A step-by-step guide that will get your content under control
Whether you’re a blogger with a million ideas swimming around in your head, or a business owner struggling to find your blogging mojo, this post on how to find and plan a year’s worth of blog topics in one hour may just save your sanity.
Why do you need to organise your blog topics in advance?
Setting and planning your blog topics in advance is important. Blog posts should be an integral part of your business strategy as they can:
- Help with your website’s SEO
- Bring in new readers and traffic to your site
- Build relationships with existing readers and customers
- Position you as an industry expert
- Act as a platform to drive and inform extra content for your social media
Note: For the purpose of this guide we’ll be aiming to find one blog post idea for each week of the year across 6 categories. More than that is doable, but may require more than an hour.
Step 1: Set up your frame work
Identify your blog categories
If you haven’t done already, you should create a list of all of the topic areas or categories you are going to cover in your blog.Choose blog categories based on what your target market is interested in - the things that they have burning questions about or the areas that they need the most help with. Click To Tweet
If you’re stumped for category ideas, here are six great ways to get started:
- Interview people who are in your target market and find out what they need help with
- Join a Facebook group or forum relevant to your blogging theme and see what questions people are asking most often
- Use Google autosuggest or a keyword tool to spit out some ideas
- Dive into Quora and see what questions people are asking about your category
- Find out what your competitors’ most popular categories are
- Identify which categories your competitors aren’t covering and fill the void
I recommend coming up with a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 12 categories.
Why set a minimum?
- You may quickly run out of content if you only have a handful of categories.
Why set a maximum?
- Your web navigation will become cluttered and confusing if you have too many categories. Plus, you might be overwhelmed and feel like you can’t get moving because you have too much choice.
TIP: Use subcategories to further separate your topics.
Read more about categories vs. tags in this handy WordPress for beginners post.
You will also need to set these categories up in your blogging platform.
Let’s imagine you’re blogging about parenting and your target market is first time mums of new babies.
Your categories might look like this:
- Mental health (subcategories could be postnatal depression and anxiety)
- Weight loss
- Sleep and settling
- Weaning (subcategory could be baby food recipes)
Enter them into the categories area of your blogging platform.
Create your spreadsheet
First of all, you need to find a spreadsheet program that works for you.
I love using Google Sheets because I can open my sheets from my mobile phone app and I personally find it really easy to use (maybe because I was previously an Excel fan).
It’s part of the google business suite so it’s linked to my email address.
If you don’t have a preferred spreadsheet platform, you might find this article comparing the best spreadsheets useful.
Enter each of your categories into the top row of the spreadsheet and enter the weeks in the first column.
I’ve named this tab ‘Categories’, but it could also be called ‘plan’ or ‘schedule’ as it’s going to become the overview of our schedule for the year.
Open a tab named ‘post ideas’
You can simply duplicate the first tab and rename it ‘post ideas’.
- This tab will list all of your categories and subcategories and it’s where you will start to fill out your post ideas.
TIP: Give yourself a maximum time for each category based on how many categories you have or you could end up spending the whole hour on one category and not touch the others.
- In this case you have six categories, so I’d allocate around 10 minutes per category
- Anything less than 10 minutes will have you rushing to finish
- Aim to record a minimum of 10 post ideas per category
Open up your ideas toolbox
Open the following websites in your browser, all of which are free to use – this is my toolbox for post idea generation:
- SemRush (you only need a free membership for what we’ll be doing)
- HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator
You may already have some ideas buzzing around, feel free to throw them down for a minute or so when you go through each of your categories.
These tools will help you find ideas you may never have thought of yourself.
Step 2: Research and record ideas
Use SemRush to find your first lot of ideas
SemRush is an awesome keyword and SEO resource.
Go to the ‘Keyword Overview’ tool which you’ll find in the menu list on the left hand side.
Type your category into the query box.
Look through the list of words as well as related keywords and you’ll get an idea of how many people are searching for those terms per month.
