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Starting a New Blog? Start With a Mind Map

Yesterday we covered how to use mind mapping to come up with topics to post about.

As I was writing that post I was reminded of a very similar process that I went through when planning my last new blog – Digital Photography School.

I wish I could find the notebook that I did the exercise in (I’ve still got boxes to unpack from our move) but it was very similar to some of the mindmaps that I shared yesterday.

  • The idea is to start with your over all blog’s topic/niche.
  • Then to brainstorm categories
  • Then to begin to brainstorm post and series topics

Here’s how it’d look:

New-Blog-Brainstorming

The beauty of doing this exercise before you start a new blog is that you think a little strategically about the bones of your blog (categories) and before you even start blogging you have a road map of the posts that you want to write in the first weeks and months.

If I were starting a new blog tomorrow I’d spend considerable time mapping it out in this way.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. I am a big fan of mind maps, i use them daily. Some Great Advice!

    Thanks.

  2. mahdi yusuf says:

    i have a couple of people, making start ups i will forward them this thanks alot! i could use it too to be honest

  3. Starting a new blog? I run out of time to manage just the one that I already have, lol. :) But seriously, if I ever do, I’ll try this method – it looks like a great way to get organized.

  4. Stephanie says:

    I haven’t ever used mind maps although I can see where they could be useful, especially for ensuring that you have plenty of ideas.

    I’m sure it works really well even for established blogs.

    My own tactic has always been to have a list of ideas ready. Sometimes one idea can be used over and over as the different aspects of the topic are explored. I’ve never had anything as formal as a mind map, but a long list of ideas with details sometimes added for more ideas works well for me.

  5. lornadoone says:

    I have to laugh every time you post one of these mind mapping ideas. Some time ago I wrote about mind mapping for one of my blogs, and I got flamed over how stupid it was. Now I see that the ProBlogger is spending days talking about it, and I just want to say “nyah, nyah” to the person who told me I should “get a clue.”

  6. DefogMyBlog says:

    Looks nice and colourful and that makes it even more appealing or is it a case of my simple mind likes simple things?

  7. acca says:

    I see we all can use this for old blogs, too, not only for new ones.

  8. Hi Darren, great way of developing new blogs. Just thinking on some new blog ideas for my personal future. I’ve been blogging now for some months (newbie :)) and discovered the advantages & chances you have. I saw you’re also using wordpress – great. What would you think- as a german native speaker, better blogging in german, or adressing the whole world by writing in english (+risking mistakes), or using automatic translation as bad as it is? CU, Joe

  9. afham says:

    good seh!!
    in managing ur blog to look nice..
    brainstorming part

  10. I am really enjoying this series of posts. As a natural doodler, this makes good sense to me. I wish I had a huge white board to do it on though.

  11. Mark says:

    Darren – the move must have stirred YOUR creative juices…I can’t keep up with all the new posts :)

    Thanks for the mind mapping information and examples.

    Enjoy your weekend!
    Mark

  12. Jim Hession says:

    Another way to brainstorm is to try to activate the creative parts of the brain by using a tool called synectics. For example you might ask the question, “How is my blog like an asteroid?” – or a video monitor or a native american drum. The possibilities are endless. This can really open up your thinking. For more on synectics, see http://edweb.sdsu.edu/courses/ET650_online/MAPPS/Synectics.html

  13. My little way of doing things is when I’m in the mood to write all these different articles i just sit down and write as many different topics that i can think of. I may come to about 30 before i stop and then i might add a bit of content into a couple of them to inspire me when i come back to it

    The categories part will come naturally later but at least i have a million and one ideas to lean on.

  14. I’ve spotted the fatal flaw in this post-factory concept you touted t’other day. I have a select bunch of posts feeding my google sidebar on my desktop. Now that I know you’re doing what you’re doing it suddenly seems a bit manufactured. We’ve had several versions of the Adsense idea and now the mind map idea. Without wishing to offend, I preferred it when every post seemed unique.

    db

  15. Joe says:

    Great idea. I have been scratching out notes in OneNote, on paper, and everywhere else on what my blog should look like – no single theme emerged. I have used mindmaps for developing training, but never thought to use it for blog design (duh Joe!).

    Putting the two together was an epiphany for me. I am working on my map and have 2 distinct blog concepts so far with a LOT of article ideas.

    Thanks

  16. Andy Merrett says:

    David: I struggle to see how mind mapping ideas turns a blog into something manufactured. What it’s doing is releasing cooped up creativity, and allowing the blogger to think ahead, and to provide genuinely valuable series, and links between posts.

    Mind mapping is an established method of unleashing creativity and thrashing out ideas in the early stages. Bear in mind that you still have to write content for the posts you ultimately decide to keep.

