50 Can’t-Fail Techniques for Finding Great Blog Topics

50 Can’t-Fail Techniques for Finding Great Blog Topics

Reader Comments (201)

  1. Great list of ideas, Carol!

    I’m a firm believer in the power of mind mapping and I’m using it for all kinds of projects now, including content planning.

    I really like the idea of the 1 hour challenge – that one’s new to me!

    And #31… seriously, who wouldn’t enjoy #31?


    • Thanks for being my first commenter, Mark — and enjoy #31!

      The one-hour challenge I had to do once at a writing retreat held at a publication where I was a staffer…they just turned us loose on the streets with an order to come back in an hour with a story. I found several, and ended up actually reporting and writing one up that ran in the paper. Very empowering exercise.

  2. Excellent list of ideas. I’ve recently learned the usefulness of Google Alerts, and now I wonder how I ever got along without it.

    I’ve employed quite a few of those techniques on a few different blogs, and they’re really helpful. I think one thing that scares many bloggers is to say, “Hey, I need ideas” because they’re scared of it reflecting an image of them not being capable or something.

    • I continue to be amazed how many people I can tell about Google alerts who haven’t heard of them yet. They’re so convenient for knowing what-all people are talking about!

      If you scan 50 headlinesa day on your sector from Google alerts and you still don’t have a story idea at the end of the week, I think blogging’s not for you!

  3. My most-read posts have been ones where I talk about my mistakes and about ‘my freelance story’.

    I like to find out what my readers want to read about – so I ask them. And that gives me a great source of new blog post ideas. Plus, I know it’s what they want to read about. 🙂

  4. I must say that your list had already sparked motivation in to my blogging. I had written down notes – I would say about half of the list – to help me stay focus in the future. Thank you for taking the time, you had taken, to put this list together.

  5. That’s awesome…thank you Carol for sharing all that information..
    By the way, I recently subscribed to copyblogger

  6. Hey Carol,

    You provided a heck of a list. There is no excuse for not being able to come up with content. I’ve used some of those strategies to come up with content. Thanks for sharing this list.

    Chat with you later…

  7. As a new blogger a technique I’m using is to define some broad categories that I can write around, but that also fit with the general direction of my blog, or at least the direction I think it’s going at this point.

    One idea I came up with is #8 on your list, Riff on a popular post. I started a category that provides my take on the posts of Seth Godin. So far it’s really fun.

  8. You offer some good ideas for finding inspiration for writing of any kind. Many people who write online suffer from the same problem, whether they are writing blogs, articles, or webpage content. Your suggestions would be useful in almost any type of writing. I have used a couple of them in the past such as searching out local news stories. Sometimes they are not useful outside of a certain area, at other times they help pull in people who might not otherwise have found my writing.

    Your post reminds me of one I did recently about passion versus drive. When we are passionate about what we are writing it can sometimes be much easier to think of relevant content to write about. However, when we are writing because we think we have to, it is often more difficult to come up with a subject. Thank you for this great list of options.

    • I agree, passion is a biggie. I’m to the point now where I’m not interested in writing a post unless it gets my heart beating a little faster. I mean, if your writing doesn’t inspire you, then how is it supposed to inspire anyone else?

  9. How about search.twitter.com? Slightly different version of what you may get in google alerts, without the on-going email that can be One More Thing.

    Works also to find blogs where your comments add value instead of “me toos.”

    Useful post, thx!

    • Right on, Karen! Good way to get the trend info without generating more email. Don’t want to tell you how many different alerts I’m running for various clients right now, and the email does stack up!

  10. Saved these for the next rainy day (today qualifies!) when my blog ideas dry up. Sometimes it just helps to have someone point me in a new direction and give me a nudge … this is that point and nudge!

  11. Thanks Carol for this great resource. What a nicely done piece with invaluable insight. May I add just 3 more techniques I use to your list:

    1. Find myths and hypes and burst them open.

    2. Be a “silver lining? writer. Discover something good in a bad situation and write about it.

    3. Do you do keyword research? Get writing ideas from your keyword research.

    Thanks again Carol. Count me one of your fans.

    • See #40 on the keyword research issue.

      I love your other two though — what are the myths in your sector that you think need exploding? GREAT topic-finding idea.

      And upbeat news — you can really stand out with that, since there’s so much negativity out there.

