Lost for Words? How to Generate Epic Ideas for Blog Posts & Overcome Writer's Block
You're sitting outside on a warm, sunny day, laptop in position, your fingers ready to type away. The open, empty document is blank and ready to be filled with engaging, persuading, converting words.
But instead of seeing a beautiful piece of content unfold, the blank document stares menacingly back at you.
You have no idea what to write.
If so, I'm afraid the diagnosis is writer's block.
It's the disease—no, the plague—every writer dreads. Yet, we all seem to have experienced it at some point.
And the bad news is, as a content creator, your job depends on your ability to defend yourself against it.
So, what do you do when your well of ideas has seemingly run dry?
In this blog, we'll dive deep into the nitty-gritty of why you're out of ideas, how to trigger inspiration, how to generate ideas for blog posts and the four steps to creating a process for honing your idea-generating skills.
How to Generate Ideas for Blog Posts and Kill Writer's Block: Table of Contents
5 Reasons Why Your Content Ideas Have Run Dry
- You're too busy to focus on generating new ideas
- You can't keep up with increased demand
- You're trying to publish too frequently
- You don't have enough people on your team
- You don't have enough sources of inspiration
How to Generate Ideas for Blog Posts with the 5-Step Ideation Process by James Webb Young
- Gathering raw material
- Digesting the material
- Unconscious processing
- The "A-Ha!" moment
- And it all comes together (finally)
How to Generate Ideas for Blog Posts with 5 Killer Methods that Cure Writer's Block
- Using Google to generate ideas for blog posts
- Browse public forums to generate ideas for blog posts
- See what your competitors are doing
- Look at your calendar for blog post ideas
- Use social media to generate ideas for blog posts
4 Steps to Creating a Process to Generate Ideas for Blog Posts
- Establish a routine
- Set deadlines
- Create an editorial calendar
- Involve your teams
Content Creators Can't Afford to Lose to Uninspired Writing Ruts!!!
5 Reasons Why Your Content Ideas Have Run Dry
If you're experiencing a lack of content ideas, odds are there's a pretty fixable reason behind it.
It's especially likely if you manage a team, perform multiple tasks on a daily basis, or are responsible for pumping out multiple pieces of content per week.
And you can't cure the sickness without knowing the cause.
Here are a few reasons that might be behind your empty shelf of content ideas.
Reason #1: You're too busy to focus on generating new ideas
The life of a team manager, entrepreneur, or full-time marketer is hard.
Trust us, we know.
There's so much to do in such a short amount of time and you're trying squeeze as much as you can out of the short 24 hours you have.
Many times, content creation can fall by the wayside when sales, customer support, marketing campaigns, and product releases are begging for attention. The thing is, your content is begging for attention too—but it's much easier to drown out.
If this sounds like your situation, odds are you simply don't have the time to figure out how to generate new ideas for blog posts and as a result, feel sold out of inspiration.
Reason #2: You can't keep up with increased demand
If your content has recently reached new heights, your readers might be begging for more specific kinds of content.
Or, if you've discovered the best posting frequency for blogs in your industry, you might've found that posting multiple times per week is what's required if you want a good content ROI without waiting seven years.
Regardless of the situation, you've seen an increase in demand for your content, whether that be from readers, the marketing team, or simple stats that show you aren't posting enough.
And let's face it: when content feels rushed, it can feel low-quality, boring, and uninspired.
Those adjectives are exactly what you don't want readers to use when describing your content.
Reason #3: You're trying to publish too frequently
Maybe instead of not posting frequently enough, you're posting too frequently.
Many major websites and blogs post daily posts. Heck, some even post by the hour.
But this isn't for everyone. Especially if you're a start-up or have a small team of content creators.
Some key giveaways that you're trying to publish blog posts too frequently are as follows:
- Your posts are only 500-1,500 words long
- You're keyword stuffing (using keywords unnaturally or too many times. Basically, writing content for the sole purpose of ranking in search results)
- You stick with a strict posting schedule, but face burnout and skip a few days later
A study done by Hubspot found that to increase organic traffic, small blogs should post 3-4 times per week and large blogs 4-5 times per week. The data also found that blogs that post at least 16 times per month receive 3.5 times more traffic than those that post only 0-4 times per month.
Reason #4: You don't have enough people on your team
If you're writing solo, or even if you have a few writers on your team, keeping up with demand and posting 16+ times per month can be nasty work.
And especially since Google is practically human, the quality of your posts trump quantity more than tenfold.
What this means is, even if you post 16+ times per month, those posts won't go anywhere unless they're quality. And almost every time, quality equals long-form (2,000+ words).
