There have been many excellent pieces written on how to find topics for blog posts, such as The best 50 blogging ideas to choose from by Aswani Srivastava and How to find topics for your blog posts from Mike Consol.
But the most powerful blog posts are those that answer questions your readers have. What kind of question? There are a couple of obvious criteria: first, it has to be an important question, not a trivial one—and the more important, the better. Second, it has to be the type of question that can be answered in roughly 300-1000 words.
So how do come up with such a question? One method is to use strength-weakness-opportunity-treat (SWOT) analysis. The SWOT model, developed at Stanford University back in the 1970s, is commonly used in strategic business planning; but it can also be valuable for developing blog post topics.
Strengths: think about tasks or processes your readers are already good at, but would like to perform even better. Such posts often have titles that begin with phrases like “Advanced Tips for…,” “Optimizing Your Use of…,” “x Ways to Improve…” or “Fine-Tuning Your…”
Weaknesses: these are areas where readers may not have a lot of experience, but want to learn. Post titles frequently include phrases like “Getting Started in…,” ‘____ 101,” “Basic Steps for…,” “Avoiding Common Mistakes in…,” “x Simple Tips to…” or “A Beginner’s Guide to…”
Opportunities: consider trends, new tools or developments that can provide better ways to accomplish existing tasks, or even the chance to do things not previously possible. These posts often begin with phrases such as “Capitalizing on…,” “How to Take Advantage of…” or “A Whole New Way to…”
Threats: developments, events and trends can lead to new dangers as well as opportunities. What are your readers concerned about—or what should they be concerned about? Regulatory or legal changes, economic developments, new sources of competition, changing consumer tastes and other developments can have potentially damaging impacts. Think of topics that help your readers address these worries. Common post titles include “Watch Out For…,” “The Looming Threat of…,” “Plan Now to Be Prepared for…,” “Don’t Overlook…” and “The Emerging Danger in…”
Anticipating and answering common but challenging reader questions can help generate fresh topic ideas, draw more traffic to your blog, and provide your readers with valuable content they will appreciate and be likely to pass along.