How to Become a Topic Generating Machine
As the weeks wear on, generating new topics for your website or blog can become a real chore. Some days, creativity seems to be in endless supply, and you're able to come up with more titles and topics than you could possibly handle that week.
On other days, however, you will spend hours trying to come up with a few appropriate topics. In many cases, even after determining a few relevant topics, in relation to the web site that you are writing the content for, you may still determine that the topics that you chose are unworthy of further exploration.
In order to become a consistent topic generating machine, you'll need to mix up your approach and your sources, just as athletes mixes up their routines once their fitness reaches a plateau. Generating interesting and timely topics reliably is largely about keeping an open mind and as many unique sources at your fingertips as possible.
Consider the Format of the Article at Hand
In many cases, the way you word your headline will dictate the nature of the topic you're writing about. Simply by reading the headline, your readers will know whether they're in for a rant, a how-to, a list or a review. Although lists, reviews and how-to articles are popular and usually generate a lot of traffic if the contained content is high quality, there are only so many ways to spin a topic like "Seattle Small Business Marketing". You can freshen up your site and increase your topic generating freedom by exploring other formats.
Here are some quick ideas for other topic formats:
- Conduct an interview
- Describe how an upcoming event (product release, regulatory change, technology shift) will affect an aspect of your niche
- Detail the success story of a celebrity or important person related to your niche
- Expand on a previous topic that could use some more explaining
- Disagree with a point you made previously, and explain why
- Write a humor piece
- Tell a personal story
Become a Master of Your Sources
When you first started generating topics for your site, you probably found three or four high quality sites to provide inspiration and ideas. Now it's time to expand your horizons:
- Use Google Alerts to retrieve several new articles each day pertaining to a certain keyword phrase. A good topic may be a summary of what different sources are saying about the same story.
- Explore YouTube videos, podcasts, TV shows and print articles related to your niche. If you're restricting your sources to online text, you're missing a big part of the picture.
- Scan the unanswered or poorly answered questions on Yahoo! Answers, which is broken down into categories for ease of use. If you find several users asking the same question, answer it in an article.
- Get ideas from StumbleUpon, a discovery-oriented search engine that recommends sites and online content based on your interests.
- Similarly, use Technorati, another specialized search engine that specifically indexes blogs.
Listen to Your Readers
If you've created a site that regularly attracts reader comments, congratulations - you've succeeded where too many other site owners have failed. Now it's time to put those comments to work. Review all of the comments you've received recently and parse them for topic ideas. In some cases, you may find that your readers have directly requested additional coverage about a certain topic, making it a no-brainer for your next post. Other times, you'll have to read between the lines to predict what your readers are seeking next. If you skillfully read your audience and deliver topics accordingly, prepare for an uptick in traffic.
But what if you're not receiving many comments? Start by reading competing blogs and sites and see what their readers are asking for in comments. Delivering what your competitors are lacking is obviously a great way to convert some of their traffic to your own.
Next, use Google Analytics to research various keywords and determine what types of topics your readers are most interested in learning about right now.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
No, not just the websites and blogs you normally visit to help you come up with topics. I'm talking about your physical environment, which is probably either a room in your home or a small stuffy office if you're an aspiring online content developer.
Get outside and engage in your community. Talk to real people who may or may not know anything about your niche. Catch up with old friends. Go for a run. Go to a restaurant you've never visited. Spend time at an art museum. Clear your head.
Taking some time to go completely outside your comfort zone and get away from the internet will allow your brain to make new connections that it may have been stifling while you were so intent on coming up with new, relevant topics at all costs. By taking the time and actions necessary to refresh, you'll have a whole new perspective when you get back to "real work," when in reality you've been "working" all along.
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