So you want to start a blog? You’ve nailed your niche topic, are pretty sure it has the potential to make money and read tons of ‘how to start a blog‘ guides. Yet here you are, still wavering, unsure how to translate the ideas in your head to actual blog posts other people want to read.
If that’s you right now, grab a coffee and take a few minutes to read this post. It’ll help pull what’s inside your head into a clearer blog structure so you can write confidently on your topic without running out of ideas.
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The procrastination problem
The tricky part is what happens when you stare at that blank screen.
‘What should I actually blog about?’
‘How should I even approach this when I’m not an expert?’
‘What’s the formula for a good blog post?’
These are probably some of the most common questions and roadblocks for new bloggers. It’s often easy to see the bigger picture, but much trickier to come up with a flow of blog post ideas week in, week out.
I’ve previously gone pretty in-depth about how to create a content strategy, but this post is the bite-sized version to help you crush your fears and give you the impetus to get moving today!
Let’s get into it.
Define your core topic and audience
This is the single most important thing you should do. What is your core blog topic and who is it aimed at? What worries them, inspires them, stops them in their tracks and makes them want to hear what you have to say?
If it’s health, what specific health topics are you covering? If you’re a life coach, what very specific type of person are you trying to reach? Into the idea of a ‘Lifestyle’ blog? Ok, great, but what sort of lifestyle? Do you have a clearly defined aesthetic, point of view, health concern etc?
Drop all vague and meaningless blogging clichés like Millennial or Mom Blog. Your audience is way more defined than this and you need to be clear exactly who you’re serving. Don’t lose sleep creating a detailed ‘avatar’, however. Just be clear about your intended demographic, their mindset, what they’re into and why your blog resonates with them.
Banish Imposter Syndrome for good
This is so super important and probably one of the biggest areas of struggle for new bloggers. Often, the thing stopping us from starting a blog isn’t lack of ideas, but fear. Fear of being outed as not quite ‘expert enough’ in our topic of choice.
Here’s the deal with what’s known as ‘Imposter Syndrome’. You don’t need to be an expert at anything to blog about it. You just need to be a few steps along than your readers.
Let’s say you’re blogging about your home renovation (one of my fave topics). You might be absolutely hopeless at DIY and consider yourself colour blind at the start of your project, but in documenting the trials and tribulations, you slowly become an expert.
If you’ve ever wallpapered just one wall, believe me, that makes you way more of an expert than I ; )
If I decide to renovate my home and happen upon your blog six months into your journey, there’s every chance it’s going to resonate with me because I’m just a little way behind you in my journey.
Your DIY disasters and subsequent triumphs can teach me what to avoid and how to go about tackling my projects so I don’t make the same mistakes.
A good blog makes its readers feel like they’re going to a trusted friend for advice and tips. Perfection isn’t necessarily required, but authenticity is.
Define your content model
There are many schools of thought about how you should approach your blog. I’m going to throw out what I’ve come to see (after more than a decade of blogging) as three main models for a blog. It’s important to understand these aren’t set in stone. These suggestions are aimed at bloggers seeking a clearer structure and guidance to build a profitable blog, rather than simply as a creative outlet.
The Discovery Journey Model
This is the approach to consider if you’re starting a new hobby, a new project, a new lifestyle or pretty much any situation where you’re blogging about a new experience or reporting to your followers ‘on the fly’. It’s a bit like traditional reportage in this sense. You’re probably no expert by any means, but your blog absolutely has the potential to inform, entertain and inspire visitors following in your footsteps. It’s a bit like a journal, but needs a slightly different approach to appeal to readers and I go into this in more detail below.
The Authority Model
Also known as the ‘expert’ model. Here, you’re drawing on previous experience, innate flair or sound knowledge of a topic to inspire, inform and educate others. The beauty of this model is that you don’t have to be an expert in the traditional sense, you just need to be a few steps ahead of your visitors on your chosen topic. In a way, it’s a continuation of the ‘Discovery Journey’ model. If you’re consistent and stick at your topic, over time, you gain gravitas and become an authority.
The FAQ Model
If you already have a product or service and you’re hoping to attract potential clients and customers, your blog is the ideal place to tackle their FAQs, pain points and stumbling blocks. This is where you get to showcase your solutions, meet potential objections head on, alleviate fears and build critical trust by answering key recurring questions, comments and doubts.
Many blogs encompass a little of all three. Mine certainly does. It’s only natural your personal style and ‘expertise’ in your subject matter will mature over time. That’s the beauty of blogging. It’s a fluid, ever-changing dynamic and as you’re the boss, you get to call the shots, so you can approach things however you want.
A word of caution – it’s not about you
Many new bloggers tend to launch blogs featuring posts which read like an online journal: “I did this and it went like that, and I think this and here’s why”. It’s very, very common and almost a rite of passage. And yes, we’ve all done it.
But here’s the thing, and I’m going to be really, really brutal here. Most people generally aren’t online searching for blogs featuring someone else’s one-sided ‘musings’. At least they tend not to stick around long if that’s all they’re presented with.
We usually land on a blog via a search engine or link because we want a short, quick and dirty solution to a specific problem, or because the subject matter affirms an idea, alleviates a fear or simply ‘scratches’ an ‘itch’. Sometimes we just want to be entertained or inspired.
The journal-as-blog approach is totally valid if you plan to make money from your blog, so long as each post has a clear takeaway for readers. Storytelling and personal anecdotes are absolutely essential to any successful blog post. By all means share your thoughts, vent your frustrations or relive your disasters in hilarious, self-deprecating detail. Writing should be personally rewarding and fun.
