In order to keep your site relevant for your money-making search terms, you need a blog, and you need to publish high-quality content on your blog regularly.
What to blog about, though? Where to start?
In this post, I offer a few no-nonsense ways business owners can come up with great blog ideas by leveraging their experience and expertise in their field—no intimidating “keyword research,” “discovery,” or “competitor analysis” process required.
(For my purposes here, by “business owners,” I mean those without SEO training.)
If successful, the tips from this post won’t feed you blog ideas or topics themselves. Rather, they’ll equip you with a reproducible process to ideate stellar content ideas or topics for months (and years) to come. If you take advantage of the tips I provide, you’ll become your business’ very own brainy content strategist—and very likely a richer entrepreneur.
Blogging Basics: Framing the Process
What Your Business’ Blog Shouldn’t Be.
Before we roll up our digital sleeves and dig for blog topics, I want to offer a few words about common blogging mistakes. When you start your blog—or when you sit down to generate topics for your existing blog—what should your blog not be? What should you not do?
For brevity’s sake, here are two major errors:
1. Unfocused Content.
Put broadly, readers and search engines alike prefer websites that are thematically focused.
Imagine you’re searching for a recipe on how to bake peanut butter cookies. Suppose you land on a page that shows you how to bake scrumptious peanut butter cookies quickly. Great! You’ve found the page for you.
But when you scroll down a bit, you notice that other than the recipe, the rest of the page links to cryptocurrency history and news, motorcycle repair tips, and, say, collecting Yu-Gi-Oh cards—no other recipe pages to be found. As you navigate around on the site, you can’t find any other recipes at all. Just crypto, Harleys, and Yu-Gi-Oh. Yikes.
While the blogger may be an interesting person to have a beer with, there’s little evidence of his baking experience or skills elsewhere on his site. Further, there’s no connection between his baking interest and his other interests. The page exists alone.
As a result, you’re a bit puzzled. Perhaps you’re skeptical of his baking skills. You wonder whether the recipe sucks.
You click back to the search results page, and you instead choose a site such as All Recipes. This site, at least, demonstrates knowledge and experience in the theme of baking. The recipe seems credible, and the site seems trustworthy.
Although this is a silly example, it should show that readers (and search engines) have a hard time making sense of scattershot content. In my example, crypto blogman’s pages don’t communicate with one another. The result is a devalued recipe page and a disorganized (and generally poor-performing) site.
So, what should your blog’s focus be?
- Your brand—who your business is, what your business specializes in, and what it’s like to shop or work there.
- Your community—your cultural, local, or professional community.
- Your product and service offerings.
2. Don’t Exclusively Write About How Awesome Your Products and Services Are or How Awesome You Are.
Let me add a caveat to the “product and service offerings” line.
It’s tempting for business owners to think of their blog as a forum to pitch their business or their baller product and service offerings.
Unfortunately, very few people care to read this content.
The few people who may read about your awesome products, services, or business practices are likely already going to buy from you.
If your blog exclusively targets readers who are already going to buy from you, you’re casting a small net from the outset. Your blog could attract readers who may have never heard of you, or readers who have your business’ name on the tip of their tongue.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t occasionally write blog posts about how awesome you are—just that it shouldn’t be your blog’s sole focus.
What Your Business’ Blog Should Be.
As I have suggested, you should think of your blog less as a commercial platform for selling your products and services. Rather, you should think of your blog as an informational resource—a community forum whose content poses questions real people ask, answers those questions, and then provides real, actionable solutions.
In thinking of your blog as a community forum, your posts will naturally tend to target broader, more frequently searched terms. While these terms tend to be more competitive than terms about how awesome your business is, performing well for more frequently searched terms means way more traffic to your site. All things equal, more organic traffic means more leads.
What to Blog About: Four Ways to Come Up with Blog Topics.
Now that you know how best to approach your blog, what should you blog about?
Here are four ways to come up with new blog ideas:
1. Write Down Questions (Even the Silly Ones).
Seems simple enough, right? It really is.
Keep a notepad and a writing utensil at your desk, or keep a running sticky note open on your desktop.
