HOW TO: Ways to Source Great Content for Your Blog

One of the most important tools a business can have in its marketing arsenal is a great blog. Your corporate homepage is important in establishing your credentials and legitimacy, but your blog is what gives your business its identity and personality.

When I speak to business owners about starting a blog, I usually hear three reasons why they believe it’s not possible for them:

1. We don’t have anyone in-house that can write well.

2. We don’t have the resources to commit someone to this for the long-term.

3. We tried starting a blog before but ran out of ideas.

I’ve heard these concerns (and about a hundred more) repeatedly in my time in the online marketing space - they are all valid. That said, how do we remove those obstacles while sticking to our day-to-day business goals and not breaking the bank hiring a dedicated blog resource?

Let’s address these in order, shall we?

We don’t have anyone in-house that can write well.

Writing takes practice - you don’t decide to be a blogger one day and start writing with the finesse of a New York Times journalist the next. It takes time to find your voice and develop your writing style. The only way to do that is to keep at it…often. Instead of surfing CNN everyday during your morning coffee break, decide that you’re going to spend that time writing something of value for your business. It can be a clever Tweet, a comment in an industry forum or a Facebook update. It doesn’t have to be a blog post – just something that furthers your writing abilities. It takes practice, but I promise if you put in the time, you will get better.

We don’t have the resources to commit someone to this for the long-term.

Every business has resource constraints. You need your people focused on tasks that generate revenue or ensure the flow of smooth day-to-day operations. It’s just not in your budget to hire someone to dedicate to blogging. I hear that often and I get it.

Here’s the thing – it doesn’t have to take much time. Somewhere along the way we got the notion that an interesting blog needs to contain articles that are 5000 words and read like a dissertation about your chosen field. Sure, there’s a place for that style of in-depth writing and analysis, but it doesn’t have to be on your blog. Instead, try bookmarking a few of your favorite industry publications and read a few articles every day. When you find one that evokes an opinion, emotion or point of view from you, write about it. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, simply copy and paste an excerpt from the original source into your blog (giving credit and linking to the original article of course), then write a paragraph or two about why you agree or disagree with the author’s original post. This not only provides a great shortcut to writing compelling content, but you also succeed in establishing yourself as an authority in your field by sharing your opinion on a relevant piece. As a bonus, the author of the original article will appreciate your inbound link to his/her blog and may even comment on your interpretation. Win win.

We tried starting a blog before but ran out of ideas.

While the approach of commenting on other people’s articles is one way to get new ideas for content, I get that sometimes we just hit mental roadblocks when writing. In my role here at eBay Partner Network I’m responsible for writing anywhere between 3-6 new articles per week for this blog. Sometimes ideas flow out of me, but more often than not I sit down at my laptop and my mind goes blank. How do I combat that?

My solution is somewhat simple. I carry my iPhone with me everywhere and when something or someone inspires me with a great idea for a story, I open the “Notes” app on the phone and jot down as many bullet points as I can think of. It’s usually not a fully formed set of sentences, but instead a free-flow stream of consciousness. I get as many points down as I can and I save it for later. To date I’ve found inspiration on airplanes, bar stools, city streets, conferences and even playing with my daughter. By taking this approach I hold anywhere from 10-15 ideas in reserve at a time. It’s saved the day more than once for me.

Making the Commitment

At the end of the day, there isn’t just one way to approach your blog. It is a daunting task to take on, for sure. It requires focus and commitment from the highest levels of the organization. I bet that if you use some of the tips I’ve mentioned and force yourself to keep a content schedule, you’ll see a marked level of improvement in the areas of SEO ranking, customer engagement, relationship management and recognition of expertise in your field.

As an ePN publisher we want you to be successful and I think this is a great vehicle to help you get there. I know there are a lot of smart people in our community and I’d love to get your thoughts about how you create and maintain an interesting, relevant blog presence.