What should I write about? It’s the first question marketers ask once they dive into blogging. It quickly becomes I don’t know what to write about, which is the first complaint.
Most marketers who claim they don’t know how to find content haven’t yet scratched the surface. There is no limit to the number of possible topics. You just need to give your imagination a little nudge.
Here are 23 questions to ask yourself to get the content flowing. Your answers to these questions will lead to lists, stories, lessons, and strong opinions.
To make sure that your writing gets read, we’ve added some ideas for driving traffic for each question. Great marketers always create content with promotion in mind.
If you haven’t written the answers to these questions yet, write these first. These often become the “cornerstone content” that you refer to (and link to) from many other posts. The more likely you are to mention these topics in conversation, email and other posts, the more important it is to write it soon.
These topics are often great for search engine optimization. People are always looking for practical information. And practical content is also some of the most shared.
Write a list post with a number in the headline. Use this as a subject line in an email newsletter. Also share it with prospects during the sales process.
If there are several, make a list and use the number in the headline and subject line. Target keyphrases such as “[topic] best practices.”
Write two versions, a short version for your FAQ page, and a longer one as a guest post. Link them to each other.
Make this post your best advice for your buyer with unexpected help during their decision-making process. Target keyphrases such as “How to find a [product/service].” This post can be shared with prospects in your pipeline.
If there is a DIY approach for your audience, they’ll find it. But if you don’t publish it, they’ll find it somewhere else. Write a practical guide in the same tone you would use if you were talking to a friend.
You’ll gain more in followers, traffic, and respect than you’ll lose to DIY competition, especially if you target the right keyphrase. Try a phrase such as “how to [solve problem].” Example: How to Relaunch a High Ranking Website.
Although they may not be prospects, you may find an eager audience for your expertise in the next generation of professionals. These readers may remember you years later. Target keyphrases such as “tips for [industry] job seekers.”
List the things you learned at a recent event in a recap post. Mention the speakers or people with whom you talked. Share the post with these people once it’s live. Share the post in Twitter, and mention people who actively used the hashtag during the event.
If the event will happen next year, schedule a tweet to go out around the time that registration will open. If you use the hashtag, the organizers may see this and share the post with their network. Here’s an excellent example of a post event wrap up from Donnie Bryant.
Write a roundup of your top tools and techniques. Mention the brands that make your job easier. Use a number in the title and as the subject line in a newsletter.
Mention the brands when you share it on social media. They may share it with their audience. Or if any of the brands have blogs and accept guest posts, submit it! Link back to a service page on your site in your author bio.
Make a graphic of this statistic and use it as the featured image. The post should include some analysis about this number, why it matters and where it’s going. Use the statistic in the headline and in your email newsletter subject line. Make sure the image appears when you share it in social networks.
Lists posts may get lots of clicks, but it’s the stories that readers really connect with. Great marketers are great storytellers. These are questions you need to answer early and often. The personal tone gives them an advantage in social media. Some of these questions should be answered on key web pages, such as “About Us.”
This is your passion story. Link to this post from your bio on your website. Also, share this on social networks. Make sure to use an image that means something to you.
This relates directly to your brand’s positioning. Link to this article in your email signature. Share it with prospects during the sales process.
This story could be about any company who used the type of product or service, and not necessarily one of your customers. If the success is measurable, use a number showing the success in a how-to headline, such as “How FruitCo. Sold 81% More Bananas With Native Marketing.” Use this as the subject line in an email newsletter.
If the story is about your service and your customer, make it a case study. Use specific details, quotes from the client, and statistics. Make it a page on your site and a PDF download.
Use quotes and statistics to add emotion and credibility. Share it on social networks using dramatic excerpts from the article. Link back to your site so visitors can read the full story. These posts can also get traction in search engines. Target keyphrases such as “[topic] mistakes.”
If you don’t want to go negative on your own site, submit this one as a guest post to a popular industry blog.
Find people in your industry who share this personal interest by searching Twitter profiles in FollowerWonk. Search bios using “[industry] [interest]” then mention these people in tweets to the post.
Write a post that makes the connection. The post will likely be both entertaining and insightful (example: “Web Design Techniques from Jean Claude Van Damme”). Find people in your industry who also enjoy that character, story, or genre. FollowerWonk will help. (Search Twitter bios for “martial arts” “web design.”)
Ask a thought leader in your industry for a quote or example. Add this to the post. Once the post is live, politely ask the thought leader to share it with their network.
Create a chart showing changing industry trends. Make sure this image appears when you share the post in social networks. Or write a headline that uses the current year, such as “Underwater Archeology in 2013: What’s Changed.” Use this as an email subject line.
Submit your new article as a guest post to a similar blog that hasn’t covered this topic. Link from the post to other pages on your site.
These are great formats for writers who are stuck, since it’s as much curation as creation. The content produced has advantages when promoted in social media.
Contact the bloggers and ask if they would be open to a short email interview. Use the Q&A as the post and add some analysis, opinion, and gratitude. Once posted, invite them to share it with their network.
Create a short survey and send it to the largest group of relevant potential respondents. LinkedIn is a good place to find people. Partner with an industry association if possible. Package the results into a post and Infographic. Make sure it’s well designed. Share it with the respondents, leaders, and industry publications.
Here’s an example of a yearly blogger survey we send to over 1,000 bloggers. We created an infographic and shared it with the top blogs, like Copyblogger. It’s been one of our best pieces of content to date.
