So, you want to be a blogger.
Chances are pretty good that if you’ve ever said that out loud someone has told you that you should be writing every day. Or three times a week. Or weekly. Or at least regularly.
Maybe that someone was even me.
Chances are also pretty good that you’ve had this panicked thought run around your brain like a crazed hamster:
holy crap! I’m going to run out of stuff to say before I even get any readers.
Deep breath, writer.
You’re going to be okay.
Because the internet is a wild and wonderful place full of bajillions of human beings who are all asking questions on multitudes of topics.
We are legion and we are curious.
We have already asked the questions on every single topic there is under the sun.
All you have to do is find those questions and answer them.
I promise you, once you figure out how to do that, your own creativity will kick in and you’ll augment those questions, and you will never run out of things to say.
It’s more likely that you’ll barely scratch the surface.
For the purpose of this post, I’m going to chose a niche topic that isn’t anything that I write about. I just want you to see that you can be very specific — and still find a ton to write about.
Because just outside my office window on this gorgeous August Sunday morning there are a bunch of people kayaking down the Allegheny river, let’s use: river kayaking as our topic.
I’m going to introduce you to three free tools today that you can use to find topics for your blog posts.
Ubersuggest was designed by Neil Patel. And it’s free.
Ubersuggest’s Free Keyword Tool, Generate More Suggestions
Ubersuggest helps you generate keyword ideas for your content marketing strategy and production. With Ubersuggest’s…
This is the kind of generosity that makes me so happy. And I really think (hope) that this kind of generosity is the next new thing.
I’ve never paid Patel anything, except that I bought one of his books once. But after using Ubersuggest nearly daily for the past several weeks, you can be sure that if I ever need to hire someone to help me with SEO, I’ll hire him.
Anyway, that aside. Ubersuggest is amazing. And it’s totally free. Not throttled (you can use it for free all day long, as many times as you want.) Just free, free.
I’ll introduce you to it and then show you how I use it.
When you go to the homepage, you’ll see a simple search bar where you type in a keyword. In our case today, ‘river kayaking.’
The results show me that a lot of people search for the term, but that it’s going to be pretty difficult for me to rank on Google for the term.
At this point, I don’t care about ranking. (I will in a minute, though. Stay tuned.) For now, scroll down. Because Patel gives you ‘keywords’ and ‘content ideas.’
Keywords are other keywords that contain ‘river kayaking.’ Content ideas are links that rank for the keyword ‘river kayaking.’ Both of those lists are a goldmine for me, if my goal is to write regularly about river kayaking.
Above is part of the keyword list. I can see that people routinely search for river kayaking in their area. Maybe I could start a series about river kayaking by state. Or in the different areas of my state. People are also interested, clearly, in learning how to river kayak.
Above is part of the content ideas list. I can see that for river kayaking, most of the content is news articles. But the one about the 70-day kayaking journey could easily kick off a series of posts about planning a long trip. And between the keyword list giving me ‘river kayaking dangers’ and content ideas list giving me a story about a river kayaking death, I can see there’s definitely a call for posts about safety.
How I use Ubersuggest.
I use Ubersuggest to come up with post ideas, as outlined above.
But my favorite way to use it has been to start to integrate some simple SEO into my blog post titles.
I do that by searching for a keyword that has some search value (I usually look for a keyword that has more than 200 searches a month), but that Ubersuggest tells me would be easy to rank for. It will literally tell me ‘easy.’ How nice is that?
For this blog post, I decided the keyword I’d use was ‘what to blog about.’ And it’s a good one!
Ubersuggest tells me that about 1300 search Google for ‘what to blog about’ every month, but the SEO difficulty is easy. (I don’t care about the ‘paid difficulty’ or ‘cost per click’ because I’m not buying Google ads.)
So when I title this post, I’ll use ‘what to blog about’ in the title. Hopefully, down the road, Google will start sending some folks over to read it.
Thanks Google! And thank you, Neil. Your tool is boss.
Answer the Public
Answer the Public is another free tool, although this one is throttled if you use the free version. You can use it a few times a day for free. If you want unlimited, it’s $99 a month.
I’m pretty sure it’s designed for marketing firms or something, because I can’t imagine a regular blogger paying that much for it. But we can take advantage of the free throttled version.
AnswerThePublic: that free visual keyword research & content ideas tool
This is search insight that could and should be used by any marketing team. Creative, PR, Content, SEO. So we built…
When you log in, you get this kind of creepy dude. He’s automated and he’s scolding you (silently, at least) for making him wait while you think about your question.
Since you only get a few questions a day and typos screw up the results — this guy gives me some anxiety, to be honest. I think pretty hard about my question before I log in.
Thankfully that guy goes away after the search. Whew.
And you just get questions that people have asked Google and maps them for you. You can get a visual map — which might work for you, but makes my poor, old, very linear brain hurt.
There’s the visual map for ‘prepositions’ for River Kayaking. My brain literally cannot, but maybe yours can.
Or you can just get a regular list. Thank God.
You get questions that start with different question words (are, can, why, etc.) — unfortunately, people aren’t asking a lot of questions about river kayaking. But when I removed ‘river’ I got a ton of questions.
And each one could spark a blog post. Or more than one. (Can kayaking make you seasick? How can you combat motion sickness? What are natural remedies for seasickness for kayakers? Etc.)
After questions, you get prepositions. River Kayaking + (for, to, can, is, etc.)
Then comparisons. River Kayaking + (and, like, or, vs.)
And finally an alphabetical list of words that people have Googled with your keyword.
It’s exhaustive and amazing.
How I use Answer The Public.
When I’m feeling a little stuck on what to write about, I just pop in of my key topics. Or anything that’s interesting me at the moment. It’s a rabbit hole that I’m purposefully jumping down.
Think of that creepy dude like the White Rabbit. He’s in late.
I’ve written about Quora before and I still think it’s a great resource.
Quora is a place to gain and share knowledge. It's a platform to ask questions and connect with people who…
Quora is a question-and-answer social media outlet. People ask questions and other people answer them.
You can search for questions on any topic at all and see what people are asking. Then answer the questions in a blog post.
Because Quora has a mechanism for following the questions there, you can see how many people are interested, which gives you some insight into whether there’s an audience for the question you’re looking at.
You just type your keyword into Quora’s search bar and see what comes up.
‘River Kayaking’ was slightly too specific for Quora, but ‘Kayaking’ gave me some good questions.
I can also see that there’s a Kayaking topic with more than 13,000 followers — so questions are likely to continue to come up. And if I read some of the answers, I can probably mine them for ideas for my own posts.
For instance, the top answer could lead to my own post about winter kayaking. And maybe a post about not caring what anyone else thinks about me when I’m on the river.
One nice thing is that when you’re on the topic page, Quora gives you some related topics on the right side of the page.
Those are also known as ‘shoulder niches.’ Not exactly the same thing you’re writing about, but similar. You can use them on Quora to find more blog post ideas and also take them back to Ubersuggest and Answer the Public.
One caveat. Quora has a gazillion users and it’s social media.
There are a lot of questions and answers that kind of make my stomach turn. It seems like people definitely make stuff up for attention. If you have a hard time ignoring the stuff you don’t want to see, you might struggle with Quora.
How I use Quora.
When I’m feeling uninspired, I head over to Quora and click around the fiction writing topic until something sparks an idea.
Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She is an out-of-place Nevadan living in Northwestern PA with her husband, three superstar kids, two dementia patients, a good friend, Alfred the cat, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nation and the upcoming novel The Astonishing Maybe. She is the original Ninja Writer.