  12. Great post Carol. You started your list off with Google Alerts and I believe this is one of the most underused tools on the internet.

    One tip I find helps is having many a conversation. It does not even have to be a debate. Just getting out and talking to people helps me come up with great ideas.

  13. Hi Carol, great list. I’m printing it out and hanging it up on my desk for inspiration.

    One thing I didn’t see on there is my favorite way to generate blog post ideas:

    Ask Your Readers – I frequently ask them what else they want to learn or read about and then just answer their questions. Sometimes I can do it off the top of my head, while at other times I may have to do some research or even interview an expert.

    These posts are almost always a big hit since they deliver exactly what my target audience is asking for.

    • Think we cover that in #33. I’m actually planning to do one of those posts on my blog next week — Ready for some fresh input on what my readers most want to know.

  14. Carol,

    This is an excellent checklist for finding inspiration for blog topics.

    I particularly like “Take a bath. Ideally, after the walk. Ahhhhh. That warm water just seems to release the creativity, doesn’t it?”

    When I read this, it reminded me of a friend of mine who I appointed as Treasurer when I was the President of my college’s student senate.

    He always suggested great ideas for events, promotions, etc. One time he suggested two competing dorms participate in a tug of war contest. I thought it was a great idea and asked said, “Wow, Sean. That’s excellent! Where do you come up with all of your great ideas?”

    He laughed, and in a totally naive manner said, “Well, it’s funny you should ask. I came up with the tug of war idea in the shower. That’s where I get all of my great ideas.”

    I laughed until I cried at the euphemistic irony of him thinking about “tug of war” in the shower. I had to apologize for my outburst…

    Oh, good times.

  15. Thanks Carol, your tips popped out at the right moment, I always have difficulty in writing content, well actually coming out with a topic to write about.

    I have set up google alerts even after that I keep having those blank screens in front of me.

    Writing is an art that I have not mastered yet hopefully someday it will flow automatically.

    I have put all those 50 tips on a notepad and after #31 will give it a go. #37 is a great share, haven’t heard of him before.

    Once again thanks for sharing your tips.

  16. Carol:

    This is a very interesting post with some very interesting ideas.

    If someone can’t come up with ideas for their blog topics after using this list, they should stop blogging.

    I think the one that made me laugh was “Eavesdroping”. I guess a good place to do this might be a coffee house. Any other ideas for places to eavesdrop?

    – Rick

    • The mall food court is a favorite of mine. Any long line, for a concert, at the bank.

      Or the food court at a big conference. Sometimes as a reporter at trade shows, I would sit there for three hours and tune in on different conversations, and if something interesting was being said, I’d go sit down and interview them. “Hey, is this seat taken? No? I couldn’t help overhearing you talking about the future of restaurant IT…”

      When people are chewing, it’s hard for them to flee…great way to get people to chat.

  17. Killer list. I love reading other blogs and if two or three popular blogs all write about the same thing then finding some additional information on the topic and writing about it is usually a solid choice.

    • Great point Steve!

      A lot of writers think if a topic’s been covered, they missed their chance to write on it. But in our beautiful blogosphere, writers are always free to chime in on a popular topic if they have some new perspective, contrarian view, or new evidence to present. And then you have a chance to link to those previous blogs. It’s all good.

      To me the only yardstick is if you’ve got one new fact or insight to add, then go for it! Simply recycling what’s out there, on the other hand, is bo-ring.

  18. Awesome list, Carol! They’re all great suggestions — I can’t decide which one I like best, but if I were to write a list like this, Google Alerts would be on top of mine too! 🙂

    • Yeah the Google Alerts one was good. I do something similar by rounding up a bunch of feeds of my favorite news and science sites. I then save about 10-12 links a week (only my absolute favorites). I often revisit those lists later for really good resources to link to throughout my posts.

  19. Thanks for the great list Carol. As someone who writes daily, it’s fantastic to have all these fantastic ideas in one place.

    I would like to share one of the ways I overcome the dreaded writers block. It expands on #2 – regarding newspapers and magazines: if my creative juices have run dry, I literally take a magazine, open it up on a page at random and use the first picture or article my eyes fall on as inspiration.

    I find it a fun challenge and it really helps me think outside the box. Some of my more creative and inspiring posts have been born this way; I guess it’s like adding the wrong ingredient in a recipe but finding you’ve just created a new family favourite dish 🙂

  20. Funny how you always find what you need when you need it. I’ve decided to put a lot more time into writing my company and personal blogs and procrastination is my biggest problem. If I don’t procrastinate about following your tips I think I’ll be more productive.

