by Josh Elkin

Whether you’re a freelance writer trying to grow your workload and your portfolio or you’re a business trying to build links back to your website in a way that doesn’t look like spam, submitting guest posts to relevant blogs could be just what you need to give you that boost. They can help you show off your expertise, reach your audience, and form good working relationships with the bloggers. In fact, write as many guest posts as you can! There’s just one problem- getting the ideas.

No one, no matter how creative, is an everflowing wellspring of ideas. In fact, when you’re put on the spot and you need to come up with an idea, it can be even harder. You can’t just regurgitate the same few posts over and over–most blogs want original content for their guest posts. But coming up with different creative ideas for guest posts can be a mental strain in itself, and that’s before you’ve even started writing.

Fortunately, you’re not alone in this struggle. Almost everyone who writes guest blogs with any regularity has been with you there. Here are some resources and tips that have sprung out of this pesky problem and may help you create something that somewhat resembles that everflowing wellspring of ideas.

Read The Other Posts on the Blog You Want to Pitch to

Really, you should be doing this anyway. It’s not only common sense, it’s good business etiquette to read some of their content before you submit your own. This will also give you an idea of their tone, how in-depth the article is expected to be, and the topics they typically cover. The more you read, you may find an idea springing to mind that’s kind of adjacent to something you see posted. You may even think of multiple ideas. Choose the one that works best for now and write the others down. See, you’re already building up a store of ideas.

Ask Yourself a Question

What are some questions you’ve always had about the industry about which you want to write? Write down any that you can think of, and then take them to your search bar. Research the answers, and from that newfound knowledge, you can write a guest blog post. You may even think of other ideas along the way to answering your question.

On the other hand, if you’re writing about a particular industry, it’s probably safe to assume you know quite a bit about it. You may not have any questions. In that case, think about a time that someone had a question for you. What did you tell them? Can you make a blog post out of it?

Do a Keyword Search

What keywords would your target audience use to search for your niche or industry? Make a list of a few of them, and then enter them into your search engine. You can search for similar posts and articles that have covered the subject or news to find any of the latest information. The fresher the content, the better your pitch will be when you present it to the blog you’d like to write for.

Search Ask Forums

Better yet, your search results may turn up ask forums. Sites like Yahoo! Answers or Quora are a great way to find the questions that your target audience has about your niche, questions to which you may know the answers. You can write about them in your next guest post.

See What’s Trending

There are plenty of apps out there that will tell you what’s trending today, or even in the past hour. Tweetdeck allows you to keep up with tweets that include certain keywords in real time. Buzzsumo, which was created to help businesses find influencers, allows you to search topics based on when something was posted and how many times someone engaged with it, on social media or otherwise. Just type your keyword into these sites or any similar sites and you’ll be on top of all of the latest news in your niche.

Go Shopping on Amazon

Or at least, go searching. There are a couple things you can do here. You can stay on top of the new products within your industry, in case you want to write about the latest technology or resources. Another option is to search Amazon books using your niche as a keyword. On the side of the page, you’ll see your niche listed as a category, and a list of subheadings underneath that. Any of those subheadings can serve as keywords from which you can form your next blog post ideas.

The books themselves can even help. If you see something that looks interesting to read, check it out. You may learn something you didn’t know before and that may lead you to new blog posts.

Make a List

In this day and age, a spreadsheet listing any topic ideas and whether or not you’ve pitched/written them tends to be the most popular way to store your ideas. You might be old-fashioned. Maybe you like to use a journal. Personally, I find this helpful because I might think of an idea while I’m away from my computer, but making a note on your phone will do just as well. Whatever you do, get organized. Topic ideas are precious, and they can be hard to come by. Make sure you don’t lose any of them. And just maybe, in writing out the ideas you have, you’ll think of something else to write next.

Remember, your blog should provide information and answer a question that your target audience has. It should engage them in conversation or help them solve a problem. So find all the places where your target audience is talking, see what they’re saying, and more importantly, see what they’re asking. That should give you topic ideas for months to come.

This is a guest post by Josh Elkin, founder of Best Coast Marketing – a marketing agency which helps increase their clients’ traffic through organic link-building. Josh enjoys writing about entrepreneurship, marketing, productivity and self-improvement.

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