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How do I discover great blog post ideas?

My last business related article about the evils of cold calling struck a chord, if your email response was any indication.  I had a lot of questions about the technique of inbound content marketing.

One of the most common was where will I get enough blog post ideas to keep a blog going?  That was followed closely by, “How do I know what good topics to write about?”

For many, the idea of blogging was pretty far afield, and it was hard to come up with ideas.  Let me tell you though, it’s a lot easier than you’d think.  You can even be analytical and systematic about determining which ideas are the most likely to work.

Before I dive into that too much, let’s focus briefly on another issue:

What’s the right balance between selling posts and other posts?

Too much selling is BAD!

Sometimes, folks that are new to blogging think that it’s all about the selling.  They imagine one sales-oriented post after the next gradually bludgeoning readers into an irresistible urge to buy their products.  I have bad news:

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Too much selling is a very bad thing for a blog!

We live in an era where it is possible to escape from a lot of advertising.  Many people choose to do so.  I get a huge amount of traffic here to CNCCookbook.  At 4 million visitors plus, it’s the most successful CNC Blog on the Internet.

LOT’s of people approach me about whether they can run an ad on CNCCookbook.  I’ve looked at the numbers and I leave a fair amount of money on the table by not advertising.  But I do it because I know my readers don’t want it.  I hear often enough about the little bit of advertising I do for my own products.

And, sorry folks, I do have to do that little bit to keep the lights on and keep writing great content for you to get free.

No, I’m not going to sell out with too much advertising.  It just turns people off.

It’s the same if you write too many blog posts that try to sell your products.  There is a rule of thumb that says at most 1/3 of your content (blog posts, emails, YouTube videos, or whatever) can be sales-oriented.

By “sales-oriented”, I read that as content about me, my company, or my products.  That’s in contrast to content about things that may be of interest to you.  You see that contrast of “Me” versus “You”?

Very important!

In fact, I try to keep my ratios more like 20-25% “Me” content and the rest “You” content.  A lot of the “Me” content is also “You” content, like training materials for our products, but that’s okay.  I want the balance to be firmly on your side.

How Do I Find Good Blog Ideas That Aren’t Salesy?

Okay good–you’re open to this approach if you’re still with me!

Broadly speaking, there are three approaches:

  • Write about things you found interesting that others wrote about.
  • Write about things others wrote about that were popular.
  • Write about things people are searching for.

The first is pretty subjective.  I do it a fair amount just because I like to write about what I like.  I’m sure you do too!

But, the other two can be made into sciences that greatly increase your chances of writing articles that will be well-received.

Being data-driven rather than style-driven is one of the biggest differences of the digital world…

Being data-driven rather than style-driven is one of the biggest differences of the digital world.  The Old School “Mad Men” style of marketing was all about the style.  But it was horribly expensive and inefficient.  Many still practice it today, but you can do better if you have data.

Let me give you an example.

Quora: Data-Driven Article Ideas for Free

If you’ve kept up with my business articles, you’ll know that Quora is one of the best traffic sources I discovered for my relatively new Entrepreneur’s Blog.

Quora is a question and answer site.  You search for or create a question, and people answer it.  Click the link to see how I use it to drive traffic to BobWarfield.com.

But let’s talk here about how to use it to research blog topics.  You see, finding a popular question means you’ve discovered a blog topic.

For example, my most popular answer this week is for the question, “How can I be sure people won’t steal my idea during a pitch?”  By “pitch”, the question refers to investor pitches.

The research I describe in my post about using Quora enabled me to discover this was a popular question.  It had 188 people following it, and anything over 100 is a good target on Quora.  So I wrote that answer, it probably only took me 10 or 15 minutes, and after less than a day, my answer has gotten 288 views and 3 upvotes.

Cool beans!

Now, you could assume and you’d be right that if you were writing an entrepreneur’s blog, writing a blog post about how to be sure people don’t steal your ideas would be popular.  I’d go beyond just investor pitches and maybe talk about all the different ways to protect your ideas and whether and how much you should worry about it.

6 More Ways to Find Great Blog Post Ideas

Providing answers to common questions is just one of the ways I find ideas for my blog posts in all my blogs.  I’ve written a post that takes you through all the different techniques I use including:

  • How to use an Editorial Calendar as an Idea Scrapbook
  • How to get ideas by following the blogs of your market leaders
  • Keyword research for blog ideas
  • Backlink and competitor analysis for ideas
  • Find out what’s popular on social networks for ideas
  • Republish your older content

I promise, that is a serious powerhouse of idea generation techniques.  Many are data-driven, and all can produce great results.  Check them out over on BobWarfield.com:

[ Great Ideas for Blog Posts ]


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