10 Easy Blog Post Ideas To Fill Your Editorial Calendar
You’ve got your free editorial calendar and you’re serious about using it. But…what will you fill it with? What kinds of post will you fill those glaringly blank spots in the coming weeks?
If you know your niche, you already know your topics. It’s just a matter of how to approach writing about those topics.
No one wants to flip through their feed reader and see that your last 20 posts were all case studies (unless that’s specifically what you are known for). We have ten great kinds of posts that you can use on your blog that, if used, will keep your reader from getting bored of the same kinds of posts day in and day out.
You could talk to someone (which, for an introvert like me, is a big deal). And then, you could turn that interview and conversation into a blog post.
I always forget about using interviews for blog posts, and it’s unfortunate that I don’t remember to use them for two reasons:
- They give you a slight break from writing content.
- They give your readers a chance to hear from interesting people who aren’t you.
A while back, we did an interview blog post with a local restaurant owner, asking him about how he used social media. I was actually fascinated with his responses; they weren’t always what I expected. Plus, when you hear from someone actually in the trenches using it with customers and not an expert on the outside who mainly knows advisor roles, you get a better sense for what really works. Sometimes, we’re so used to hearing from “certified” experts that we miss out on hearing from the experts who got that way from day-to-day business.
I worked as a newspaper reporter for three years, and it took time to learn how to do an interview. Interviews in person are a bit different than via email, but there are some basic similarities. Mainly, your end result–the blog post–is only as good as the questions you ask.
- Ask foundation questions. who the person is, what they do, where they do it, why they do it, when they do it. In other words, the W questions. Get all the facts that you need to gather first so that your reader can put things into context before you leap in philosophical questions or theories. Readers understand what someone is saying partly by understanding who is saying it. The W questions tell us who.
- Stick to your niche. You can ask a person about anything, but the reason you are interviewing them for your photography blog, for example, isn’t to talk about their craft brewing hobby. People will wander, and I always allow it because sometimes they are making a connection to the topic at hand. Sometimes, though, they just wander. You will need to edit the interview and remove the wandering parts (do let them know editing will happen before starting).
- Ask conversationally. Before I would do an interview for the newspaper, I would find out about the person, the topic, and any additional research that would be necessary to ask intelligent questions that my readers are wanting me to ask. I’d write these questions in order, and go into the interview prepared. But conversations don’t always follow the order of my preparation, and sometimes you hear something in the conversation that you naturally want to ask further. Do it. You are the same as your reader at that point, and if the person says something that you want clarification on, so will your readers. Now, in an email interview, this isn’t as easy, but you can, after reading the initial interview, send follow-up questions.
- Let them have free rein. Is there anything they’d like to add? Sometimes they are hoping we’ll ask a particular question. If we don’t, you can give them a chance to still share anything else that they think is important. I often use this part as filler for other areas, such as the introduction or close, if it doesn’t fit well in the interview itself.
Interview posts are a lot of fun. You get to meet someone, learn from them, and make a new connection. Plus, it’s a bit of a growth hack: interviewees are quite likely to share your blog post on their social media feeds.
Our recent infographic on Content Hackers is still going strong. Infographics have a long shelf life, but you might not think of them in terms of “blog post” material. They’re just a graphic, after all, aren’t they?
Infographics have to speak for themselves, that’s true. They must have enough context and be done in such a way that when the graphic gets pinned on Pinterest or otherwise orphaned from your blog post, it can still stand alone.
However, I still like to think of infographics in terms of how they fit into the larger picture i.e. your blog i.e. a blog post. The blog post that features the infographic could include:
- Explain why you created the infographic, and what got you thinking about the topic.
- Explain how you went about researching the topic.
- Share additional details that didn’t make it onto the infographic, but helps give additional context.
- Links to the sources for your information.
Creating an infographic is more than just putting some clip art around a pie chart. It takes quite a bit of thought to make certain you have an idea even worthy of an infographic. Your blog post shouldn’t do the heavy lifting; always make sure your infographic can stand on its own.
List posts are a hope-inducing post for readers. If you’re struggling for a blog topic and you stumble upon a blog post entitled “107 Blog Topics To Use Right Now” that’s going to make your day. You’re sure to find something you can use in a list that big.
Creating a list post is actually quite a bit of fun.
- Use search engines to find a topic. Do a search on the topic you want to create a list post for. What are the top returns? If everyone is doing a list post of 10 or 15, why not make yours the “25 Best Ways To Give A Cat A Bath” and beat them all?
- Big lists are great. Don’t be afraid to grab a high number of listed items. You’ll be surprised at how knowing you have ten things to write about will push you to come up with ten items. When I wrote the post about The 26 Surprising Rules Of Great Content Creation, I was aiming for ten, groaning at ever getting past five, and somehow ended up at 26 once the ball got rolling.
