Using Formulas to Generate Ideas for Blog Posts


background image

This is a guest post by Ford Harding. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

The ideas you use for blog posts don’t stand there for all to see, like Miss California in a beauty contest. They are abstractions, which, like souls occupying bodies, are only revealed through the structure of the post they inhabit. Which comes first, the body or the soul, the structure or the idea?

I can’t answer either question, definitively. In the case of ideas and posts, sometimes I come up with an idea and then seek a structure to reveal it. But sometimes the structure so forms and informs the idea, that it can be said to come first. It depends. In writing this post I started with a simple idea, a typology of formulas for writing posts, which suggested a simple list structure. That structure led me to an idea that was more fun to write, and, I hope, more entertaining for you to read: I exemplify each formula in the very way I described it. This revised idea lead to a more complicated structure, and so it went, back and forth.

When you already have sufficient ideas, using formulas for structures will help you to turn them rapidly into posts. They allow you to sit down and write something of good quality quickly, blowing past writers’ block. I believe that all high-volume writers make use of formulas.

Here are a few that I have found work well for blog posts.

1. Lists

Lists have three principal advantages. They are:

  1. Easy to put together
  2. Flexible
  3. Popular

Surf the blogs and you will find many examples. Brandon Mendelson’s 9 Tips to Pitch Your Blog Successfully is one on this blog you can look at as a sample.

2. How to

A how-to post also provides a list, in this case a prescriptive one. They can be organized in list format or simply described, one step after the other within paragraphs. Readers like them because they provide practical help. To write one, you:

  • Describe the goal or value of doing something.
  • List or write up the steps required to achieve the goal in chronological order, providing a brief explanation of each one.
  • Warn the reader of any risks or problems she is likely to encounter.

3. Story with a point

I sat listening to a recruiter, whom I will call Jane, describe how she had assembled a table of important guests for a fund raiser. Jane, whose intelligence and lack of pretention appeal to everyone, had been trying to network with executives who were her seniors in age, rank, status and income and, naturally, had been struggling. She sparkled as she told how she lined up one exec after another for the event. I knew she had made a breakthrough. I also knew I had a story with a point that would make a great post.

When you hear a story like that, write it up.

4. Diamond in the rough

A diamond-in-the-rough post starts with some mundane observation and holds it up to the light of reasoning to show that it actually glistens with deeper importance and meaning and possibility. For example, using a formula to structure a post might seem a sure way to lower its quality. Formulas might be expected to produce posts of leaden similarity.

But . . . let me compare it to another’s way . . . of writing, say Shakespeare or Browning writing a sonnet. As one of the formulas described in this post forces a tight structure on your writing, so much more so does a sonnet with its limit of 14 lines of ten syllables each, all in iambic pentameter and with a set rhyme scheme. Structure liberates as much as it constrains in both poem and post. . . How does it help you? Let me list some ways. . . It forces structure on your ideas, and that structure helps you articulate them clearly. As you become more familiar with the structure, you become better at fitting your thoughts to it, so your writing becomes more compelling. Each post can be different and good as were Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets. Not having to develop a structure from scratch, you can produce your post or poem more quickly, helping you, and Shakespeare, master that . . . bloody tyrant, time.

5. The other point of view

A post using the formula, explains another point of view to those who might not have either the opportunity or inclination to hear it otherwise.

For example, I have been resisting becoming actively involved in Twitter, concerned that this blog demands so much focus and time that I can’t afford to add yet another communications channel to my market and work it effectively.

Not so, pointed out Rebecca Neufeld, social media specialist at BlissPR. Though the time invested in developing content for a blog is substantial, once you have it, it is easy to adapt for use in other social media. And the value is high, because the additional channels, be they LinkedIn or Twitter or whatever, feed readers to the content and make it easier to find. Unless the content you spent so much time developing is found, it will do you little good. “Every post has at least one idea that can be captured in 140 characters for Twitter. It’s so easy, why pass it up?” she concluded, neatly making her point in her two tweetable closing sentences.

6. The interview

If you can think up some good questions and come up with an expert, you can write an interview post. Michael McLaughlin has published many more interviews in his blog than I have in mine, so I asked him about them:

Q: What are the principal advantages of interview posts?

McLaughlin: They offer direct insights into an expert’s views.

Q: How do they need to be adapted to the blog post format?

McLaughlin: You have to summarize to fit the need for short pieces while maintaining the integrity of the original thought and the voice of the speaker.

Q: Why do you like doing interviews?

McLaughlin: My readers like them and I get first hand exposure to the ideas of some of the leading thinkers in the professions.

7. Guest Bloggers

I asked Andrea Harris, an expert on using blogs and other electronic media to promote a firm’s services and a blogger in her own right, to comment on the value of using posts by guest bloggers.

Guest MiniPost:

Why Use Posts by Guest Bloggers by Andrea Harris:

Asking someone to guest-author a post on your blog lets you present a fresh voice and new perspective to your readers. When the guest blogger promotes the post to her network (or on her own blog, if she has one) it can help increase your traffic and potential subscribers. And, if you’ve got writer’s block or simply blog-writer-fatigue, having someone guest-post gives you a little respite.

