Sometimes the hardest part of writing content is coming up with a good idea. What makes a good topic? How do you think of good topics? How do you translate all your brilliant ideas into content topics?
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to address these questions.
In this post, I’ll explain what makes an idea a good topic for content. (And also, what a bad topic is).
And next week, I’ll go into some techniques to help you brainstorm lots of relevant topics for your content, whether it’s for your business, personal brand, start-up, podcast, newsletter – whatever.
What is good content?
Good content should be relevant to your reader. They should come away feeling that their question was answered, they learned something new, or they discovered something interesting.
Good content is not just a mind dump of your opinion on a particular topic. Of course, you can write opinion pieces, but even they should be structured to give something useful to your audience. (I would argue in any case that for our purposes, opinion pieces aren’t really content. But that’s a discussion for another day.)
Good content should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. I’ll go into structure in more detail in a later post.
But most of all, good content should have an angle. It should start with a good idea, with a good topic.
What is a good topic?
When you start brainstorming ideas for your content for your website or newsletter, you will probably start with vague ideas and then get more granular as your thought process goes on. This is great.
But don’t mistake those big grand vague ideas for topics. They are not topics. They are big grand vague ideas.
A good topic should explain the whole article in less than a sentence.
A good topic should answer a question.
A good topic should have what journalists call ‘an angle’. Your angle is what sets your content apart from other people’s. It is what makes it unique, interesting and compelling.
Often, the best topic idea could easily be the headline of your article.
For example, here’s an article I just found over at Smallville: “CHOOSING THE RIGHT SHAPE FOR YOUR EDUCATE MODEL“.
The author here is presenting something really specific. Her brainstorming process may have looked something like this:
- Educate models <- too broad
- How to create an educate model <- better, but still too broad
- How to improve your educate model <- good, but could be even more specific
After a bit of tinkering, she realised that she’s already talking to people who know what an educate model is, so she decides to get really specific:
- How to choose the right shape for your educate model
Ah ha! She’s hit upon an excellent topic. It’s specific, it’s relevant to her readers (who presumably already know what an ‘educate model’ is, and she’s presenting the information in a new way (through shape analogies).
A friend of mine is a personal trainer (well, okay, he was my personal trainer before I gave up on this year’s fitness crusade). He told me that he’d been invited to write an article for a health site.
“Great,” I said. “What are you going to write about?”
“Being vegan,” he said.
Okay. ‘Being vegan’ is interesting, but it’s not a good topic. It doesn’t have an angle. Remember, your angle is what sets your content apart from other people’s.
After brainstorming for a bit, we came up with some other potential topics:
- How to build muscle on a vegan diet
- Plant-based protein for body building
- How going vegan gave me more energy to train
- Staying fit, vegan and sane while travelling
They’re all still about being vegan and fitness, but now they are specific.
Why be specific in your topics?
It helps you
Keeping your angle (or topic) tight helps to give you structure. You will find it easier to write because you will know exactly what you’re writing about. I’ll go into this more in the post about ‘Fear of the blank page’.
It helps your audience
It also helps your audience to know what the article is going to be about. Who knows what to expect from an article called ‘Being vegan’? Being vegan and fat? Being vegan and owning a meat-eating cat? Being vegan in New York? Being vegan and depressed?
Okay, you say. But it’s in a fitness mag. Of course it’s about being vegan and fitness.
But even that isn’t very specific. A vegan sprinter will have very different needs to a vegan marathon runner. Help your audience out. Let them know exactly what they’re in for.
It gives you more topics!
And don’t forget, the more specific you are, the more topics you can have! The example of ‘being vegan’ turned into four different topics without even trying. I bet you could come up with another half dozen right now. The more topics you have, the more opportunities you have to write great content. And that’s what it all comes down to.
- An idea is not a topic.
- A good topic answers a question.
- A good topic is specific.
- A good, clear, specific topic helps you and your audience.
Still find the idea of writing content too hard? Get in touch – I can help you out 🙂