  17. I think it’s a good way to start a new blog. I don’t agree with people who say it’s manufactured. It’s not manufactured, it’s called planning. How can you start a blog if you don’t even know the main categories you going to blog about?

  18. Cindy S says:

    I can see that mind mapping and writing blogs in advance would help me in one important way. I write fairly quickly and when I go back to read my already published posts, I wonder what in the He… I was thinking. Sometimes it’s a grammatical error and sometimes it is just an unfinished train of thought. Writing a week in advance would give me a chance to let the post “cool” for a few days and then re-editing them.

    I haven’t tried mind mapping and getting that close to my mind kinda scares me.

  19. JEMi says:

    believe it or not, the timing of this posting is impeccable for me! last night I had another eureka moment :) and I decided to start another blog. Its a pretty big niche and this mind mapping you mentioned is an excellent way for me to figure out how to set it up

    thank you so much for this
    this site is a very valuable resource for me

    i appreciate it

  20. Seth Sluggo says:

    I like the graphics in your last few posts. They really help me visually understand what you are talking about.

  21. James B. says:

    I just wing it. Thats what i did with my blog on hunting tips.

  22. Abhijeet Mukherjee says:

    Darren…where’s blog marketing in your map???…its an important part of strategy right?

  23. Deb says:

    This is great. I really didn’t put a lot of thought to my direction before, but now that I’m rethinking my process, this comes in handy

  24. Adriano says:

    I simply cannot believe in my eyes! I just got here thinking in what should I do to start my new blog, PhilosophyQuest, and then your newest post is about that! Awesome!

  25. Mike King says:

    I didn’t see a mention yet of the tools available yet for mindmapping. For those who are interested, these are a couple of great free tools to use:
    1. Freemind (http://freemind.sourceforge.net)
    2. MindMeister (http://www.mindmeister.com)

  26. Ben Tremblay says:

    *I’ve used my LJ link even though it’s not much more than a bookmark heap cuz it treats concept mapping and such-like*

    Nice graphic. It reminded me of the “infinite regress” that got me started on my own project (which eventually left the graphical approach entirely): niche | category | series | post … that works great in the restricted case but gets nutso crazy theoretical at some point … like trying to find the theory of everything.

    I see Mike has pointed to FreeMind … there’s also Mindomo. (I didn’t find the site I intended to give you. *shrug*)

    And for the record, The Mindmapping Toolbox: 100+ Tools, Resources, and Tutorials from BootStrapping.

    p.s. “On Mindmeister, XMIND and Mind Mapping” at CircleSix

  27. Dr.Mani says:

    Agree absolutely with you that it’s a great plan/method, Darren. Works well even with a blog re-launch – as in, when you plan to take an established blog in a new, different direction.

    But unless you plan far enough ahead, there’s a chance you’ll run out of steam and have to change once again, losing your following.

    When I decided to make ‘Blogging for Influence and Attention’ the new theme of my blog, I outlined 5 broad categories, then first drafted out titles/ideas for 30 ‘pillar articles’ on EACH of the categories.

    Considering that each pillar can be spun out into 5 or more ‘related’ content bits, as you suggested in the earlier post, this ensures a steady flow of content ideas for a reasonable period of time while I test the interest for the subject in my audience.

    Great post, once again. Thanks for sharing it.

    All success
    Dr.Mani

  28. Collin says:

    At what point should a person consider to start a new blog? I like the map idea but don’t know if I could ever make time to start a new one.

  29. Okay. Obviously, some planning is needed and it doesn’t make the blog seem entirely manufactured but to my eye seeing a stream of post titles in the headlines sidebar that use similar keywords (e.g. mapping, adsense etc), which we have recently from this blog it kind of looks a bit contrived.

    db

  30. EarnBlogger says:

    Great strategy. A mind map always helps in planning process. Thanks for pointing it towards blogging.

  31. coolthought says:

    Yup. This is a much improved mind map then the last one and we can see clearly the things going on in the mindmap.

  32. Andy Merrett says:

    Still a bit confused. Looking through Problogger’s recent posts, if anything there’s more about AdSense than there is about mind mapping!

    Perhaps not everyone reading a blog likes post series, which is why it can be good to put up individual, unrelated posts in-between. After all, with hyperlinking between related posts, there’s no problem if they don’t follow one after another without interruption.

  33. Lex G says:

    in addition to this mind map that darren described here , there is a post on my blog, http://www.newmediatype.com that describes how to translate a ‘mindmap’ into an seo-strategy … that should be a good addition …. you can find it here : http://www.newmediatype.com/strategic-seo-building-an-optimal-keyword-attack-formula-for-bloggers-14

  34. anna says:

    Another great software that my kids have been using for a long time is inspiration. Not only could you use it to map yourself, your kids can use it too. For linear thinkers, it also can outline. Simple to use for young kids to adults.