- Build over time. Some bloggers like to keep a spreadsheet as they build their list post, creating it over time as they find more information to plug into the eventual post. I don’t approach it like that, but if you are going for seriously long form content and a huge list, you might want your draft stage to be extended to allow for a period of research and collection.
I’ve often found that list posts are the best post for getting me to think beyond initial easy ideas because I have an entire list to fill. They are as good a thinking exercise for me as they are a resource for the reader.
4. Case Studies
Case studies help your reader see how you achieved a true success at something. We’ve used case studies in different forms on this blog, and they are actually helpful for us to read, too, because they force us to dig into what we are doing and find out how it’s working.
When writing a case study for your blog, keep in mind that:
- Readers want to see real numbers. Screenshots showing your actual numbers and graphs are the best way to support the theories you are presenting.
- Provide specifics. Case studies are the post where you want to talk in specifics, not generalities or theoreticals. If you are writing a case study on long form blogging, for example, tell your reader specifically what they can expect to see, or what you specifically learned. A case study isn’t the post where you talk about whether you think readers like long posts. It’s where you show the numbers to prove (or disprove) your case.
- Use several approaches to present your facts. A case study doesn’t (and I dare say, shouldn’t) be a collection of dry stats and numbers. It’s the perfect place for screenshots, visuals, SlideShare embeds, and even videos. Not everyone learns well with a spreadsheet of numbers, so break your information down and into understandable pieces.
If you’d like to write a case study, but aren’t sure how to approach it or don’t have any customers or examples you think are ready for such a blog post, consider approaching a theory of yours using the scientific method.
The scientific method will probably help you learn as much about something as your reader, which also makes for a great post.
Not every blog is done in such a way that using it for announcements makes sense, but for a business or company, it’s the perfect place to do it. Your blog is your PR platform; you don’t have to go through another source to let the world know when something new is happening.
- Is there a story behind the news? Let people know the details if it applies. When we announced our new Pinterest integration, we let people know that one of the reasons this came about was because of high user request.
- Have a little fun. When we announced the addition of a new team member, we decided to have a little fun with it. Who says announcements have to be dull and dry?
- Don’t waste the moment. If your announcement has a call to action–sign up for a new service, or buy something online–be sure to include that CTA prominently. It’d be a shame to announce something great and then make it difficult for readers to check it out!
You don’t want to turn your blog into just a platform of announcements and PR, but it doesn’t hurt to share the big news with your readers. How else will they find out? After we announced the Pinterest integration, we had a busy day of people signing up for CoSchedule.
Let people know what’s new and available so that they can do something about it.
6. Collections/Link Posts
People love lists, particularly ones that are simple and connect them to useful content. Collections of links are, essentially, you doing the research on a particular topic and saving someone else the time.
Posts that host a large collection of links and other resources don’t stay evergreen very long, because links often go dead. However, they tend to be high traffic posts if you base the collection on a high-traffic search keyword, and if you have a massive collection of links. Enough links stay relevant to make the technique worthwhile.
- Create a list of related search terms. Doing thorough research is important if you want to find valuable and uncommon content to link to. Do keyword research, and also pay attention to the suggestions that search engines supply as related searches. Add them to your list.
- Don’t stop with first page results. When searching for content to link to using your list of search terms, don’t just hit the first page of the search engine. Dig deeper. Follow links in blog posts that you find, and see where they lead.
- Organize your post for easy consumption. Categorize and subcategorize your list of links, and format the post so that it is easy to read.
- Use ‘nofollow’ in the links. Keep in mind that you are dealing with linking to lots of other blogs and resources online, and that Google pays attention to those outbound links. At this point, with Google’s changing algorithms and penalties for sketchy outbound links, I prefer to be safe rather than sorry. Add ‘nofollow’ to these links.
Telling a real story about you, your blog, your experience, or your brand is interesting to readers.
Everyone likes to get a peek behind the curtain. A team member wrote about the things he learned after working here a year, and it became a popular post. It was also timely, in that we are looking to hire. We could refer potential new hires to the post to get a glimpse of what our culture was like.
Posts that tell real stories of what’s going on for your company and blog:
- Make you approachable and human. People connect with and trust people more than they do brands or sterile entities.
- Encourage others. You’re here for your readers. Your story encourages them, particularly if you tell the stories about when things are difficult.
- Help you understand yourself. Writing out your stories and experiences help you and your team understand how they all fit in with what is happening.
- Create a history to look back on. Your blog posts build a written “history” that you will enjoy reading someday, reminding you of where you started. (This one is my favorite, on my personal blog.)