If you don't have the time or team to keep up with your content needs, it's time to outsource. We're a great place to start, as our goal is to help businesses, marketers, and bloggers build their online empires through content creation. Check out our content writing services here.
Reason #5: You don't have enough sources of inspiration
When you're feeling uninspired, where do you go?
What do you do?
If the answer isn't consuming more content, we have an issue.
Think about it: how are you supposed to create stunning, high-quality, client-winning content if you aren't actively consuming content created by other people?
And the great thing about content is that, regardless of your industry, you can always learn something by reading any form of content. Poetry, fiction, non-fiction, guides, case studies, videos, E-books, the whole shebang.
So before you go running to a content idea generator, pick up (or search up) the most interesting, engaging, quality content you can find for a quick dose of inspiration.
How to Generate Ideas for Blog Posts with the 5-Step Ideation Process by James Webb Young
Sometimes, we get lucky and a brilliant idea pops up out of nowhere, like a lightbulb over our heads.
Other times, some ideas simply can't be forced.
But to be honest, we all love it when ideas come to us naturally. It makes brainstorming ideas later much easier.
If you feel stuck wondering how to get blog post ideas even after multiple braindumps, it's time to introduce the five-step process by author James Webb Young.
In his book "A Technique for Producing Ideas," Young walks us through his 5 steps that are designed to trigger natural, spur-of-the-moment inspiration. Let's take a look at them now.
Step 1: Gathering Raw Materials
The first step in Young's ideation process is to gather raw materials. In other words, research.
You should never stop consuming content, whether that be books, videos, articles, or your competitors' blog posts. And it doesn't have to be relevant to your industry, either.
Obviously, it's important to read content that's relevant to what you're doing, but Young emphasizes the importance of consuming all sorts of content in order to establish a general understanding of multiple topics to create combinations.
By consuming relevant and irrelevant content, you're able to make connections that no one else has thought of before. Thus, inspiring new ideas based on old facts.
Step 2: Digesting the Material
The goal of the second step is to find the connections you can make between all the content you consumed in step one.
During this step, you're trying to find and assign meaning to the random, irrelevant pieces of content you read. But don't stress if you can't seem to make many connections, as stressing over it will defeat the purpose of the process.
Essentially, you're trying to fit the information you have into a bigger puzzle. Look for relationships between these "smaller puzzle pieces" to create new combinations.
For example, if you're writing about how to store receipts for tax deductions, you can simplify the subject (and put a unique spin on it) by comparing organizing receipts to the way your mom organizes her 70's rock CD collection.
Step 3: Unconscious Processing
The third step is perhaps the simplest and easiest step of them all.
In this phase, stop doing research, analyzing your findings, and trying to generate ideas by making connections. Instead, simply move on and "forget about it."
Take a walk, do the dishes, watch a movie, go out with friends. You get the point.
Whatever you do, don't think about coming up with an idea!
The goal is to let your unconscious take over so you string ideas together naturally.
Step 4: The "A-Ha!" Moment (AKA The "Eureka" Moment)
After you've spent some time away from idea generation, you'll experience an "a-ha" moment when you least expect it.
Finally, it all ties together, you've got a brand new idea, and your writer's block will have seemingly been cured.
When this stage finally hits, it's important to write down every idea or connection that comes to you. While it might seem like an obvious next step, you don't want to risk all of those ideas sneaking away from you. After all, ideas can leave as quickly as they came.
It's best to store these ideas in a swipe file, a folder on your computer, a Google Doc, or even an old-fashioned notebook. If your team needs access to them, storing them in a shareable document is the best route to take.
Step 5: And It All Comes Together (Finally)
Young actually called this step "the cold, grey dawn of the morning after."
Basically, after generating your idea and thinking about how great it is for a period of time, you realize that it actually might not be as great as it first sounded.
Enter external criticism.
This is the phase where you ask your team for their opinions, an editor for their critiques, ask your audience if they'd like to see a post about the topic, or simply ask a colleague "does this sound good?"
After gathering some helpful feedback, tweak the idea to make it as best as can be. Then, you'll finally have your beloved blog post idea.
How to Generate Blog Post Ideas with 5 Killer Methods that Cure Writer's Block
Okay, so you now have a few tricks up your sleeve to prevent an empty well of ideas and inspire more. Great.
But when your job depends on your ability to whip up new content ideas fast and on a consistent basis, you can't just sit around and wait for a eureka moment.
So here are 5 surefire ways to get your creative juices flowing again to produce fresh, quality content even while under a deadline.
1. Use Google to Generate Ideas for Blog Posts
No, I do not mean "go to Google and search for content ideas generator."
