9 Ways to Generate Content Ideas

One of the most common questions I’m asked by someone new to blogging is:

But what will I write about?

The short answer is that you should write about the things you know about and have experience with. Yet, even that answer can leave you scratching your head trying to come up with content ideas.

So, here are just 9 of the ways that I jump-start my writing process. There are plenty more where these came from…

1. Responses to Daily Reading

I don’t know about you, but it seems that my inbox is full every morning with the thoughts, opinions and ideas of people I know, like and trust. Taking a few minutes to read through the best of that content often sparks my own thoughts.

So, why not write about them?

It doesn’t matter what your area of expertise is. If your content is well thought out and contains valuable information, people will read it! (For an example of how I do it, check out last week’s post in response to content from Kurt Shaver.) My inbox isn’t my only source of inspiration though. If I have a topic I want to write about, but no specific source to play off of, I visit my favorite reader (currently, Zite, but I’ve also used Feedly in the past) and start reading related articles until it sparks something unique that I want to share.

2. Create a Regular Feature

My friend, Dale Irvin, The Professional Summarizer, has a Friday Funnies feature that his readers love. The fact is, his followers would notice if he didn’t post a Friday Funnies clip one Friday. They’ve come to expect it of him and look forward to checking it out each week.

The benefit of any regular feature is that, if you’re consistent with it, it creates anticipation in your followers. Once a month, I have a Featured Author Interview that I publish. I only started it in December, so it’s too soon to say that people have come to rely upon it, but as the word gets out, more people will be looking for it, and coming back to my site each month to see the latest installment.

My Featured Author series was inspired by something that Jim Stovall wrote in The Millionaire Map, where he stated that you should never accept a map from someone who hasn’t been where you want to go. Although I’ve written 2 books and contributed to 3 others, I am not as successful and author as I hope to be one day. My readers look to me to guide and direct them along their own publishing, marketing and promoting journeys. However, I know that I’m only in the midway point of my journey. So in reaching out to more successful people than I am, and sharing what I learn with my readers, we all have the opportunity to learn and grow.

So, how can you do something similar for your following? What regular feature can you share that gives them with what they’re looking for from you? It doesn’t matter if it’s a regular interview, podcast, video or webinar. Consistency and quality matter most.

3. LinkedIn Discussion

Sometimes, I know I want to write about a topic, but I don’t just want it to be my opinion. So I’ll plant what I call a “seed discussion” in a relevant LinkedIn group, and use the responses to create some of my content.

This is a technique I used when I wrote “7 Tips for Successfully Finding Volunteer Book Reviewers.”

I asked a question in a LinkedIn group, encouraged and engaged in the conversation until it was complete, and then wrote a summarized post of the best content from the discussion. The resulting post was better than I could have come up with alone, because I was exposed to some new ideas I’d never seen before, and that I’ve found to be very helpful in my own book marketing activities.

4. Quora and Other Forums

Quora is a site that allows users to ask and answer questions (much like LinkedIn Answers used to do, R.I.P.). You don’t have to be connected to each other, but you do have the option of following people whom you know and like to keep up on the questions they are asking and answering.

There are plenty of other forums you can find as well that will allow you to look through and find commonly asked questions that you might want to answer on your blog. To find relevant forums to participate in, I use a search engine that’s designs specifically for them called BoardReader.

Whatever resource you use, forums are a great way to find questions that are being asked that affect your readers. Use them to stir up your own ideas of answers you might want to give, and write about it!

5. Hubspot Idea Tool

If you’re really at a loss, you can use Hubspot’s Blog Topic Generator tool. Give the tool 3 nouns related to what you’re interested in (ideally your keywords), and click the Give Me Blog Topics button. When you do, the tool suggests 5 blog post topics (titles) that may or may not generate some ideas for you. If none of them do it for you, go back and try again. It rarely takes more than a try to two for me to find something that gets the creative juices flowing!

6. Using Lists

Many social networks allow you to generate and subscribe to lists, that group a set of accounts together by a topic you define.

For instance, my Literary list on Twitter is a collection of publishers, writers, agents and other people in the know that I like to interact with. People can subscribe to my list to get their content as well. The only downside to Twitter lists is, you can’t add your own account to the list. So, the list that I have that represents all of my co-authors for The Character-Based Leader has all of us, except me. That’s fine for when I’m looking at the list. (I don’t need to see my own tweets.) But for anyone who subscribes to the list, they’re getting most, but not all, of our content.

Facebook also allows you to create two different kinds of lists. The first is where you can add friends to lists, and then view your newsfeed filtered upon just their content (or post your status updates so that it’s visible to just those people).

