by Steven Snell
Content is king. We’ve all heard that a million times and most of us have seen first hand that the content truly will make or break a blog. One of the single most powerful influences on the quality of blog content is the originality of ideas. A talented author can develop a well-written article, but if it covers a topic that’s been beaten to death it won’t make much of an impact. Likewise, an average writer can create a wildly successful blog post with the right idea.
Too many bloggers rush into writing the post and the importance of idea generation gets overlooked. Improving your idea generation skills is one of the most effective things you can do to improve your results.
Here are 9 Steps to Generating Better Ideas:
1. Make Time for It
Make idea generation one of your priorities, and recognize its influence on your success. Just like you need to set aside time for writing blog posts, you also need to designate time for developing ideas for posts. There are plenty of activities with your blog that can consume your time, but don’t do so at the expense of working on new ideas. Without leaving time for it, you’ll find yourself sitting at the computer searching for a topic to write about, and the results will suffer.
2. Have a Brainstorming Session
Rather than trying to come up with one post idea at a time as you need them, sit down and crank out as many ideas as you can. Write down all of your ideas. Many of them will not turn into anything usable, but that’s ok. Get your creative energy flowing and you’ll find yourself having more than enough great ideas to develop. Several months ago I wrote an article on brainstorming techniques for bloggers.
3. Use Mind Mapping
Mind mapping is a method of brainstorming that helps you to visualize your ideas and to build on them with other related ideas. This method can really help you to develop ideas for posts on particular subjects and topics as you can visualize all of the different aspects and you see the possibilities for useful blog posts. Darren wrote an excellent guide to mind mapping a few months ago at ProBlogger.
4. Outline Posts Before Writing Them
If you are typing your posts with little or no direction you will have disjointed articles that are less productive than they could be. I find it to be very helpful to outline every post before I actually write the content. This may require some research, depending on the topic, but it will make the writing process easier. It also helps you to identify ideas that really don’t develop into quality posts. From the outline you should have a pretty good idea of how well you can develop the post, and you’ll know pretty quickly when an idea isn’t worth the time of trying to write the full post. This way you will be spending your writing time on ideas with better potential.
5. Keep a Journal
Although it is extremely helpful to have specific time for brainstorming, you’ll still have some ideas that hit you at random times. In these situations if you do not have a journal or notebook for jotting down ideas you’ll probably forget more of them than you will remember. My notebook is one of my most valuable possessions. It has more ideas and outlines than I’ll ever have time to write. Sure, some of them are pretty bad, but whenever I need a post or whenever I have time to sit down and type, there’s always something of quality there waiting for me.
6. Take Your Ideas and Plan a Posting Schedule
I find it to be very helpful to plan out my posts a week in advance. Every weekend I’ll look through the ideas that I have been working on, and I’ll select the ones that I am going to finalize and publish during the upcoming week. This helps me to avoid last minute posts that don’t have much of a point except to get something published.
7. Don’t Publish Something Unless You Are Happy With It
If you finish a post and you feel that it doesn’t live up to your standards of quality, either keep working to improve it or just get rid of it. It’s never fun to give up on an idea that you’ve spent some time on, but that is better than publishing something that could lower your readers’ opinions of your blog.
8. Improve Your Title Writing Skills
Some bloggers start the process of writing a post by first coming up with an attention-grabbing title and then working from there to develop the content. While this may not always work, it is a different method that can help to give your writing process a spark.
The titles of your blog posts will have a huge impact on how many people actually read what you’ve written. If you’re going to spend your time researching, writing a post, and proofreading it, why just publish it with the first title that comes to mind? Coming up with the best title usually takes a few attempts, but it will be well worth your time. See Daniel’s post 3 Rules for Writing Effective Titles for a little bit of help.
9. Analyze Your Results
Part of creating posts that attract attention is knowing what types of content have worked well for you in the past. Most bloggers check their stats regularly, but often times this is not done with much detail. Have you ever gone back over several months’ worth of stats and really analyzed what types of posts consistently drew the most traffic and comments, and which other types of posts and subjects drew very little interest? When I took a more detailed look at the stats from my own blog I saw some interesting trends that I hadn’t noticed before, and that knowledge has helped me to produce ideas for posts that perform well.