You need a human brain behind the creation of your content, from the outline stage to the final draft. Especially since Google ranks content with practically human abilities.
Here are some best practices for leveraging Google for blog ideas.
- Google's autocomplete function. You know when you're typing a phrase in the search bar and Google predicts what you're going to type next? That's the autocomplete function. As a content creator, this is the perfect opportunity to get inspiration. Check out the autocomplete suggestions when I type "how to write a blog post" in the search bar. It instantly gives me new ideas for topics about writing blog posts.
- Google's "people also search for" box. If you click on an article after searching for a phrase and then return back to the results page, you'll find a box that reads "people also search for" underneath the article you clicked on. For example, take a look at the "people also search for" box after I searched for the term "how to write a blog post for SEO." I clicked on a blog post by HubSpot and then returned to the results page. These make great topics to write about as well.
- Google's "people also ask" section. This is the big box of 3-5 additional search suggestions that appears in the middle of the search results page. Using this box is not only a great way to get ideas for blog posts, but also for headings. Personally, I use this section to ensure 3 to 4 of the questions have been answered in my content so readers find it extremely valuable. Take a look at the suggestions for the search term "how to write a blog post for SEO."
2. Browse Public Forums to Generate Ideas for Blog Posts
Where do people go to consume entertaining content and get answers to some of their biggest life questions?
This also means these forums are the perfect places for you to be collecting ideas for new content. After all, you're basically getting to see inside the brains of your target audience. What better way to entertain them and answer their questions than by reading the same content they read?
- Quora. Up first on the list is Quora. Not only are you able to personalize your feed when creating your Quora account, but you can also search for terms related to your industry and see loads of questions being asked about a specific topic. Check out the questions I found after searching for "content marketing" in Quora.
- Answer the Public. A resource many content creators use is Answer the Public. While this website isn't exactly a forum, it generates tons of questions asked by people about a search term. These questions are great to use for titles, headings, and topics. Take a look at the collection of questions that generated when I typed in "content marketing".
- Reddit. Perhaps the most popular public forum out there, Reddit is a goldmine for finding topics people love reading about (as well as learning how to entertain them). By filtering your searches by "best results," you can see what types of content are popular about that topic. Here's a screenshot of the results I got after searching for "content marketing."
3. See What Your Competitors are Doing (and What You're Not)
The importance of comparing yourself to competitors is pretty critical.
After all, if they're doing stuff that works, why wouldn't you want in on it?
However, it's easy to get overwhelmed and distracted by stalking your competitors' sites for hours—not to mention, discouraging!
Here are a few ways to stay focused, get the information that matters, and use it to your advantage.
- Look at their most popular and recent blog posts. Which types of content get the most engagement? Social shares? Backlinks? Appears on the first page of Google? You can easily figure out which keywords a competitor is ranking for with an SEO or keyword tool, such as SEMRush and KWFinder (which I personally use!).
- Use Buzzsumo to discover trending topics. If your competitors are producing content that's getting popular, it's most likely because they're writing about a trending topic. One of the best ways to discover trending topics in a specific industry is by using Buzzsumo. They also offer a variety of other content marketing tools but are quite pricy. If you have a smaller budget, maybe stick to analyzing your competitors' popular posts and browsing public forums.
- Figure out which keywords your competitors are ranking for. Let's return to this topic in a bit more detail. Using a keyword research tool (such as KWFinder or SEMRush), you can easily see which keywords your competitors are ranking for and which ones you are. Each tool also rates the difficulty to rank for a specific keyword. For example, in KWFinder, it's KD% ("Keyword Difficulty %"). On a scale of 1-100, you can see how easy it is for you to rank for certain keywords. Use those low competition search terms for content inspiration.
4. Look at Your Calendar for Blog Post Ideas
Do you have any new product releases coming up? New additions to your team? An event you'll be attending?
Believe it or not, your calendar is one of the best places to not only get content ideas but to also fill in the gaps with important content that's missing.
Let's take a look at three ways you can use your calendar to generate blog post ideas.
- Perform a content audit. Do you have several (or several hundred) pieces of content on your site? If so, doing a content audit is a necessary next step. Not only will you be seeing the content you've written before and thinking of ways to expand on it, but you'll also avoid duplicating any existing posts. Especially if you have multiple writers on your team, the likeliness of accidentally covering the same topic in two (or more) different posts is high without a content audit.
- Complete a content gap analysis. A content audit is great for remembering which topics you've already covered in-depth. A content gap analysis is for discovering which topics you haven't covered but should. Take 3-5 competitors and 3-5 topics popular in your industry (use a tool like Buzzsumo, KWFinder, or a public forum). Search for the content your competitors have created covering these topics. Your goal is to find a "gap" where a topic is popular, but not many of your competitors have written about it. That's where you step in.
