Coming up with new blog ideas is tough

Filling up your content calendar isn’t easy. It requires you to come up with loads of blog ideas in a short space of time. The first ten or so usually come pretty quickly, around twenty you start to lose steam. From thirty onwards, it’s game over. You’ve run out of juice.

Sadly, planning your content in advance is also essential. Coming up with ideas on-the-fly, when you’re feeling inspired, may seem easier, but it’s not a sustainable long-term approach.

The good news is that there’s a simple solution to finding awesome blog ideas that will drive search traffic – let the internet hive mind do it for you.

In this post, I’m going to share a simple, five-step process for content planning that I use for my own content and my clients. This process will help you generate hundreds of ideas which are guaranteed to rank and drive search traffic.

The process is simple:

  1. Define your core topics or areas of expertise
  2. Identify the most common topics of discussion within these areas using forums like Quora, Reddit or other sources like Slideshare
  3. Reverse engineer the best keywords to use in order to target those topics
  4. Figure out the level of competition for those keywords and identify the best-performing content for each keyword
  5. Map out the keywords, search volumes and level of competition in your calendar

At the end of this process, you’ll have a calendar full of awesome blog ideas for SEO. Then you can just tick them off week-by-week, without having to spend time trying to come up with fresh ideas every time you need to create a new blog post for your site.

Why not just run a brainstorm or come up with blog ideas yourself?

There are two reasons.

Firstly, there’s no guarantee that the idea you come up with will be of interest or use to your audience. By scraping ideas from discussion boards like Reddit and Quora you identify the best-performing topics that your audience are discussing. Or questions that are asked on a regular basis.

Basically, it guarantees that your content will be user-centric. Which is the key to any successful content strategy.

Secondly, as I mentioned above, coming up with loads of ideas in a short amount of time is really hard. And you run the risk of your ideas becoming dull or repetitive.

The internet is a big place and you can guarantee that pretty much any topic is being discussed, at length, somewhere out there. So why not use those discussions as inspiration for your content, rather than trying to do everything yourself?

Why align the blog ideas with high volume keywords?

Coming up with user-centric ideas is a must if you want your B2B content marketing to be effective. But it’s no use if people can’t find it.

By reverse-engineering high-volume keywords for the topics you find on discussion boards, you guarantee that the content will be useful and easy-to-find. And by analysing the level of competition for those keywords, you guarantee that you’ll be able to rank.

Step one – understand your niche or areas of expertise

This one should be pretty easy. But just in case you’re unclear on what your areas of expertise are, here’s a handy two-step process.

Firstly, define your core business proposition in language your customers would use.

For instance, I’m a freelance lead generation and inbound marketing consultant. The operative phrases there are ‘lead generation’ and ‘inbound marketing’.

They’re my core areas of expertise.

Branching out from that you need to the most important topics within each of your areas of expertise. Here are five examples for each of mine:

Lead generation

  1. Lead magnets
  2. Landing pages
  3. Email marketing
  4. Conversion optimisation
  5. Lead generation strategy

Inbound marketing

  1. Content marketing
  2. SEO
  3. Marketing funnels
  4. Blogging
  5. Social media

You should now have a clear idea of what you can offer, in terms of expertise, and the specific topics which you can address in your content.

Step two – identify the key areas of discussion in each of these areas

The next job is to find out which topics are getting people talking.

The key thing here is to focus on the specific questions or topics are getting the most engagement. If lots of people are discussing a particular topic within your area of expertise, then that’s a surefire signal that people are interested in it. Which means you should be talking about it.

Most of the platforms have functions which allow you to filter by engagement. To use Reddit’s Content Marketing subreddit as an example, you want to filter by ‘Top’:

screengrab of reddit content marketing subreddit and user filtering the threads by 'top'

Then filter by all time:

screengrab of reddit content marketing subreddit and user filtering the threads by 'all time'

Quora, unfortunately, doesn’t have an option to filter questions by most replies or views. But if you view particular topics the ones shown first are generally topics that are receiving the most engagement.

screengrab of quora discussion around b2b lead generation tools

Slideshare has absolutely loads of presentations on it. Thankfully, they’ve made it really easy to navigate by topic. Just hit the ‘explore’ button in the top-left:

screengrab of slideshare homepage using the explore button

Then pick the topic you want – in my case, Marketing. In the ‘Featured’ section there will be loads of great topics for you to choose from. As well as engagement metrics you can use to find out which have performed best.

screengrab of slideshare presentations that can be used for blog ideas

On each platform, copy and paste as many ideas and topics as you can into a spreadsheet. Even if it feels a bit random or left-field, if it’s generating discussion, it’s worth including.

I’ve focussed on those three sites because they’re what I use. If you want more ideas, check out Neil Patel’s post 101 Ways to Source Content Ideas.

Step three – reverse-engineer the best keywords for your topics

At this point, you should have about 50-100 topics that you know your audience is going to find interesting.

The next stage is to find the keywords you want your content to rank for.

The first thing you want to do, if you haven’t already, is get a Chrome addon called Keywords Everywhere. This lets you see search volumes and competition in the browser and search results. It also breaks out the full list of related and suggested keywords beside search results, also with volumes.

screengrab of keyword content planning in google search bar with search volumes included

Basically, it’s awesome and will save you a lot of time. I use it everyday and can’t recommend it enough.

Once you’ve done that select one of the topics of discussion you’ve already found. For instance, let’s pick this:

screengrab of someone on quora asking question about best lead magnet that I'm going to repurpose for a blog ideas

You’re going to need to figure out how that topic would be phrased as a Google search, which is going to require a bit of ingenuity and test-and-learn.

First off, let’s punch it into Google more or less as it is.

screengrab of qualities of a good lead magnet in search bar with search volumes

Zero monthly searches. No good. How about this?

screengrab of effective lead lead magnet in search bar with search volumes

Still zero. Let’s play around with it a bit.

screengrab of best lead lead magnet in search bar with search volumes

Getting there. Another little tweak.

screengrab of lead magnet ideas keyword that can be used for blog ideas

OK, it’s not a massive number of monthly searches but it’s much, much better than zero. 

And using Yoast, which is built into WordPress and insanely easy to use, we’ll be able optimise our article for this keyword no problem.

Step four – figure out the level of competition

Here’s another absolutely essential Chrome addon – MozBar.

Similarly to Keywords Everywhere, MozBar shows you the domain and page authority inside the search results.

screengrab of mozbar results showing domain authority and page authority for search results

Combining MozBar with Keywords Everywhere gives you access to loads of information right there within the search results.

Once MozBar is installed, check out who’s ranking for the keywords you’ve selected keywords. Specifically, use MozBar to check out the domain and page authority for those sites.

If both those figures are a lot higher than is typical for your own site, you may need to scale back your ambitions and target a less competitive keyword.

The next step is to figure out what content is performing best and where the ‘white space’ is. There’s no point in creating content which is basically a reworded version of what’s already there.

This post from Hubspot is useful if you’re struggling to think of a new format for your post.

Step five – Map out the keywords for your blog ideas in your content calendar

Once you’ve selected the right keywords for each of the topics that you found, you’re ready to create your calendar.

I’m not going to tell you how to create a content calendar. Everyone seems to have their own preferred way of doing it – I’ve seen so many different formats and layouts.

This list post from Curata has links to 20 different content calendar templates. My advice would be to check them out, see which suits you best and then tailor it to your own ends.

Need help with coming up with blog ideas?

If you’re struggling to fill your annual content calendar with awesome blog ideas, or not seeing the results you’d expected from your B2B content marketing strategy, drop me a line using the button below.

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