    Here is the link: http://www.inspiration.com/. Darren, can you talk more about blog marketing for a new blog?

  35. vineet says:

    mind mapping is being prescribed by bloggers and internet marketeers alike as a gr8 tool to develop content, ebooks, digital products etc. I myself have used a few and I am using it to generate new ideas for future posts. It is effective from the perspective that it lets you visually see all posts in one view and lets you think of how you can extend the existing posts to new ones.
    Then like a few writers have posted in the comments there is a risk of ending up with a lot of manufactured content as others thinking in the same line as u with mind mapping may end up with the same content.

    The article and the comments on the articles gives a pretty balanced perspective.. thanks all.

    I m thinking how about presenting the pro and cons view point in one of my posts. Wonder if its already taken :)

    Vineet nair
    http://vineetnair.com

  36. Ankur Jain says:

    Nice post Darren, cant be better timed for me, am actually kicking off a blog on my domain in a weeks time.

  37. Craig says:

    I’ve been a big fan of mindmaps for ages. I’ve used them to prepare lectures, study for exams and write articles and posts by the dozen. It’s quite important to really understand them though, otherwise they just become a glorified brainstorm.

  38. Justin Dupre says:

    How simple is this idea? All elementary children learn this in 1st grade. Brainstorming, or for smaller children, spider maps. Wonderful idea, no?. A bit of a lexicon as well.

    While a bit of brainstorming is always necessary for any blog, I will definitely try some similar techniques with my next blog.

  39. It is very nice mindmap and concept. I think there are many true informations what u sharing and beneficial for everyone who is new in blogging or would like to improve own blog, its not easy this times cause there are so many competition..

  40. Andrew Boyd says:

    Hi Darren,

    great idea :)

    I use MindManager for mind-mapping in day-to-day consulting work – there are OSX and Windows versions (I have both). It exports to MS Word which makes it great for document/site outlines, and it is really handy for “what if we change this bit of site navigation?” explorations of site maps.

    MindManager Pro (Windows only, sadly) would allow you to put your series topics above into clouds that showed the grouping, and add non-hierarchical relationships (a bunch of arrows that can go any which way).

    The great strength of the general run of mindmapping tools – showing hierarchical categorisation of ideas – is also their weakness (i.e. the hierarchical mindset only goes so far towards communicating non-hierarchical ideas, such as n-dimensional navigation with mixed browse/search/”did you know?”/”customers also bought” facets). To be fair, even MindManager gets messy when there are a lot of non-hierarchical relationships.

    The good thing is that the posting idea mindmap could be wonderful for showing relationships between ideas as those ideas progress through time (which can be hard to show in two dimensions without specifying time as a facet) by tagging the concepts with the date of recording/date of use.

    I need to play with this and see what else drops out of it, thanks for the inspiration :)

    Best regards, Andrew

  41. Strikes me as something that applies to new AND existing blogs. When you run out of steam or are looking for ideas to start new series, creating a mindmap based on past successful posts that can be fleshed out into series or developing new ideas relating to the niche market can save a blog from going stale.

    Might need to give my blogs a new breath of fresh air for the new year…

  42. Pete says:

    This has helped me so much. Thanks Darren! I’ve just uncovered about 150 new post ideas that I’ve never seen before.

  43. KOGY says:

    Thank you for this article, it made me realise that I may have been rushing things a bit which has been affecting the layout and sequence of my posts.

    I will do this and I hope to have a more improved blod.

    thanx

  44. Jeff Chavez says:

    I really appreciated this post. I wanted my readers to see this also so I’ve provided a link to it from one of my recent posts:

    http://northstarthinktank.typepad.com/northstar_thinktank/2007/06/start-a-blog.html

    Keep up the good work!
    Jeff

  45. vhxn.com says:

    thanks darren for this tips , you are giving lots of useful tips
    http://www.vhxn.com

  46. Jummy says:

    This is going to be such a helpful exercise for me as I’ve recently come up with a topic/niche and just need to get working on it before someone else discovers it too!

  47. Suzie Cheel says:

    Thanks Darren,
    I am starting a new blog and I think the mind mapping is a great way to make sure everything gets included.

    The example you have is excellent

  48. This is a good idea. Thanks.

  49. My wife was considering starting a new blog the very day I saw this article. I read it to her and she instantly got to work. She is very excited and believes that she has at least half a years worth of posts mapped out already. She spent half a day just mapping her new blog out and she is taking it one step further and is already writing some of her posts.

  50. Andrew says:

    This may prove useful (with some modification) in group writing where you would split topics within one blog among several authers