    Thanks Carol.

  21. Nice. I stumbled on — actually, almost rear-ended — a great blog topic while on a recent road trip. I was passing trucks right and left when I happened to notice one — it was an 18-wheeler, huge — with massive bold print on the trailer: it was a casket company. Couldn’t get that out of my head for the next 300 miles (after I put as much distance between me and that truck as possible). I calculated there were about 120 “products” on board, and my brain went to town from there. The outcome — a great post on “write like you were dying.”

    Ideas are everywhere. You just have to turn life’s details into life itself. Even when it connects to, well… caskets.

    • I think people love posts that come from an unexpected or unusual angle for that blog’s topic. I have one coming later this week on my Entrepreneur magazine blog about what you can learn about entrepreneurship from SpongeBob Squarepants, for instance. I think there’s a curiosity factor to those kind of posts that make people click on them.

    • Yes Larry, totally. Ideas ARE everywhere. It is just about tuning in to our environment and always being mindful of our thoughts. I just wrote an article about brainstorming today that mentions all of this.

  22. I am still all about talking with people. I think it’s really where my best posts come from. While it doesn’t always turn into something, almost every conversation I have with a client can lead to something interesting.

  23. Carol,

    Thanks for this list! I think blogging can be an excellent way to keep the mind sharp and the creativity flowing. However, my favorite part of blogging is the comment section. I learn as much from reading the comments as from the post itself. When brainstorming post ideas, I suggest that bloggers listen to their audience. Often times the best topic ideas come from a question or opinion someone left as a comment.


    • When you peg off a well-known piece of news, you give your readers a point of instant recognition that makes your blog post accessible. Just a no-brainer strategy.

  24. What a great list. There’s definately a few ideas here I’d never considered. I love mind mapping and use them all the time. It’s a brilliant way to crystalize your ideas.


  25. A lot of good ideas, thank’s a lot
    Now I just need to put them to work for me. With my poor English that will be a big challenge 😉

  26. Thanks for sharing this awesome list Carol! We all tend to get stuck on finding new topics to blog about, but this list just opened up a new door. 🙂

    Pablo Gonzalez

  27. Wow – I appreciate this blog so much! As a PR student, I am learning how to use social media to network, establish a voice, and gain a reputation. I am sure that we all struggle with keeping our blogs up-to-date at times, and this post contains tons of great suggestions for how to combat those feelings of ‘writer’s block’. I enjoyed how you used intellectual, physical, and emotional ways that we can come up with ideas. With such a wide variety of tips, every blogger can benefit! Thank you for sharing your advice with us, and happy blogging!

  28. Thanks for the list. These make so much sense. I’m glad the idea came to you to generate a list, and I’m looking forward to the next string of posts I can come up with.

    Stay blessed…john

  29. My favorite: Don’t worry you will look dumb. Buck up and be brave. Balls, people, balls. You’ll be amazed how much you’d normally disregard if you just take your ‘correctness-level’ down only five percent!

  30. While I understand the brainstorming concept of this list, I don’t understand the basic premise. If you don’t know what to write about and need to use these suggestions for inspiration, then I don’t think you should be blogging. The world doesn’t need anymore general interest blogs that just rehash pop culture or are filled with superficial observations. Everyone knows these types of blogs are only out to generate ad revenue and it shows in the lack of quality. We need passionate people who love to blog about their passion. If you blog from the heart you will never be short of content or ideas and will struggle to find enough time to write them all down.

  31. Guess I disagree, Straight Dope.

    I think you can be passionately blogging about a niche topic and still be stuck for what exactly you want to say this week. I’m not suggesting anyone rehash pop culture or the news headlines…I’m suggesting they use them as inspiration to shed new light on their topic.

    For an example, see this post I recently did for Entrepreneur magazine’s blog about what entrepreneurs can learn from SpongeBob Squarepants, which got a pretty strong response and good traffic for that site. I think it provided a nice departure from our normal reporting on federal legislation that affects small business owners that added some variety to my blog there.

    Relating to something instantly recognizable like that can really draw readers in…and varying your posts with some of the brain-teasers above doesn’t mean you’re not passionate…to me, it means your creative and want to keep making it fresh and appealing to new readers.