Each time a client asks you a question—whether by phone, email, or in person—write it down. If possible, ask your employees to do the same, too.
I talk with clients every day. Within the last month, clients have asked me questions that, with some tinkering, would make killer blog posts:
- How long does it take to see SEO results?
- Why are backlinks important and how do I get them?
- How do I appear in the search results in Y city when my business is in X city?
- Can I delete a negative Google My Business review?
- Does video help my SEO?
- Should I use a subdomain or a subfolder for my blog?
I’ve fielded questions like these for a while. But in a constantly changing industry, it’s not uncommon to hear questions about the latest Google core update or even the DOJ case. Just as I receive new questions all the time from clients, so should you.
Has COVID-19 affected your industry dramatically—have customers asked how you’ve adjusted? You can start there.
Employees also ask me thought-provoking questions. These questions make for great blog topics.
As a business owner, you’re in the privileged place to listen to questions or concerns employees throughout your organization, in different positions, articulate.
Although I’m no business owner, the questions I receive sure are interesting. Sometimes they’re technical, sometimes they pertain to client relations. What questions or concerns do your employees raise?
On my end, here are a few recent questions that come to mind:
- How do I create an agenda for a productive meeting?
- How do I deliver good news to a client?
- How do I deliver bad news to a client?
- How do I respond to a client question when I’m not sure of the answer?
Write them all down—sooner or later, your notepad will be brimming with topics. Most of them will be stellar blog post ideas.
I suggest you take note of which questions your customers or employees ask the most. These questions tend to be the most frequently searched in Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, and other search engines. If you start your blog with these ideas, you’re bound to be successful.
2. Think Comparatively.
When shopping around, customers are torn between two, three, or even four competing options. For example:
- Palmolive or Dawn?
- Gain or Tide?
- Maytag vs. Whirlpool vs. KitchenAid?
These examples are comparisons between products that’d make excellent blog posts, assuming you sell household products, appliances, or even appliance repair services.
In the dish soap comparison, your post could compare the price, scent, and efficacy of the products. After you compare these three facets of dish soap, decide which one is the winner.
You can even get granular and compare products by SKU, too.
The same tip applies to professional services:
- Financial advisor vs. robo advisor?
- Chiropractor vs. physical therapist?
- Braces or Invisalign?
In my world:
- Which service should I choose, SEO or PPC?
- What’s the difference between local SEO and regular SEO, and which should I choose?
A note about how to best blog comparatively: Your comparative blog post should weigh the merits of the products or services under consideration in a disinterested, impartial, and evidence-based way. Again, your blog post shouldn’t be a narrowly commercial post to sell your product or service, but it should be a source for information, a forum to help readers decide which product or service is best for them.
How to come up with a topic?
In your CRM, you probably have a list of which products or services your customers have purchased recently. Take a look at the products or services your customers tend to buy most often, and compare them to popular items your competitors offer.
If you want to try a less aggressive approach, compare your products or services to other products or services you sell.
What are the major products or services that are competing against yours? There are probably hundreds, with new ones coming out each day.
3. Unpack Industry Jargon and Use the Jargon in a Real-World Context.
This tip ties into tip two as well. Searches that seem comparative are often just clarificatory searches.
For example, “Apple iPhone 11 vs. Samsung Galaxy S20” is a different kind of search than “ordinary negligence vs. gross negligence.”
The former is a comparative search—a search for the merits of the two smartphones. The latter is a search for clarification about what these two terms mean in the legal profession. The search really is to discover what “ordinary negligence” means, what “gross negligence” means, and how these two terms are related.
Tip three is about these clarificatory searches.
In your years of industry experience, you’ve amassed a number of fancy terms or acronyms under your toolbelt. They’ve become a part of your everyday vernacular—but they’re not a part of everyone else’s.
In fact, some industry terms may seem so basic that you’d be shocked to consider them jargon.
In SEO, the field is jargon- and acronym-rich. Just a few examples of industry terms that come to mind: CTR, quality score, bounce rate, nofollow. I use these terms in everyday business conversations, but when I take a step back, I realize they’re terms few people understand. Nonetheless, folks would like to know what they mean and how they should best use them.
