What does every blogger need more of? Quality content!
This is the first of a series of six posts that tackle key content questions. Today, we’re looking specifically at content sources: places where you can get ideas and information that, with a little work, you can turn into quality blog posts.
Your posts may be text, images or video; they could deal with any topic. But every blogger needs post ideas, and all of us hit uninspired patches through which we still need to produce compelling content to a regular schedule.
Thinking strategically about the content sources you use can deliver several benefits:
- It provides its own inspiration: can’t think of a personal story to share today? No problem — use one of the many other content sources at your disposal.
- It can make your life easier: instead of scrounging around one or two sources of ideas, you can find and track great sources through which you’ll gain access to a constant flow of post ideas.
- It helps ensure you don’t omit important information: if your blog covers a growing market space, there are probably news items and events that you’ll want to make sure you cover. Monitoring key content sources will help you deliver the essential stories to your readers at the right time.
- It can help you to think intelligently about how you pitch each post: a greater choice of content sources offers you more opportunities to creatively reach specific reader segments in ways that resonate specifically with them.
- It can give you a wider range of tools with which to achieve your blogging objectives: try different content sources, and over time you may well find that different types of information produce posts that serve particular objectives. We all know, for example, that a review post can provide affiliate opportunities that can translate directly into revenue. Work out which post types help achieve specific audience, promotion or revenue goals, and identify content sources for those posts, and you’ll be able to focus on making the content resonate with your audience, rather than spending your time searching for basic post ideas.
I usually see content sources as falling into two categories: internal and external sources.
Internal Content Sources
Internal content sources are those that exist within my operation, myself, and my audience. They include:
- feedback and audience discussion around past posts
- the audience itself
- my experiences, perspective, and opinion
- my network of colleagues and contacts
It’s essential that you stay abreast of what’s happening on your site. Existing discussions can help you identify topics that unite your audience in sharing, learning, or debate — all of which helps build community.
It’ll also provide one means for engaging with your audience (along with social media and other sources of direct audience contact). Sure, your site stats are helpful as a frame of reference, but nothing beats actual user engagement for getting ideas about what your blog’s readers want to know, what makes them laugh, and what motivates them.
Thinking objectively about your own experiences in the field, as well as those of your contacts, can unearth some intriguing ideas and information that can immediately help you to develop posts. But beyond that, your passion for your field should see you investigating ideas with colleagues, and forming your own opinions about industry developments. Those unique perspectives can provide a wealth of post ideas — from interviews and news-style reports to the kinds of opinion and analysis posts that stick in readers’ minds, and keep them coming back to check the comments long after they’ve read your post.
External Content Sources
External content sources lie beyond my immediate sphere of operation. They include:
- other media focused on the same topic, including offline media, such as interest magazines and industry publications, forums, user groups, social network trends and discussions, and more.
- other people focused on the same topic, including thought leaders, commentators, reviewers, passionate hobbyists, and organisational heads.
I like to subscribe to media that focus on the same topic as my blog, so I’m constantly fed content ideas through story alerts, media releases, and news updates. The same goes for tracking people who lead opinion or have expertise in my area — by subscribing to their blogs, regularly visiting their sites, and following them on social networks, I can keep a grip not just on the news, but on the discussions and thinking that occur in the broader arena in which I operate.
The posts that arise from these sources might be as pragmatic as a product or service review, daily reports from an industry conference, or ongoing commentary on a major development in your area of interest. Or they can be as theoretical as an essay taking in various industry-leading opinions, advice, and responses on a particular topic. The posts may be yours, or those of a guest blogger you’ve sourced through your offsite research. In any case, your blog won’t be short of content.
Sourcing regular, quality content is every blogger’s challenge. But with that challenge comes the hurdles of variety, insight, exclusivity and personality. At the heart of it all, you’ll need a continuous content sourcing approach.
To source content continually, you’ll need to build content sourcing into your schedule, and into your brain. Yes, you’ll need to dedicate time to content-sourcing tasks, like flicking through RSS feeds, reading, researching, interviewing, networking, and so on. But all that becomes easy if you treat everything you do around your blog topic as a potential content sourcing opportunity.
Soon, you’ll no longer sit down to write a blog post and start by wracking your brains for ideas. Instead, you’ll find content ideas pop up everywhere. You’ll stop asking yourself, “What will I write about?” and find yourself picking and choosing from a plethora of ideas that “just come to you”.
What’s your favourite source of quality content ideas?
Continue reading this series of articles on questions surrounding blog content.
About the Author: Georgina has more than ten years’ experience writing and editing for web, print and voice. She now blogs for WebWorkerDaily and SitePoint, and consults on content to a range of other clients.