Generating useful, shareable blog topic ideas can often be challenging, especially for inexperienced writers. Ashley Drinkwater from McDougall Interactive shares lots of great tips on how to get started with blog topic ideas.
John: Hi I’m John Maher, this is Digital Marketing Madness. This podcast is brought to you by McDougall Interactive. We’re a digital marketing agency in Danvers, Massachusetts and today my guest is Ashley Drinkwater from McDougall Interactive. Our topic is how to generate blog topic ideas and other helpful blog resources. Welcome Ashley.
Ashley: Hey John.
Challenges With Consistent Blogging
John: So Ashley, what are some push-backs that you hear from companies or maybe clients that we have about not being able to stay current on blogging?
Ashley: I think the biggest thing that we hear from clients is that there’s not a lot of people they can use in their company as resources to generate new blog topics. It’s usually one person that kind of gets stuck making all the content, coming up with all the ideas and, you know, they just don’t have enough time, they feel like they’re going over the same topics over and over again and they’re just having trouble finding new ideas, finding new people to help the blog and get content out there.
John: Yes, I think that one of the most important things that people can do is really just get on a regular schedule of doing it. I found out that just putting it on your calendar, and say maybe Monday mornings are too busy because you’re coming off the weekend or whatever, but maybe Wednesday morning you can just say “Okay, I’m going to take an hour every Wednesday morning and that’s my blog time.” That could be one of the things that you could possibly do to help with that.
But, like you said, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you could come up with ideas, because you might set aside that time but then you go to do the blog and you go “Okay, what do I write about?” and you sit there for an hour and say “What could I possibly do?”
Ashley: Yes, exactly.
How to Come Up With New Blog Ideas
John: So, what are some of the ways that companies can come up with some blogging topic ideas?
Ashley: Well, a really easy way that a lot of companies don’t think of is using questions that they’re either getting internally from other employees or getting from current clients that they have. Either something that is happening in the moment, or a question [that someone asked], or maybe [they can use] something that hasn’t been in the news recently or that they haven’t talked about and using those responses that they’re giving to those clients to create a blog post.
You can edit it down to make it [so] that people have to reach out if they want more information, but kind of giving that little general overview of questions that you’re hearing from their clients on a daily basis.
John: Right, okay. One of the tools that I use a lot for generating blog topics is called Buzzsumo, and that’s really good tool. Basically, you just put in a keyword and it shows you the most popular articles for that keyword, or you can even put in a URL or website address of maybe a competitor or a related website that deals with that topic. Basically, what it will do is it will generate a list of all of the articles that are out there on the web, and it kind of puts them in order of the ones that get the most buzz or, the most social shares and re-tweets on Twitter, likes on Facebook, [and] things like that. Those ones will show up at the top of the list, so you end up generating a good list of what some topics are that other people in the industry are talking about that [relate to your] keyword and not only that but, these are the ones that are getting a lot of social sharing, which can be good.
So, you can go off of that. Obviously you don’t want to copy somebody’s article exactly but, there’s lots of articles that are about the same topic but maybe have a different take on [it], so that’s okay to sort of look at what other people are doing and say “Oh, yes, that gives me a good idea, let me take that and run with it and do my own thing.”
Internet Tricks & Tools to Generate Blog Topic Ideas
John: Another thing that I do a lot is just use Google search. So if you search Google for whatever keyword you might particularly want to write about, you know, something in your industry and then you use what’s called an operator. So, there’s a number of different things that you can do in Google, little bits of code that you can add to narrow down the list of results and one of those is to do INURL. So, “INURL:” and then you put in a keyword. In this case, you might want to do like “INURL: Blog,” and what that will do is narrow down all of the results in the Google Search results to just the ones that have to word ‘blog’ in the URL or the website address.
