A couple of days ago Mike J. wrote me the following (shared with permission):
A while back you wrote about things to do to help further your career, and blogging was one of them. My question is how do you create posts without just sounding like you’re plagiarizing or rehashing what’s been said 100 times over? What makes a good blog? You and Julie Lerman are two of my favorites.Mike J.
Here are a some tips for coming up with content that is original and not plagiarism or just a rehash of someone else’s content.
There’s an old saying, “Copying from one source is plagiarism; copying from many sources is research.”
Read several different sources on a topic, pull out what you find most interesting, and stitch pieces of it together along with your narrative. Be sure to reference your sources of course. But now you’re saving readers from having to research several topics while you summarize the high points from each. This can sometimes also be a way to get some conversation going, as the authors of the pieces you reference may promote your content or respond to it in some fashion, generating more interest in it.
Curating content adds value in itself. Some link blogs literally just post links of interest with minimal editorial comment. This isn’t the same as writing an article but proves the point that you can provide value just by referencing existing content.
You’re not plagiarizing if you’re writing about your experience, so do something and then write about it.
Don’t leave out the mistakes. Another way to avoid plagiarizing and add value to what you write is to talk about the mistakes you made and the dead-end paths you went down. These will save time for readers who might otherwise have made those same mistakes (or who might be in the middle of that mistake right at the moment they’re reading your article as they search online for help). Most reference sources won’t talk about what not to do or how you might screw up, so include that in your blog posts when it happens.
If you have some idea about what you want to write about, the general topic, you can use Google to find articles that exist (see the first tip on research), but you can also use Google to find out what people are searching for.
Use Google’s autocomplete feature and enter in the keywords for your topic of choice. Prefix it with things like “How do I” or “Best way to” or “Help with” and see what kinds of problems people are searching for. You can use this to come up with topic ideas that will certainly have an audience.
You can also use Google Trends to compare keywords and see how they are trending in popularity. In fact, you can create whole blog posts just about this comparison alone. For instance, here’s a link comparing Vue, React, and Angular that someone could easily create a blog post discussing, along with a few other variations.
If you have a book on the topic you’re interested in, you can create content around it in a few ways. One obvious way is to write a review of the book. Sure, you can review the book on Amazon, but why give Amazon that content when you could have it on your blog? Write a review, talk about what you learned when you read the book, include a link to the book (affiliate links are generally fine here), and then go post a very brief review on Amazon with a link to your full review to drive more traffic to your review on your site.
You can also get ideas for articles by looking at books you don’t own or haven’t read. Just skim the table of contents for topic ideas, which you can usually find on Amazon without buying the book (see Look Inside link on the book). In this case it’s better if you haven’t read the book, so you don’t (accidentally or otherwise) plagiarize the author’s content. You’re just getting ideas for topics you want to write about in your own way from the book.
Once you find a problem you feel like writing about, be sure to reply or RT the tweet(s) you found relating to it with a link to your post!
Of course, the meta-topic of how to find topics is itself a big topic. Here are a few articles I found as I was writing this post:
- How to come up with 93 blog ideas in 10 minutes (note this article’s title doesn’t match its URL or content – the author probably tweaked it to make it more likely to get a response)
- 47 No-Fail Ways to Come Up with Blog Post Ideas (note the number in this title as well – they’re proven to be effective)
- 5 Ways to Come up with Blog Post Ideas in 15 Minutes or Less