It’s easy to feel as if the blogging inspirational well is running dry when you write frequent posts and don’t sense an audience is present. You might feel as if you’re a fisherman, casting a net for fish that swim in anyone’s waters but your own.
“Seems like most of my followers are from this [Etsy] team,” reports one of my Etsy friends.
“I think most of my (blog) followers are teammates, too! I get some outside traffic, but not many followers,” says another person.
The standard blogging advice, if you’d like to see more followers, is that you need to read others’ blog posts and comment—you need to reciprocate, in other words. It’s considered good blogging etiquette, too, to respond to comments that need answers. Not all of them do. Be genuine with both your comments and responses. It also helps if you share links to your posts on your favorite social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, and other sites. But you may still feel that you aren’t gaining followers if you don’t see the count on your “Followers” widget go up, or if you aren’t getting many comments in response to your blog posts. That can be discouraging, but you might be surprised to learn you have more readers—perhaps silent ones—than you think.
Are you really without readers? Take a look at how many posts you have written, and how many comments they have garnered. This is my 344th post, and to date my posts have collected 1,548 comments. That’s an average of 4.5 comments per post, much more than my own perception, sometimes, that few people read this blog. But there is further evidence that there are readers out there beyond the comments we bloggers crave.
Some years back, I set up a StatCounter account to track how many unique views my blog was getting. Beyond that, I didn’t really look at the other statistics that StatCounter’s basic (and free) account provides. Here’s a rundown of just a few statistics that StatCounter gathers that will help make you feel you aren’t blogging for an audience of only six or seven people, and in turn may help you feel more inspired to blog:
- The number of page views, unique visits, first time visits and returning visits from today to the time you created a StatCounter account
- Your most popular pages (or posts)
- Where your traffic comes from
- What keywords visitors use to find you
- How long visitors stay on your site
- What items are being downloaded from your site
- What links on your site are being clicked on
Perhaps your problem, when it comes to blogging, is not that you think you don’t have an audience. You know you do, and you don’t want to disappoint folks with a lack of fresh content. Your challenge is coming up with new topics. Here are five strategies that may help you target the perfect blog post idea(s).
Network with others. Start a question exchange with one or more other bloggers, building a list of questions you each can use to write blog posts. Your questions (or requests for information) should be open-ended. Here are a few to get you started:
- What would you do if . . . ?
- How do you . . . ?
- Tell me more about . . .
- When was the last time you . . . ?
- Explain what . . .
- What is the best way to . . . ?
- In what ways can you . . . ?
- Why (or how) did __________ happen?
- What did you learn from . . . ?
- What’s the best that . . . ?
- What’s the worst that . . . ?
- How can you change/modify/adapt . . . ?
- How can you solve . . . ?
- How can you extend (or shorten) . . . ?
- What’s a good substitute for . . . ?
- How can you maximize (or minimize) . . . ?
- What happens if you . . . ?
Begin with the title. When I write Instant Challenge activities for Iowa’s Destination Imagination program, I often begin with a list of potential titles, and write the content to match it afterward. This works well when you have one or more brainstorming partners because then you are bouncing ideas off each other. Using this method, a friend and I came up with a common theme: rolls and tubes. We then generated related titles that we transformed into A Roll of Plenty (practice Instant Challenges, that is!):
- Future Tube
- Roll Out the Red Carpet
- Roll Play
- Jelly Bean Roll
- Test Tube Towers
- Tube Shot
- Magic Carpet Roll
- Roll Out a Rescue
- Tube Trek
- Let the Good Times Roll
- Tough Tube Tower
- Tunnel Tubes
Still lost? Don’t know how to begin? Visit Hubspot’s Blog Topic Generator, where you enter three words and click on a button that says “Give me blog topics.” The app automatically generates titles for you, and then you write the content.
Pick a topic from a list. There are many online lists of blog topics that others have posted on the Web. Some are business-related, some are not, but all of them contain a seed that just needs your creativity (and maybe some research) to bloom. Here are a few:
- 101 Blog Post Ideas That Will Make Your Blog “Hot”
- 81 Topic Ideas for Starting a Blog That Matters
- The Ultimate List of 95 Blogpost Ideas for Creating Craveable Content to Share on Social [sic]
- Never Run Out of Blogging Ideas
- What Should a Creative Business Owner Blog About – Part 1
- How to Come Up with Great Ideas for Blog Posts, Every Single Time
If all else fails, visit Handmadeology and enter “blog ideas” in the search box. You’ll find more ideas here than you will find time to implement!
Revamp an old post. Perhaps you explored one aspect of a topic a year ago, but there’s another point of view you didn’t address, or the topic was so broad that you only covered one tiny corner. Pull out that post and brainstorm a list of related topics. Then, research the topic, interview people, seek or take photos, and write your post.
Keep a swipe file. I had never heard this phrase until I ran across Kevan Lee’s The Ultimate List of 95 Blogpost Ideas for Creating Craveable Content to Share on Social [sic], but essentially a swipe file is a collection of resources from which you can “swipe” ideas when you’re running low on inspiration. Anytime you run across a blog post, article, photo, image, quote or anything else that captures your interest, jot it down, snap a photo, pin it, photocopy it, print it, or file it away physically or electronically. A Pinterest board is a kind of swipe file, as are software apps such as OneNote and Evernote. Similar to Pinterest is another free app called Trello. It really doesn’t matter why you collect the topics you find interesting, challenging, amusing or puzzling; you just want to have a parking lot for them when you need ideas to write about. A swipe file is a starting point. All you have to do is keep your eyes and ears open, and collect trivia in the same manner a sponge soaks up water.
Whenever you’re feeling discouraged because you don’t seem to have readers, remember that many of your visitors are silent. Prove it to yourself by reviewing the facts. Check out the number of comments you’ve collected versus the posts you’ve written. Look up a few StatCounter statistics. Visit your Etsy Stats page, change the time frame to “All Time,” and check out how many times people arrived in your shop location after visiting your blog. Remember to visit other blogs and comment, and to respond when necessary to comments on your own blog. And whenever you need some fresh ideas, look up one of the five idea-generating strategies in this post. You’ll want to bookmark this post for future reference. Do you have a blog post idea-generating technique that works especially well for you? Feel free to share it in the comments below.
© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.