Ford Harding is founder of Harding & Company and the author of Rain Making–2nd Edition–Attract New Clients No Matter What Your Field, and two other books on selling professional services. He has also published in Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal and many other publications. You can follow him on his blog.

Browse all articles on the Writing Content category

26 Responses to “Using Formulas to Generate Ideas for Blog Posts”

  • Sardar Mohkim Khan

    The idea of a guest author sounds wonderful, and it does give one’s blog fresh voice. I have been looking forward to fresh writers for guest posts on my blog which is focused on Web 2.0 and web startups. Mine is a pretty new blog so this would help me a lot too.

  • hikaye

    I think list method is the most popular method and what i generally prefer is the How to method and the story related content. How to methods generally get more back links and getting through others experience stories is great to go through.

  • Medyum

    I think list method is the most popular method and what i generally prefer is the How to method and the story related content. How to methods generally get more back links and getting through others experience stories is great to go through.

  • Delton

    Great piece…as everyone else has mentioned…
    Except for the so few blabs

    I also injoyed=no ms= several of your readers comments…

    ThankU Everyone

  • Burghblogger

    These suggestions are very informative. I find that riding my bike and trying out food & drinks at local restaurants & bars keeps me posting to my blog. I love to pedal to scenic views and take pictures on my camera phone and write a little piece of information about each location.

  • Julius

    Once again, this is another wonderful article. I have been a big reader of DBT since I started blogging and always turned to it for tips and enlightenment.

    My blog is about my life in dialysis and my experiences in treatment suffices ideas for blog posts. Though this article is quite helpful, especially for budding bloggers like me.

    Thank you for sharing this nice post and more power to your site, always!

  • Dhir- Fast Money Making


    Very helpful tips provided here to writing the post. I think, you put ‘how to’ information on your blog, you may attract very good traffic. Because on the web most people are searching for information to how to.

  • Seth W

    This list is just the tip of the iceberg! Each one of these ideas got me thinking about dozens of others. A great guest post with some perfect insights to keep me posting. Thanks!

  • HowMomMakesMoneyOnline

    Great guest article. I would go on to say that if you break down each one of those ideas in your list, you will come up with formulas that can keep you thinking.

  • Kaushik

    Great list.

    I know lists and numbers are blogger heaven; but I wonder if they are over-used. I wonder if there is backlash brewing against this repeatable tactic. I know when I see list and numbers in a title, I brace myself for possibly inane and repeatable content. That’s not always true of course…the point is, are lists and numbers too cliched?

  • GoBusiness101

    How hard would it be to have a guest blogging system?

  • hale

    nice tips again.

    Thanks 😉

  • Blogger Make Money

    Just follow your blog’s niche market keyword.


    Such ideas you’re suggesting are too technically evolved. Like your this post. Its not bad but complex. Simplicity lies when you have creativity. If you such listing homework everyday, you are doing hardwork in wrong direction. I guess one need to work on his thinking, to get his ideas creative. Because things created by humam are mechanical, they are not as fluent as new born baby. We need to give birth to our ideas rather than producing. Then only it will be uniqu and best of us. Don’t we?

  • Ken Marshall

    Great tips and thanks for posting them. I personally like the Story with Point and The Other Point of View as angles to write posts on and will certainly try and publish an interview soon.

  • Nate Stockard

    This is really the first aticle I have read on DBT. I think you provide some really insightful ways to generate blog ideas. I have used a variety of these methods, and I tell clients to start a list. Write broad topics, then outline sub topics, then detail those and drill down. Each bullet in your article outline is the topic for an article!

  • BloggerDaily

    Yeah. You’re right. I’d applied some of them and it works! =D

    Until this sec, the listing and how to articles attract more visitors compared to other articles.

    Maybe I’ll make an interview someday. Who knows?

    Thanks for the formulas!

  • Beebo

    This post is brilliantly written. I love how each example is its own perfect example.

  • Melvin

    Great tips. I just thought the title is a little irrelevant to the post.. You could’ve just stated “generating ideas for a blog posts”.. 😀

  • Crazy Oldie

    I have no clue where my ideas come from. I just open my computer and write something. If people like it, awesome…

  • Deek Dubberly

    Yeah, lists are uber-popular. I think lists that compare two or more things or persons related to a given subject make for good post ideas as well.

  • making money tips

    thanks a lot. i think i can ues this method to creat articles easily. i hope you can write more these posts.

  • Blogger User

    I think list method is the most popular method and what i generally prefer is the How to method and the story related content. How to methods generally get more back links and getting through others experience stories is great to go through.

  • LithiumMind

    Nice tips. I like the last tip about getting guest bloggers. I guess that can only happen if you blog is popular.

  • scorpio

    nice tips again. I love to read interviews and also making list. Keep posting!

  • Roseli A. Bakar

    When I run out of blog post ideas, I go out to the mall as suggested by @problogger.


Comments are closed.