So, if the word “blog” is in the URL, chances are it’s a blog post on somebody’s website. So, you might put in your keyword and then a space and then “INURL: Blog” and again, that narrows it down so that you only end up seeing blog articles that have to do with whatever keyword it is that you put in. Another one you could do is INTITLE, so again this works just like INURL, it narrows down the results that only those that have the keyword in the title of that page. So something like, “INTITLE: How,” would give you a list of all pages that have the word “How” in the title. So that tends to be blog post as well, because it tends to be lots of way in how to do this, or how to do that. That sort of thing. You could try it with numbers and you end up with a lot of those, “Five ways to do this” [type blog posts], and things like that. Maybe even the word “Ways” by itself would generate a list. So, those are good ones. Do you have any other ways that companies come up with blogging topics?
Ashley: Yes. Another great resource online is called Qura. And what it is, is a website that you go into and you pick the topics you want to look at. So if you want to use entrepreneurship, marketing, or economics, you can kind of narrow down the topics you’re looking at. I think you have to pick 10 of them to start, and it creates essentially, almost what looks like a Twitter feed of all these people that are asking different questions, and different people responding to them. So it gives you a good idea of questions that people are asking around those topics, and see if it’s something that you can apply to what you do and what you want to blog about, and give them a different answer.
John: Right. So Qura basically, like you can post a question, and then somebody will see that question, and answer it?
John: So just like you said, in terms of looking at what are the questions that your customers are asking you and taking those and repurposing them into a blog post, this is the same thing except that it’s not just your customers asking the questions, it’s anybody talking about those topics.
Ashley: Yes, it’s a good mix of people. People that work in the industry that are asking other industry experts [about] things that they are have questions on. So it’s a nice mix of people.
John: All right, what else?
Ashley: Another great one is HubSpot. They have a blog topic generator, it’s kind of like a widget on their website. You go into it, you type in a couple of nouns, like a topic that you’re thinking about coming up with, and it will give you a bunch of titles of different blogs that you can post. So depending on what you put in, it will give you five or six options and [you can] say, “Oh okay. That sounds like a good topic I can write about.”
John: Right. There’s a couple of other tools that are very similar to that as sort of blog title or content idea generators. I know that there’s one from a company called Portent. And there’s another from Impact. And basically again, you just put in a couple of keywords, and sometimes, they come out a little bit funny because they just generate these random titles. “Five ways to use <your keyword> in your house or something like that. And so you might end up with kind of crazy ideas, like “Okay, you would never use my product in a house so that makes no sense.” But it generates a whole bunch of ideas and the idea here is, it’s not that you’re going to be exactly selecting these and running with it, but that’s what you could do if it comes up with a good one, but it’s more of an idea generator.
Ashley: Right. It gets your brain going.
John: It gets your brain going. It’s a little bit like a brainstorming technique where you just see those and you go, “Oh, yes. I could do something like that. But I’m going to replace this with that, and move it around a little bit in those works.” Another one that I saw is the Content Ideator. That’s from Content Forest, they make content marketing software and you can find that at contentforest.com/ideator. And again basically, just put in a keyword and it generates a whole long list of potential topic ideas. You might find some in there that work well just as they are, but otherwise, it just sort of sparks some ideas and you can run with that. What are some other resources that are out there to help people with blogging that besides to just coming up with topic ideas?
Ashley: Another issue that people talk about is creating a blog counter and how often are we blogging. Ideally, you should be blogging three to four times a week. So what it is, it’s on HubSpot and they have a free blog editorial counter. It’s a template you can download, have it saved on your computer, and whether it’s you updating it, or your entire team updating it, you can kind of figure out what departments are going to handle maybe each week, or maybe every month that a team gets. “This month, we’re going to focus on your sector. Your entire team, everyone pick a day,” and so you know. You know two months in advance, three months in advance. And, “Okay, this is our month, this is my week, this is my day.” You can kind of start to get organized and you’re not really winging in at the last minute.
John: Right. Or maybe you want to spread it out a little bit more and have one post, one day from one team. And then another post that’s in a totally different part of the company. And just, you know, spread it out a little bit more.
John: That’s okay too.
John: Just having that calendar really helps.
Ashley: Right, Being able to see it in front of you, have it laid out and know that you know what’s happening. If anyone’s asking, you know, there’s the template right there for you.
