Conducting good research is one of the most important, yet the most neglected aspects of content writing. It's rarely documented or written about.
One of the reasons for this is the assumption that it's pretty obvious - a matter of common sense. But as you'll see in this guide, common sense is not common.
There is no shortcut to doing research before writing a blog post or other web content. However, the good news is that we live in a golden age of information. You can get reliable information on any number of topics if you know how to search for them.
Here is everything you need to know about how bloggers and content writers conduct research.
Benefits Of Content Research
Doing thorough content research can be rewarding in a variety of ways. Here are the principle benefits you can expect if you put in the work.
Research Makes Content Credible
In the content realm, reputation and credibility go a long way. As per a research study by CMI and Smart Brief, people prefer credible information, regardless of the source.
If people believe that you produce reliable and credible blog posts, then they will want to come back for more.
Research Makes Content Comprehensive
Comprehensiveness adds a lot of value to your content. According to a study by SerpIQ, even Google ranks pages higher when they are more comprehensive.
This makes it easier for potential readers, leads, and subscribers to find your blog posts.
Making your content comprehensive means that you cover all the aspects of a given topic. This can only come with thorough research and looking up a variety of different sources.
Research Helps Your Content Stand Out
As per a survey by CMI, 92% of marketers consider content as a business asset. But 60% say that their topmost challenge is producing great content. The kind of content that gets a ton of engagement, shares and backlinks.
When you conduct blog post research, you come across other similar content that is already available. This helps you to improve on what already exists and write remarkable content that can stand out.
You Get Interesting Source Material
Another reason for conducting thorough research before copywriting is to use the interesting quotes, statistics, graphics, videos and other material that you find.
It is important to use graphics, for instance, because people are more likely to remember your content if you use graphics.
When I'm looking for material to use in my content, I always read a variety of sources. This helps me to ensure that my content has the latest information available on the topic and helps me to make my content as interesting as possible.
Research Helps You Form a Good Outline
Your content must always have a logical flow. When you do research before content creation, you notice the headlines and subheadings of the articles that you read. This helps you get an idea of the outline for your own content brief.
Forming an outline will also help you conduct further copywriting research because now you know the specific information that you need to cover under each part of your content.
Ways to Conduct Content Research
Now that you know why conducting thorough research is important, let's dive into how to go about it.
When it comes to blog post research, most content writers think that searching their assigned topic in Google is the only option they have. But that's not true.
There are several sources, places and platforms from which you can get reliable information to power your web copy.
These days, an online search engine like Google is the first place anyone checks when conducting copywriting research.
However, most content writers never go beyond just one search engine, just searching the topic they want to write about.
Firstly, you should know that there are plenty of alternatives to just google. And they can come in handy a lot of times when Google fails you.
Secondly, Google has a lot of awesome little tricks and advanced operators under the hood that you\'re making use of. Taking the time to really understand how Google search queries actually work can go a long way.
For example, if the topic is \"How to optimize your content using SEO\", I see many people searching for this exact phrase when carrying out research.
This is not bad, as long as your research is not limited to this query only. As you go through more articles, you will find more keyword combinations that you can use to refine your search and find more relevant information.
If all your content is going to be within the scope of a specific niche (and it should), then you must have good books to refer to that subject area.
The best way to find books in your subject area is probably to just search on Amazon, or type \"[Your Niche] + books\" in a search engine.
Books are the most comprehensive and valuable way to conduct content research. A book carries a lot of information, and you can create several pieces of content based on the ideas that you get from reading just a few books.
Publications are a great way to look for information on almost any niche. Most publications these days have a digital presence, so finding the information that you are looking for is relatively much easier.
Depending on the kind of publication you are looking for, there are several ways to find them. For example, if you are looking for a news publication, then enter your query in Google News.
If you are looking for an academic publication, then enter your search query into Google Scholar. Other great resources to search if you are looking for academic articles are JSTOR.org and Heinonline.org.
Other great publications in any niche can be found by simply using Google Search. For example, if you are trying to find publications on marketing, then search for \"marketing publications\" on Google.
