There’s no excuse for writing and sharing boring content on your company blog. The only thing that’s worse than thinking, “because I work in a boring industry, my content is doomed to bore people to tears” is thinking, “I can’t think of any good ideas that relate to my boring industry, so I just won’t develop any content at all.” As a business in this day and age, you have an opportunity to connect with your target audience in ways that have never existed before. It’s an exciting time! But if you want to be successful online today, it really comes down to developing stellar content for your current and prospective customers. The content they will appreciate. The content they will find valuable. Content that they can actually use.
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But before you can develop stellar content, you need to be able to come up with the right ideas. So where to start? And how can you do it without having to spend all day reading lengthy ebooks and industry whitepapers and praying that a great idea will finally pop into your head?
In this post, I’m providing a process that will hopefully help you get to the point where you can be developing 50 or more blog post ideas in roughly ten minutes.
Beginner’s Tip: In order for this process to work, you need to have all your browser tabs open prior to the start of your ideation session. This will prevent you from having to stop every few seconds to search for the next site on your list, or having to constantly be opening new tabs. Just have everything ready and all your tabs open before you click GO on the clock.
Important Note: Your ideas (and content) should always be original. You can use the sources mentioned below as jumping-off points, but if your plan is to simply steal headlines and even copy from other places on the Internet, you’re only going to be wasting your time and boring your customers.
Let’s get started. I’m breaking the ten minutes allocated for ideation into chunks. You may use less or more time than what I have dedicated for each chunk of sources, and that’s okay. You’ll get into a rhythm that works for you. Once you do, stick with it and standardize it for all future ideation sessions.
- 5 Ideas From Your Colleagues: This one will require a bit of setup beforehand, but it’s well worth it. Put together an “ideation” document for you and your co-workers to contribute ideas to on an ongoing basis. Use Google Drive, Evernote, Basecamp, or whichever other services your company uses for project management and organization. Set up a once-per-week calendar invite that asks your colleagues to add 3-5 new ideas to the document. When it’s time to ideate, simply open the doc and source from the new ideas that have been added since your last round of ideation.
- 5 Ideas From Your Competitors: Look through the latest blog posts from your top three competitors. Figure out what kind of value they have been focusing on providing to their customers, and determine whether or not similar (but original!) content would be worth sharing with your own customer base.
- 5 Ideas From Your LinkedIn Network: Hopefully by now you’ve figured out that LinkedIn is more than just an online resume placeholder. Go to LinkedIn and browse quickly through your homepage feed and any feeds or discussions in groups you participate in. Take note of what the professionals in your industry are talking about or sharing and jot down five ideas you think could have some potential.
- 5 Ideas From Industry Magazines: If you’re at all interested in staying up to date with trends, changes, and innovations in your industry, you likely have a few favorite online magazines you keep your eye on. For me, it’s websites like Fast Company and Mashable. Scan quickly through your favorite three websites and if a headline catches your eye, scan through the article and develop a working idea for your own blog. No need to read through the entire article when you find it—just bookmark it and come back later when it’s time to start working on developing your idea further.
- 5 Ideas From Amazon Book Previews: This one is great. If you’re a reader like me, you’ve probably used Amazon to buy books more times than you can count. If you’re also like me, you love using the “look inside” book preview option when deciding whether or not to purchase a book. Have you ever thought about using this feature to come up with your own blog ideas? Here’s how I use it: go to the Amazon books section and type in a subject you want to know more about (could be your industry, a specific topic within your industry, etc.). Click on the first book that pops up in the search results. Open the “look inside” preview and scan through the table of contents. The chapters you see will help you come up with your own ideas. Think about it: if a published author is dedicating an entire chapter to a subject, it’s probably a good indication that people are interested in reading about it.
- 5 Ideas From News Organizations: The journalism industry is finally catching up to the online content train. Pick three of your favorite news organizations, and use the search functionality most have built into their sites to find recent articles or features on the topic of your choice. You might be surprised at the number of articles you find! With this one, follow the same process as before: if a headline sticks out, open it in a new tab and bookmark it for later reading. For now, just jot down a few ideas until you have your five.
- 5 Ideas From Google Trends: You may know about the Google Trends tool, but how often do you use it during your ideation process? It’s a great way to figure out what the online world has been searching for in the past day or year. Use the tool to come up with five time-sensitive or culture-relevant ideas that your online audience will recognize.
- 5 Ideas From SlideShare: There’s a lot of value being uploaded to SlideShare each and every day. Like most of the recommended ideation sources mentioned in this post, it has a powerful built-in search feature. Scroll through the results and see the topics that people and businesses are dedicating entire presentations to. You can open presentations and save them for later if something stands out, but simply scanning the titles of presentations can be just as valuable for coming up with potential blog post headlines/topics.
- 5 Ideas From SnapGuide: SnapGuide is similar to SlideShare. The real difference is the fact that most presentations are heavy on visuals (which a lot of your blog posts can be too), and most of them follow the standard “how to do something” model that made the site/app famous. Search for relevant topics (like Fitness, for example), and develop your own original ideas based on what you find.
- 5 Ideas From Your “Read Later” Lists: We all have them. Email newsletters we filter into a read-later folder in your email inbox, “Add to Reading List” lists from our iPhones and iPad Safari browsers, and curated lists from Pocket. Take the last minute to scour these lists for content you knew “Future You” would eventually be able to appreciate.
Whew! So there you have it: 50 ideas in ten minutes. It’s definitely doable as long as you’re organized, committed, and genuinely interested in developing content that your readers will actually appreciate.
One last thing to note: the point of this process isn’t to have 50 perfect blog post titles ready by the time you hit the ten-minute mark. The goal is to have 50 working ideas. The fine-tuning can come later!