- Do an event-based audit. Take a moment to write down any upcoming events, releases, team additions, and more for the remainder of the year. These events are content creation-worthy. From interviews to case studies to press releases, you can create multiple types of content in order to stay on publishing schedule and produce content that aligns with the business's overall goals.
5. Use Social Media to Generate Ideas for Blog Posts
Your business should be using social media for more than just marketing.
It's also a great source of inspiration.
From trending topics to instant access to fans, there's a multitude of ways you can get content ideas by using your social media profiles.
- Search for your posts with the most social shares. Similar to how you analyzed your competitors' blog posts for social shares, it's time to do so with your own. If a certain type of content is being shared on social media more than others, odds are your readers prefer that type of content. Thus, you should write more of it (without duplicating, of course).
- See what's trending on different platforms. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, even LinkedIn—they all have one thing in common: they show users what's popular. Usually, it's under a tab labeled trending. This tab is about to become your best friend. Not only will it help you write about topics that are relevant in your industry, but it'll also increase the likeliness of people interacting with that content both on your site and on social media.
- Ask your followers what kind of content they want. Another reason social media is amazing is that you have instant access to your fans/followers. Create a post, ask for suggestions in your stories, make a poll, create a quiz, the list goes on. And we all know the best kind of content is the kind of content readers, and Google, love.
4 Steps to Creating a Process to Generate Ideas for Blog Posts
You now have some solid resources, strategies, and tricks of the trade for combatting writer's block. Congratulations!
But how do you prevent falling into another rut of feeling uninspired?
The answer: you need a process.
It's like a workflow, but for generating ideas.
Here's how you can create one right now.
Step 1: Establish a Routine
If you don't already have a publishing routine, you need to get one. If you already do, it's time to implement another one—a routine for creating the ideas that fuel your content writing.
Unlike content creation, an "idea-generating routine" doesn't have to take up to a week long. In fact, it shouldn't. Simply set aside a day to take 15 minutes for topic research, browsing the "Trending" tab on social media, and doing a braindump of all the ideas that flow to you.
Step 2: Set Deadlines
Not just for writing, but for every stage of the content creation process—including brainstorming ideas.
This can be as simple as setting aside that 15 minutes for idea generation we talked about in Step 1, or a deadline that your writers (or you) need to have a blog post topic proposed by.
The thing about deadlines is that they make things happen. And that's simple science.
The Parkinson's Law, as defined by The Personal MBA, is the idea that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." Basically, if something has to be done in 3 months, it'll get done. But if it must be done in 10 minutes, it'll also somehow get done.
Deadlines inspire action.
Step 3: Create an Editorial Calendar
Having an editorial calendar is an essential part of your overall content marketing strategy.
It keeps you and your team organized, on schedule, and accountable. It's where you can see, at a glance, who's working on what, which content has been completed, which topics are being covered next, and more.
But keeping an editorial calendar also helps you save ideas for later and see what content you've recently published, similar to a content audit.
Plus, inside an editorial calendar, your writers can easily submit proposals for blog post titles and topics.
Step 4: Involve Your Teams
Yes, teams as in plural.
You'd be surprised by how much inspiration you can get outside of the marketing team or content creation team.
Here are a few ways to incorporate the entire business for content inspiration.
- Host a braindump session. Call for a 10-minute meeting and allow each person to write down whatever topics come to their mind, whether they've already been covered or not. The actual braindump should only require 2-3 minutes, and the remainder of the time can be spent building on the ideas and discussing action.
- Ask the customer support team what problems customers are facing. Your goal as an inbound marketer is to provide a delightful experience for your audience, from the prospect stage to the customer stage (and beyond). Therefore, write content that provides answers for your current customer's biggest questions and challenges.
- Ask the sales team which content converts the most leads. And write more of it. Also ask them for suggestions on how that content can convert even more (being more engaging, more images, lengthier word count, etc.).
Content Creators Can't Afford to Lose to Uninspired Writing Ruts
It's as simple as that. When your job depends on your creative juices, they simply have to keep flowing.
And when something gets in the way, you're now equipped with the supplies to defend yourself.
As a content creator, it's vital to always be consuming content, keeping up with the latest industry trends, and comparing to the competition. By simply dedicating time each week for content idea generation, you're bound to not run out of ideas any time soon.
Need help generating content ideas and writing content that turns browsers into buyers?
Being the busy, go-getting, constantly hustling business you are, we get the struggle of juggling your team, sales, and content creation. And we're here to help. Check out our content writing services to start producing content with a measurable, repeatable strategy and killer marketing.