Keeping up a regular blogging schedule can be gruelling.

How do you find enough stuff to write about? And how do you know what your audience will respond to without making a whole lot of mistakes first?

In last week’s post I talked about how often you should update your business blog with fresh content. Today we’ll look at how to find great topics to write blog posts about.

1. Google Alerts

Google Alerts is an amazing tool for all sorts of things, just one of which is finding blog topics. You can set up as many alerts as you like and you’ll receive an email every time Google indexes new information about that topic.

Try creating a few different alerts for the major keywords in your industry or niche. You can customise how often you receive the alerts, as well as the quality of results. Keep it pretty general to start with so you get more than one or two results per week. If you’re overwhelmed with too many results you can always edit the alert later.

Once you get the alerts, you can see what topics are trending in your industry and write about them, or you can respond to news in your industry as a way of creating interesting, relevant blog articles.

2. Topsy

Topsy is basically a search engine for Twitter. It’s a very simple social analytics tool that shows you the top tweets about a particular keyword or phrase.

Simply enter a word or phrase associated with your industry and Topsy will give you a list of the results of that keyword on Twitter.

Then, find trending topics in your industry that people have tweeted about to get a gauge on what people are interested in.

You can also use the articles linked to on Twitter and try to improve on the existing posts. Or create an authoritative “overview” post on the topic, linking to the various resources you’ve found using Topsy.

If nothing recent jumps out at you, you can do a search for a specific time frame – say from a year ago. This can uncover some “hidden gem” topics you could bring back into the limelight.

You can also narrow your search results to photos (so you could get tweets with photos to embed in your posts, supporting your argument and making your post more engaging) or videos.

3. Industry Forums

If your industry has any specific online discussion forums, then you might have access to a gold mine of great blog topics.

Try going through the different threads on the forum and finding common themes. You can also try doing some searches in the forum for topics about which you’re pretty familiar and confident of being able to teach others.

For example, say you have a blog about home networking and you keep seeing the same question come up on the Whirlpool IT forum about a particular type of router, you might decide to do a blog post about the common issue all these people are having. 

This works even better if there’s very little information around that topic on Google. You’ll stand an excellent chance or ranking in the first few spots on Google when people search for that issue. And for every forum post there are most likely hundreds of people (i.e. potential readers) who searched for the answer and found a solution (or didn’t) without creating a forum thread!

4. Your Customers’ Questions

Our best source of great blog topics is often right under our nose. Instead of aiming really high and writing posts that will impress your peers and industry influencers, stop for a minute and think about for whom you’re really writing, and why…

The whole idea of a business blog is to get more customers, right? So start blogging about topics your customers want to know about. What are the most common questions you get asked about your product or service? If you don’t know, start keeping track of the types of questions customers and prospects are asking you in phone conversations, meetings, and emails.

These questions have the potential to form excellent blog articles. As well as being easy for you to write, there could very well be lots of people searching for the answers to these same questions, bringing more potential customers onto your site.

And it looks super impressive when someone emails you a question and you reply, “Here’s an article I wrote that explains all about it.” Instant kudos!

5. Quora

Quora can get kind of addictive. If you haven’t heard of Quora yet, you’ll most likely be hearing it mentioned a lot more because it’s growing in popularity fast. If you don’t know, Quora is basically a “question and answer” social network. Anyone can ask or answer questions on any topic you can think of.

Other users vote particular answers up or down, and you can follow categories (e.g. marketing), individual questions, and users, so that you get updates whenever a question in your interest list gets asked or answered.

Quora has done a really good job of gamifying the process (hence the “addictive” part I mentioned earlier) because you get points whenever someone follows a question you’ve asked or votes up your answer. You can then use these points to advertise your questions or to “pay” other users to answer questions.

So how can you use Quora for blog post ideas? Well, you can do a search for your industry and look at the recent questions being asked. For example, I just did a search on Quora for “photography” and got a list of great questions a photographer could write a blog post about.

You know these topics are popular because people have gone to the trouble of asking them on Quora. Plus, hundreds of other people are following and answering the questions, meaning there are people looking for the information (not to mention showing you the exact phrases they are using to ask for the information).

You can now write a detailed blog post on one of these questions, even referring people to your post from Quora! 

6. Your Competitors’ Best Blog Posts

Why reinvent the wheel when your competitors have probably already written some popular posts about important topics in your industry?

Try going to your top three or four competitors’ blogs and going through all their posts. Find the posts with the most comments and social shares – these are a good indication the post was well-received.

Now of course you’re not looking to copy the post, but you can definitely use it as the foundation of a blog post of your own. Try to build on what they’ve already done, improving on it by adding even more depth and value. If it’s an older post then try to add any new information that’s come to light since the article was published.

Over to You

These are just a few ways of finding blog topics that your industry might be craving. How do you come up with blog topic ideas your readers will love?