It’s 9am on a Monday morning and you’ve set aside a couple of hours in your hectic daily schedule; time that you’re going to spend writing your latest blog post, or crafting informational articles. But, out of the corner of your eye, you see that CV you’ve been promising to peruse. Or, you notice that there’s a light flashing on the printer that could do with investigating.
You look back at the clock only to realise that it’s 10am and a meeting looms in just over an hour.
You leave the printer maintenance for another time, and put the CV back on the top of your Inbox and prepare to work. Dwindling time means that you have to trim your 30 minute brainstorming to a meagre 10 minute session, and you open up your browser ready to start looking. On the BBC home page, you notice a piece about how Man Utd’s demise is picking up pace, and you figure five minutes of reading really won’t make that much difference.
As 10:30am approaches, panic begins to set in. You’re an hour and a half into your two hour session and you’ve done nothing constructive whatsoever. Hastily, you conduct a cursory keyword search and open the first page on the list.
20 minutes later, you’ve devoured five excellent but completely irrelevant news stories and how to guides, and have only 10 minutes left. You give up and swear that you’ll sit down tonight and put together something genuinely useful.
We’ve all had these kinds of situations, and we understand exactly how frustrating they can be. Finding an inspirational source of content is an incredibly difficult step, but it is one that will whip up a creative flourish.
Depending on the type of content you’re looking to write, consider using one or more of the following sites to help:
1 – Google News
We regularly write news stories, and on a massive variety of topics, and Google News is where a lot of our ideas come from. Unless you have some viable, breaking news story of your own, then you are probably going to end up putting your own slant on a story that has already broken.
As well as Google News, you can also set up a Google Alert so that you receive an email informing you when any new content is published that meets your keyword criteria.
Happily, most of the content that is published on Google News is of a high quality, although a lot of content seems to slip through the net because it isn’t all news related.
2 – Yahoo Answers
An exceptional content source whether you’re looking to compose an FAQ or a beneficial blog post on topics that are relevant to your visitors. However, you do need to cut through the swathes of frankly idiotic rubbish in order to get to the good stuff.
Use the search function, determine the questions asked most frequently, and create a post that gives in-depth answers to the questions. You will know that at least somebody is looking, or has looked, for the information that you are providing.
3 – Twitter Feeds
OK, so this takes a little preparation and leg work, but set up a Twitter account (you really should have one anyway) and then follow reliable, newsworthy, and informational sources that are genuinely relevant to your industry. I say genuinely relevant, because if you just follow celebrities and your local pub then Twitter will become another source of procrastination, and not a solution.
The great thing about using Twitter is the short form nature of the content. Even reading 100 Tweets only takes a few minutes, compared to the several hours or days that it would take you to read the same number of Facebook posts.
4 – Google Trends
Google features pretty heavily in this list (if you count Google News and Google Alerts as two entities anyway) but with good reason. Whether you love their dedication to linking to high quality content, or you despise their ubiquitous nature, the fact is that they are the go-to search engine for the majority of people. This means that if you want to know what people are searching for, then Google Trends is not only insightful but can be inspirational too. You can search by location and industry, as well as just viewing the most popular searches and keywords.
5 – Quora
Sign up, choose your preferred topics, and you can receive a daily email with relevant(ish) content ideas. Use the Quora site, and you can search using generic or niche keywords. Quora is similar to Yahoo Answers, at least for the purpose of this post, except it tends to have less nonsense flying around.
6 – Competitor Sites
First off, it isn’t plagiarism, it is inspiration. Follow the blogs of your competitors and thought leaders within your industry. Steer clear of the temptation to simply rehash the same content from the same people. You need to develop your own voice, and some of your readers will begin to notice because they too will be following a lot of the same sites.
Get yourself a decent RSS reader and you can amalgamate all of the content and choose the best stories or pieces targeting the most relevant topics.
7 – Your Own Content
If you’ve already written about it, then where’s the benefit in writing about it again, you may be asking. However, use your own engagement and analytics figures to determine which content proved the most popular. Look at the titles, the specific area of your industry that the story covered, and try to uncover what was the secret of your storytelling success.
There are many ways that you can rewrite and repackage old content. If you have a series of posts on the same topic, or niche, then you can rewrite them as a single ebook. If you have an ebook, you can rewrite it as a series of blog posts, articles, and pages of content.
There are, of course, thousands of websites that you can use for inspiration, and there will be some that are industry specific as well as those that can be used for any industry. The key is to find what works for you, and then look for ways in which to automate the discovery process to some extent. This will save you time, and it will give you access to some of the best sources of inspiration. Above all, remember that your blogging should be a fun experience for you as well as an informative experience for your readers.