How to find content for your personal blog

While I’ve been on the Internet for many years, one of the stumbling blocks I’ve found in making blogging a habit has always been finding ideas for content. I think I’m getting better at it, so here is what I’ve been doing.

Ali Abdaal asked on Twitter what people’s common questions about starting a personal website were, and it turns out that finding content ideas is a pretty common problem.

Start with content

If at all possible try and find a few posts to import while you are setting it up and tweaking the design.

When we hired a professional web designer to redo our work website they insisted on having the content before they’d show us any design ideas. It was frustrating at the time, but once we went through the process it was clear what a difference it made.

We could see how things would come together and be presented, and it made the initial version of the website feel useful and “lived in” when it went live.

So, if you are starting from scratch, where you do find the content?

Write once, use often

The first thing I did when I started this website was to gather the various versions of blogs and articles I’ve written over the years.

While the angsty poetry of my early 20’s can probably stay hidden, and I can’t find the first website I ever made about the Hale Bopp Comet in 1994, I was happy to be able to find some content that gave my blog some structure.

Quite a few of my early blog posts have been based on Reddit posts or expanding on things I’ve written on Facebook.

This philosophy of “Write once, use often” was something I learned working in a corporate communications role. My journalist colleague called it “re-nosing”. You can republish the same content on multiple platforms with only minor changes to the introduction or to the style.

The truth is most people won’t see the content you post in every single location so not only is it a second chance to grab someone’s attention, but it also allows you to reach different audiences but framing the content in different ways.

You’ll see a lot of people doing this online by posting transcripts of podcasts or YouTube videos as blog posts, or shortened versions of blog posts as email newsletter content.

Document, don’t create

In Ali’s video he quotes Gary Vee’s advice to “Document, not create”. The idea being (at least when you are getting started) that you share what’s happening in your life or things you’ve found rather than setting out to create totally brand new content.

I’m going to try this a bit more – perhaps posting one interesting thing I’ve seen each day online. Essentially this post was an excuse to save Ali’s video for future reference but I’ve magically found myself expanding on the theme and creating a proper blog post.

In the future this will be a good way to remember the things I’ve seen online and found useful that’s a bit more interactive than just collecting bookmarks (does anyone still bookmark things?)

Ali’s video about making a personal website is on YouTube:

My top 10 personal blog post ideas

Over the last few months I’ve collected a few drafts in WordPress, and a folder of ideas in Ulysses that I’ll use as the basis for blog posts. Even writing this post has given me ideas for future posts. Here are 10 personal blog content ideas that I’ve been thinking about that might inspire you:

  1. Scan and post old school projects or writing. Don’t forget to transcribe them for both SEO and accessibility.
  2. Find emails where you’ve explained how to do something or documented your travel adventures and turn them into a travel diary
  3. Post your go-to recipes. I 100% only did this so I can look up the cooking times when I need them
  4. Play the “two truths and one lie” game as a blog post. Share it on social media so people can guess the lie.
  5. Write a post about your first job, what you studied after school, a memorable birthday, your first concert or rank your favourite author’s books
  6. Brainstorm some random facts about yourself – each one of them can be expanded into a post in the future
  7. Document your room, desk or the things you use each day. Ali does a great job of this on his blog, and its a great place to add affiliate links in the future if you go down that path
  8. Make a list of your interests and then write an article about each one. What is it? Why do you like it? How do you get started, or are there some links you can share that beginners may find useful. This doesn’t have to be hobbies – if you are into crime fiction suggest some good authors for beginners to check out.
  9. Write about how you did a thing – started a blog? learned to ski? started a journal? met your partner? For anything you’ve done there will be someone who will find your story helpful
  10. Write about your favourite local cafe, restaurant or bar. It forces you to reflect and explain why you like them which will improve your writing.

For each idea start a new document (it doesn’t really matter where you write them so long as you can copy and paste into your blog platform later) and then flesh out the details when you are in the mood. As you get more ideas (and you will) start more documents.

Bonus Tip: Something I always enjoyed about jwz’s website was the way he linked between posts – even with seemingly random words. It helped me discover more of his content and it’s good for SEO too, if you care about that sort of thing.