Anyone who writes about the same topic regularly has a lot of relevant facts right at their fingertips. For them, it might be easy to sit down and craft an insightful piece of content in as little as an hour or two.
Most marketers, however, will find themselves challenged to constantly offer new takes on new topics as their industry continues to evolve.
To meet that challenge, you have to have a grip on the content research process.
Content research is separate from drafting. It should inform every piece of content you develop, from simpler blog posts to more sophisticated case studies and e-books. It helps you organize the facts so your content will be more helpful and informative. Plus, it saves you work and cuts down on errors.
Don’t worry: Content research isn’t like slogging through a high school research paper. Even if research makes you yawn sometimes, you can whip up a mean piece of content with the right techniques.
It’s always good to start with general principles before you get into the nitty-gritty. Let’s look at five essential tips of content research that will make it faster and easier than it’s ever been before.
1. Start With the End in Mind
Before you can research your content, you have to know what you plan to say. Even if you’re going to take a stand – “infographics are the most effective visual content for B2B,” for example – you should start with that basic premise and then see whether research confirms or refutes it.
To go back to English 101 for a second, this is your thesis statement, the main idea that you’ll talk about throughout your whole piece. To zero in on the right research, you have to know what it is. If you start with a very general topic area, you could end up wandering the Web for ages.
2. Emphasize Expert Sources
A funny thing happens whenever incisive research hits the Internet: People start citing it and quoting it ... then quoting others who quoted it. Before you know it, you have to follow a trail of breadcrumbs all the way back to the beginning to figure out what was really said.
In the weirdest cases, people think that content marketing thought leaders – who reported the research – actually performed it in the first place.
This isn’t just annoying, it does a disservice to savvy readers who want to get the facts straight from the horse’s mouth.
Your research should always go back to the main source. This way, you can make sure it’s credible and recent enough to support your points.
3. Begin Your Journey with Google
There’s no way around it: Google is the most powerful research tool that’s ever existed in human history. Your research will almost always start there, so make things easy on yourself. Start by punching in your title. Then, work your way through all the major keywords you plan to use.
By finding out what kind of content is already represented in the top Google searches for your topic area, you have a head start in doing one better: Either creating a more comprehensive resource or one that uses research more persuasively to inform the reader.
4. Expand on Your Theme
Once you have a clear picture of what search results are saying about your topic, it should be much easier to figure out how to make your case. Now, you need to fill in the details. Depending on the topic area, there’s a lot of different directions to take this more advanced research.
Need leading edge thought leadership? Google Scholar is a great way to get acquainted with recent research, especially in hard science disciplines. Also keep a roster of the most trusted platforms in your industry – so your content can add to a conversation peers and clients are already having.
5. Incorporate Facts into Your Outline
If you’re sorting through a lot of research for your content, you’re much more likely to forget or overlook a detail you wanted to include. It’s a sound idea to highlight and clip the most pertinent facts from each research item so you can refer back to them at a glance.
Not only will this give you the opportunity to make your content deeper and richer, it’ll also help you cite and link to your most valued sources. Providing a link to an established publication or influencer can get your foot in the door for your own backlink later.
Producing fresh, hot content on a regular basis is one of the most important parts of succeeding in inbound marketing. Once you’ve mastered a content research process that works for you, it’ll be that much easier – no matter if you’re blogging or compiling the white paper of the year.