Saturday, September 26, 2015

How to Pick Blog Topics

Even as a professional writer, it can be hard to determine what I want to write about here. Part of that is because I spend a lot of time editing online content, writing blog posts for others, and ghostwriting ebooks. So, sometimes I just don't have the time to mess with my own blog. One thing I am asked on a fairly frequent basis via Facebook is how to pick blog topics. So, I thought that I would walk you through my personal process for my own blog. I'll also be writing a business take on this (although many of the tips here will work for a business). Yes, there will eventually be a video and podcast discussing the topics. Since I've only had two hours of sleep, I figured blogging is the best place to start...because it's a hell of a lot easier to edit than a video or podcast. Let's get started.

For the sake of simplicity, I'm going to presume that you've already chosen your blogging platform, and that you have it set up. Oh, and one more thing...this isn't about how to get visitors to your blog. This is literally what it says - how to pick blog topics for your blog.

Take Time to Think About What You Want to Blog About

Taking the time to think about what you want to blog about is probably the best thing you can do to develop blog topics. One thing I will tell you about this is that you will come up with great ideas and some not so great ideas. Don't discard ideas because you think they've been done over and over again. If I took that approach, there are some topics (such as this one) that I would never discuss despite the fact that people still want to read about it. So, think about those ideas as more along the lines of you taking the time to explain to someone your process or your experience with something. Think about it in the terms of a hard school subject. Let's take math, for instance. It took a lot for me to understand math. In high school, I had some good teachers and some not so good teachers. By not so good, that doesn't mean that they were just bad teachers. It's more that the way they taught the concepts didn't quite make sense for me. My Uncle Gary...he was a tough man. Yet, he could teach me hard math concepts that I couldn't understand at school. It's not because he had a sparkling personality (although he was a brilliant business man). He just knew how to take concepts and relate them to the individual who needed that information. So, when (not if) you think that a blog topic has been done too often by others, do it anyway. You may say it in a way that helps someone understand an idea that they couldn't previously grasp.

As I stated in the last overly long paragraph (sorry - two hours sleep)...when you're brainstorming, you will also have some ideas that are less than stellar. You have a couple of options with these blog topics. First, you could just decide not to tackle that topic. I mean, sure this is my personal blog and maybe sometimes I talk about personal things, but I don't know crap about why would I blog about engineering? That would be a bad topic for me...right?

Well, maybe not. Before you totally trash a topic I want you to do one thing...figure out how that subject ties in with the main theme of your blog. What is it about that topic that makes you want to write about it? How do those things relate to your overall theme? So, if we look back at engineering...and if you've ever read this blog may seem like a mismatch. I have a Bachelor's in Paralegal Studies. My Master's is in Forensic Psychology. Clearly, I don't know squat about engineering. However, what I could write about is how someone who is an engineer or an engineering student can benefit from learning how to write in a clear way.

Use OneNote, Evernote, a Word document, or even just an old fashioned notebook to write down every single idea...ideas...not blog titles. We will talk about how to write a blog title in a few minutes. Let's move on and choose the best keywords.

Choosing the Right Keywords for Your Blog

You may or may not know what SEO is...and that's okay. I'll talk about the ins and outs on another day. What you need to know is that SEO stands for search engine optimization. If some jackass ever offers to submit your blog to all the search engines for a $50 or more fee, tell them to kick rocks. You can do that yourself and you can do it for free. I understand paying someone to do it for you out of the convenience category, but don't get screwed. SEO changes a lot. The two things you should know (for now): quality content will always be Internet royalty and keywords are your friends unless you abuse them. The most common abuse is keyword stuffing. Don't do that. It will get you penalized by the search engines. Anyway...moving on...

There are two types of keywords. There are your regular keywords and long tail keyword. A long tail keyword is more like a series of keywords. For instance, I could write a series on "becoming a freelance writer." That would be a long tail keyword; "freelance writer" would be a regular keyword. See the difference?

So, the real question is how do you choose the right keywords for your topic? Well, there are a few ways. Actually, there are a lot of ways. What you see here will be my favorite ways.

Use Your Search Engine. It is your friend! Take your topic and open your favorite browser. Now, go to your favorite search engine. I use Google. Type your topic into the search bar. Don't hit enter. Just watch what pops up next to it (Google loves to finish my sentences) and under it. There. Now you have at least a few more refined ideas for your topic. When I do the videos for YouTube, I'll show you exactly how to do it via screenshare.

Use AdWords Keyword Generator. Make sure that you sign up for an AdWords account even if you never plan to use it. You'll have to still set up a mock campaign. I listed $1 as my daily budget. It doesn't ask for any payment info. Scroll down to where you can type in keywords. Put in your first idea. The number that pops up next to it when you hit enter is how many searches the topic receives (I think in a day, but I might be wrong). The higher the number, the more competition there is for that phrase...meaning it could be a little more difficult for you to rank organically in the first few pages (but that's okay - you can still do it). Now, when you place your mouse near the number, you'll see a little button that says "More like this." So, click that. You'll get some other related topics. Many of those topics will not have the same amount of competition. :) I'll show you how to do this when I record the YouTube video. This post is getting so long that it might end up being a series of videos!

Use Other Keyword Tools. There are other great (free!) keyword tools that you can use online. This is one of my favorites. The one by Wordstream isn't bad, either! I'll tell you this much...I love keyword research. Yes, I know I'm a freak...and I can lose a lot of time in the research process. So, if you love research, be careful.

Google Alerts! For certain clients, I use Google Alerts to determine what topics I should use in a blog. You don't have to save the alerts. You can just go to the Google Alerts page and then just type in the subject. You'll get an idea of other content that's out there. That can help you figure out what to write about.

When you write, you need to do it in such a way that you're not forcing the keywords to fit. I chose a couple of keywords for this piece, but frankly...content quality is more important. Quality content gets attention. It's more than keywords that raise your ranking in the search engines (organically).

How to Word Your Blog Title

Okay, so with any luck you know by now exactly what you want to blog about and the keywords you plan to use. So, now you have to develop a title. You, again, have three options. Your first option is to write your draft first and then settle on a title. I do this sometimes. I might have two good title ideas, but not know which one to use. Writing the piece usually solidifies which headline is more fitting.

Your next option is to look at the current trends in titles. "How to..." and "______ Hacks" are easy ways to get readers right now. Oh, and remember the listicles of 2014? And who could forget the "infograph" trend? That was one trend I was glad to see die out. So, think about the types of things that your target audience would want to read. Why do you think I chose "How to" for this blog title? I could have just called it "Choosing Blog Topics." I used "How to" because that's what people use in the search engine and that's what people want to click on through social media. So, I give you guys what you want.

The third (and yet a really good) way to word your blog title is to use a blog title generator. There are several out there that are very good. I'll show you some of my favorites when I do the video(s) for YouTube. Just search "blog topic generator" in your favorite search engine. Specifically, there's an article that comes up by Wordstream that is excellent and lists eight really good content title generators.

Ta-da. There you go. That's how you can pick blog topics, refine your keywords, and word your title. Please do me a favor and leave me a comment below if you have questions or if you found this helpful. Also, please share through social media!

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