Every blogger faces it sooner or later – a big fat wall that slows or prevents the build out of great posts. In most cases, it isn’t the actual process of writing that is the problem. It is just getting harder and harder to find blog topics that will help you stand out.
If you have dealt with this problem, you most certainly are not alone. I personally blog for Return On Now, and we also work with clients to drive content plans and execution. When your overall business model is heavily dependent on content, great blog topics are a must.
I have always believed that the first step to healing is to better understand the problem. Today, I’m sharing my own personal observations on blog topics, the related creative process, and what in the world has made it so darn tough to stand out.
Why Picking Blog Topics Is Getting Tougher
1. You’ve Covered A Lot Already
If you blog frequently, and especially if you beat the pavement to contribute guest content to other websites and blogs, you should have a lot of ground already covered. This is especially true for those of you who focus heavily on a tight topic or niche.
While this is a real and challenging issue to deal with, it is by no means a roadblock. The way I have gotten around it is to designate out some sub-categories of topics. I can then lean back on those subcategories when looking for new ideas to cover. For example, take SEO. There are many sub categories, from link building to local SEO to technical. Even beneath those sub-categories, you could take it one level deeper into specific types of link building or technical optimization.
There are some outstanding bloggers (Jon Loomer, Jen Smith, Amy Porterfield, Mari Smith) who focus all or most of their attention on Facebook. Heck, Jon manages to post nearly every day of the week when he’s on a roll, and that content is deep and insightful. Just takes some creativity to identify new blog topics.
2. All the Obvious Topics Are Already On Other Blogs
In the same vein, a good writer will want to cover blog topics that aren’t already covered by everyone else. Eliminate that thinking from your thought process.
If a ton of bloggers are already talking about a specific topic, it means there is an audience for it. It also means that there is room for new ideas and angles. Instead of shying away from a topic, consider how you might offer a unique or fresh perspective on it. Challenge the going opinion with your own angle. I guarantee you that you can come up with something new or intriguing, so keep the faith.
3. Lack of a Coherent Content Strategy
This is the biggest one I see causing issues with selecting blog topics. In fact, I’d wager that it’s a reason behind why we’ve seen so many abandoned blogs over the years.
Ask yourself: Where does the blog fit into my overall content strategy? We have worked with clients who thought the blog was the content strategy. If that’s how you have been approaching it, you should not be surprised to find yourself struggling when trying to map out blog topics.
A content strategy is so much more that a series of blog posts, or even content marketing execution itself. It’s the overarching themes that you plan to support with the execution, blogging, etc. What messages are you trying to communicate? How are you building your story? What is the intended reaction from readers and followers? Who are you targeting in the first place?
If you can’t answer these questions, perhaps you should take a step back and work on them. Once you have the framework in place, blog topics flow like a wellspring.
4. The Crap Content Phenomenon / Content Shock
Over the past couple of years, there has been some growing backlash against the idea of pushing out content for content’s sake. I find myself frustrated more often than I’d expect when using Twitter some days. Why? Because I see a ton of links, but very little of interest, very little that really grabs my attention. Just a lot of the same old stuff being repackaged by blog after blog.
Rather than complain about the situation, I offer this to you: Hold yourself to a higher standard. Yes, there are ample blog topics available for you to cover. But don’t just write junk or pithy commentary to get a post out the door. Write fewer, and deeper posts. Really dig into an issue. We average 1500+ words per post on Return On Now, and that’s by design. If we aim to cover a topic, we want to come strong. You should too.
If you want an extreme viewpoint on this topic, read more about what some in the industry are referring to as Content Shock. While I find the post linked in the previous sentence as a bit pessimistic, there are some important points in the article about public reaction to poor content. It also hits on some very interesting ideas about whether more content levels the playing field or just helps the big guys get that much farther ahead.
5. Shortage of Time and Open Brain Cycles
Even for companies and bloggers with well-developed content strategies and solid imaginations, cooking up remarkable blog topics takes time and creativity. Between getting a job done, taking care of family responsibilities, and trying to stay dialed in via social media and smart phones, many of us are pushing the limits of our brain capacity. That’s also a ton to juggle!
This is where balance comes in. Although many of us claim to be good at multi-tasking, it’s simply not possible. Stop fooling yourself; open up time and brain space to do things right.
Jumping from task to task frantically just makes you do everything half as well as it should be done. Take a step back, close your email client, put the phone on silent, and dedicate yourself to brainstorming possible blog topics for a bit. You’ll find it gets much easier without all the distractions.
6. Variety is the Spice of [Blogging] Life
I mentioned previously that there are amazing bloggers who hyperfocus on a specific niche or topic. While that is technically true, each and every one of them does a great job of building a variety of subtopics beneath their overarching subject matter.
You are not the only one who will get bored if you spit out the same dry topics every day, week, or month (however frequently you blog). Your audience is also unlikely to stick around for six angles on the same exact blog topics.
Variety is key. Think about the different problems people face. Separate the symptom from the actual problem, and cover them both separately. Start thinking back to the root cause, even further upstream. Every blog topic can look at things like:
- How to diagnose some problem
- How to fix the problem
- What the nature of the problem is
- What you could have done differently to avoid the problem
- How to put metrics in place to measure whether you’ve moved the needle
- Tips and tricks to solve a related need that avoids causing the problem in the first place
You get the picture. These are all distinct blog post ideas that can be mixed and matched on nearly any area of your niche.
7. Trying to Be A Thought Leader is Hard
If you are blogging and it is not solely for SEO purposes, you’re probably trying to become an expert or thought leader in your area of focus. And really, there’s nothing wrong with taking that approach.
Here’s the rub – when you see someone who is a well-respected expert in any field, they’ve been working at building that image for years. You don’t just start blogging and become a thought leader. You have to work really, really hard. It takes consistency, diligence, and a lot of elbow grease. It takes self promotion, great networking, and oftentimes, a lot of luck.
So go easy on yourself. Would it be great to be one of the top minds in your field? Of course! Build a long term plan to get there, and set milestones along the way. Stick with it for the long haul, and the blog topics will come naturally as you expand your knowledge and footprint. But be okay with the blocking and tackling part of the game, because in the end, that’s the way you will reach your goal.
Selecting blog topics can feel daunting to us at times, and there are darn good reasons why that happens. There are a few items that you can balance and build out that will help get past writer’s block. Keep these seven areas in mind when you find yourself struggling again in the future. Hopefully my thoughts will be helpful in you getting the creative juices flowing again, and making things happen successfully.
Did I miss any other reasons for how tough this has gotten? Are you struggling with something else worth discussing below? Please share and we can talk it out!
Feature Image Sourced Under Creative Common Attribution License via Flickr User Jonny Goldstein.