Blogging on a regular basis is vital in helping to develop a strong online presence. With some effort and well researched blog posts, you can take your blog from zero to hero. One of my great friends, Dan Bischoff from Lendio, wrote a great post over on the Raven Blog on how he took their company blog from 500 views to 20,000 views in just eight weeks. I've been told that it's now at about 30,000+ a month. It’s a brilliant post and one you should definitely read if you haven’t, but it’s a testimony of how blogging can help grow and strengthen your presence online.
There’s all sorts of talk in the SEO/SEM space about ways to generate blog post ideas. Most of them revolve around doing competitive research to help guide your efforts. Most recently, at Pubcon Las Vegas, Arnie Kuenn, President of link building agency Vertical Measures spoke about using Open Site Explorer to find which pieces of content your competitors have that have attracted the most links. Once you know this, you can build a similar piece of content for your own site in hopes that it will attract some interest and links as well. He also suggested that you do some manual outreach to the sites that linked to your competitors content asking them to link to yours as well. Brilliant, huh?
There are lots of different ways to come up with blog post topics, online and offline. I wanted to write this post because I've been doing a lot of offline research that has helped me grow my blog content and I wanted to share with everyone what I’ve been up to.
Offline Blog Research
As I mentioned above, there's a lot of talk about ways to research blog topics online, however, there isn’t a lot of talk about researching blog ideas offline. A few months ago, I was sitting around the house flipping through one of my wife’s magazines (I don’t want to say which one in fear that I will be ridiculed by my co-workers and peers), but as I was scanning some of the content, I thought to myself, some of this content would be interesting to my readers and if I got it up quick enough, would probably attract some natural backlinks as well.
The more I thought about it, it really made a lot of sense to build a blogging strategy around content published offline. When you think about it, most of the content found in popular magazines is content that is well researched by a professional journalist and is most likely content that people are very interested in right now. Take Kim Kardashian’s divorce, bloggers are all over that and getting loads of traffic and links because of it. Most of the work is done for you. All you have to do is come up with some unique content and a different take on the story and you have a rocking blog post.
My next thought was, how do I get a lot of ideas without having to subscribe to dozens of magazines each month. It just doesn’t make sense to spend $2-3 per issue just to get blogging ideas. Well, maybe it does if you are a hard-core blogger, but for someone who blogs in his/her spare time, it doesn’t. A few days after my idea of using magazine content for blog ideas, I was at Target with my daughter looking at some children’s books. While there, I saw the big magazine rack and I realized that by spending 30 minutes a week in a store like Target, Wal-Mart, Barns and Noble, or even the library, that I could get a months worth of blogging ideas without paying anything at all. So I decided to build a process to help me be as efficient as possible.
Identification: I first had to identify which type of magazines related to my business or blog. If you sell wedding dresses online, then you might consider all of the bridal magazines. You might also consider magazines like People which talk about celebrities getting engaged or married. I typically like to do this before I arrive at the magazine stand.
Pulling: Once I get to the magazine stand, I find the targeted magazines, pull all of them, and head to a table or nice clean spot on the floor. Whatever you do, don't sit on the floor at Wal-Mart… they aren't that clean.
Scanning: After I have my stack, I glance at the cover and the table of contents to see if anything sounds interesting to me. If so, I flip to the page, whip out my iPhone and start snapping pictures of headlines. I don’t want to use the content, but I do want to use the topic.
Organization: Once I have all my pictures taken, I put the magazines back, and head home to dump the pictures on my computer and organize them. What I am looking for here is level of interest. If something is time sensitive, I will typically move it closer to the top of my list. If something is more interesting, I move it up. If it is less interesting, I move it down. You get the idea.
Research: As I mentioned above, I generally don’t want to use the content found in these magazine articles. I like to do some research on my own (or outsource it) to build my content. This ensures that I am not blatantly copying the content and that it’s a fresh take on the topic.
Creation & Publishing: If you are a blogger, both of these steps are pretty straightforward. You can either write the content yourself, or job it out to someone on Elance or oDesk. Once you have the content, you optimize and publish it.
The first time I put my process to the test, I spent twenty minutes at Barnes and Noble and found 42 different blog topic ideas. I spent an additional fifteen minutes organizing the topics and another twenty getting them all jobbed out to one of my writers for research and creation. If I publish one piece every business day, I have approximately eight and a half weeks of content ideas in just under an hour. Pretty decent if you ask me.
One thing that you need to remember is, as with anything we do in SEO, these numbers can and will fluctuate depending on the person, niche of the site, number of magazine you need/want to go through, and other factors. Don't get discouraged if you come out with just a dozen ideas the first time. It was still a worth while activity!
So, how do you come up with blogging ideas? If you have processes outside the norm, please add to the conversation by commenting below.