One of the most common questions I get asked is how to find enough to write about when you have a blog.

Unfortunately I am not one of those brilliant people who has an endless flow of ideas just waiting to explode onto the screen – I work at it.

Sometimes I open up the laptop, click ‘Add new post’, and then sit there chewing my lip trying to think of something witty and fascinating to write about.

When that happens, I try one of the following – one of them normally works, and if it doesn’t, I put the kettle on – coffee also helps.

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Look at popular engaging blogs outside your industry for fresh ideas

1.  Go window shopping

Get inspiration from outside your own site.

My blog has nothing to do with interior design, but I always find something that sparks an idea or two when I visit Design Sponge.  It’s a great mix of shopping guides, design tips and trends, that always get a great response from readers.

Look at blogs outside your industry and you’ll find plenty of ways to apply their most popular posts to your own sector.

2.  Read industry forums

These aren’t used enough for researching the market in my opinion; yet they provide a quick way of taking an accurate snapshot of your business sector.

Google has made it even easier for you by searching just the online ‘Discussions’.  Go to Google, type your search phrase, then select ‘Discussions’ from the menu on the left (see screengrab below).

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Screengrab from Google's discussion search

You then have a list of all the current discussions taking place around your topic.  Many of them are on forums which you can visit to join the conversation, or just to lurk in the shadows and listen.

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Answer popular questions in a blog post

3.  Answer questions

Where do you think the idea for this post came from?

What questions do your clients ask you most often?  What questions do your blog readers ask you in the comments section?

As well as inspiration, I also get asked how to decide which social networks to concentrate on, so I wrote The 10 Commandments of Social Media.

Then there’s the age old “What’s happening this month that I should be mentioning in my marketing?” so I put together a post every month on the upcoming marketing themes.

business blogging inspiration, social media strategy, blogging for business4.  Comment on current news

This doesn’t only keep your content fresh – it also helps with search engine optimisation as it generates external links into your site, and brings you traffic from journalists looking for commentary on the hottest headlines.

Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton in April generated masses of new web content, mainly in news stories but also in blog posts.

Blogs talked about how social media had been used to build support, excitement and interest in the big day (as if any help was needed…)

They talked about the fashion of the guests, the make-up of the bride, the significance of the crowds for the future of the monarchy, the relevance of the church in the lives of ordinary people.

Example: Cookery blog

– cooking with leftovers (using the tasty recipes contained in your new book) could help tackle the problem of fewer bin collections every week.

– your delicious steak and ale pie (made with locally brewed beer and included in your newly published cookbook) should be enough to entice Cheryl Cole back to the UK.

– your fresh and tasty Summer recipes could help Dawn French keep off the three stone she’s lost since her marriage to Lenny Henry ended.

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This is an old favourite - have a swipe file for articles you enjoy and keep you reading til the end

5.  Cut out and keep

I love Red magazine – I devour it from cover to cover every month, chuckling at the articles about family life, raising my eyebrows at the real life stories, nodding in admiration at the inspirational profiles of successful business women.

And sighing at how I’ll never be able to justify spending £158 on that magic face cream.

But while I’m flicking through the pages, I also do my fair share of ripping – ripping out the articles with catchy headlines that draw me in, that have concise and interesting fact boxes, that look at an ordinary subject in an extraordinary way.

Then when I’m having one of those head-scratching moments, I take a peek in my inspiration file, and (once I’ve finished reading the ‘7 days to a perfect bottom’ article from last May’s edition of Red) I’m ready to get writing ‘7 days to a perfect blog post’.

What keeps you bubbling over with ideas for posts?  Share in the comments below, so next time I’m reaching for that swipe file, I can just visit this post instead.