It happens to every blogger: writer’s block – that period of time when you can’t find words or topics to write about. When you are writing multiple blogs on a specialty topic, it can be even more challenging to come up with new and interesting topics on a regular basis. For professional bloggers, this is more than just a problem of being stuck; it can threaten our very living. (If you're still trying to make the switch from blogger to freelance writer, here are 10 resources for finding freelance work.)
The good news? There are some solid strategies for finding new and relevant topics in your niche and create great article ideas. Here are 5 outside-the-box tips for finding blog and article topics for your clients.
Tip #1: Keep Abreast of Financial, Political and Other “Unrelated” News
Sooner or later, the news covers everything even if your particular topic is not frequently discussed.
Go to Google and search your generic topic under “News” and you'll see relevant articles in other areas. Financial news is great because it reviews stocks in all kind of industries. For example, I recently saw an article in MSN Money about McDonald’s losing its appeal among both millennials and children, which relates to the real food news I write about on a weekly basis and my editor's interest in McDonald's place in our society.
Another key thing to keep in mind is elections.
As November approaches, certain topics will crop up that can have bearing on your topic. Right now, hot election topics include the future of net neutrality and GMO labeling initiatives in more states. Last year, the legalization of marijuana was a a big issue. I write about a very difficult, finely niched topic for a client – retail sales tax – and last year’s legislation allowed me to address the issue twice in blog posts, even though you might not think of that topic when writing about taxes!
You should also be following sites like Mashable.com, which reports on social media from all kinds of niches. Today, for example, they have an article entitled, “The British Media Has Been Totally Freaking Out Over Scottish Independence.” My first idea, as a fan of the show “Outlander,” was how that article could neatly tie in with the successful Starz series about Scottish Highlanders struggling under British rule for an entertainment blogger with just a little creative brainstorming.
Tip #2: Follow Related Industries of Both Supporters and Opponents
It’s key to know the top thought leaders, publications, websites, companies and products that both serve and oppose your niche and follow them closely. I follow Robyn O’Brien, author of “The Unhealthy Truth,” who writes about the real food movements, allergies and GMOs. She is a source of information in looking at the GMO labeling battle from a Wall Street background. She just wrote a unique perspective on the acquisition of Non-GMO Annie’s Homegrown brand by pro-GMO company General Mills. While many people are outraged and boycotting Annie’s, she makes the case for watching what happens and considering the effect Annie might have moving GM in the right direction. I also follow blogs about from corporate agricultural groups which many in this field view as the “enemy camp.” I've found information that can easily be directly quoted for my community at Mamavation. For example, one periodical did an interview with Hilary Clinton regarding her support for GMOs at a recent conference. I used her own quote to write about hopeful presidential candidates stance on this hot topic.
Tip #3: Google Search Drop Down
Go to Google and type in your niche, and you will see list of the most common searches come up.
This is an easy way not only to find topics but to also get an idea of good terms for SEO. Try both short terms and long tail phrases. For example, if I type “nontoxic”, result #3 is “non toxic nail polish.” I already know this is a concern for my community because they are difficult to find and none that I know of are 100% perfect. Since many women who read the blog I work for are concerned about both toxins and style, this is a natural topic to pitch my boss.
If I type “gluten free,” “gluten free beer” is my 2nd suggestion, which tells me that adults new to the diet are struggling to find gluten free beers. I also know that a thought leader in the clean food world, Vani Hari, aka “Food Babe,” recently did an expose over the summer on high fructose corn syrup hidden in popular beers. Another blogger shared a recent article about a study that found plastics in German beers. Put them all together and I have a great article about beer dangers and how to find a safe, gluten-free solution for a timely search engine worthy post. Your interaction with communities in the niche are crucial for finding those articles.
Tip #4: Research Conferences and Events
Find out all the conferences and events in your niche and see what they are speaking about. You can get a lot of great ideas as well as discover thought leaders by looking at large scale conference and event agendas. Seek out the smaller events, too, for finely targeted niches. I wrote for an automotive client last year, an industry I know very little about. Looking through calendars of events gave me a number of topic ideas, including one about the anniversary of Corvette. It turned out my first article coincided with that vehicle's 60th anniversary, so I wrote a tribute that celebrated the car’s history, explored the reason behind its allure and revealed its link to NASA. Then I wrapped up with a teaser about the new Corvette, and that gave me fodder for the next article. Because car (and Corvette) enthusiasts are very passionate, looking at a small event gave me the idea for a very well received article.
Tip #5: Mining Entertainment & Documentaries for Ideas
As mentioned in tip #1, political events listed on a social media news site spawned an idea for an article about a TV show, but the reverse is true as well! Keep your nose to the ground on upcoming book releases, documentaries on networks from HBO to PBS, and fictional movies – especially if they focus on a particular real life topic. You can also search upcoming books by going to Amazon and searching your topic in “Books.” Once you do that, sort by publication date and make sure you select “Hardcover” as well, so you see the books that are going to be newly published, rather than release dates for Kindle or paperback. For example, I just did a search for “autism” for my own blog and found that a book is coming out about Vitamin D deficiency and autism. While that’s a controversial topic, a post on Vitamin D benefits, deficiencies and how to safely give it to your family would be a perfect pitch for at least 2 of my gigs – and it’s timely now that we are going into winter, when people get less sun exposure and therefore less of this nutrient. Timing your post with the release of the show, book or movie will give it a better chance to trend well. (Remember to use relevant hashtags.)
Sharing with Your Client
Once you have a group of ideas organized, don't just email the topics to your editor or client.
Have a meeting – in person or via phone or Skype – and bounce them back and forth. This will not only ensure that your editor is on board and your ideas are properly aligned, it can easily turn into a creative brainstorming session. You may show up with 8 ideas and walk away with 20 or more topics to add to your editorial calendar. You may even find things to write about on your own blog.
Gina Badalaty is the owner of Embracing Imperfect, a blog devoted to encouraging and assisting moms of children with special needs and restricted diets. Gina has been blogging about parenting, raising children with disabilities, and allergy-free living for over 12 years. She’s blogs at Mamavation.com, and has blogged for major brands like Silk and Glutino. She also works as a copywriter and brand ambassador. She loves engaging on social media, travel and cooking gluten-free.