Unpacking these tricky terms and operationalizing them—that is, showing why and how they’re used in context—all make for killer blog post ideas:
- What is CTR and what does it stand for?
- What is quality score and how is it calculated?
- What is bounce rate and does it really matter?
- What is nofollow in SEO and how can I tell if a link is nofollow?
Here are a few examples in plumbing:
- What is a sump pump and how does it work?
- What is a toilet fill valve and how does it work?
- What is PVC piping and what is it made of?
Say you offer SaaS:
- What is agile project management and why should I use it?
- What is cloud computing and why does my business need it?
In my CTR example, I’d first start by defining CTR. I’d then explain how it’s calculated, how it’s used in SEO, how it’s used in the PPC search network, and perhaps how it’s used in Facebook advertising or the PPC display network. I’d finish the post by exploring what a decent benchmark CTR should be.
How to come up with a topic?
Sit down and think—all those years ago, when you first entered your industry, what terms bewildered or confused you? What terms do new employees consistently get tripped up on? When you have a Zoom happy hour with your friends and you talk about work, do you have to clarify or unpack any terms or concepts to explain your work story effectively?
Write these bits down—dozens of jargon terms should come to mind immediately. Unpacking each term and operationalizing it will turn into an interesting blog post.
4. Be the Magician Who Reveals His Secrets.
This tip seems controversial. After all, in revealing your secrets—how your products and services work, how to fix defective items, etc.—aren’t you telling the reader how to avoid shopping at your business?
For example, why publish a blog post that shows step-by-step how one can rotate her car’s tires by herself? Wouldn’t this post encourage the reader to avoid making a service appointment at your dealership?
Consider, though, that a person searching for “how to rotate tires” already has committed herself to the DIY route. Your post, if written in the way I have suggested, just answers her question and provides a solution.
Second, if a reader encounters any difficulties along the way, she’s landed on the site of a business that’s ready and able to do the tire rotation dirty work for her.
And finally, remember what I wrote earlier? Your blog should be a source for information, a community forum. A blog arguing that the only effective and reasonable way to rotate tires is to take the vehicle to a car dealership—namely, yours—not only fails to answer the question (“how to rotate tires”), but also makes your business look haughty. Chances are, the post wouldn’t earn much traffic, either.
How to Reveal Your Secrets.
“How-to” posts are how you best reveal your secrets. There are two kinds of “how-to” posts.
The first kind shows in a step-by-step fashion how to fix, install, maintain, or use something.
Very basic “how-tos” are great blog topics. Say you’re a residential locksmith:
- How to program a car key fob?
- How to open a safe if you’ve forgotten the combination?
You can get more vulnerable, too. As my tire rotation example shows, you can even reveal how you perform your most lucrative services. Here are a few more examples from various industries:
- How to change your car’s oil?
- How to prepare a tax return?
- How to invest in the stock market?
In my world, here are a few examples:
- How to install Google Tag Manager?
- How to add Schema to WordPress?
- How to do keyword research?
The second kind of “how-to” is more biographical—it shows how you earned your credentials, how your business came to life. How did you become interested in your industry? How did you become an entrepreneur? Here are a few examples:
- How to become a lawyer in Illinois?
- How to start a window washing business?
- How to become an SEO?
What should you blog about?
In the first “how-to,” think through your product or service offerings. If you sell a product, “how-to” blogs about cleaning, fixing, installing, maintaining, or using your product are good places to start.
In the second “how-to,” think of how you came into your profession, how your employees came into their profession, how most individuals in your industry came into their profession, or even how your business earned certain professional certifications or awards.
In revealing your secrets, you’re really showing your industry experience and expertise. You’re showing customers (or potential customers) that they can trust you since you’re generous enough to reveal your insider knowledge free of charge.
Still Don’t Know What to Blog About?
Let us know what’s holding you up in the comments, or drop us a line by completing this secure contact form. We’ll help you come up with a winning content strategy quickly so you’re teeming with content ideas well into the next year.