I can see a bunch of blog posts ideas there in the first few results including:
- What are the signs of postnatal depression
- What is the Edinburgh postnatal depression scale
- What is postnatal depression
Put them into your spreadsheet on the post ideas page.
You can filter SemRush results to view the most highly searched terms or phrases.
Tip: If you don’t want to sign in to SemRush you can use a keyword tool like Keywordtool.io, which is one of my favourites (you can’t see search volume unless you pay but you don’t need it for idea generation).
Dive into Pinterest
Pinterest is a search engine in itself. Type your category word or words into the search bar and you will get oodles of ideas.
You will see below that there are also bunch of subcategory ideas that pop up under the search bar. They might help you to explode your topics out even further.
Populate your spreadsheet with more ideas (using my parenting blog example I’m exploring the baby sleep category this time).
Five blog post ideas I get from this page are:
- Sleep milestones for baby’s first year
- How to sleep train your baby
- Sample schedules for baby sleep
- Baby sleep photographers
- Must have products that may help your baby to sleep
Gather some more ideas from AnswerThePublic
I freaking love Answer The Public. Yep. It’s awesome.
Type in your category or topic and just see what it spits out.
It doesn’t tell you how many searches there are for these topics, but it sure does give you a load of good ideas. You can always type them back into SemRush afterward to check on search volume.
I now have 11 ideas just for the sub-category topic of postnatal depression.
TIP: If you have too many ideas, some of them could become sub-headings within a longer post
Finalise using HubSpot’s Ideas Generator
Type in your category or subcategory word.
Don’t expect genius – you’re going to have to massage these a bit.
You might get some really stupid or really random things and you may need to regenerate a few times, but you might just get a left-field pearler that sparks one or two great posts.
I typed in baby sleep and got the following suggestions, which actually inspired some good ideas:
My ideas based on this are:
- How our grandmothers used to settle babies and what we can learn from them
- The ultimate cheat sheet on settling your crying baby
- 20 myths about baby sleep (and why you should never tell your mum friends that your baby is already sleeping through at 2 months!)
- Think you’re cut out for a newborn? Take this ‘how will i survive without sleep’ quiz
- 5 settling tools every new mum should be using
That took me one minute maximum. I’ll refine them when I actually get to researching the posts of course – there might not be 20 myths about baby sleep but there will be at least 5!
Stop the timer! Don’t look for any more.
Step 3: Repeat your research for each category
Go back to step 2 and start to populate your next category.
- Remember to spend no more than 10 minutes per category
- Make sure you find at least 10-12 ideas per topic
- Rinse and repeat for each category
Woohoo, you’ve done it!
Step 4: Finalise your spreadsheet
Your hour is up.
You should have dozens of blog post ideas and all you need is one for each week – that’s just 52 ideas (or 50 if you want to give yourself a couple of weeks off a year, which you should).
Now go back to your first tab in the spreadsheet and start to place ideas from each category next to a week.
Start with your first category and work your way along until you get to the last, then start again. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the 52 weeks fill up.
Phew, doesn’t that feel great? Now all you need to do is write those posts and come up with a snappy headline. I know – easier said than done, but at least you have a structured set of ideas to work from now.
Have you started bookmarking yet?
You should also create a Pinterest board for each category and start populating the boards with relevant pins.
Tip: There are bookmarking apps for your phone – check out ‘The 18 best read it later and bookmarking apps’.
Supercharge your posts via trending topics
There’s a load of great tools for finding trending blog topics if you want to super charge your blog with content that’s so hot right now.
Head over to this article 10 tools for finding trending topics and popular content, but don’t go too crazy and sign up for all of them. You may just end up sitting in front of a screen full of open tabs with no blog posts to show for it.
Do you have any favourite tools for finding blog topics? I also love to use Quora to further refine my topics when i sit down to write each article. And then there’s keyword optimisation… I’ll cover that at a later date.