How to Come Up With Ideas for Your Blog Posts

By Joe Cunningham, Internet Marketing Manager

Hi, I’m Joe.

“Hi, Joe.”

I’m a blogger and I love to write.  Love to!  But, like most every writer I get writer’s block.  Yeah, it s[tin]ks.  The end of yesterday’s work day and this morning were “blocked out.”  Not fun.  After employing several writer’s devices to get over it (that may have included sleeping at my work station, dreaming of a white Christmas, and going to the bathroom even when I didn’t have to go), I came up with this.  You may have already picked up on the irony here.

How to Get Blog Ideas

The following are in no real hierarchical order.

Write What You’re Supposed to Be Blogging About

Einstein Rocket SurgeryThis is the obvious one, so yeah, I’ll contradict what I just said about hierarchy.  I have two blogs: work and a personal blog.  You’re reading the work one: Cowley.  The purpose of the blog on our website is to show people we are “Marketing Gurus” – we know what we are talking about, therefore you should hire us.  Plain and simple.  Blogging regularly and sharing the links on social media generate website traffic which gives us PR, SEO, and ultimately new business.

So what should I write about?  Marketing: SEO, website design, graphic design tips, “The 14 Ways You Can Mess Up Your Public Image,” etc.  It’s not rocket surgery.

My personal blog (there’s a link on my Twitter @IndianaJoe77) is subtitled “A writer’s reflections on writing” – very introspective I know.  So obviously the same applies: I’m going to write about that.  It gives my brain a channel to think through/focus on/choose your own idiom.  Enough said.

The Nagging Idea

You know it’s there; you’ve just been avoiding it.  Oftentimes there’s that nagging idea that “I really should write a blog about” but for whatever reason you’ve been procrastinating the hell out of it.  Turn around and give it two in the chest and one in the head.  Take.  It.  Out!  Chances are: it will prove to be a decent post in the end and you’ll be free of the nagging.  This post is kind of one of those.  Killing it!

AmbrosiaMake a List

Now I’ve got that Ambrosia song in my head.  Great!  (“…of the things I do for you…”)  No really, keep a list somewhere of your blog ideas.  I’ve got one on the white board in front of my desk and another in an Excel file, somewhere.  Both are currently blank, which is both good (I’m writing them) and bad (fridge is empty).

Writers often wake up in the middle of the night or are spending quality time using the facilities when a great idea pops into their head that will be lost forever in about 23.4 seconds if they don’t write it down.  Write them down.  You’ll thank me in the morning.  Okay, that one was common sense.

The Brainstorm

This one is often accompanied by facial contortions, aneurisms, and frustration.  I find that oftentimes when you ferociously concentrate on coming up with a “creative idea,” they all run away, like little white rabbits.

However, toning it down a bit and calmly picking your brain for ideas isn’t a bad idea either.  You’ve got to think about it to find it, just go easy.  We don’t want you spending quality time in the ER afterwards, unless we don’t like you.  (Just kidding!)  Okay, moving on.

Walk the OfficeWalk the Office

A nice walk around the office with notepad in hand may seem desperate (it is), but can also be effective.  Six heads are better than one and everyone else has ideas you’ve never thought about.  Take a poll, ask for their ideas.  If it doesn’t work, at least your legs will feel better.

If you’re a lone wolf, use Facebook or Twitter.  And then go take a walk for your legs’ sake.

Check Your SEO Rankings

I use SEOmoz – an awesome paid software subscription to check your website’s search engine optimization.  Every week it sends me updates on Cowley’s keyword rankings.  It’s beautiful.  If you can’t stomach the monthly fee, there are a few freebies out there: Rank Tracker is one.  If you pay them, they’ll store your results.  Or you can record them yourself.

Just Goggleing your keywords isn’t very effective because search engines save your IP address (they know your computer) and alter your search results based on your search history.

So, when I get the weekly report and see we’ve dropped a place or two for a keyword, I have a quick conniption and proceed to blog about that topic, using Google’s free AdWords “Keyword Tool” to find buzz words people are searching for related to the topic.  A little bit of sharing over our social media platforms and voila! – in a couple weeks we are back up again and climbing.  It’s not really that simple, but that’s definitely a good way to move your SEO in the right direction.

