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This Is A Guest Post From Ann Smarty
Good content is the foundation of online marketing success but how to create it? More importantly, how to keep creating it?
How can a person create enough outstanding content to see his/her blog succeed?
The truth is, coming up with good content is a huge commitment: Not only do you need actual time to brainstorm ideas, research the topic and write an article, you’ll also have to do it no matter what happens in your life to keep consistency (which is the only way to succeed).
Maintaining a consistent writing schedule has been the biggest challenge for the most bloggers I know. Life always gets in the way: People get sick, babies get born and vacations happen. But if you stop blogging every time something happens, you may never see your blog succeed.
It’s not about frequency really: It’s about consistency. You can publish one well-researched solid article a month, and see your traffic and subscribers steadily growing too. But start skipping months, start going quiet any time you cannot find time or energy to write articles, and you’ll find your list much less engaging and your traffic steadily decreasing.
And how about all those guest blogging and interview opportunities that may come your way? Those are essential to your own blog success because they bring you recognition and visibility. How to find time for those?
Promoting a blog is tough but it can be made easier and more efficient without sacrificing on quality. Here are my ways:
Finding good ways to keep coming up with original content ideas is the first step to making your blogging efficient. In most cases, I’ll bring myself into writing an article (no matter how little time I have!) exactly because I am really excited about the topic.
Creating the consistent flow of ideas is the easiest way to keep yourself inspired.
What do people ask each other in your industry? Which questions keep floating around? Which of them can you answer on your blog?
Answering popular questions in your niche is a great way to attract very engaged traffic, both from search engines and social media.
My most obvious tool for researching related questions is Google. As a real search marketer, I get inspired when I search, and Google makes it very easy to get inspired with all those featured answers and “People also ask” boxes.
The neat thing about these boxes is that the moment you start using them (unfolding some answers) Google will suggest more and more questions making the whole process highly inspiring:
Not all Google search results will trigger “People also ask” boxes. I use Serpstat to limit search queries to those that have the feature. Using Serpstat you can use the filter called “special elements” allowing you to see keywords that trigger a specific feature like “People also ask” in Google search.
Serpstat also allows you to filter search suggestions to only see question types. These also contain lots of content ideas:
Another tool that never ceases to inspire me is Answer The Public. The tool finds question-type queries based on your keyword and visualizes them based on the question word they contain. Somehow this visualization works great for inspiration:
I don’t really have time to participate in discussion boards much. What I am still doing with them is checking from time to time to grab a content idea or two.
The thing is, active niche forums perfectly reflect what people are curious about. You can always tell by the number of replies how fascinating the question appears.
Apart from my specific niche forums I always make sure to check Quora when I am at a loss for topics to cover. Check “Answer” tab for any topic to see the recent questions and how many answers each of them has triggered:
BloomBerry is a new tool that crawls dozens of Q&A sites (Amazon Q&A, forums, Quora, etc.) and finds questions that people ask online. This is a great source of content inspiration!
This tip will not probably work for everyone. Not all bloggers choose to cover trending content because it requires a much busier blogging routine than many can afford.
But trends are not just for news-oriented websites. You can use trends to get inspired too! As an example, the recent United Airlines scandal of their crew mistreating a passenger had no direct connection to marketing or business, yet it inspired a wealth of great articles on how business should handle online PR, how business has changed with Twitter (“everyone has an audience” phenomenon) and many more.
That being said, a trend should not necessarily be related to your industry to make a great relevant content for your blog.
My favorite way to monitor trends is Twitter and Facebook trends. They are already customized to me, my location and interests, but also include global trends as well. Whenever I have a spare minute, I have a good habit of checking both Facebook and Twitter trends to try and identify at a glance if there’s anything worth checking:
[Facebook trends show content on hover-over, so they are much more efficient for me: I just scroll, hover over and decide whether it could be a content idea]
Sometimes you just need to ask for help. Face it: Two (or more) heads are almost always better than one. There are quite a few ways to ask for content ideas:
Now that you hopefully know how to generate content ideas, you may start wondering what you should do with them. If you do it right, you’ll definitely have more ideas than you can use.
Content ideas are all different. Some of them will make you want to get down to writing right now but mostly will need to be there waiting for the right moment of the right inspiration.
They say creativity and organization are kind of the opposites but in my case being organized helps my creativity big time. I have many sources of inspiration, so I needed a good system of recording them properly. I have tried Trello and I have always really wanted to love it. I think it will work perfectly for most people. To me, organizing ideas in columns was just counter-productive. I did use it for a while.
I ended up using a Google spreadsheet where I record ideas, one per a line with references and my thoughts in a comment box. It has worked well for me so far. You can iFrame Google spreadsheets to integrate them to whatever business dashboard you are using. I stick to Cyfe because it allows me to integrate all kinds of widgets within one dashboard. For my blog dashboard, I keep my to-do list and my content ideas side by side:
Here’s my biggest writing productivity tip: If you are really inspired, write something down now. Don’t wait for when you have enough time and coffee to do it. Just do it now.
You won’t feel inspired to write an article each time you come across a potential content idea. So when you do, don’t waste your time: Write down what is in your head right away.
I use WordPress drafts to record content ideas I feel like expanding upon. And I am using this little plugin to turn my drafts into a workflow: It helps you organize drafts in folders based on how much work they still need.
There are more workflow plugins for WordPress to choose from including all kinds of editorial calendar plugins which also come with draft organization features. I never needed anything fancier than mine but you may use more options.
Now that you have some rough drafts with your raw ideas, keep writing your article while still researching the topic. I’d search Google to find more information, statistics and examples and note my findings right into my draft. This way I don’t spend time on research. I write as I research. Much more productive.
Often I’ll have one more idea while still researching and noting the previous one, so I’ll start another draft in a new tab and make quick notes there too. I’ll end up writing two or three articles simultaneously.
In essence, the process works like this:
Another big part of each of my articles is visual content. I always accompany my article with annotated screenshots and Pinterest-friendly visuals. Creating original images may take a lot of time, so I’ve come up with just two tools that save time:
1. Use templates in Canva
If you are a reader of this blog, you know that Canva is awesome. I’ve been a long-time fan and I like where they are heading.
My favorite thing about Canva (apart from the opportunity to use it for free: Its free plan is awesome!) is the ability to keep my templates there, so I go back to edit the existing thing over and over again keeping my blog look very consistent:
2. Use easy Snagit for taking and annotating screenshots
I’ve tried dozens of screenshot making and editing tools. Some of them lacked features I needed (cursor highlighting, zooming in/out), others had so many features that it stopped being productive.
Snagit seems to have the perfect combination of features that don’t take time to figure out. It’s simple, yet advanced enough to create beautiful visual instructions.
But what to do when you have neither time nor content ideas. Here are a few tips (These are easy and fast but don’t use them too often as your blog may lose its voice and style):
Now, there’s a chance that this guide will help you create more content than you actually need, so here a word of warning:
Don’t create more content than you can put enough time into promoting it properly.
Ann Smarty is the Brand and Community manager at InternetMarketingNinjas.com as well as the founder of MyBlogU.com. Ann has been into Internet Marketing for 10 years, she is the former Editor-in-Chief of Search Engine Journal and contributor to prominent search and social blogs including Small Biz Trends and Mashable. Ann is also the frequent speaker at Pubcon and the host of regular Twitter chats #vcbuzz and #myblogu