By Shannon McFarland
You have a blog, but you haven’t updated it in months. Or even a year.
This is not unusual. When I say that I’m a writer and content manager for clients’ blogs, I frequently meet people who tell me about their company blog. And often, the lack of active blogging. Many company websites have a blog, news, or “updates” page that is rarely updated.
Updating a blog or website regularly is tough. It’s common to start, then get bogged down by the grind of keeping up with fresh content. But it’s not impossible!
Barriers to blogging: Choosing a topic
There’s a number of barriers that might keep you from keeping your blog updated. You don’t have enough time, that’s very common (and why people outsource blog writing and management). Let’s say you’ve made the time: now you have a new problem. What should you post?
This is a sneaky problem because you probably have tons of ideas. I’ve definitely caught myself thinking, “Oh, I need to get that in a blog post!” But then when you sit down to make a new post, you’re overcome with the burden of choosing your topic. You’re looking at the blank page thinking about all the possibilities, overcome by the task of picking the right one. You can actually have writer’s block from having too many ideas (or from having no ideas).
Psychologists call this “choice overload.” We feel it in the grocery store when there are too many jars of jam for us to choose between. We give up and leave the store without any jam.
For a blog, this choice overload can be lethal. It kills your blog before you’ve even started.
Start with brainstorming
Don’t sit down with a blank page, expecting you’ll remember that brilliant topic. In my experience, it is exactly the opposite. When you sit down with a white, empty page, it’s like you’ve been shoved up on stage and told to say something genius.
Everything thought you’ve had even approaching genius probably disappears with a “poof.”
The trick is to start with a blank page (I like to use pen and sheet of notebook paper) and make a long list of ideas. Brainstorm, asking yourself a few key questions.
Get all the options, choices, and topics you can think of on paper. Then you can circle the best ones. Prioritize, which of these topics would be good to start with? Which of these branch off of each other and would naturally come later?
Try a mind map
An alternative to your basic list, which can be extremely helpful for blogging, is to organize your topics as a mind map. Write out the main categories (generally these should align with the categories you choose for your blog) and branch out with sub-categories and topics for posts from there.
A mind map helps keep your blog ideas on track, creating an over-arching umbrella category that ties together the smaller pieces in each post. This keeps your blog cohesive, allowing the ideas to build on each other and get deeper into each subject. It can also help you prioritize subjects from the start.
Even if you started with a simple list, you might want to shift that, organizing those topics into a mind map to help you figure out your larger categories.
Darren Rowse, the founder of ProBlogger, has an excellent breakdown of using mind maps for generating blog ideas. One way that Rowse uses mind maps is to find ideas that branch out from his existing posts. This can be especially useful for creating a series of posts.
Beyond using a mind map to generate ideas, you might also find mind maps can serve as a source of content for a complex topic too. Rowse says in his podcast episode on mind maps that people have shared his map on ways to make money blogging tens of thousands of times on the internet.
Ask for help
A list or mind map can be simple do-it-yourself tactics, but sometimes having someone listen to your ideas and bounce them back and forth can be helpful. If you’re working on a team, you might have someone that you would naturally work with to generate new ideas. You might also consider enlisting a professional like myself, a consultant who can guide you through generating and choosing the right content for your blog. This can help you work on your own schedule while having an expert making sure your website gets updated regularly.
Otherwise, you might have a friend or colleague you can ask to help. Someone willing to listen and simply nod their head can be surprisingly helpful!
What about you? What’s your biggest barrier to keeping your website content or blog updated?