Think About What Your Readers Need To Know

Johnny English“The information is on a need-to-know basis; right now you don’t need to know.” – Every Cheesy Spy Movie Ever!

Think about who is reading your blog or who you want to be reading it and simply ask yourself what they need to learn from you.  I’ll pull up a random example… you’re a marketing firm (ha, ha) – clients and potential clients, do-it-yourself marketers, other marketing people, and your mom are reading your blog.  You want to provide info that can be useful to all of them, or at least present it in a way that is an attractive reference.

Think about it.  That’s why you come up with “5 Easy Ways to [Blablablablabla].”  Everybody wants to know “5 Easy Ways” to do it whether they have a Masters in Marketing from Newhouse or didn’t finish high school.  Do some research, and give them good information.  It’s that simple.

The devilSell Your Soul to the Devil

I’m not serious about that.  That was for comic relief.  (I am laughing.)

Go Get Coffee

Or a green tea latte (I don’t do coffee anymore, it’s a long story).  Taking a walk down to the café and picking up your favorite drink is worth the crazy amount of money you will have to pay for it.  ($4.27 for a venti, plus a $1 tip; I tip well because I’ve been a waiter.)  That’s exactly what I did this morning and it worked: I arrived back to my desk refreshed and ready to smack some keys.  I spoke to and saw people I don’t normally see, breathed in some fresh air – felt like I got a new lease on life.  That’ll kill writer’s block.  And the latte was good.  It’s only the 300th time I got that one.

Green Tea LattePay Attention to What Goes On Around You

Some of the best blogs are peppered with fun little anecdotes from the writer’s day to day life.  Everybody has one (well), and while you think nothing notable happens in yours, it may be because you’re just not paying attention.

You can train yourself to see everything as a part of something you’re going to write someday – research for a movie, book, play, blog.  Everybody loves a story: it’s the spoonful of sugar that makes the lesson go down.  So open your eyes and, if you have to, jot the stuff down.  I usually think back to the last 6-24 hours when I sit down to write a blog post and use that.

Read Blogs

When I was in college, a friend of mine wrote a book called “The Reading Road to Writing” – basically a compilation of various snippets from classic works of literature organized into the elements of English style with the premise: the best way to learn to write well is to read good writing.  Common [explicative] sense.

If you want to blog well, read good blogs.  I highly recommend downloading the free app ZITE, perhaps the best app on my iPhone besides the phone part.  ZITE crawls the internet for RSS (blog) feeds and pulls the best, most recent blog posts together according to a user-defined topics list.  I have “Social Media,” “SEO,” and “Movies” as a few of my topics (big surprise) and it helps me stay up to date on the news and what the experts are saying about it.  And they wonder why print is going out of business!

Reading good bloggers helps you identify what you like about certain blogs.  For instance, can you capture my attention with your headline and the snippet from the first paragraph?  Is your blog photo engaging?  Is your content laid out in a readable fashion?  Are you entertaining or am I bored to death and am going to bounce right out of it?  Do you know what the [explicative] you are talking about?

Absorb what you like best from the best and you will develop your own multifarious style (love that word).  Who knows?  Maybe ZITE will share you.

Wrapping It Up

So what do you think?  Are you ready to tackle your next blog post yet?  If you need a pep talk, this was not the place to get one; I’m just giving you the tools to figure it out.  My first blog post on my personal blog is a (not) nice kick in the pants if you need one.

I’m speaking as a panelist at the Social Media Breakfast Syracuse on Thursday on “To Blog or Not To Blog” and this topic was one of the queries.  Of course that had nothing to do with me writing this.

Dr. Doofenshmirtz from Phineas and Ferb“And when I say it had nothing to do with it, I mean it had everything to do with it!” – Doctor Doofenshmirtz from Phineas and Ferb  (My kid watches it.  Okay, he’s six months old so I watch it: it’s a great show.)

Happy blogging everyone!


Please feel free add your own advice on how to overcome writer's block below.

This post is dedicated to Erik Grayson (@EGveitikkje), my professor at SUNY Empire State: because of you, man, I learned how to blog.

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