Honestly, there are some days that I have no earthly idea what to write about. You guys made it clear in the reader survey that want me to write more. Sometimes I want to do a guest post on an outside blog to get some exposure for Sugarrae, PushFire or any of my numerous affiliate sites.

When I get inspired, blogging is easy for me. When I simply have to sit down and write like it’s homework because I need to publish two posts this week, I sit there staring at my keyboard drawing a complete blank as to what would make a good topic for a post.

The Search for New Topics

So of course I would turn to Google – but most of what I find either gives me ideas on “types” of posts (reviews, rants, interviews, comparisons, etc) or Mad Lib esque titles “___ Reasons You Should Never ___” or. That doesn’t really help me personally. I know the various types of posts and the problem is not creating a title – it’s filling in the blanks. I needed ways to find specific content ideas that the audience on whatever site I was writing for would find useful.

So, I’ve come up with a few ways I like to use to generate content ideas for my sites (and client sites as well).

Google Suggest

I like using Google Suggest for two main reasons. First, in theory, the phases in the drop down are ones being used by actual searchers. Second, those phrases show up to other people searching the initial words – and may cause them to search for that phrase even if they didn’t originally intend to.

For instance, some one may go to Google intending to do a search for “blog post titles” but as they’re typing “blog post” they see “blog post ideas” show up in the drop down. They may opt to simply choose that search term rather than continuing on with what they were originally typing since it means essentially the same thing.

I use a (free) tool call ubersuggest which pulls the potential google suggest words after a core phrase automatically. So, if I search ubersuggest for “blog post” it will show me tons of potential suggestions for words that appear after that core term across every letter of the alphabet.

Go a step further and put popular queries in front of the topic. i.e. a search for “how to affiliate marketing” no quotes will produce a listing of Google suggest terms that contain all of those words, but not necessarily in that order (such as “how to do affiliate marketing on Clickbank“). A search for “potty train toddler” will bring up suggestions like “easiest way [to] potty train [a] toddler” so you can not only get an article idea, but craft your article titles around the actual words people are looking for.

Mining Topsy

Topsy is a real time social media search engine that I love to scour for content ideas. Except I’m not looking for what was posted today, or even this week. Someone has already been there and (recently) done that. What I love is to search the Topsy archives (which takes a bit of minor workaround).

Let’s say I’m looking for a new topic for Sugarrae. I might search Topsy for the phrase “affiliate marketing” and then narrow down the search results via the options listed in the left sidebar of the results. In this example, I’ll toggle the options to show me “all time” and “links” to sort by “date” and the network to be Twitter (which it is by default). Now I’m presented with the search results – and as I said, I have zero interest in the freshest results. What I want are the archives.

Depending on the business of the topic, you’ll start to see posts at least six months or older on the first page.

If not, at the bottom, you’ll see a “next” page button with something like “Page 1 of 10″ or “Page 1 of 100″ next to it. Click the next page button. A URL like the following will be in the address bar – http://topsy.com/s/affiliate+marketing/link?offset=10&om=a&order=date&page=8&window=a – simply change the “page=2″ to something further back. In this case, I’ll change it to “page=8″ so the URL appears as follows – http://topsy.com/s/affiliate+marketing/link?offset=10&om=a&order=date&page=8&window=a – this can save you some time digging back in searches that have a TON of fresh results.

Why do I care what was published that long ago? Because these are blog posts that got a lot of traction when they WERE published. So I’ll scan the list according to the number of tweets they got – find the ones with larger numbers – and see if those are topics I can 1. write good shit on, 2. improve on and 3. update to be more relevant to right here, right now. I already know the topic is of interest – that it resonates. If I can update it, add to it or do it better, I’m good to go.

Keep in mind that bigger sites will get more tweets simply because of who they are – i.e. I might not pay as much attention to a post techcrunch.com got a lot of retweets on as much as I will “B or C level” site getting a lot of tweets. Also keep in mind that I am NOT suggesting you copy anyone’s shit – simply find topics to breathe new and awesome life into.

Ask your Twitter following

Seems obvious. But I’m surprised how often it’s not. Ask your followers what they want to see. I’ve used this method in the past and been given several awesome topic ideas I’d never have thought of myself. “Hey Twitter… what do you want to see more about on our blog” or (using Sugarrae as an example, where I write about affiliate marketing) “What is the most pressing question or need for information you have regarding affiliate marketing?” #nuffsaid

Mining Delicious

Delicious still exists?” you might ask – why yes, yes they do. Though, if it’s been several years since you logged in, you’ll likely need to create a new account.

Sign in an do a search on a topic – and you’ll be presented with a list of awesome sites that tons of people have bookmarked on that topic (and possibly be a little bitter if you see some competition taking the top slots). But these sites have large followings cause they have awesome content. And they’ve usually been around a while, so they also likely had some once awesome content that is now heavily outdated.

Search their domain name in Delicious and check out their top bookmarked posts and see what you can 1. write good shit on, 2. improve on and 3. update to be more relevant to right here, right now. A site typically doesn’t get bookmarked 6,000 times because their content is crap. It’s usually because their content is awesome. And as I said with Topsy, I am NOT suggesting you copy anyone’s shit – simply find topics to breathe new and awesome life into.