I want to let you in on a secret.
The hardest part of writing successful content isn’t the writing itself—it’s knowing what topics to write about. There’s nothing more frustrating than staring at a blank page with no idea where to start.
But don’t worry—your outer muse is here. Today, I’ll guide you through how to generate content ideas that will help you achieve your goals.
By the end of this post, your content calendar will go from sad and empty—
—to brimming with content your audience will love:
Let’s jump right in…
- Document Your Journey
- Solve Problems for Your Audience
- Use Keyword Research
- Discuss Industry Topics
- Speak to Your Customers
- The Challenge: Find 10 Things to Write About Now
1. Document Your Journey
The EASIEST way to find something to write about is to document what you’re working on day-to-day.
But often the biggest blocker to actually doing this is ourselves – we are our own worst enemy. I’ve heard this excuse plenty of times…
“But Ash, my day-to-day is boring…”
Sure, you might not be working on a new theory of relativity, but the work you do will always be interesting to someone. Your most dedicated readership will come from the people that matter most to your business: your customers.
Let’s say you’re a freelance marketer. Your clients—and prospective clients—would absolutely love to get a peek behind the curtain at how you work. And you don’t have to share your secrets, either. Something as simple as your daily routine can be super engaging to others. [*]
You could also share your approach to a new challenge that’s popped up in your work:
Or if you’re a software company you could take your customers behind-the-scenes to show how you work and why you’ve made certain decisions:
The possibilities when it comes to sharing your processes are endless. Almost every part of your day-to-day work can inspire new things to write about.
But to get you started, here are three simple ways to document your journey:
- Use meeting notes: Check back through your notebook and see what points you have jotted down from your last few meetings. Find 1-2 things that stand out to you and try to center a blog post around them.
- Share a failure: We learn a lot from failure. Your audience could also learn a lot from where you’ve taken a misstep and how you’ve gotten back on track. Think about some missed opportunities in your business and what you’ve learned from them.
- Share your biggest win: On the flip side, you could write about your biggest successes. These don’t have to be huge achievements like hitting a million dollars in sales, either. You could write about how you set your morning routine to maximize productivity or how you landed your first customer.
Stories are how we connect to one another, and people love to consume content filled with real-world examples and anecdotes. Plus, you’ve got one constant stream of inspiration: yourself! One of the best and simplest ways to find things to write about is to break down your daily life into a series of blog posts.
2. Solve Problems For Your Audience
When people get stuck, they turn to the internet to find a solution.
Sites like Reddit are full of people asking questions, which means that these platforms are incredible places to find things to write about for your business.
There’s literally a subreddit for everything—in fact, there are over 2 million subreddits. No matter your industry, you’ll be able to find something to write about on Reddit. [*]
First, locate a relevant subreddit. Let’s say you’re an interior designer. Just head over to the appropriately named r/InteriorDesign:
Next, head up to the search and look for words and phrases that indicate someone is looking for a little help. Things like:
- “How can I”
- “Can someone help”
These words and phrases will help you to find problems your audience is experiencing.
Then you’ll see a list of results matching your search criteria:
Sort the posts by ‘Top’ and you can view the most upvoted/commented on posts that match your initial search criteria. From here, you’ll basically have a jampacked list of things to write about:
We can already come up with three content ideas from these results:
- How to find products that match your existing design style
- How to successfully work with an interior designer
- The basics of paint colors
And these three ideas came from one quick search on Reddit. If you scroll a little further and repeat this process across relevant subreddits, you’ll quickly collecct plenty of things to write about.
The great thing about this process is that the topics are already vetted and validated for you – they’ve previously been upvoted on Reddit and generated a lot of discussion. That means you know these subjects will resonate with your target customers before you even start writing.
3. Use Keyword Research
Ever wondered how some businesses manage to land in the #1 spot on Google?
It all starts with keyword research.
Keyword research is the process of uncovering the search terms people use in Google. For example, you might have discovered this post by searching “things to write about” or a similar term.
Keyword research helps you uncover the topics people are already searching for. So before writing a word, you’ll have evidence that there’s demand for your content. Plus, you’ll understand the potential traffic it could generate.
For example, when people search for “powerful words” on Google—
They’ll see this Sumo post first:
The goal of keyword research (and SEO in general) is to help potential customers discover your business via relevant search terms.
So in the case of the example above, ‘powerful words’ are great tools to increase conversions… and Sumo is a tool that helps people to convert website visitors into customers. It’s a perfect fit.
