28 May 6 Research Tips to Improve Your Content Marketing
Content marketing is still one of the most effective ways to grow a business. But how effective is your content marketing?
If you can’t answer that question with “Extremely effective” and back it up with numbers, then it might be time to rethink both the kind of content you’re producing and its quality.
Authority content must be well-researched, compelling, and useful to your target audience. As a professional freelance writer, I’ve developed excellent research skills – and picked up a few cool tips, tricks, and tools along the way. Here are 6 of my favorites.
#1: Start with the Kid Stuff
Early in my freelancing career, I got a gig writing a book about hearing loss. I found a couple of resources that went into detail about how human hearing works. The problem? They were way above my pay grade. I’m not a doctor and I couldn’t understand most of what I was reading.
I had two options. I could either figure out a way to understand what I was writing about, or I could tell the client that I couldn’t do the job. The latter wasn’t appealing, so I thought about how to solve the problem. I had a Eureka moment and found a site that explained hearing to kids.
It had easy-to-understand prose and clear diagrams. It gave me the baseline understanding I needed. From there, I worked my way up until I could understand the initial resources I’d found. The client loved the book – and this remains one of my favorite research hacks for content marketing.
#2: Get an Overview from Wikipedia
Wikipedia shouldn’t be your only resource when you’re doing research for content marketing. That said, it’s a terrific place to start. A well-written Wikipedia page can give you an overview of your topic.
However, you should always approach information you find on Wikipedia with a skeptical eye. Remember, anybody with a Wikipedia login can rewrite content there. Some contributors are misinformed while others enjoy using the site in ways that aren’t proper.
I’ll often begin by skimming a Wikipedia entry. Then, I verify any information I find on Wikipedia with other sources before using it in my writing.
#3: Consult Multiple Resources for Content Marketing
When you read a piece of authority content, it’s tempting to accept whatever the author says as gospel. My advice? Don’t do that.
It’s never a good idea to use only one resource when researching your content. When I write a blog post for a client, I nearly always have between 5 and 10 windows open on my browser. I toggle between them, cross-checking information and drawing my own conclusions based on what my client wants.
The risk of using a single source is that the source you use might be incorrect or biased. It takes a little longer to be thorough, but the result will be better content marketing and a more engaged and informed audience.
#4: Find Up-to-Date Information
A client recently paid me to rewrite some blog posts created by another writer. One of the biggest shocks to me was that the posts all included outdated research and links. That’s not a good thing. If you’re citing statistics or data, you should always use the most recent information available.
One of the easiest ways to minimize the chances that you’ll use out of date information is to narrow your Google search results. You can do that by Googling your term. Then click on the Tools button on the top right-hand side of the screen. On the left, you’ll see a drop-down menu that defaults to Any Time:
To get the most recent search results, click one of the other options. I’ve used all of them for different reasons. If I’m looking for up-to-date statistics, I usually click “Past year.” For trending topics, I use “Past 24 hours” or “Past week.”
Using current data will give your content marketing a boost and increase your authority, too.
#5: Piggyback on Other People’s Research
I already mentioned Wikipedia, and this is a hack that you can use with Wikipedia and other sites. Oftentimes, research is the most time-consuming part of my job. When I need to learn about a new topic or cite research studies to support a hypothesis, it can take hours to find the sources I need.
Fortunately, there’s a hack for that. If you view the Wikipedia page for any topic and scroll down to the bottom, you’ll see a list of links and citations. Here’s the page for Omega-3 fatty acids:
That’s the very top of the list of references. There are more than 125 of them, and you can see that many are from medical and scientific journals. If I were writing a blog post about Omega-3, I could use this list of references as a jumping-off point for my research.
Of course, Wikipedia isn’t the only site where this hack is useful. Another way I piggyback on research is by finding articles that collect research.
For example, if I were writing a blog post about Omega-3, I might Google “top health benefits of Omega-3” and check out the results. This was one of the top sites listed:
You can see that they’ve cited research studies numerically. Each citation appears at the bottom of the page and the numbers are hyperlinked to the studies. Using a hack like this allows me to find the data I need to support the content I write.
Make Google Scholar Your Best Friend
You already use Google for content marketing, but do you know about Google Scholar? It’s a researcher’s best friend.
As you can see, you can choose between a list of scholarly articles or case law, depending on what you’re researching. Once you search for a topic, you’ll get additional sorting options on the left-hand side of the page:
You can choose to exclude patents – something I always do since it narrows my search results. You can also choose a time range to get the most recent research or create a custom range.
What I love about Google Scholar is that it provides a highly refined list of results and nearly always gives me the research I need on the first page.
The only caveat I’ll give you about Google Scholar is that it’s not always possible to read entire studies without paying for them. At minimum, you’ll get an abstract with an overview of what the study’s about. That may be enough, but sometimes the abstract is too vague for my purposes, and I need to keep looking.
In Content Marketing, Research Matters…
You can’t become an authority in your industry or niche without creating high-quality, authority content that’s valuable to your target audience. The 6 tips I’ve explained here can help you do that – and keep your audience captivated with content marketing that converts.
Or… you could hire me to do it for you! Click here to fill out my contact form and get a free, 30-minute consultation.