing, I’ll add the following topics to our growing list of topics.
- transactional emails
- direct emails
- broadcast emails (this term wasn’t mentioned in the article, but the article triggered my memory of it)
- email opt-in forms (this is a variation of something mentioned in the article)
- email laws and regulations
- drip email marketing
- email autoresponders
- email series (a term that’s related to email autoresponders)
These new topics are seed topics, too, that you can further expand upon.
You’ll notice that I included several terms that weren’t directly in the article. The whole purpose of this exercise is to be creative, and ideally, come up with article ideas that haven’t already been written about 100s of times by everyone else. So as much as possible, allow things you read and see to trigger other ideas and write those down.
If you follow this approach with many of the seed terms on your list, you can greatly expand your list. As you do, you’ll also gain greater clarity and understanding of your topic.
Use Google Autocomplete for additional ideas
Many people have written about how to use Google Autocomplete to find topics, so I’ll cover it briefly here and refer you to Neil Patel’s article for more information.
Picking the first keyword from my seed topic list, email marketing, I type it into the Google search box, and before I press enter, it shows me a dozen results. Not all of them are relevant for my blog, but a few are, so I add them to my growing seed keyword list:
- email marketing examples
- what is email marketing
Now I complete the search on Google and begin looking at the search results. Google has integrated two features into the search results that are useful for growing your seed keyword list:
- People also ask, and
- Related searches
Let’s explore both of these.
People Also Ask
The exact location of People Also Ask results will vary, depending on your search.
You can click on any of the listed items, and when you do, Google will show more results, up to a maximum of about 30.
The additional results that Google shows are related to which items you click on, so you’ll want to focus your clicks on those items that are most relevant.
These results are all questions, and they tend to be more specific than the topics that we’ve discussed so far. I like to collect them into a separate list, such as a different tab in the spreadsheet.
Another thing you can do at this point is glean topics from the questions. For example, I might want to include “types of email marketing” as a seed topic. Another one I might select as a topic is “small business email marketing” or “email marketing for small business”. The reason I would do this is that sometimes differences in wording bring back different results when you search for a topic in Google or other keyword-oriented search tools that we’ll discuss later.
Now I’ll scroll down to the bottom of the search results and look for the “Related searches” section.
This section shows searches that Google sees as related to your seed topic.
Turns out, I already have most of what I would want to glean from this list. The only thing I’ll add is:
- best email marketing
Often the “Related Searches” section in the search results overlaps with topics you get from other sources. But in some cases, it will give you some new keyword suggestions you might not have thought of.
Typically, I’ll run some of the seed keywords through all or nearly all of the steps that I’ve mentioned above. As I do, I mark them as “DONE” in the tracking spreadsheet.
At this point, the seed keyword list has already grown significantly. This is often a good time to look back over the list and brainstorm other topic ideas that come to mind — ideas that are related to what’s already on your list, or ideas that those topics trigger.
If questions come to mind, I’ll add them to the questions list. As mentioned earlier, I like to keep those separate from the topic list. Though they’re related, the questions are more specific and they often include words that aren’t essential to define the topic.
Branches from articles on your blog
If you’ve had a blog for long, you likely already have articles related to the topic at hand. It’s helpful to search your own blog for articles related to your seed topics.
An easy way to do that is with the “site:” operator in Google.
using the domain name of your blog and the topic that you’re searching for.
For example, if I wanted to search this website for an article about email marketing, I would enter:
site:www.matthewpresslywriting.com “email marketing”
That will show me any articles Google has indexed on my website about email marketing.
As you read through your previously published articles, take note of any topics that you mention but don’t go into detail on. Those are opportunities for further articles.
At this point, it may be useful to add another tab to your spreadsheet for “Article Ideas” and jot down any ideas that come up.
A wonderful thing about expanding topics from your own blog is that you can easily link existing articles to those new articles. Interlinking articles in this way can help you gain visibility in the search results. (Here’s an example of a topic that I could expand on further with another article.)
Other places to look for seed ideas
In addition to your blog or website, other places that are good to find related topics include:
- comments that readers have left on your blog
- other blogs that you read in the industry (particularly those that are authoritative)
- comments on those blogs
- article titles and headings that you come across when using Google searches as described above to expand your keyword list
In a sense, this is barely scratching the surface of all the ways that you can generate topics and article ideas. But often it will generate more than enough ideas to work with.
Once you have a bunch of ideas, the next step would be to qualify and prioritize them so you can get the ones that matter most written first.
There are also some useful tools to help you come up with headlines (article titles) based on a topic. We’ll explore those another time.