Welcome to update number six! We’re now at the halfway mark for this entire project. In past updates we’ve looked at quite a few topics at once – such as setting up a domain & hosting or adding pages to your site while installing plugins – but this section is focused primarily on just one thing: generating content ideas.

As you know by now, the content you produce is by far the most important aspect of blogging. It doesn’t matter how good your site looks or how optimised it is for search engines if real people aren’t getting value from your articles.

As more and more people realise you can make a living via the internet, each niche online is becoming substantially more crowded. On any given day you can literally find the same type of blog posts on dozens of different websites. I went from having over 150 blogs in my feed reader in the last few years to just 10, purely because I was seeing the same style of content over, and over (and over) again.

The following recommendations should help you to generate tons of unique post ideas for your niche. Here we’re just looking for creative inspiration and a good idea of future topics to cover; in the next update I’ll be showing you to format those ideas to help make them viral — with some cool examples from Andrea’s own experience.

Not only will the following tips help you generate tons of post / article ideas for now, but you can also come back to them in a few months and they’ll be able to give you a new creativity boost. Finally, I will add that while we’re not looking for a specific number of ideas, do keep in mind that most of you will be posting 8-20 times per month – depending on your strategy, so it’s recommended that you put a bit of time into this.

Some of the following examples have been taken from my blog posts at ViperChill – since I still recommend them today – though they have been tweaked, with extras added.

StumbleUpon Buzz

A little known feature of StumbleUpon is their popular (buzz) pages for different subjects. These pages show the most viewed articles that the StumbleUpon audience voted for and enjoyed. I’ll be the first to admit that StumbleUpon visitors aren’t the best traffic source in the world, but there’s something to be said for writing articles that capture their attention. I have a large in-depth guide to StumbleUpon as a service if you want to learn more about it here.

If you can occupy the attention of someone who is randomly clicking through websites via a browser toolbar, you can occupy the attention of anybody.

Not only will you see the pages that are the most popular, you’ll also see exactly how many visits StumbleUpon sent to them which is perfect if you have lots of ideas from this source but just want to focus on a few. I obviously don’t recommend that you copy titles or ideas directly, but instead think you should use this as inspiration for titles that work well, angles that people in your niche are taking, and the type of subjects that people want to read about.

You can find ideas in literally any niche, with some examples being their financegadget and humour sections. Simply change the tag in the URL to whatever you write about and you’ll find popular content around that topic.

Delicious Popular Page

Similar to StumbleUpon, Delicious has its own way of highlighting popular content which you can sort by tags which are related to your industry. While StumbleUpon shows the pages with the most thumbs up, Delicious shows posts with the most saves (bookmarks).

I’ve had a lot of success with Delicious for ViperChill, regularly being featured on the popular pages for SEO, Blogging and Social Media. Depending on what you write about, there’s a great chance you’ll find inspiration by searching for relevant phrases to your niche and finding the most resourceful content.

After you’ve performed a search, click ‘all results’ on the top right of the search results to get specific pages and articles on sites, rather than just homepages.

Personal Experience

What I noticed when I looked through the Google Analytics account of my personal development blog before I sold it was that most of my popular posts were ones where I was not only sharing actionable content, but also talking about my personal experiences.

One of the most viewed posts was on the topic of public speaking; something many people are afraid of and want to get better at. I was too, and I totally fine with sharing this on the blog. I also shared the story of how I signed myself up to a speaking club where I gave a speech once every fortnight which helped me to overcome this fear.

Not only does honesty and personal experience help readers connect to your work and encourage them to engage via the comments, it’s also a great way to generate new ideas for your blog.

What is something you’ve struggled with in your industry that you’ve managed to overcome? How did you succeed with managing finances, overcoming anxiety, making money online, becoming minimalist or whatever else is relevant to your niche?

When I took some time out to write down the whole process of me going from someone who knew nothing about domains, hosting or SEO to someone who has run websites which get millions of visitors, each step on the way gave me an idea I could turn into a valuable post.

