Cranking Out Content

Antique Printing Press

Blogging is tricky. Thinking up blog topics can take a lot of effort. Depending on what you’re covering, it can start to feel in short supply like you’ve covered every possible angle on your topic of interest. Further, as you get busy, your dedication to blogging often falls away. Here are some thoughts on how to crank out good content consistently.

It Takes Dedication

First off, if you’re not going to dedicate yourself to creating consistently good content, you’re not going to get there. This isn’t something you can phone in. What constitutes “good?” It must be useful to other people. It must provoke thoughts in your audience. It must be something that encourages more than one visit to your site (otherwise, you’ll miss opportunities down the road). So, agree that you want to use this blog as something of value to your audience, and dedicate yourself to creating consistent, thoughtful material that’s useful to an audience.

Topic Ideas

I get my blog topics from a lot of sources. As I’ve shifted a bit from writing about marketing and social media into writing about human business and social media, anything that I think is useful to helping humans do business better (in a relationship-minded, sustainable way) is fair game. The trick, always, is to keep my eyes open all day long, and to keep asking how I can be helpful to the people who come to my site.

Topic ideas usually come up from thinking of what will be most useful to your readers and audience. For instance, my audience is heavily comprised of marketers and small business entrepreneurs, as well as a spattering of large business functionaries who long for the days when they are master of their domain. With that in mind, I try to write about things that will help you improve your day. This post, for instance, should be helpful to your blogging effort.

Other times, topics come from a picture you’ve taken, or a sign you see, or something you’ve read in a book or another person’s blog. If you’re not reading books and blogs, then there’s no wonder you’re having trouble finding topics. Most ideas don’t come from a vacuum.

(The idea for this post came from writing 8 posts in a row for American Express OPEN Forum, and realizing that I think it’s really hard for me to run out of topics to cover.)

Brief and Useful

If you had two measures of your content, make them ‘brief’ and ‘useful.’ The other day, I wrote about making sure I get enough sleep. Honestly, it was a kind of “not sure what else to write about post.” It was also one of my most successful posts in the last several months. Why? Because it was a useful way for people to rethink how they’re spending their time. It wasn’t useful in the “how to get more followers on Twitter” way, but instead, it spoke to a broad audience of people.

The more often you can make a post useful, the better it will be received. If you find this post useful, it will get recurring traffic for a long time to come. My posts about blog topics get as much as 10% of my monthly traffic every month since I wrote them. No matter what else I cover, blog topics is “evergreen” content for me. That’s your goal, too. Write something that people can use for quite a long time.

Pictures, Audio, and Video

If you’re a text blogger, see what you can do about recording the occasional audio file. You can use something as easy as Cinch, or record a video chat in Skype, or you can use podcasting or videoblogging tools to create something even more compelling. You might just post photos as part of your posts. Christopher S. Penn does the occasional photo post, showing off his incredible skill for photography, and sometimes, when he’s feeling extra clever, he even formats the photos to become free iPad wallpaper. Talk about a commitment to good content.

Writing Schedule

Write when you find time. I wrote 12 posts (several for other blogs besides my own) while flying out to Las Vegas from Boston. I did it because I had hours and hours of time on a plane, and I knew that I wouldn’t have a lot of free time in the coming days. The more chances I have to write something when I’ve got some down time, the more opportunities I have to keep a one-or-two a day schedule with my blogging.

The world doesn’t make it easy for you to write. You’ve got family and work and lifestyle interruptions abound. The only way I can help you move past that is to recommend that you write when you’ve got a free moment, and that you write more than one piece at a time. The more times you can bucket up a blog post or two for a rainy day, the more times you will keep you schedule steady.

Another way to do this is to get the Editorial Calendar plugin, if you’re using WordPress. Zack Grossbart and Stresslimit Design have a great tool in this. I was talking to Brian Clark at Copyblogger, and he was saying that it changed how he’s managing his site. The same is true for me on some of my projects. Another great thing an editorial calendar does is ensure that you’re not accidentally covering the same topic more than once unintentionally.

Commit to a Series

One way to force yourself into writing compelling and useful content over a period of time is to commit yourself to writing or creating a series. If, for instance, you commit to a new book review a month, then you’ve got 12 of your blog posts spoken for in the coming months. A series is a great way to get your head into writing a lot in a row. For the record, Social Media 101 started out as a series of 100 posts on

Your Mileage May Vary

Whatever you do, keep experimenting. See what you can do and you’ll be surprised with your results. Keep trying, just the same. The more you can commit to cranking out good content, the better your results will be on making the effort.

And if you find yourself with more than enough posts to serve your site, don’t forget the opportunity to write guest posts (affiliate link). It’s been one really great way that I’ve grown my own audience over time.

Thoughts? Questions? Details I need to fill in?

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