The second is an interest list, and works much like Twitter lists. You can create one yourself or follow one that someone else has created. Either way, it allows you to filter content based on topics or accounts you’re interested in, to find ideas that spark new content for you. For instances, I follow the Social Media News list to keep up on changes in the industry.

7. Reposting and Discussing Infographics and Presentations

Visual content is always great. It’s quick and easy for visitors to understand, and is highly shareable.

For that reason, many infographic developers actually encourage their readers to share the infographics on their blogs by giving you the code that you need to copy and paste to your own site. Add your own commentary or introduction, and voila la! You have a new blog post!

You can also check out the top presentations on Slideshare for the week to see if any of them spark an idea for you or are relevant to your readers. You can use the embed code that Slideshare provides to embed a copy of the presentation on your site, while you add commentary to it.

8. Blog Carnivals

Some bloggers will do a regular feature called a “blog carnival.” This is when you summarize the top x posts on a given topic for the past week/month/year. Essentially, the post is a set of links and short descriptions that summarize all the great content you’ve read from others recently.

9. Reviews

You can also provide reviews of products or services that you know, like and trust.

If you’ve read a great book that will resonate with your audience, write a review! Tell them what you liked and didn’t like about it, and then link to where they can get their hands on it themselves or learn more about it.

If you’re interested in monetizing your blog, consider using affiliate links for the reviews you post. It doesn’t cost the reader anything, yet will generate some income should they buy that product or service because of your review efforts

Hopefully, these tips for generating content ideas will give you a good starting point to get going with your own blogging. Since you’ll be coming up with more ideas than you know what to do with now, I’ll write later this week on how to put together an editorial calendar, so you don’t miss out on any of the great ideas that are coming to you.


Written by Tara R. Alemany. Tara is the owner and founder of Aleweb Social Marketing, a consulting company that helps creative types (authors, speakers, performers, musicians and entrepreneurs) build a comprehensive online platform. Visit Business2Community for the first version of this excerpt.

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15 Places to Find Free Images for Your Blog

The ancient saying that a picture is worth 1000 words comes as no surprise to content marketers. Images arouse emotions, set the tone for your writing, help you tell a better story, and aid your readers in “seeing” what you’re trying to convey in words.

It’s certainly possible to buy images. In fact, it’s easy. However, it can get expensive pretty quickly, especially if you’re committed to delivering quality visual content. If your budget is tight, you’ll be thrilled to learn that there are places to find images on the web for free.

Are you wondering where and how to find free images for your blog? Just use the websites below to begin discovering and downloading cost-free content in seconds!

Let’s get started:

1. Google Advanced Search

15 Places to Find Free Images for Your Blog image google advanced

Even some of the sharpest content marketers have no idea that Google Advanced Search exists! You’ll be asked to specify “usage rights.” Here’s a quick guide to what you need to know on this front:

  • free to use or share

These images are for using and sharing on non-commercial websites, like personal blogs.

  • free to use or share, even commercially

These images can be used or shared on all websites – including commercial ones.

  • free to use, share or modify

These images can be freely used, shared or modified for non-commercial websites, in ways specified in the license.

  • free to use, share or modify, even commercially

These images are free for use, share or modification – even commercially, in ways specified in the license.

2. Creative Commons Search

15 Places to Find Free Images for Your Blog image creative commons search

The official Creative Commons website lets users search websites for free-to-use images from a variety of sources, including Google Images, Flickr and the Wikimedia Commons. Obviously, it’s become one of the top places to search for free images as a result.

Aside from just image search, you can use it to access Creative Commons music, media and video files.

3. Yahoo Image Search

15 Places to Find Free Images for Your Blog image yahoo image

Yahoo Image Search recently introduced a functionality similar to Google, which makes it easy to find Creative Commons content. To find CC images, just perform a search on Yahoo Image Search, and then pull up the menu on the left side of the screen.

If it’s collapsed, just hit the arrow button to expand the menu. Once you’re there, click ‘Show Filters’ and select ‘Labeled for Reuse.’

4. Stock.Xchng

15 Places to Find Free Images for Your Blog image Stock Xcnhg

Stock.Xchng is powered by some of the world’s most talented photographers. Its library is currently over 400,000 images strong and growing daily! Users upload their photos, with the ability to specify how they intend for the content to be used.

As a result, it’s crucial to check the “usage options” carefully, to ensure you’re able to place the content on a commercial website.

5. Wikimedia Commons

15 Places to Find Free Images for Your Blog image wikimedia commons

While you can also find Wikimedia Commons’ images through Google or Creative Commons search, it’s an outstanding resource for a number of reasons. Since it pulls directly from images and maps on Wikipedia, it’s a powerful way to find photos when your specifications are highly specific.

In addition to images of landmarks and places, there are plenty of public domain images, videos, and audio files.