    Write on —

    • Oh yes, there are many great ideas here! I was referring specifically to more examples about item #15 – Mine your hobbies.

      You provided a link to 1 article, and I was wondering if you have others that fit into that category.

      Thank you for your quick response – I’m excited to read more from you!

  32. Superb article for bookmarking!

    I was particularly intrigued by Carol’s byline that states that she “had to find four story ideas each week during her 12 years as a staff writer.” It’s motivational (if Carol can do it, so can you!) and demonstrates the importance of a compelling byline. I had to check out her blog after reading this post. Glad I did! 🙂

  33. Thanks, Carol, this is the BEST list of techniques I’ve read yet. I’m copying it, editing it down to the bold highlights, printing it & posting it to my bulletin board. No more brain block excuses!

  34. @Stefanie — Yeah…I just did the math and that’s like 2,400 story ideas I had to find during my staff days (counting a couple weeks a year off for vacation). Sort of boggling to contemplate, but it really helped develop my idea-finding muscles.

    @Deirdre — glad you found the list useful.

  35. Hi Carol,

    You are very much right about Google Alert, that really help us to track the niche in an effective way. Every week this alert gets us lots of contents idea. Google Reader do the similar, personally I prefer the google reader as this one is more convenient, and that does not fill your email with long list. And I love the Karen (@Karen Tiede) idea of http://search.twitter.com for searching new trendy topic.

    Thanks for such an excellent checklist, that’s gonna help us to find new topics to be blogged. We’ve just started our Apparel Makers’ blog, this list gonna help us to get inspired. I am gonna get a print out of this post and stick it on the wall in my desk.

    Thanks once again.

  36. @Siraj — glad the list is helping you! It’s true, you’re never alone without an idea when you’re running a few Google alerts on your industry. I consider it a must just to know what’s happening out there, so I’m sure to react to any major breaking news.

    For people who blog for others, those news alerts are often a critical tool for keeping a client blog on track.

    Best of luck with your blog!

  37. Hi Carol, thanks so much for this useful information. We’ve just started with our company blog so I am gobbling up all of your helpful hints. Keep them coming!

  38. We have over 2,000 affiliates that promote our site via various means and one of them is blogging. Rather than us keeping telling them to promote us promote us bla bla bla. We try to help them in general to promote their sites. It is our hope if their site gets more traffic we will in the end get more traffic. Additionally, if we help them then the give and take principal is put into action. Give and take is not a totally accurate description is it? It is more like give and those that get will want to give back. That is human nature. I will share your 50 techniques will all more affiliates. It should help them to produce more and better content that will get them more and better traffic. It is all goo. Cool. Thanks.

  39. Brilliant! So many fabulous ideas, each one simple enough to grasp instantly, but specific enough to focus in on, and clear enough to be genuinely thought provoking — the list feels like a gift. Thank you!

  40. Nice article about getting inspiration and finding ideas to write about. But I suffer from another syndrome that I think many new bloggers may be facing. That is, instead of lack of ideas, I have many ideas that are interlinked and after I write about one thing, I find it is a cluster of ideas which are unfocused. I know many people suggest breaking them up and writing separate posts for each of such ideas or title them as ’10 great things, etc…’ Theoretically, these are correct, but I feel dissatisfied about it. Any suggestions to overcome it?

  41. I say, take your unfocused cluster of ideas and create a themed, connected series of blogs. Then, after they all run, turn it into a free little ebook that covers the whole topic in-depth. Give them each a header like Focus: (and then this post’s one idea). And so on. Create a tag for “focus” so they can be easily read in a thread off your tag cloud.

    The key is not to sell your ideas short or try to cram them all into a single post. Unpack them for the people — they’ll appreciate it.

    There’s a Talmudic concept: “Too much and the mind cannot absorb.” Try to squash all your thoughts into one post and you end up overwhelming readers. Give each idea the breathing room it needs, so people can absorb each aspect of it. Gives you more posts, and readers will get more out of it.

    Best of luck with it!

    • I understand that I should write a series of posts (not blogs?) and concentrate on one idea per post. Thanks for your kind advice. I will definitely try it out and I think it must solve the problem.

  42. Hi Carol,

    Your 50 tips schmacked me right in the head! I am sooo out of ideas for my blogs today. Thank you!!!

