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Sep 13 / Rory Brown

How do you know what you should write about?

We’ve all been there.

In front of the computer, staring at that blinking cursor, cramming handfuls of Sour Patch Kids into your mouth, all the while thinking, “I have no idea what to write about today.”

Next thing you know, you have an empty bag of Sour Patch Kids, two hands coated with  sugar … and still no idea what to write about.

Bleacher Report is here to make sure those hands aren’t coated with sugar for nothing.

From someone who’s spent a lot of time figuring out what to write about, and helping others figure out what to write about, here are some key things to consider next time you’re trying to come up with an angle sure to resonate with online sports readers.

You use Google. I use Google. We all use Google

The term “SEO” (search engine optimization) freaks some people out, and rightfully so. Various media outlets and voices have made SEO out to be everything from a black box of confusing algorithms to a dark cloud of evil eating up any good content in its path.

But SEO isn’t scary, and it isn’t all that complicated. It’s all about recognizing that we live in a Google-driven world, and a lot of people use search engines as the starting point in their search for information, analysis, entertainment and opinion around sports. SEO is about making sure your content shows up in searches so that you can tap into a massive audience.

Thinking about how people (including you) consume sports content can lead to some great ideas what to write about.

1. Always look ahead

When the stock market falls, people want to know how far. Once they know that, the story is old news. Immediately, folks are looking ahead to what the market could do tomorrow, the next day, the week ahead, monthly, quarterly and yearly forecasts.

When we’re in front of a computer, we look ahead. Same goes for sports.

If fans and the media alike are speculating about a trade scenario of a team you follow, don’t just search for takes on the speculation and chat about it with your friends. Debunk the speculation yourself, or take a strong stance on why the proposed trade would/wouldn’t be a good thing for the parties involved.

If Mark Sanchez has a breakout game on NFL Sunday, don’t just recap his stats. Look ahead—break down what his performance means in the long run, what we can expect in next week’s matchup or your take on the QB’s role in the offense.

It’s unreasonable to expect every article to have an unlimited shelf life, but major sports outlets have a tendency to look backwards, ignoring the fact that millions of readers are asking the question “What’s next?”

The more you can use today’s happenings to anticipate tomorrow’s storylines, the more likely your content will resonate with readers.

2. Make sure your headline does your article justice.

Remember: Your headline is the gateway to your article.

If your headline isn’t optimized, people won’t find it.

If your headline isn’t clear or compelling, people won’t click on it.

If your headline is misleading, readers will leave your work frustrated.

For keys to writing optimized headlines that engage readers and deliver on the promise of good content, check out this guide to How to Write the Perfect Headline, by B/R’s Tim Wood.

If you follow Tim’s advice, your work will be discovered by a hungry audience looking for sports coverage at all levels.

3. You’re a writer, but don’t forget to think like a reader

If you’re stumped what to write about, take a deep breath and ask yourself an important question: “What do I like to read about, talk about and search for when it comes to sports?”

We often get inspiration for what to write about based on what we read. If ESPN’s Matthew Berry pegs Michael Vick as the top fantasy football player of 2011 and you disagree—there’s your angle.

There’s no reason not to think like a reader when you’re writing. What sports topics and content excite you as a fan? What do you find yourself searching for before, during or after a sporting event? Take the energy you would usually use for a tweet, a “Did you see that!?!” text message to friends or an opinionated, taunting fantasy football email and put it toward a great piece of timely, forward looking content.

If you’re going to be talking about a player, a game, an event or a topic at the water cooler at work the next morning, you’re not alone—connect with that audience by putting a fresh spin on what everyone’s going to be talking about.

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Rory Brown is Bleacher Report’s Director of Content Operations, working with the site’s editorial team to identify opportunities for B/R writers to find and build audience.

  • Carl

    It’s usually peach rings for me, but I will have to give Sour Patch Kids a shot…

  • Ashutosh Kumar Singh

    Thanks Rory for these good tips. The tips you shared are ones which make an article successful and especially this one – “Think like a Reader”.