Blogging Tips: 5 Helpful Hints for Generating and Executing Article Ideas
Take it from someone with a personal finance site of his own and another weekly column to boot, coming up with article idea for your blog isn’t always easy. There have certainly been times when I’ve paced the halls of my apartment, struggling to land on any sort of inspiration that can lead to a half-way decent post. And yet, somehow I’ve survived.
In my latest search for potential topics, I realized I had never actually written an article about the process of writing an article. Soon after that revelation, I started to assess what about my writing process worked and what other functions allowed me to generate article ideas as often as I do. With that meta intro, here are a few tips I have to share about coming up with blog posts ideas and turning them into engaging articles.
5 Tips for Coming Up with Blog Post Ideas
1) Create a set of categories for your site
One of the first things you might notice when visiting my site is that each article is labeled with a category tag. Although you might be inclined to assume these categories are random or created specifically for each new post, the truth is that I selected these section names long ago when determining what sort of topics I wanted to cover. Interestingly, as I’ve learned over the past year, an unintended side effect of this plan is the ability to keep myself focused when trying to come up with new article ideas while also forcing — or perhaps just reminding — myself to mix it up.
Let me explain. On my site, there are five main categories that I do my best to rotate through whenever it’s time to create a new post. This system gives me a great starting point when it comes to brainstorming ideas, making it easier to land on an idea that I like.
Of course, this isn’t to say that you should limit yourself creatively or nix an idea just because it doesn’t quite fit. You can always make exceptions by expanding the focus of a certain section, making a one-off label, or perhaps creating a new category you can add to your line up. Additionally, one idea I instated that I’ve really come to enjoy is the inclusion of my “Quick Tip” category. Here I can write on just about anything remotely related to personal finance and also allow myself to write shorter pieces. I’ve found this to be a great outlet, giving me the best of both worlds: structure and freedom.
2) Outline your ideas and organize your articles with sections
Speaking of structure, I’m consistently surprised by how the organization of an article can make or break it. Sometimes you can have a great idea for an article topic, only to have your insights lost among of sea of rambling text. I’m as guilty of this as anyone else, which is why I’ve taken to spending more time outlining my articles before I actually write them. In some cases, this practice may even enable me to find a better angle for the article I hadn’t considered or, sadly, lead me to scrap something that wasn’t as fully baked as I once thought.
As I’m developing an article idea and planning what I want to say, I’ll usually start by building the bones of the article. By this, I mean breaking my article down into sections, headlined by the overall point I want to make in that part of the article. Not only does this legwork often help when it does come time to produce the article but typically makes it easier for readers to consume as well. Yes, while we’d all like to think that each site visitor will hang on every word we type, the truth is that many will want to skim for highlights and jump in where they want. Having these clearly defined sections and points can help with that and prevent you from scaring off readers with a block of text.
3) Share your journey and acknowledge the gaps in your knowledge
“Write what you know” is easily the most cliche piece of writing advice, but that’s actually for good reason. Even for the most skilled and talented writers that can speak effectively on almost any topic, there’s always something special that shines through when they’re writing on what they’re passionate about or have firsthand experience with. At the same time, while you might think you need to be an expert on every topic you want to write about, often times being honest about where you’re coming from and what your level of knowledge on the subject is can be just as effective.
This concept is one I feel is prevalent in a lot of personal finance blog these days. Sure you have your “gurus” like Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman who offer authoritative takes on money, but then you have a number of bloggers presenting their own experiences with finance and what’s worked for them. Personally, I prefer the latter approach as it gives me a chance to share what I know well, while also talking about topics that interest me that I may still be learning about myself. What’s also great about this method is that it lets your audience come along with you on your journey and provides you the potential to write follow-up articles showing your growth and sharing your newfound knowledge.
For those who are still worried about writing outside of your expertise, something that can help is citing your sources. If you’re getting your info from other sites, you should be giving them credit anyway, but as an added bonus, using links to your research will allow your readers to dive a bit deeper themselves if they choose to. And, again, the key is to be honest — no one’s an expert in everything.
4) Look to your own life and include anecdotes
Going back to “write what you know,” I can’t tell you how many article ideas have come out of something I was experiencing at that time. These moments of inspiration can escape you easily, but if you know how to spot them, they can be extremely helpful in creating effective articles. Moreover, including these real-life anecdotes in your writing can go a long way in helping your audience grasp a concept and apply it to their own situation.
Perhaps my favorite example of how I’ve employed this strategy came last year around my fourth wedding anniversary. With the “Saving Money” category next on my list to write for, I realized I had never shared the story of my wedding in depth before — more specifically, how my wife and I were able to spend less than $2,000 on the whole event. Somehow this great and unique post idea had been staring me in the face and now was the perfect time to use it. The result was an article I’m proud of that, and that was made immensely more effective thanks to the personal experience I was able to inject into it.
5) Don’t be afraid to give your take on a well-worn topic
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve felt this strange need to zag if I felt like everyone else was zigging. This is to say that, for every school project that would come up, I thought I should show just how clever and creative I was by abandoning the beaten path and putting a different spin on the assignment. While that’s not entirely a bad thing, what I didn’t realize is that I didn’t need to go out of my way and find an untouched topic in order to be different — I just needed to put my own stamp on whatever I was talking about.
There’s a saying I love that suggests, “It’s the singer, not the song.” Put in blogging terms, two people could write articles on the exact same topic and still have completely different things to say. That’s why you shouldn’t be afraid of writing on subjects that others have tackled before. Instead, let this post inspire you to offer your own thoughts on the matter at hand and, of course, inject your personal experience to make your version of the same old tune really stand out.
Being a blogger is a great career I wouldn’t trade for just about anything. That said, while it sure beats flipping burgers, being a writer does comes with its own set of challenges — with idea generation being chief among them. Although coming up with great article ideas and seeing them through to their potential can be a tall task at times, hopefully these few tips that have worked so well for me can assist you as well. Happy blogging!
This article was first published on Money@30.