Popular Posts on Other Blogs

When I finally added a list of my most popular blog posts to the ViperChill sidebar, the amount of pages each visitor viewed and the time they spent on the site greatly increased. Many bloggers started finding similar results, so they proudly display their most popular posts in their footer or blog sidebar.

For example, in the internet marketing niche you can head on over to sites like Copyblogger (sidebar), Problogger (homepage, center box) or Quicksprout (sidebar) to see the posts that their audience engaged with and shared the most.

While it’s more common to see this on marketing blogs, there are probably tons of blogs in your niche too that make it clear which content resonated with their readers. If you can write more posts that people are going to love and be the signal through the noise, you can be sure that you’re on your way to building a very popular blog.

As with StumbleUpon Buzz, I’m not suggesting that you steal post headlines or article ideas directly. Simply use them as a way to get your creative juices flowing and as an indicator to what your audience probably wants to read about.

Google Keyword Research Tool

When Google came out with this tool a few years back and internet marketers could stop guessing which niches were popular online it changed the game forever. Especially in regards to my own affiliate marketing strategy. But it’s not only search volumes and domains where I use this tool; it’s also great for content ideas.

Let’s say you have a blog about social media and want to know what topics you can write about. Typing social media into the tool will give you, among others, the popular phrase ‘social media strategy’. Now you know people are looking for actual tips on a strategy they can implement when using social media — probably to get more brand exposure and increase their site traffic.

If you know what you’re talking about, you can then simply go and write a post about around this term. Simply enter the type of niche you’re in or even the phrases from some of your most popular posts and see what else people are looking for. If people are searching for it in numbers on Google, it’s probably safe to say that your blog readers would like to know about it too.

Open Site Explorer Top Pages

Open Site Explorer is a ‘links search engine’ which allows you to analyse websites and see things like how many backlinks they have, how many sites are providing those links and – luckily for us – the most authoritative posts on certain blogs. These generally have the most links from other blogs so are probably around interesting topics that people are passionate about.

Though the free version of this tool only allows you to see the 5 most popular pages on these sites, it should be enough to help you come up with a lot of popular ideas, especially if you use it on a lot of sites in your niche.

Use Google Forms for Reader Feedback

Google Forms, which is a tool found in Google Docs, allows you to easily capture data that is entered into a form. When I used this on my own site I simply asked people the question “What would you like to see me write about?”

Because I didn’t require an email address, I received some requests for me to write about chicken and other weird things so be prepared for some irrelevant answers. To prevent this you could require an email address or ask more questions, but note that this will decrease the amount of responses you receive.

I only needed the link there for two days as I received some great suggestions which I’m going to use as inspiration for future posts. You could also ask your blog readers for post ideas directly in a post and see what they suggest in the comments. I like the forms option as it’s discreet and all answers are instantly inserted into a spreadsheet for easy viewing.

Yahoo Answers

If you don’t want to ask your readers directly what they would like to read about, you could browse a popular site like Yahoo Answers and see what related questions people are already asking. If you run a health blog then you can easily see the types of questions have regarding losing weight, sticking to a diet and keeping track of progress.

If you write about finance then you can see people asking which tools are the best to track your money, whether investing in homes is a good idea and how they can teach their loved ones to be more responsible with their cash.

If you take some time to look around this site you can literally find dozens of post ideas in just a few minutes by writing on topics that would answer these questions.

Forums

Like Yahoo Answers, forums are full of discussions between people on hot topics in different industries. If you’re into DIY and building a blog around that then typing “hardware forums” or “diy forum” into Google will give you a number sites you can look at for inspiration.

Not only will forum categories show you what the most defined and popular sub-sections of your niche actually are, but threads (discussions) which span across multiple pages will show you what people are most interested in right now. And who knows, you will probably learn a few things on these sites as well which will help you provide even more value to your audience.

Now that I’ve shown you some of the top sources of inspiration for post ideas, I want to give you some examples of popular posts I found in my own industry in the hope that you can start to see what viral content may be ‘packaged’.