  43. Hi Carol,

    I’ve started blogging for the past one week and i thank God and Google for stumbling upon to this wonderful blog of yours. This is like an encyclopedia for bloggers ! Especially the newbies like me. Thank you so much for the effort you have taken in sharing your knowledge.

    Best regards,
    Midhun Manmadhan

  44. These are great ideas! I have started working on one or two that really make sense for me in the real estate business. I am spending a lot of hours daily right now trying to get my blog noticed, and to make it very useful and likely to be re-sent. Thank you for this article!

    Barbara Miller, Realtor®

  45. I think a great to generate creative ideas albeit for blogs, stories, whatever, is collaborative writing. The great thing about collaborative writing is it allows people to simultaneously critique while exploring new ideas and styles. The internet is a great medium to write collaboratively with others. Check out this live collaborative story telling site Write in the Clouds

  46. Great tips – Take a hike- I do that!! Take a bath- great idea. Make a prediction – Definitely a good way to get attention. Thanks for posting these tips. They will be awesome for getting over blogger’s block!

  47. So glad I found this list.

    Being totally new to blogging my initial intension for a new blog was to push and promote our products and services. Your list has given me new inspiration on sourcing ideas for subject matter that hopefully will make more interesting reading than us beating the drum on what we do and good we are.

  48. As a website company, we sell an integrated blog module with many of our solutions. However, before we do this we try to warn the client that a blog is only useful if its regularly updated!! I managed to find around 10 ideas for sourcing content for them, but this has made my job so much easier.

    Thanks Carol, great ideas.

  49. Great list, thank you for this valuable ideas. I like this one “Do an interview.”
    Here is my opinion: If you find a really interesting person to interview then not only you can create at least two great posts but also you can then take some interesting points from the interview rework them, add your personal opinion and you can create more fresh blog posts!

  50. I wonder how long did it take you, Carol, to make this list? You had to do a lot of hiking :-D.. Thank you for this post. I was just looking for some more ideas form my future blogs posts and this article just came at the right time. I was doing Google alerts, but some of the points are really worth trying.

  51. I think I’ll have to save this list to refer to often. I really like #7 and will have to write a post or two this week. Maybe I’ll even choose one of your posts to write about. Great list!

  52. This is a great list carol and one that I can truly say will help me. You really took the time to think outside the box here with this list and I appreciate your effort. Too often as you said at the beginning of your article, we tend to stay inside our head while the best thing to do for inspiration and to look around! Loved it! Thank you!


  53. Take a bath. Ideally, after the walk. Ahhhhh. That warm water just seems to release the creativity, doesn’t it?

    Pretty much 90% of my ideas came while I was in shower. That includes “why not start blogging”.

    Since then, I never had a second thoughts about wasting water.

  54. Great post Carol! Thank you so much! Although I have a list of 50 ideas going for recipe posts right now, your list is a great tool when none of my list is inspiring me. When I get stuck, I’ll use your list!

  55. That was a great post..!!!! i am very new to blogging…n was searching for some ideas n techniques….n ur tips really great..will b startin my blog soon…:-)…thanks to u…!

  56. Wow. What a big list. Many great ideas that look simple, yet in practice are quite hard to do. Article could only have been written by a person with plenty of years of blogging experience. Someone who can create articles day in day out. Unfortunately, I don’t have the same superhuman powers as Carol, but I’m sure this article will help me out.

    Just one idea I came across recently… It’s using Google Reader. You mentioned Google Alerts, but Google Reader also works wonders. Overall though, excellent article and bookmarked.

    Many thanks for sharing Carol.

  57. “Pretty much 90% of my ideas came while I was in shower.”<—AWESOME comment. Water literally cannot be overestimated. Or, working whilst not working. …When you just release something, you automatically come up with all the things you’d wished you came up with when trying to come up with it. In addition to brainstorming in the shower, lying in bed before sleeping is incredible; some people claim to have been able to build their companies soleby based on the ideas that came in bed.

    “Here is my opinion: If you find a really interesting person to interview then not only you can create at least two great posts but also you can then take some interesting points from the interview rework them, add your personal opinion and you can create more fresh blog posts!”<—also, you can turn that interview into a product, for your market; which you then repurpose into video-content, you talking the interview out, transcribing it (if it’s not a text interview) and much more. YOu then pack these different versions into the same package; and, BOOM – you have something worth a lot of money. But, if you’re going to do this, your interview must be with an expert in your niche.

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