Writing & Editing Your Blog
John: Right. I’ve got a cool little tool that I found in terms writing your blogpost which is called the Hemingway Editor, it’s kind of a funny little thing, it’s at Hemingwayapp.com. Basically, you just paste in your blog text, so it’s kind of after you write your first draft of your blog post. Paste it into the Hemingway Editor and it will basically tell you what grade level your blog is at. It even highlights places where a sentence is a little bit long, maybe a little bit too complicated, or this sentence is really long and complicated. You’ve got all kinds of dashes and semicolons in there and that sort of thing. It just highlights it. It makes you look at it and go, “Oh yeah, I guess I could kind of simplify that.”
John: Not that you want to dumb down your blog, it’s not really about that, it’s just making it simple for people to read. We can always use a little bit of editing I think. It’s very easy to write something and then not go back after it and kind of fix some of those issues, those run on sentences. Or maybe I used this big word just to make myself sound like I’m smarter than I am. It will point that out. Say, like “Hey maybe you could just use a simpler word here.”
John: That kind of thing, so it’s kind of a cool little tool. What else?
Ashley: Another thing that I use is Camba, it’s . What it does is it’s a template image creation tool. So you can go in there and whether you want to create a just a cover image for your blogpost to go on your website or on your blog, or if you’re going to be sharing it on social media — whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin — you can create an specific image for that. It has a background set there, with some really fun fonts to go with so depending on what your topic is, you can use images that are specific to your topic, or you can use something that is a little more general. They do have a lot of free images on there. The majority of images if you do want to buy them, they’re only a dollar which is great.
John: Oh yeah.
Ashley: So it’s nothing, it’s not like going into stock photo and spending four or five or more dollars on an image.
John: For just your blog post.
Ashley: You can find some cool images in there for just a dollar.
John: Right. Cool. So you can just use like a background image, put some sort of an overlay on the top of that and maybe some text with the title of your blog post or something.
Ashley: Yes. Something quick and catchy [that] draws your attention to it but doesn’t take away from whatever else is going on.
John: Right. The advantage of that too is you as the blog writer can just go ahead and just create that yourself. You don’t have to send the blog out to another team where a designer has to design the image that’s going to go on it that, [because] that kind of delays things and that’s one extra step and a complication in the whole process.
Ashley: Right. It’s super easy to use and like I said, it’s great for all those social sharing features to be able to get them on social media and create that image quickly.
Social Media & Blogging
John: Right. And then the last one that I wanted to mention was a tool called Buffer. This is a social media sharing tool. It’s pretty cool and simple to use. Basically you just have a browser plug-in or a little widget that has a little icon up in the upper right hand corner of your browser. Whenever you’re on a webpage that you want to share to one of your social media platforms, you just click that little button and it gives you a place to put it into your Buffer, which is like basically your queue. So you can do that whenever you’re on a website that you want to share on social media. You can of course do that on your own content as well. You want to add in your content into the mix of things that you’re sharing, but you don’t necessarily always want to be sharing only your own content.
John: You want to share other people’s content as well. So Buffer is a really easy tool. You basically just say okay for Twitter, I want to post four times a day at these particular times. For Facebook, I want to post only twice a day at these times. You basically set up your calendar and you [can] just keep adding things to the Buffer queue and at those particular times, it just goes and grabs whatever the latest one is from the list and sends it out, so you sort of have it all preplanned and pre-approved. You don’t have to remember, “Oh, it’s three o’clock in the afternoon, I have to share that, whatever.” So it’s already in there.
All right, well I think those are some really great ideas for coming up with blog topic ideas and some other tools that people can use for blogging. Like you said, ideally, you want to be blogging three to four times a week if you can. You know a daily blog is great if you can do it. If you can’t, you know even staring with just once a week is a good place to start for a company.
John: So those are some good tools to help people get going. So thank you for speaking with me today Ashley, I appreciate it.
Ashley: Thank you, John.
John: And for more information about digital marketing visit McDougallInteractive.com and make sure you subscribe to this podcast on ITunes and Stitcher. Thank you for listening, I’m John Maher. See you next time on Digital Marketing Madness.