Today I’d like to talk about choosing topics for blog posts as part of our series on how to craft a blog post.
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Choosing the right topic to write about on your blog is vital if you want to write a post that engages your reader.
Rushing the choice of topic can set you off in the wrong direction and end up wasting both your time and that of your reader.
While sometimes the idea for a post hits you and needs little adaption – I find that many (if not most) times the first idea that comes to me for a post needs a little molding (or marinating) before it’s just right. I will often come up with a post idea and end up evolving it into something that is quite different – but which is much richer in terms of how interesting it is.
Here’s how choosing a blog post title often works for me:
- I’ll jot down an idea for a post topic in a text document on my desktop (this usually happens while I’m doing something else).
- Once a day I scan my ‘idea’ text documents and look for a topic that connects with me for that day (I like to work on things that give me energy).
- With that document open I’ll begin to brainstorm points that I could write about, title ideas and think particularly about reader needs that the post might overcome). I often use a mind mapping technique to do this brainstorming – it can actually lead to hundreds of post ideas.
- As I brainstorm a post begins to take shape and more importantly the topic emerges. While I have points and title ideas jotted down it is the ‘topic’ that I’m particularly trying to nail down at this point. Anything else is a bonus and will help cut down work later – but it’s the topic I’m attempting to identify.
- Quite often as I engage in this process I’ll end up with more than one topic – many of these i’ll put aside for another day but some will emerge into a series of posts.
Other tips on choosing a topic for your next blog post
- Identify a Need – As mentioned above – I’m particularly trying to name a need or problem that my reader has. I find that if I can have this in my mind as I write a post that it not only ends up being a well focused post – it ends up being useful to readers. So as you choose a topic to write about – identify concrete needs that you’re aiming for the post to fulfil and questions that you want the post to answer.
- Picture a Reader – Chris Garrett often talks about how he has a number of readers in mind as he blogs – he keeps their situation, needs, questions and challenges in front of him as he writes and even pictures them in his mind as he chooses topics and writes them. In this way he doesn’t just end up theoretical or abstract topics – but is closer to writing concrete and applicable posts that will connect with readers.
- Break out of the Echo chamber – one trap that many bloggers fall into is producing blogs posts that simply regurgitate what others are writing on their blogs. If the topic I’m wanting to write about is one that others are also covering one of the things that I attempt to do in this phase of choosing topics is to find a new angle. How can you bring your own spin to the topic? How can you give your readers something unique to ponder? Read more about breaking out of the echo chamber (and also here).
- Write Something that Matters to You – I find that when i write a post that matters to me (as opposed to one that is merely reporting news or tapping into a popular topic) that it tends to connect on a deeper level with readers. I guess it is logical really – when something matters to you it shines through in the way you communicate about it and this has a way of engaging others who also think it matters. Another way to say this is to ‘let your topics choose you’ rather than you choosing what topics you want to write about.
- Write Something Topical – Writing on a topic that is currently popular or that people are searching for information on is defitely something to keep in mind as you select a topic to post on. Use a tool like Google Trends to watch trends of what people are searching Google for, keep an eye on social media sites to see what people are voting for there – these topics can be well worth tapping into – particularly if you find a fresh way to explore them (see above point on breaking out of the echo chamber).
- One Topic per Post – this will vary a little from blog to blog depending upon your niche and style of writing but I find that posts that really hone in on one particular topic and communicate one main idea tend to do best. There is nothing wrong with writing long sweeping posts that cover many things, but do keep in mind that most people’s reading style on line is to scan content, flip between pages and not to dwell on any one thing for too long. So refine the topic for your next blog post down to one simple idea. If you have more than one write a series of posts or put those that you’re not going to focus upon into your ideas journal for another day. After all, you’re writing a blog and can expand upon your other ideas every day for the rest of your blogs life!
- Plan Ahead – one thing that has helped me a lot in my blogging when it comes to choosing topics to cover is to think ahead about my blogging and develop an editorial calendar. I do this in my computer’s calendar program (I use iCal) where I have a calendar dedicated to each of my blogs. I don’t use this all of the time but find it particularly useful when I know I’m going to have a busy week or two (or when I’m traveling) as it helps me to think clearly and plan ahead for my blogging. Chris G has a nice post on planning blog post topics with an editorial calender.
- Looking for more ideas? – also on the theme of choosing a topic to blog is my recent post 24 Things to Do When Stuck for a Topic to Blog About – In it you’ll find quite a few other ideas for coming up with post ideas.
Not every post that you write will be able to do all of the above things.
There are times where in most niches you’ll need to cover a story that doesn’t really ‘matter’ to you so much – or where you write about something that does matter that is not topical – however somewhere in the mix of all of these things a post’s topic will emerge.
Take Your Time With Topic Choice
The point of this current series is to challenge us as bloggers to take a little extra time at different points in the process of crafting blog posts.
So main point today is simply to do that when it comes to choosing a topic. Don’t fall into the temptation of always writing about the first thing that comes into your mind. Instead, take those ideas and mold and shape them into something special – something that will engage both you and your reader.
One More Tip on Selecting Topics for blog posts
Looking for a little more inspiration and teaching on how to select topics for your blog posts?
Here’s a video that I made a few months back that shows you how to find blog post topics by analyzing your blogs statistics.
Got some tips of your own on choosing topics to post on? Add them in comments below – looking forward to hearing how you do it.
Read the Full Series
This post is part of a series on how to craft blog posts. It will be all the more powerful if taken in context of the full series which looks at 10 points in the posting process to pause and put extra effort. Start reading this series here.