Here’s where you take a stand. To answer these questions, you’ll need courage and strong opinions. Remove the softening words like “maybe,” “probably,” and “sometimes.” Make bold statements. This voice carries on social media and helps online networking.
You may wake up the next day to long blog comments, new followers, and a few detractors. Connect with the respectful, like-minded people on several social networks. They may become long-lasting contacts
If possible, submit this as a guest post to the most popular blog or news site in your industry. They might love the topic. If you post it on your site, check to see if the question is a popular search in Google.
Example: “why do banks charge fees” gets 590 searches/month. If so, align it with this phrase. Long phrases, such as questions, are often less competitive and easier to rank for.
Share the post with several social media influencers who don’t share your view. Engage them in a conversation online, then share the post and politely ask for feedback. They may comment, share, or refer to your view in a post of their own.
Could it happen? You think so. But ask the question on Quora and in LinkedIn groups. Share the post on the other social networks. Politely email it directly to potential useful contacts. Within all of these conversations, build relationships with the people who respected your view. Keep in touch with them!
Read: The latest research on thought leadership marketing.
By now, you should be overflowing with ideas. Print this list or bookmark it so you can refer back to it. It’s a fast way to overcome writer’s block or just to add some variety to your publishing calendar. Remember, the main reason blogs fail because the blogger doesn’t consistently publish.
If this doesn’t help …well, I’m not sure what to tell you. In the words of Robert Louis Stevenson after he wrote Treasure Island, “If this don’t fetch the kids, they have gone rotten since my day!”
This is GOLD. I have started some really great articles because of the question prompts. Thanks so much (reading this as part of the Copyblogger cornerstone content challenge)
Thanks for the gear-turning oil! These topics are useful both for my writing and as suggestions to clients who are looking for new marketing techniques. The keyphrase hints were especially helpful.
Andy, Your list is on-point! I don’t know how you did it, but these questions have already brought up up lots of great ideas for my content. Thanks!
Thank you for sharing this.
It’s like my own private cheat sheet that I can use whenever I have no idea from where to begin.
I have noticed that once you start writing the flow makes you complete it.
(At least that happens for me)
Thanks again 🙂
Andy- Awesome list. I loved reading this and you guys have a pretty amazing blog. I’m definitely overflowing with ideas and need to pick up your book. Any chance of getting a part 2 or follow-up to these?
I ended up here by randomly searching “content marketing.” I’m writing and designing content for my business which is basically a really simple and fun online course that teaches kids and adults all about the stock market. I struggle at times with deciding what type of content to put out but this list really helped and brought me back to basics. Thanks for that.
I’m glad you liked this post, Noble! I actually never thought about writing a follow up, but you’re giving me ideas…
Thanks Andy, all great insights for engagement.
Hello Andy, I have gone through your blog and loved it very much. I would like to appreciate you to put up such an informative content. Each and every points, that you have been depicted here – absolutely correct and valid. As being a Digital Marketing consultant, I think content will create MAGIC with your website. If you content is good enough, then Google will automatically give priority to your website. Quality content = Quality SERP.
Right mate? I think if you upload unique content in your website, then you no need to think about BULK Link Building. Content will do the rest for you.
What say Andy? – Waiting for your reply and love to see lot more from you.
Thank you for the encouraging words, Mark. Yes, quality is really what readers, Google and the Internet wants! I wouldn’t say that Google will “automatically” give you priority, but quality leads to all the things that lead to rank.
My next article on this site will be about how social media affects SEO. I think you might like it. If you’re on the newsletter list, you’ll see it in a few days. Stay tuned!
…and thank you again for the kind comment, Mark.
This is an AWESOME resource for what to write about. Or whatever form of content creation you prefer. Thank you for putting this together. I have used a few of these, but came up with 5-10 more great ideas for blog posts.
crestodina That’s a fun post! Wait — physics or chemistry? (Can you tell I suck at science?)
And thanks for the encouragement — coming from you, that means a lot!
Unmana crestodinaAh! I did comment on that one! That was a year ago, but I remember that post. …I love posts like that. #9 is one of my favorites. We once wrote a guide for re-purposing content. It’s called the “Periodic Table of Content”
crestodina Well, I wrote this once, but yours seems to be much more useful! http://www.searchenginepeople.com/blog/10-easy-ways-to-find-blog-post-topics.html
Unmana Glad you find these useful! If you have anything to add, let us know. 🙂
Omigod, these are awesome. I’m going to send this to my clients!
@Andy… You’re most welcome! I was thrilled to contribute a guest post.
AmandahB Happy to help, Amanda! And THANK YOU for the guest post. So great to see you contributing to the Orbit blog. Very grateful!
This is a test for the new site!
Thanks for the ideas! I’m always brainstorming for new content or how to re-purpose old content. I’ve created a file in Evernote and will add your post to it.
Great article! I’m currently working with a client towards promoting his personal brand, your tips around “Thought leadership” is very helpful!
@bnoone My pleasure. Keep this one in mind next time you’ve got writers’ block…
Very helpful. Thanks Andy!
@trinachi I’m glad you liked this one, Trina. I suspect most brands (ours included) could produce a lot more content just by answering more of these questions.
If this inspires something, let us know!
This list is gold—it gives me a concrete homework assignment to get me out a non-blogging rut. Bookmarking it now. Thanks, Andy!
What are your thoughts?