Your blog doesn’t have to be all charts and numbers. People want to know your story. Tell them what happened, what you learned, how it applies to them. Just tell them your story.
8. How To
How-to posts are the standby of many bloggers, and with good reason. How many of us run to a search engine just to figure out how to do something? These kinds of posts should definitely have some keyword research done while planning them, as well as other techniques to find out what people need to find out how to do:
- What have you searched for? I get some of my blogging ideas based on what I search myself. I think “if I’m needing this kind of help, others are, too.” It’s a good incentive to figure something out, and then write a blog post on the topic telling others how to do it. I keep the language in the title and post the same as I was using to find the answer.
- What are people asking about? Using actual customer conversations are an excellent way to discover what people want to know. We’ve done that with CoSchedule, and written posts based on customer feedback. Using social networks like Quora or Facebook to discover what questions people are asking works great, too.
- What do you know a lot about? It makes sense to write a how-to about the things you know the best about. This is part of being an expert.
How-to posts are like a layer cake, each step stacked on the one before it.
They should start by letting the reader know what the problem is that you are going to help them solve. You might even do a bit of convincing them as to why they ought to solve the problem. Then, provide step-by-step instructions on what to do. Be specific, provide screenshots and links, and cover everything that is necessary to get to a successful result but nothing extra. Too much information can confuse the issue.
Ultimately, your how-to post should help them get to the end reliably, having successfully solved the problem.
In my years as a pastry chef, I often came upon cookbooks from famous chefs with recipes that failed time and time again no matter how careful we were. It was clear, after a while, that some of these recipes weren’t exactly intended to be correct, as if the chef didn’t really want to give away the secret recipe but still wanted to make money off of cookbook sales. I certainly hope they weren’t trying to set up others for failure so that their success would seem all the more impossible, but that’s a possibility. We had a shelf of cookbooks that “didn’t work” and several were by the same chef.
Your goal of a how-to is to make the reader a success at the end, not obfuscate and make something more complex. How-to’s are for helping, not making you appear untouchable.
Writing a review post can take two forms: a direct review of one service or product, or a combination of the list post with review. For example, we wrote a post that listed and reviewed popular tools a small business might be interested in. It was helpful to readers, and it was also another little growth hack. Some of the apps we listed shared our post with their social media followers.
You can approach a review in a few ways:
- Review in your niche: Writing a review of products or services in your niche makes sense, because you can include yourself in that review. For example, if you had an app that helped people find great restaurants, you might write a review called “The 6 Best Apps For Foodies” and include your app somewhere in the list. That way, readers can put what you do in context, and anyone who happens to use the other apps will consider yours since it is grouped with apps they already understand.
- Review competition: This is less a review and more a way of comparing yourself. If you have a product or service that stands apart from the crowd, introducing people to similar products will help them see how you are different or superior. Be careful, though, that it doesn’t turn into mere sales copy.
- Review in trends: Reviewing the latest and greatest products or services available in your niche makes sense. If you stay on top of trends, and are doing well with your editorial calendar, you can easily become the go-to place for readers who want to find out what’s new. Some niches are very saturated for this kind of approach, such as technology blogs.
When writing a review, be sure to note if it is a paid review in accordance with FTC rules. If it isn’t, then state that as well, so your reader knows that you are doing this on your own.
As a private pilot, I know the importance of checklists.
Each flight starts and ends with checklists, as well as a few in between. There is a checklist for everything, and the reason for the heavy use of checklists in aviation is that there are so many variables to consider at different points in the flight that a checklist makes sure you don’t miss anything. There is a checklist for pre-flighting the plane, checking the instruments, starting the plane, taxiing, in flight, at cruising altitude, approaching an airport, entering traffic pattern, landing, taxiing back, and shutting off the plane.
It’s important to do the right things in the right order, otherwise they aren’t the right things to be doing. So, why not write a checklist for your niche?
Your post could be full of the things your reader ought to do, and the order they should be done in, to accomplish specific goals. “A Newbie Blogger Checklist” or “How To Get Started With Photography”–something along those lines might work. Checklists are a good way to show your expertise; you get a chance to explain why the checklist item appeared in the order it has appeared in, and back it up with facts and real-world experience.
Checklists are a combination of the list and the how-to, but are different in that they have a sequential importance to them. They are a very good way for you to distill your own workflow and process in order to write the post. We often talk of trust when it comes to content marketing, and checklists, more than any other post type, are about trust.
You’ll notice that several times I’ve made mention that writing blog posts are as beneficial to you as to the reader, and that you stand to learn just as much in the process of writing.
Using these ten different types of posts are a good way to force you to approach and think differently about what you do. It’s easy to get in the habit of writing the same kind of post every time. Try to use one of each from this list over the next several weeks and see what you learn about yourself.