It's easy to dismiss as procrastination or writer's block, but being critical of what you write about is actually really smart -- because aimless blogging is almost as bad (sometimes as bad) as not blogging at all.
Before you start writing anything for your blog, you need to figure out what a great blog topic looks like for your business, and whether what you have on your hands is something you should ... or should not ... write about.
This post will give you a thought process to take yourself through when coming up with topics. You can use it to generate new ideas, refine topics already in the works, and identify which topics are worth pursuing further.
First, a very important word on "topics" versus "working titles."
(Seriously, don't skip this section.)
Until now, I've been talking about blog post "topics" because it's the nomenclature most people are familiar with. And that's where blogging should start -- topic selection. However, a topic is not enough to start blogging. You shouldn't start writing a blog post until you've solidified a "working title."
What's the difference between a "topic" and a "working title"? Well, a topic is something general, while a working title is specific. Here are some examples of topics:
Outsourcing content creation
Scaling social media marketing
Business blogging efficiency
But that's not enough to create a blog post from. Why? Because the topics could go a million different ways! Think of all the things you could write about outsourcing content creation, as a topic. You could write about how to find good freelance writers, how to find expert freelance designers, how much outsourced content should cost, the best freelance writer marketplaces ... see what I mean?
A working title is a title that you "work" off of that guides your post. It's specific. It's niche. It doesn't encompass every little nuance of a broad topic -- it takes one single nuance and focuses on that alone. When you have a focused working title, your post will be easier to write because you'll be able to resist the urge to ramble off into a million different directions.
"Outsourcing content creation" is a topic. "How to Run Your Blog Off of Outsourced Content Creators" is a working title.
Make sense? A topic is general and could breed multiple different blog posts, while a working title is specific and guides the creation of one single blog post.
Cool, now that we have that out of the way ...
Let's go through the evaluation process of deciding whether you should blog about a topic, and how to turn it into a strong working title. I think you'll be surprised how easy it'll be to integrate this process into your content strategy.
1) First, ask yourself what the goal of the post is.
Everyone has goals they're trying to hit. Do you want to generate leads? Spread a meme that's important to your company? Get a ton of traffic? Figure that out first. For the sake of demonstrating how this works, let's pretend our goal is to drive a lot of traffic.
2) Now, let's figure out how we've successfully driven traffic to the blog in the past.
You want traffic and you want to get it by blogging. What posts have driven a ton of traffic in the past? Well, let's see -- newsjacks worked well for quick spikes of traffic. But, they don't come up often, and you're at the mercy of the news there. No good.
What else? SEO-friendly stuff has worked well. Why? Because when you write something that ranks well in organic search, people keep stumbling on it over and over, for years and years to come.
Cool! Let's try to write a blog post that's very SEO-friendly, then.
3) What topics would be SEO-friendly?
Here, you want to consider two things: persona alignment and search volume. Ask yourself what topics your persona wants to hear more about, and what they need help with.
For the sake of demonstration, let's assume your persona is really interested in selling goods on Pinterest. Is there any search volume around that phrase, "selling goods on Pinterest"? There is! Great! It looks like there's a good opportunity for you to create some content that's both search-friendly and persona-friendly.
4) Get more specific about that topic to formulate a working title.
Remember, your topic is pretty vague still -- but we're getting close to having something blog post-worthy. Spin off some long-tail variations of the topic "selling goods on Pinterest" that your persona would care about.
For instance, let's say your persona cares about Pinterest because they own their own business crafting beautiful bags and purses, and he or she knows Pinterest is a great place to get more visibility and sales. Alright, what specific titles might lend themselves to talking about that? Here are a few:
"How to Sell Goods on Pinterest"
"5 Tips for Solopreneurs to Make Money on Pinterest"
"How Top Fashion Brands Use Pinterest to Get Customers"
"Selling on Pinterest: 10 Designers Doing it Right"
See how each of those titles relate to the topic at hand -- selling goods on Pinterest -- as well as the persona? Those titles are specific, expand on a relevant topic that's also keyword-friendly, and help you meet your goals. Those are blog posts worth pursuing. These, however, are not:
"How to Generate Leads on Pinterest" -- Solopreneur ecommerce business owners aren't typically solving for a lead gen problem. "How to Find Customers on Pinterest" would be a better spin.
"How to Make Money on Social Media" -- This is an interesting topic, but you'd be more successful if you focused on just Pinterest. You could even break this out into separate posts for each social network, a la "How to Make Money on Pinterest" or "How to Make Money on Facebook."
"Pinterest Marketing Best Practices" -- This is pretty general. A more niche topic, geared specifically toward the persona, would be better. Something like "Pinterest Marketing Best Practices for Fashion Designers" or "Pinterest Best Practices for Solopreneurs" would be more appropriate.
Now you're equipped with solid topics-turned-working titles and ready to start firing off those blog posts. And remember: It's just a working title -- you can finesse the final title later! :-)