But remember, even if you’re blogging about something incredibly personal and candid, your visitors are there because there’s something in it for them.
Give them a reason to return and not simply hit and run.
Provide a bulleted list of lessons learned, some tips or suggestions of how they might improve on your efforts or maybe what to avoid. Anything that can provide a meaningful takeaway or ‘aha’ moment. These are the golden nuggets people are searching for and what keeps them coming back to your blog, otherwise, let’s be honest, what’s the point?
If it helps, think of the types of questions visitors are typing into Google to find your posts. Once you shift perspective a little, it’s much easier to frame your personal thoughts and opinions in a meaningful way for visitors too.
Where to find inspiration
One of my pet peeves is bloggers who write posts along the lines of ’20 proven blog post titles guaranteed to generate traffic’. It. drives. me. nuts.
Unless you’re in the exact same niche, with the exact same audience and the exact same style of blog, nothing is ‘guaranteed’ and these generic lists certainly aren’t aligned with your unique business goals (more on this below).
While it’s true that little of what you read online is ever truly unique or original, this doesn’t mean you should look to someone else’s rando blog post titles when you’re out of ideas. Seriously, please don’t do that.
Instead try these tips to find blog topics better suited to your niche and audience:
- Ask your audience – the simplest method. Just ask your instagram followers, create a twitter poll, survey your email list using Typeform (one of my fave methods) or visit your favourite facebook groups or forums and ask what people are struggling with or would like to read about
- Pay attention to social media and blog comments – either on your own posts or competitor blogs and accounts aligned to your audience. These can be rich pickings for blog post ideas
- Dig into your analytics – what are your top posts and which are people spending the most time reading? Which keywords are they typing in to Google to find your posts? Write more on these topics, get really granular.
- Head to Buzzsumo and type in some questions based around topics in your niche – how can you improve on these popular posts or approach them slightly differently based on your audience’s needs?
- Tap into seasonal trends – traditional magazines work 2-3 months ahead and it’s a great tip for bloggers in craft, food, parenting, home & garden, lifestyle or travel related niches. If it’s July, think ahead to Autumn (Fall), if it’s September start thinking about Halloween, and Christmas in October. If obvious seasonal trends don’t seem to apply to your niche, try to anticipate how people feel at specific times of the year instead. What are their prevailing moods, concerns or priorities? Christmas and Thanksgiving are supposed to be joyous occasions when families get together, for instance. The flip side can be booze fuelled arguments and unresolved tensions. Tap into these emotions and create content to help people deal with these situations. Check out this free Pinterest Seasonal Trend Planner.
- Read reviews – bad reviews can be a lot more revealing then good ones. Hop onto Amazon, Udemy or any relevant product or service review site in your niche to see what people are saying about them. Create content tackling these gaps and criticisms.
- What’s popular in Tailwind Tribes? – I can’t live without Tailwind’s scheduling capabilities, but its Tribes feature is absolutely essential too. Pro members can join up to 10 tribes in any given niche and the simple premise is to gain shares and repins, and share alike. The weekly report of the most shared pins in each Tribe provides a crucial insight into which content is most popular with other bloggers in your niche. If a topic is resonating with them, there’s a good chance it’s going to work for you too.
There are many ways to listen to what people are saying, but the gist is to get out there, lean in and discover what real humans actually want to read about.
How to format your blog posts
In terms of format, always start with a topic and broad keyword, rather than a headline (when you’re ready, Co-schedule’s Headline Analyzer is my go-to for crafting click-worthy headlines). Then figure out the best way to approach it as a blog post. Aim to mix up your journal-style posts with other formats.
Think in-depth guides, lists, round-ups, case-studies, testimonials, reviews, step-by-step tutorials and ‘best of’s. Oh, and don’t forget to add your own photography, stock imagery, infographics, slideshows or videos to break things up and add visual interest.
Tip: My free blog post planner download and SEO checklist will help you format each post perfectly!
If you’re trying to build your subscriber list (if not, then why not?!) consider what you can offer as an opt-in incentive for each piece blog post. A value-packed newsletter? A one-page PDF download? A short 5-day email challenge? Anything that entices people to join your list.
Keep your biz goals a priority
Finally, always, always keep in mind that every single piece of content you put out needs to work on two fundamental levels. It should please your audience and move the needle for your business.
Don’t simply blast out content for the sake of filling the void. Take a look at your blog traffic, email sign-ups and income and figure out where you want to be in 3 months and how your blog posts will help you reach those goals.
If income is down, perhaps it’s time to get more strategic with affiliate links or consider creating an entry-level e-course or digital product. If you’re looking to boost traffic (and who isn’t) think about the length of post and headline most likely to resonate with visitors. Want more shares? Lists, tutorials and guides work well. Subscribers not jumping on board? Consider beefing up your opt-in incentives.
Wrapping it up
We all struggle at times over what to write about, but it gets easier over time. Hopefully these tips have given you some actionable ideas to help structure your blog posts, along with the confidence to create content you love writing and keeps your audience coming back for more.
You can languish at the planning stage forever. It’s better to just make a start than sit procrastinating any longer. You can always improve upon or delete posts that don’t feel right down the line and you will get better at writing. I promise.
Over time, you’ll develop a style and blogging formula that resonates with your tribe and feels comfortable. So what are you waiting for?!
Take action! I challenge you to come up with five blog post ideas using the strategies in this post!
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