How to find inspiration for your blog posts
Some material is very old and may be incorrect today
© December 2005 Tony Lawrence
If you want a popular blog, one of the most important things is to post regularly. That's important for two reasons: search engines like active sites more than inactive sites, but even more importantly, whatever readers you may attract initially will get bored and never come back if you don't have regular fresh content. I can't tell you how many times I've stumbled upon an interesting site through Google or whatever; I'll read what they have to offer, and think that it's great stuff and worth bookmarking. I'll come back a day or two later, but there's nothing new. Too bad, I like this blog's style.. so maybe I'll check back in a week. Still nothing new. Oh well: remove that bookmark.
It's probably best to post every day. That may be an unreasonable expectation for some blogs: you may not have the time to post daily, or your blog focus may be so narrow that there really isn't anything worth writing about that often. If you can't post every day, let your readers know how often you do post: "Updated every Saturday" or even "New posts first Monday of every month" at least lets your visitors know that you do add new material and it is worth their time to come back.
I set my own goals for daily posting here and at aplawrence.com. It's a little easier at aplawrence.com; that site covers a broad range of topics. Here, we're a little more focused, so there's a little less opportunity for posting, but it's still plenty broad enough to keep up a daily routine. I have still other sites that are more narrow, so those don't necessarily get daily attention, but I do make sure I update them at least once a week, and more often if I can.
So, I drag myself out of bed every morning and bang out an article for each site.. no, that's not how I do it. In fact, I often do write when I first get up, but I'm not going to put myself under the pressure of "I need today's article! I need it NOW!". To avoid that, I write ahead: when I am feeling creative, I write and save up for later posting. I try to keep a backlog of at least a weeks worth of "ready to post" articles and a few more "not quite ready yet". This lets me relax and not feel pressured to produce, and it also lets me take time off when I need a break. Finally, I keep an idea file, which is just little "should write about x" notes. As I have multiple sites, sometimes an article fits well at more than one site, though I do always tailor it at least a little bit for each site rather than just posting the exact same content.
When the well runs dry
That all helps, but aside from that, where do you get ideas from? If you pull from the backlog every day, and aren't replenishing it, your pool dwindles away quickly. You need fresh ideas. There may be some subjects you are very well versed in because you have had a lot of experience: whatever it is that you know well is easy for you to write up, so your blog starts out with a full head of steam and maybe a healthy backlog. That's great, but there are probably only a few things you really know cold, so after that the well is dry. You are out of ideas, and your blog stagnates. This is probably what happens to a depressingly large percentage of blogs I liked and wanted to read more of: they just ran out of words.
Sometimes the best subject you can write about is the one you don't know well at all. Maybe you have been avoiding really learning about a certain subject related to your blog. Maybe it's a little hard, a little confusing. That's opportunity knocking: if it interests you, it will be of interest to other people, and if you found it a little hard to understand, or hard to research, chances are that a lot of them had the same problem and will want to read your article. Since you will have to research or learn the subject to write about it, your frustrations and confusions will be fresh in your mind, and you will often do a better job explaining how xyz works than some expert who has been involved with it for years. Experts take too many things as obvious, and forget to tell us poor mortals about too many basics or "obvious" background facts. Some can overcome that and do a good job in spite of their long experience, but it is easier when you have just learned it yourself.
Product and book reviews are also good. If there is computer software or hardware related to your blog's focus, write about that. The nice thing about software reviews is that the vendors keep coming out with new versions, giving you the opportunity to revise or write up a whole new effort.
And finally, of course, there is opinion. Too often I see blogs that just post links to other news stories or blog entries. Don't do that without offering your take on whatever the subject is. It's your blog, people read it for your slant. Give it to them. Sometimes that's hard to do; some things you want to point to just can't be commented upon to any great degree other than "I agree with this 100%". If that's the case, try to find related links so that you can put together a few paragraphs about all of them and perhaps throw in some summary thoughts of your own.
Another source of inspiration for me is other blogger's sites. Many times I'll start leaving a comment and realize that I've written two or three paragraphs and still have more to say. That's an article, not a comment. If it's a few sentences, I leave it there, but if it starts getting post length, I cancel out, and take it to my own blogs (and yes, of course I reference the blog where I got the idea from).
Inspiration isn't always ready when you are
Inspiration sometimes needs a little help. We all get writer's block, but if you plan ahead, you won't have to be stressed by it. Maybe today just isn't a good day to write a blog post. You have a backlog, you have a well of ideas; maybe today you should just take a walk or do something fun instead. Ideas for your next post will come, and when you are ready to put them into text, you will. Keep that blog active, and your visitors will return.
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