5 ways writers make boring topics more interesting

At some point in your career, you’ll have to write an article about something that doesn’t seem interesting. Use some of these tips to spice up humdrum topics.

It’s no fun to come up with blog ideas for the boring industries outside of search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing. You know what I mean—the real world of forklifts, car dealerships, garden furniture and bedding. Even coming up with new content for your blog can be a bit tough.

Every day my blog-writing service must come up with 10-20 blog post ideas for clients in a number of diverse industries. Sometimes the industries are easy, like mobile phones or SEO, but more often than not we need blog post ideas for companies in less interesting industries. (No offense intended.)

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I’m going to share how we brainstorm content ideas so you can always come up with some—even on those uninspiring rainy days.

1. Pull from magazines.

We always add magazines to our office’s weekly shopping list.

We buy all kinds of magazines, from those about gossip and arts and crafts to gardening and technology.

Is it because we’re interested in the latest gossip? Well, yes, but the main reason is much more professional: Magazine topics and headlines are brilliant for blog inspiration.

Do we just plagiarize the magazines and use their ideas? Of course not. Magazines spark some great ideas that we can talk about in our blog posts, and they show us the kinds of stories people in a particular industry want to read.

For example, say we have a client who sells garden furniture. I’m not going to brainstorm ideas exclusively about garden furniture—how boring would that be? Cover the breadth of the industry to make an interesting post.

Because it’s a garden industry client, I’ll flip through a gardening magazine. I’ll stumble across the article “Really fast growers!” about the fastest-growing plants. That sparks some interesting blog post ideas, such as:

  • The 7 fastest-growing plants for your garden
  • In a hurry? Check out these fast-growing plants and flowers
  • Fast plants: Plants that grow at an extraordinary speed

With some research I can find enough information and data sources to come up with an amazing blog post that will not only interest the gardening community, but be educational. This is great for the brand, because even if the brand only sells garden furniture, it will create brand awareness through education.

2. Play word association games.

A great way to do this is to get some members of your team. One person starts with a root word. This could be the name of the industry you or your client is in. The next person says something related to that root word.

It might go a little like this:

  1. SEO (root word)
  2. Link building
  3. Marketing
  4. Advertising
  5. Copywriting
  6. Writing

Don’t get too far from your root word, but by thinking of out of the box content ideas, you can explore some similar and complementary areas to your client’s sector. I started with “SEO,” but ended with “copywriting” and “writing,” which are topics those in SEO could be interested in.

I could conjure up a post idea like:

  • “Copywriting 101 for SEO pros”
  • “An SEO pro’s guide to creative writing”

I could explore these topics further and come up with some more appetizing titles, but you get the idea. If you don’t have people to play this game with, you could do it yourself with pen and paper.

As you can see, I started with the word “gardening.” I put some related words around it, and added other words where I could. When you have a few words on your page, you can start to conjure up some ideas.

There are a few branches that come off from “plants”: “largest plants” and “strange plants.” I could start a blog post about “the world’s largest plants” or “the world’s strangest plants.”

Instead of writing posts for my garden furniture client about “How to assemble your garden furniture” or “The top 10 garden furniture arrangements,” I went out of the box a bit. People who buy garden furniture aren’t interested in garden furniture—they’re interested in gardening.

3. Borrow from other industries.

Sometimes you just can’t get much interest from an industry. The best thing to do is borrow some from another industry.

What do I mean by this? Let’s go with gardening again.

You have exhausted all topics about gardening. Now what?

Try using another industry, like technology, apps, software, celebrities or gadgets to spark some more blog post ideas. For example:

  • “Gardening technology in 2013”
  • “Top 5 iPhone apps for beginner gardeners”
  • “Manage your garden from your PC: gardening software”
  • “Celebrity gardens: How does yours match up?”
  • “5 low-priced gardening gadgets that will save you tons of time”

As you can see, I came up with a number of ideas just by cross-referencing other industries. Try this with your industry and see how many new blog post ideas you can conjure up.

4. Use Flipboard.

Flipboard is a great way to come up with blog post ideas because it gets you away from your desk (it is only available on tablets and mobile devices), and it’s intuitive to use. Flipping through articles on any given topic can do great things to inspire the brain.

Flipboard is available in both the iTunes and Play store, and is completely free. It’s kind of like an RSS reader, but it works based on the topics you give it, and you can build your own boards. I use it at least once a day.

For blog post ideas, use the search function. Search for the name of your industry or topic, and find the latest stories from all over the Web about it.

Below is a screenshot from my iPhone of a search for “gardening.” You can see a few of the gardening stories from across the Web.

My favorite way to use Flipboard is away from my desk on an iPad. As John Le Carre once said, ” A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.”

5. Browse spammy curator sites.

I don’t know the correct term for these sites, but I sometimes stumble across them when I get lost on the Web. I bet you’ve come across a few, too. They are basically sites about celebrities, strange and unbelievable things or crazy things.

Sometimes they just curate stories and send you to another site. They do a lot of traffic sharing, and make money from ads.

I can’t help but stay and look around at the amazing titles they come up with. I’ve even bookmarked a few of the sites so I can go back and get inspiration.

These sites won’t help you come up with actual content, but they will give you some great title ideas. The people that make these sites and write the titles are pretty clever. They know what makes people click.

As you can see from this photo, there are some great headline ideas:

Borrow the format of these titles for your posts (but maybe not the Beyoncé one). The actual content of these articles is not exactly what they promise—most of the time they are disappointing—but you can’t knock the titles.

Joe Davies co-founded Fat Joe, a guest blog posting service. A version of this article originally appeared on Moz.com.

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