I did a training session on blogging the other day for a local group and, as ever, the biggest problem most of them faced was getting ideas. I mentioned a site I’d had recommended to me which looked like a really useful tool to solve that problem. I’ve since had a chance to use it in earnest, and it lives up to its billing.
The site is answerthepublic.com. It’s free to use (so that’s not an affiliate link!). They don’t even ask you to sign up, though you will have to if you want to take advantage of their mini course to help you get the most from the site. I found it quite easy to use anyway, though there may be hidden depths you only discover with the course.
How it works
You type in your keyword (in this case “blogging”) and it comes up with a list of headings. Not just any list, though – a pretty list! They arrange the answers to look like a flower. Nice.
They don’t only give you one list, either. The first one focuses on questions, so the answers are based on who, what, where, when and so on. That’s where I found the delightful “What quilts are blogging about” – surprisingly (to me) they blog quite a lot! – and 138 other ideas.
The second list uses prepositions (with, versus, for, near and the rest) and produced 120 options. And then there were 149 alphabetical ideas, though some of these were pretty odd (“r blogging”, for example – it turned out to be Reddit) and/or in foreign languages.
“Touring Scotland” didn’t produce much in the first two sets of results but the alphabetical list came up with plenty of great blog topics – enough to keep you going for several months – so it’s worth scrolling down the page even if the top results don’t look promising.
Whichever set of options you choose, click on an idea and it takes you to a Google page of links. I think that’s the real advantage of this tool: it doesn’t just give you a rough idea, it sends you to what’s already been written on the subject so you can avoid repeating it and create something original.
Once you think you know where you’re going with the idea, you could take it to SocialAnimal or SocialMention and see which has been the most popular of the items listed. Then you can work out what take on the subject would get most clicks and choose other relevant keywords, on those two sites and / or at Storybase.
Time is of the essence
There is, of course, the very real possibility that you’ll never get the thing written at all, having spent all your time following the rabbit down the hole and all round the warren. Like a good dictionary, one thing leads to another, you follow a branch-line, glimpse another rabbit … and come up for air three hours later.
And most of us can’t spare that much time out of our fraught schedules.
But the more steps you can cope with, the more chance you have that people will open and read your blog and click on your links. And there’s really no point writing it unless someone reads and engages with it, is there?
However, even if you only use answerthepublic you’ll save yourself a lot of head-scratching and effort. Sometimes it doesn’t come up with much (it didn’t register any results for “headline analysis”, for example, but then neither did Storybase) and you may have to change your terms until it does that “aha!” thing. So if “touring Scotland” doesn’t produce the results you need, try “visiting Scotland”.
I hope that helps cure the no-ideas blues. Have fun with it – but don’t let that rabbit get away with your day! And if you really don’t have time for all of that, you know where to come …