6. CompFight

15 Places to Find Free Images for Your Blog image comp fight

CompFight is a super-fast, easy-to-use alternative to Flickr Search. Be sure to narrow your search results by either Creative Commons or Commercial-Use search results, since the default settings may return options that aren’t free for business use.

7. Flickr

15 Places to Find Free Images for Your Blog image flickr

Is it any surprise that Flickr is a top resource for image-sourcing? It’s beloved as a go-to by many top bloggers.

While it’s one of the world’s largest image repositories, it’s crucial to know and understand that the site allows the photographer to specify how they want the image to be used.

When you search for options, be sure to specify creative commons before you download the content.

8. The Open Clip Art Library

15 Places to Find Free Images for Your Blog image clip art

The Open Clip Art library is the largest web resource for free, small cartoonish images, religious icons, and calligraphy letters. It’s the perfect place to find website icons, or small images to add a minimalistic bent to your blog posts.

Virtually all search results will be licensed for free use (and if they aren’t, it’s going to be clearly specified). Keep in mind; it might not be the best option if you’re in a pinch, since its built-in search engine doesn’t always return the right results for highly-specific queries.

9. Creativity 103

15 Places to Find Free Images for Your Blog image creativity 103

This isn’t the largest library of free images online, but it’s certainly one of the prettiest. Its collection is solely focused on fine art photography, which most often includes abstract or otherwise artistic images of nature and buildings.

With around 2,500 options, you might not find exactly what you’re looking for, but you’ll certainly find something to pique your interest. Since few of the pictures include humans, it’s a perfect resource if you’re planning to modify the pictures with special effects or text overlay.

For resources to enhance your free digital photos, check out 14 Tools to Create Images for Your Blog Posts in 10 Minutes or Less.

10. Animal Photos

15 Places to Find Free Images for Your Blog image animal photos

Animal lovers unite! This website may not offer pictures of humans, landscapes, or technology, but it does one thing extraordinarily well – outstanding pictures of creatures of all kinds.

In addition to dogs and cats, you’ll find more obscure marine and land animals. The site’s library is broken down into categories, making your searching much easier.

11. Morgue File

15 Places to Find Free Images for Your Blog image morgue files

Most of the options on Morgue File are free to be “remixed,” meaning once you download it, your usage decisions are entirely yours.

You can add text, sparkly effects, Photoshop in headshots of your team, or any other idea you might come up with. Unless you intend to sell the finished product, the sky is the limit when it comes to Morgue File’s photos.

12. Every Stock Photo

15 Places to Find Free Images for Your Blog image every stock

Do you hate searching through awkward or low-quality stock images before finding just the right photo to use on your website? Every Stock Photo is more than just a search engine for free photos; it’s got a focus on quality.

Users are able to both rate and tag the comment, allowing you to retrieve only the best and most-relevant options when you search. Keep in mind though, due to the fact that it pulls from multiple websites, citation requirements can vary. Be sure to read the specifications on each photo carefully!

13. FreeDigitalPhotos.net

15 Places to Find Free Images for Your Blog image free digital

This is an extensive library of royalty-free images for commercial or personal use. Small versions of quality stock photos are free, with high-resolution versions available for purchase at affordable rates.

The library contains thousands of options, many of which are every bit as useful as images you’d purchase through Getty or other paid sources.

14. Photo Pin

15 Places to Find Free Images for Your Blog image photopin

Another search engine that integrates directly with Flickr, Photo Pin is incredibly fast and easy-to-use. It can even handle long or specific queries extraordinarily well.

Best of all, it provides you with simple HTML code for image attributions that can be pasted directly into WordPress or another CMS.

15. Stock Photos for Free

15 Places to Find Free Images for Your Blog image stockphotofor free

This is another free stock photo website, with over 100,000 options. It’s amazingly easy-to-use, and the photos are effectively tagged to make your searching efforts simpler.

While it’s easy to start downloading high-quality shots for your blog, keep in mind that you’re required to create an account before saving any of their content.

Now, here is how to give credit properly:

How to Attribute the Right Way

When attributing the image, you want to cite the author with the link going back to the work. The very basic way is to just write: image source and link it directly to the image. If you want more details on best practices for citing images images, here is a good post that gives examples of the best ways to do it.

Keep in mind; many sources for royalty-free images have their own specifications on how to properly cite images. It’s crucial to completely read and understand a site’s policies before taking their photos for commercial use.

What’s your experience with finding free images for your blog? Share with us in the comments below!


Written by Helen NesterenkoApart from being a pro in business processes, Helen is a CEO and Founder of Writtent.com, a marketplace that provides content writing services to small and medium businesses. She helps small businesses grow, and she totally loves it. Visit business2community where this excerpt is originally appeared. @B2Community