It's a place most of us have been. It's you and the blank page, with the cursor blinking on and off, as though to remind you that yes, that deadline is coming, and no, you still have no idea on what to write for it. The world of content marketing is pretty intense, and it's not uncommon to find yourself at the end of your rope with a blog post slot that needs to be filled and you're not sure what to write about.
Which is why I've compiled all of my methods for working around this obstacle for you. They'll help.
The Importance of Having a Plan
It sounds a little strange, talking about the need to have a content release schedule sorted out if what you really need right now is just one idea. But it bears mentioning. I've written content before to a planned schedule, and I've written content before as sitting down at the desk and choosing then and there what to write on, and let me tell you, I prefer the former. If you're able, you should chalk out some time to plan a content release schedule. (Here's a link to an article I wrote on how to build your own.) If you have to, swap out the time you'd spend on one blog post for planning content. Or ask someone who knows how to plan these things for help. (We do, by the way.)
Having a plan laid out ahead of time helps you plan and allot time per article. It helps you to plan the shape of your marketing campaign, and allows you to write so that one piece seamlessly flows on to the next. A content release schedule will take the pressure off your shoulders to come up with a killer argument right now, and raises the overall quality of your writing. As a whole, writing content to a plan allows it to be more focused and it'll achieve better results.
All that being said, you probably came here because you need a killer argument right here, right now. Here are a few ways I generate engaging content when my bag of ideas is empty.
What Are You Good At/Enjoy Writing?
Spending hours on the re-write is soul-killing stuff. If you've got particular content formats or topics that you're really good at writing, see if you can work your strengths into the blank page in front of you. Say that you like to write tutorials, and that you're really skilled in explaining how pool filters work (and that for the sake of the anecdote, you work at a pool shop.) Why not construct a tutorial on how to clean a certain model of pool filter? That's certainly the kind of thing your customers would want to know, and if your shop currently stocks products that clean filters, it's the kind of information that your business can benefit from marketing.
Are There Topics That Perform Well?
Pull up your stat page for this one. Check your previous articles and the amount of traffic they've accumulated over the last 3-6 months. Chances are you'll have a couple of outliers - random posts that went viral for reasons you don't understand - but there should also be a collection of high-performers too. Check these for common factors - was there a format that seemed to work well? Or a topic that's been popular with your readers of late? Providing your blog isn't populated only with those things, you can write on a topic that you know will perform at least decently. Providing that it adds something to the argument. Don't go saying exactly the same thing as in another, older blog post, because you won't be offering value to your readers. It'd be like watching a recap episode of a TV series - in theory, it's new material, but it's just rehashing everything that's come before, and doesn't add to your readers' understanding. It won't pique their interest, either.
Are There Topics You Haven't Covered Recently?
If there's something new to add to a discussion on a topic, then perhaps there's room to write on that topic again. Search engines look favourably on websites that frequently update and amend their content because it indicates a desire to stay up-to-date on their profession, so there's no harm done in writing on long-untouched topics of discussion. To flesh this out into an article, have a look at some of your older topics and ask yourself if the information is still relevant, along with how you'd go about applying the information in a different scenario. Let's go back to the pool shop - perhaps you haven't written on pool fences in a bit, because the laws for them were established ages ago and they haven't changed recently. Are there new things you can write about pool fences? You could write about how to maintain one well, or how to check for signs of damage or wear and tear. You could mention a new type of material suitable for pool fences that's only just come out, and how this one - made from sustainable bamboo - ages so much better than powder-coated aluminium. Bam. Article idea.
Are There Relevant Topics That Have Come Up In The News Recently?
This is commonly known as 'newsjacking', and uses recent developments in your area of profession as inspiration for articles. (It's a portmanteau of 'highjacking' and 'news') Newsjacking in its purest form writes directly in response to something that has just happened, and aims to succeed because the content is being written on 'breaking news'. In this regard, it has a somewhat shorter lifespan than other pieces of content you write (very few people will care about the features of technology released in 2014 in the year 2016), but because of this, it's generally acceptable for these articles to be shorter. Of course, you don't have to write on breaking topics that'll be out of date in a month.
If there's been a major change in recent times, you could write about how it's an indicator of future patterns. So, a few months ago I wrote on how the rise of adblockers are impacting businesses that rely on traditional advertising to draw in customers. Adblockers have been popular for a long time, but they're becoming more and more prevalent now (because all of us are sick of ads). Instead of writing about the newest and most effective blocker, the article in question was about how this change indicates the priorities of the buyer and how they feel about traditional advertising. (And what businesses looking to get away from traditional advertising should try instead.) It took a wider look at a changing trend and offered thoughts that were of value on it, as well as speculation on where the trend would lead.
When In Doubt...
Return to your buyer persona. Not sure what a buyer persona is? They're a collection of ideal customer traits, given a name and a list of priorities. In the end, you're writing for your ideal customer, so make sure that the new thing you're going to write will answer a question that they'd likely ask, or cover something they're going to be interested in. It's kind of pointless to spend time and energy writing articles that don't appeal to the best kinds of customers, so try and avoid this all together if you can. (You'll just attract the wrong type of customers and give yourself a headache.)
Your article needs to sound appealing to your ideal customer, or respond in some way to their list of priorities. Once you've got that in order, things get a lot easier.
So, feeling short on ideas and time?
- Write something you're good at
- Write something you know will perform well
- Write something that covers topic areas you haven't covered recently in a new way
- Write about how your business is going to respond to certain innovations or changes in your profession
- Write something that will appeal to your ideal customers and answer questions that they have
And to save you from the stress in future:
- Plan a content release schedule so that you can think ahead and write powerful, rather than scattered content