Whenever people ask me how to generate topic ideas for a blog, I always suggest a few different resources. These resources generally include question and answer sites like Quora, top blogs in your niche or industry, forums, and so forth. Having that many topic sources can be a great thing, until you have to actively visit each of them to see what is new. In this post, we’re going to look at how you can combine them all in your RSS reader and turn it into a topic generating machine.
Why You Should Consider Google Reader
My RSS reader of choice is Google Reader for a few reasons.
- Since I’m always logged in to my Google Account for Gmail and Google+, I’m always automatically logged into Google Reader.
- Google is the leader of search, hence the search function in Google Reader is superb. You can search all of your RSS feeds simultaneously, one folder of RSS feeds, or one particular RSS feed for the keywords of your choice.
- Google Reader bookmarklets make it easy to subscribe to an RSS feed. You can drag the following Subscribe bookmarklet (Subscribe…) to your browser’s bookmark toolbar. Click on this when you’re on a site with a RSS feed and it will show you the RSS feed in Google Reader with subscriber statistics and average posts per week. Click on the subscribe button to add it to your list.
- If you use the Buffer app for scheduling Tweets, you can send posts to your Buffer directly from Google Reader using these directions.
- You can get your RSS feeds on the go using the Google Reader Android App.
You can always use your RSS reader of choice – there’s a huge list of them on Wikipedia. If you use multiple computers (between work and home, desktop to laptop, etc.), I would suggest using a RSS reader that is based online that you can access anywhere.
Discovering RSS Feeds
While many sites proudly display their RSS feed button, other sites make RSS feed discovery a little more challenging. In addition to the Google Reader Subscribe bookmarklet, you can use the Google Chrome RSS Subscription Extension which will show a RSS feed icon in Chrome’s address bar when you are viewing a page with a RSS feed. You can set this extension to add RSS feeds to your preferred RSS reader including Google Reader, My Yahoo, or others. For Firefox, you can use the RSS Icon Add-On which also displays a RSS icon in Firefox’s address bar. To change the default RSS reader, go to the Firefox Options > Web Feed and select your preferred RSS reader.
Organizing Your RSS Feeds
When subscribing to multiple types of feeds on different topics, I would suggest organizing them in a way that makes the most sense to you. I have my feeds organized in very specific folders including the following:
- Questions – This folder contains all of the question and answer site feeds I subscribe to. Each feed is named by topic so I can easily recognize it. The topics I subscribe to include blogging, freelancing, internet marketing, search marketing, social media, and WordPress.
- Topic-Based Folders – These folders contain blogs on specific topics. I name all of the individual RSS feeds by Twitter handle – this makes them easy to recognize and helps me when I’m ready to share a post I’m reading to Twitter.
- Mass Updates – This folder is for feeds from sites that have a lot of daily updates. That way I don’t miss on great blogs that only post once a day within a sea of one site’s multiple updates.
Everyone’s organizational system is different – you just have to try different things to see what works for you. I like having everything folder-based so I can read one topic at a time, or read just the new questions from my favorite Q&A sites at once. For example, if you have 50 blogs in your SEO folder, you can click on that folder and read all of the latest posts in chronological order from all of the sites combined instead of having to go through them all individually.
The Best RSS Feeds for Topic Generation
The following sites will help you find the best RSS feeds for your niche or industry for great topic ideas!
Question and Answer Sites
Most Q&A networks offer RSS feeds for topics or categories within their site. Some have links to them – for others, you will need the earlier mentioned Subscribe bookmarklet or other RSS discovery browser extensions / add-ons. If you wanted to subscribe to questions about SEO, you would do the following on these Q&A networks. While you don’t need an account to grab the RSS feeds, you might want one so you can go in and answer questions, especially if you create content around them.
- Quora – Using the search box, type in SEO and click on the SEO topic. Click on your Google Reader Subscribe bookmarklet or RSS icon in the address bar to get the RSS feed. This feed will be updated when new questions and answers are posted in SEO.
- LinkedIn Answers – If you have an account, you can use the search box to find questions on SEO beneath which will have a link to the Search Marketing questions category. If you don’t have an account, you can browse the categories listing on the right to find Search Marketing under the Marketing and Sales category. Click on your Google Reader Subscribe bookmarklet or RSS icon in the address bar to get the RSS feed. This feed will be updated when new questions are posted in Search Marketing.
- Yahoo Answers – Use the search box to find questions on SEO beneath which will have a link to the Search Optimization category. Click on your Google Reader Subscribe bookmarklet or RSS icon in the address bar to get the RSS feed. This feed will be updated when new questions are posted in Search Engine Optimization.
- StackOverflow – Use Type to find the tags box and start typing in SEO. Click on the SEO tag to view questions in this category and then use your Google Reader Subscribe bookmarklet or RSS icon in the address bar to get the RSS feed. This feed will be updated when new questions are posted in SEO.
You can use the above steps to find almost any category or topic within these Q&A networks, all of which will have their own RSS feed.
Next, you will want to find the top blogs within your industry and subscribe to them. Alltop is a great place to start as they have blogs within categories from A to Z. You can see the latest five posts by the blog, then click on the blog name to visit them. Once you’re there, you can subscribe to the blog’s main feed or, on some sites, navigate to the category that you want and, using the RSS icon in your browser’s address bar, subscribe to that category. For example, if you go to Mashable’s Social Media category, you will have these two RSS subscription options:
The difference between subscribing to the main site feed vs. the category feed is receiving an average of 112 updates per week (Social Media category) vs. an average of 299 updates per week (main feed). While not all sites have this option, it never hurts to check for it on any site that updates more than once a day.
Another great way to find blog posts on particular topics is by using the Google Blog Search. The nice part about this Google search is that you can turn the results into an RSS feed using the following URL.
Just replace keyword with your keyword or phrase. For the latest posts on social media, your URL would be as follows.
Entering this URL into your address bar will produce the following result.
You can also use Google Alerts to achieve similar results. Just enter your keyword or keyword phrase into the Search query box, change Result type to Blogs, change How often to As-it-happens, and Deliver to Feed.
This might also be a good time to change any existing Google Alerts to RSS as well, that way you can manage them all in your RSS feed instead of having to deal with emails.
What You Will Uncover With This Approach
Once you’ve compiled all of the RSS feeds you can find on your niche or industry, all you have to do is browse the headlines on a daily basis.
- Blog feeds will tell you if there are trending topics that you should be covering. For example, the big favorite in social media sector is currently Pinterest. Just because everyone else is covering doesn’t mean they’ve covered everything about it. You might find some key things others are missing and be the first to share them!
- Question and answer site feeds will help you discover questions that are being asked within particular topic areas. Use them to help shape new content ideas for your website. Better yet, after you’ve created content based on some questions you find, go back and answer questions with a snippet of your post and a link to it for reference. It’s a great way to drive traffic.
- Once you’re subscribed to an RSS feed, you can usually see content from that feed going as far back as a couple of years. This is a great way to go through a blog’s archives (including your own) to see popular topics that have been covered in the past. If no one has written an update to them, you could always try your hand at it.
- Love huge list posts? Use the search to find posts on a particular topic and compile the results into posts like the 45 Resources on Google Search Plus Your World.
The topic ideas you can find are endless using this method. Once you have set up your sources, they will continue to update as new content is added, new questions are asked, and new posts are published. Enjoy!
Do you use your RSS reader for topic ideas? What other feeds would you suggest people subscribe to for new content ideas?
About the Author: Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, professional blogger, and social media enthusiast. Her blog Kikolani focuses on blog marketing for personal, professional, and business bloggers. You can follow her on Google+, Twitter, and Facebook.