The first step of keyword research is a simple one: brainstorm.
To get started, list a few broad, high-level topics that relate to your business. If we’re sticking with Sumo—a tool for email capture—I might list out topics like:
- Email list
- Lead generation
- Conversion rates
Now, these broad topics are called “short-tail” or “head” keywords in the SEO world. They’re difficult to rank for if you’re just getting started. But what you can do is use short-tail keywords as a base to dig deeper. That way, you can uncover more long-tail keywords (phrases made up of 3-5 words) that might be easier to rank for.
One free tool to help you get rolling with keyword research is LSIGraph.
With LSIGraph, you can enter your high-level keywords into the search field and see a list of related, longer-tail phrases. For example, here’s what we see if we search for email lists in LSI:
Using these results, you can find a bunch of long-tail keywords and ideas for what to write about. (P.S. if you’re in this space, I’d jump at the ‘how to build an email list for free’ phrase.)
Another great tool to generate keyword ideas is AnswerThePublic. AnswerThePublic helps you uncover questions people are asking Google based on a keyword/phrase you enter.
Here are the results from searching ‘email marketing’ in AnswerThePublic:
This is a GOLDMINE. Almost every result here is something you could write about. For example, here are five blog post ideas from these results:
- The 5 Best Email Marketing Software Products
- Will Email Marketing Die? Here’s Why It’ll Still Be Thriving in 2030
- The Complete Guide To Email Marketing: How it Helps Businesses
- Why Email Marketing Is (Still) Important in 2020
- How Email Marketing Can Help SEO
4. Discuss Industry Topics
No matter what industry you’re in, there’s always something to talk about:
- If you work in construction, it could be the latest building regulations in your state/city.
- If you work in social media marketing, it could be Instagram’s latest feature release.
- If you work in cleaning, it might be reducing plastic waste in your day-to-day work.
Every industry is always evolving and changing. To win new business, it’s wise to present yourself as an industry thought-leader with a finger on the pulse of what’s happening.
At Buffer, we’ve done this by discussing new industry features—
And creating go-to resources for key talking points:
If you follow industry news closely, try to use that info as a way to inspire content ideas. For example, Instagram announced its new “Guides” feature on May 18th, 2020. On May 19th, Later.com immediately published a resource on this new feature:
As your industry evolves, use these changes as inspiration to write. Every time you see some big industry news, try to write five quick headlines of things you could write related to this news.
For example, here are five post ideas based on the Instagram guides launch:
- Instagram Guides: Everything You Need to Know
- What Guides Mean for The Future of Instagram
- From Filters to Guides: A History of Instagram Feature Releases
- What I Learned From Instagram’s First Guides
- How Instagram Launched Guides: A Step-by-Step Breakdown
5. Speak To Your Customers
Think about the reasons you want to write.
Are you looking to grow your brand? Get your name out there? Build trust and customer relationships? Maybe it all comes down to generating revenue for your business.
To achieve any of these things, you need to put your customers first.
The best way to do this is to step into their shoes by asking them directly about their daily work lives: What’s frustrating them? What are their biggest challenges? Their biggest worries? When do they feel happiest at work? What’s taking up too much of their time?
The answer to each of these questions could spark a number of things to write about.
Your customers are the most important part of your business. Without them, your business doesn’t exist. When it comes to finding things to write about, put your customers at the heart of your strategy and create content that speaks directly to them.
The Challenge: Find 10 Things To Write About Now
The five tips I’ve shared with you today have allowed me to write hundreds of blog posts and keep content calendars filled with interesting, engaging topics. The ultimate result? Helping businesses achieve their goals.
But you won’t find things to write about without taking action. So let’s get the ball rolling right away.
Now that you’ve finished this post, take 15-20 minutes, and come up with 10 things to write about. Here’s your action list:
- Document your journey: Write down 2 things you’ve done this week that you could write about.
- Solve problems for your audience: Head to Reddit and find two audience problems you could solve.
- Use keyword research: Download LSI or AnswerThePublic and enter a keyword related to your business. Pick two ideas to write about.
- Discuss industry topics: Check out an industry publication, check the most popular posts, and come up with two ideas you could write about based on those top stories.
- Speak to customers: Open up your support inbox, spend a few minutes reading emails, and write down two ideas based on what you’ve read.
There you have it. Your first ten things to write about.