I’ve written enough blog posts that I’ve figured out what it is that wins readers, and what bores the bejeezus out of them. If I’m stuck for a blog post idea, I’ve got a few general topics and idea kickstarters that will get my creative juices flowing, and get a decent post out of it. I use these same kickstarters to come up with topics for my own clients, especially when they think they’re stuck for ideas or have run out of things to write about.
These are the three best kickstarters I’ve found that work, regardless of the topic or industry.
I know, I know, you hate them. They’re boring, they’re trite, they’ve been done to death. But do you know who loves them? I mean, really looooooooooves them?
Your readers. They eat them up. They love that there is a small number of ideas that they can read and understand. It brings order to chaos. “Five Best Dishwashers” is way more interesting than “How to choose a dishwasher.”
Secretly, you still think they’re interesting too. Why else would you be here? Admit it, you saw the number 3, and thought, “Three, huh? I guess I have a couple minutes to check it out.”
Still don’t believe me? Do a little test. Next time you’re in the supermarket, pay attention to the magazines at the checkout lane, especially Cosmo. Look at the headlines on the cover. They all follow this format, and they sometimes use the next two ideas.
Every month, for years and years and year, we’ve been promised “Three Secrets Men Won’t Tell You About Sex,” and “Five Ways to a Sexier Love Life.” For YEARS, I tells ya!
And why? Because people love lists. If they didn’t, Cosmo would quit doing it. So I’ll keep writing list posts for as long as Cosmo does. Why? Because if you’re a fellow blogger, you’re not my customer. Corporations and small businesses are my customers. They’re the ones I need to appeal to. And if they want list posts, then I can think of Seven Reasons Why People Love List Posts.
Debunk long-standing myths and stick it to The Man
This is ingrained in our culture. We’re the little guy. We despise the big guy. David hates Goliath. Everyman and Everywoman hates bullies, corporations, and faceless bureaucrats. And if we can see evidence where the little guy sticks it to The Man, we go nuts! So who’s the Man? Big business, the government (state and local too), bullies, TV preachers, and teachers.
Not today’s teachers. Our teachers from when we grew up. We were little kids back then, and had all kinds of knowledge jammed into our brains that we didn’t want. We wanted to rebel, but were held down. Even people in their 60s still harbor a little of that Inner Rebel, and they still want to stick it to their old English teacher who’s been dead for 30 years. By writing a post about debunking an educational topic, I can reach that Inner Rebel and make him or her want to read.
Last week, I wrote a blog post about Five Writing Rules You’re Allowed to Break, and people liked it. Another one — Five Grammar Myths Exploded — was extremely popular. Why? Because I attacked the sacred cow of 7th grade English and showed where it was wrong. The little guy stuck it to The Man by proving he was wrong.
Special professional secrets
Want to get someone’s attention? Share something special with them that no one else gets to find out about. Or “they don’t want you to know.” (And who’s “they?” The Man.) But if it’s something secret — that “they” don’t want you to know — it must be really hot stuff.
Posts like “Five Gas Saving Secrets the Oil Companies Don’t Want You to Know” or “Three Secrets Your Credit Card Company Won’t Tell You” are a whoooole lot more interesting than “Five Ways to Save Gas” or “Three Little-Known Tidbits About Your Credit Card.” People love this kind of stuff; they eat it up.
I used all three of these tactics with this post, and chances are you were very intrigued by the fact that I:
- Used a number.
- Promised secrets.
- Stuck it to an elite group of people — professional writers.
It was actually the idea of sharing secrets that led to this blog post, and I added the other two tactics to the headline later. But even if you just use one of these three kickstarters in your own industry or niche, you can come up with some awesome ideas on your own. For example:
- Three Ways to Lower Your AC Bill This Summer.
- History Answers: Who REALLY Flew the First Airplane?
- Five Secrets to Avoiding Fines Your Library Doesn’t Want You to Know.
So the next time you’re stuck for a post idea, ask yourself: Is there a number of small ideas I can list, a sacred cow I can slay, or “insider secrets*” I can reveal to entice my readers? Once you start thinking this way, there is no end to the number of posts you can write.
* Please note that I don’t mean real insider or corporate secrets. Do not reveal business secrets at all ever. EVER!
Photo credit: Marcmos (Flickr)