Successful blogging is all about coming up with ideas. Lots of them.
What is there to write about? What would people actually want to read that you could possibly write?
I won't lie: getting started can be tough.
But the truth is, once you get going, the ideas start flowing. I've currently got a folder of blog writing ideas in my Evernote account that just keeps on expanding, and for every blog I write, I add five new ideas.
You can easily find a continuous stream of ideas by being proactive. And that means spending a little bit of time – but not a lot – searching for ideas in the right places.
I love Twitter.
In fact, I think I'm becoming slightly addicted. And one of the reasons for that is its constant source of great ideas.
I'm not even following a huge amount of people yet (though the number is steadily rising), but every time I check my feed, I get swamped with enough good ideas to keep me going for weeks and months.
I also use it for my clients' projects, and I recommend that they do the same.
I'm still something of a Twitter amateur, so it took me a while to figure out that I could keep an eye on people in private lists without actually following them.
So now I have a number of lists set up for my main blog writing clients, in which I follow the activity of people and companies in their niches.
Need some ideas? Just check out your lists, and there they are – often dozens of them every day.
Ideas from industry leaders, individuals, small businesses, influencers. Ideas in the form of articles, links, videos, infographics … it's all there.
2. Competitors' Blogs
Besides keeping an eye on what your competitors are up to in Twitter lists, you can also follow their own blogs.
This is so simple to do, and you can set it up to work on autopilot.
Simply visit their blog, find their feed and follow it in an RSS reader (Feedly is my favourite).
Then every time they publish a blog, you'll be notified.
What are they writing about? Are they good topics? Do they get a lot of shares, comments, etc?
Don't copy them (nothing is worse than publishing your own version of exactly the same blog). But use it as inspiration, and take a note of the general idea if it is a topic that you know you could tackle.
Follow 50 or 100 competitors (or more), and do the initial legwork of signing up to their blogs. Then simply check out what they've been writing each week or whenever you need some inspiration.
3. Quora and Forums
Quora is another of my top resources for blog ideas. If you want to find out what your target audience really cares about through the questions they ask, head to Quora now.
It is such an active place where people are posting questions in your niche all the time. I have an account there, and I find it a fantastic place to get inspiration for all kinds of things.
It's also a quick and simple way to increase your visibility and share your expertise.
Set a timer for 20 minutes, head over there now, and scan a few questions in your topic. You will almost certainly find a good idea for your next blog post (or your next three posts).
Do this regularly, and there's no end to the ideas you can gather.
Forums are also good. I regularly visit small business forums to read questions and sometimes answer them. There is no better insight into what your customers are thinking, the issues they face and the problems they want answers to.
And you can answer them all in your blog posts.
How to Keep Track of All Those Great Ideas
Once you start collecting ideas regularly, you'll find that you will never be able to write about them all because you simply have too many.
They can even start to get a bit out of control.
You need a system to keep track of all those ideas – and my favourite tool, as I've already mentioned, is Evernote.
I have a folder dedicated to ideas for this blog, as well as folders for my clients' blogs.
Whenever I find something remotely interesting, or a brainwave hits me, in it goes.
Evernote also makes it easy to clip pages from the web and send them directly to the corresponding folder.
And then when I need to write the next blog, I simply head over to the folder and choose the topic that takes my fancy.
And if you are working with a team where someone comes up with ideas, another writes them, another publishes them, etc, I'd recommend using a project management tool of some sort.
My personal choice is Trello. It's visual, it's easy, and I find it perfect for this kind of project. I think it is more limited than other tools like Basecamp, but for blogging it's my favourite.
Never Run Out of Blog Ideas
No matter what business you are in, check out these resources regularly and you will never run out of ideas for your blog.
You may even find that you don't need to search for ideas at all – I often find that the simple process of writing blogs leads to new ideas, so that by the time I publish a post I already have a few more topics to write on.
But if you need some inspiration, sign up to Twitter, follow your competitors' blogs, and check out Quora and some forums.
You'll find more ideas there than you'll ever be able to write about.