With the onset of content marketing, a lot of bloggers are feeling the pressure to post more frequently. That means the constant need to generate blog ideas. With a little creativity and a combination of methods, you can be generating enough ideas no matter your industry or blog subject matter.

I’ve found myself in a few conversations recently with fellow bloggers about how to find ideas. It seemed like something worth writing about in detail again. A blog idea about finding blog ideas seems a little like the “show about nothing” sitcom idea on Seinfeld, but it’s an important concept.

I’m going to make an important statement here that I don’t want you to take in the warm and cozy, “we’re all winners here” kind of way. Ready? In the creative process, there’s no such thing as a bad idea. There, I said it. I’ll explain what I mean in more detail in a second. But first, I want you to know that writing for your business isn’t like those children’s t-ball games where everybody is issued a trophy.

There are good ideas that you can run with, and then there are ideas that need a little work. Running with an idea that misses the mark can cost you potential readers. It can mean business. It’s a quick path to invisibility in Twitter streams and Facebook news feeds. It can cost you the trophy. No one wants to read something that doesn’t interest them. That’s common sense.

When you’re in the idea generation phase, you don’t want to kill ideas before you think about how to improve them. Some of the world’s greatest literature probably sounded a little hair brained before it went through the editing process. The point is this: get creative first. Then let your internal editor do its thing.

Before you hit publish, make sure that what you’ve written about is something that will resonate with your audience. Ask yourself:

  • if it’s something that the people you’ve talked with in person have shown interest in.
  • if it has a clear benefit to your audience.
  • if your idea is fully formed. Are there aspects that still remain unclear to your readers?

If your idea doesn’t meet these standards, or simply falls flat, don’t hit publish. Just because it’s easy to put your work out in front of thousands, doesn’t mean that you should.

Here are a few suggestions to finding blog ideas that will generate business:

Read a lot. I’m the type of person who will be reading the back of the cereal box at breakfast if there’s nothing else around. You have five minutes of downtime? Fire up the Kindle app on your smart phone. Read that blog post that piqued your curiosity earlier. Read everything you can get your hands on both inside and outside your industry. The things that interest you outside your industry are part of who you are, and can make you a better writer. They also help you bring ideas to the table that can improve your business and your industry.

Tie your outside interests back to your industry. Do you have a favorite way to spend your time away from your business? A favorite team or show? It’s time to think about them in a new way. How do they relate back to the ideas you’re trying to convey on your blog? It’s time to tell your readers. For example, I’ve written posts on what being a Cubs fan has taught me about marketing, and what being a dad has taught me about business. Both posts have done well.

Think about all those questions. You must have had several conversations in the past with customers who have questions. If they have questions in real life, chances are, people are searching for answers online as well. This is a great way to turn your blog into a resource. Not everyone comes to the table with an expert skill set in your industry. They also don’t want to be advertised to, or sold to. They want information. Start answering questions.

Step away from the computer. When you stress out about something, sometimes you need to find a way to take the pressure off. Even if it’s unloading the dishwasher or taking the garbage out. An idea can strike when you relax your mind a little bit. Creativity of any type isn’t limited to the 9 to 5. Let it flow. Don’t forget to jot your idea down if it’ll be a little while before you’re back at it.

Free write. Create lists and things in your phone if you need to. Keep a journal. Sometimes when you’re writing about something unrelated, more inspiration will strike.

Expand on a list. There’s no shortage of “The Five Best Ways To Do Whatever” lists. Chances are they already exist in your industry. Resist the urge to simply rewrite them. Instead, add your own tips. What did the author glaringly leave out? Or can you expand on one single item from the list? These posts are usually a great springboard for ideas. Try not to restate the obvious, but instead be useful.

Try mind mapping. It’s a great way to visually organize your thoughts around a single concept. You can create mind maps around certain issues or concepts to come up with applicable story ideas.

Read a book about headlines. Two of my favorites are Headline Hacks (free at HeadlineHacks.com) by Jon Morrow, and Headlines That Will Make You Rich by David Garfinkel. These books will seriously start you thinking about all the blogs you haven’t written, in a way that is designed generate interest.

Walk your beat. Journalists spend a lot of time getting to know the inner workings of what they cover, and how to relay that information back to their readers in an entertaining, informative manner. It’s crucial for business owners to do the same. What are the hot button issues in your industry? How do they impact your audience? Are there industry secrets that your audience may not be aware of, that can impact them? It’s time to take that technical industry-speak and translate it into something that will be useful to your readers.

What other ways have you come up with blog ideas? Please respond in the comment section below. 

Conclusion

As you find the blog ideas that will keep you writing through the new year, make sure that you are writing in your own voice. Make sure that your work is original, and not just spewing out what the other industry experts are saying. It’s OK to be selective in what you publish. The quality of your marketing and message serves as your online resume.

Make sure that your ideas resonate.

Matt Brennan is a Chicago-based marketing writer and copy editor