Blogs are another great way to find information that you are looking for. Even though some blogs do not carry the kind of credibility that books or publications do, they can cover the kind of topics that the former two do not cover well.
Of course, you can find most blog posts on a topic by using a search engine only. But it\'s beneficial to have a few go-to blogs in your niche. These will be the blogs you trust to always have good, credible content.
So whenever you plan to write about a topic, you can check your favorite blogs first before you go on to conduct a wider content research.
Blogs are available on almost any niche. When looking for blogs on a particular niche, simply type \"[Your niche] + blogs\" in a search engine.
For example, if you are looking for blogs related to finance, then Google "Finance blogs". You will get hundreds of finance-related blogs which you can use to do your research.
Using research studies or statistics in your content can greatly add to the credibility of your content.
Finding relevant research studies or statistics can be slightly harder than other means of research, however, they are worth it.
There are several aggregator websites on which a large number of research studies are available. For example, JSTOR.org, Google Scholar, Directory of Open Access Journals, PubMed, Science Direct, Scopus, and more.
Reference websites or encyclopaedias can give you authoritative information. They are useful for finding definitions and overarching information regarding a topic.
There are also reference websites that cater to a more defined niche. For example, if you want to find information related to finance and investing, then you can refer to Investopedia.com.
Evaluating Research Sources
Just knowing how or where to carry out blog post research is not enough. You need to evaluate the quality and reliability of your sources. This is to ensure that the information that you are getting is as accurate as possible.
Using low-quality sources for your research is one of the major copywriting mistakes. Here are some basic ways for you to evaluate the authoritativeness of your sources.
Before you rely on an article, you need to know who the article was written by. This information is usually near the title or below the content you're reading. Here's an example:
When evaluating the credentials of an author, you can ask some basic questions.
- Is the author educated in the subject area on which they are writing?
- Has the author written other articles or books in the same subject area?
- How much experience does the author have in the field?
If the author scores well on the above questions, then it is more likely that you can safely rely on the article or book as a source. Learn more in this short guide to research an author\'s credibility.
Date of Publication
The date of publication plays a big role when evaluating a source for credibility. Assuming all the other factors are equal, sources that have a later publication date should always be prioritized over earlier publications.
This is because the date of publication is a good indicator of how current the information is. If the date of publication is too old, then it is more likely that the information is outdated.
For example, if you are doing content research on a legal topic and you find an article from 1996, you should not rely on the article. The laws may have changed since then.
Many publications indicate the date when the content was published/updated below the title or below the content.
However, this is not always the case. Sometimes the date can be hard to find. If that happens, one trick is to right click on the page and view page source.
A new tab will open showing the source code of the page. Press Ctrl + F (Windows) or Command + F (Mac) to open the search box.
Try searching for these words one by one until you find the date: date, Modified, dateModified or modified time.
Compare Multiple Sources
While doing copywriting research, If you are unsure about the veracity of information that you find, then a good idea is to check other sources to confirm that information.
If you find information while researching that is contradictory to information that you have found elsewhere, then you should rely on the information that can be found in a high-authority source, or a greater number of sources.
The relative age, reputation and popularity of a website is a good indicator of how reliable the source is.
You should rely on more authoritative sources than less popular sources. You can gauge the reputation of a source in a number of ways.
- See the level of engagement (shares, comments) the content gets.
- Check website domain and page authority using Mozbar or Ahrefs.
- Assess website traffic with extensions like Similarweb.
- Notice if the design looks neat and professional, or plastered with ads.
However, you should rely on scholarly sources more than you rely on a popular source.
This is because a scholarly resource will likely be written by a person who has more expertise in the field and content would have been evaluated by other experts.
Using Research In Your Content
Once you have done your copywriting research and have all the information you need, it is time to start making your content. There are certain rules that you need to follow while incorporating your research into your content.
How to Borrow Information
The first thing that I look out for when taking information from other sources is plagiarism. There are several definitions of plagiarism, but there are certain generally accepted rules.
While you can take an idea or information from a different source, you must be very careful to express that idea or information in your own language or in your own words. Essentially, this means that you cannot copy-paste information from a different source.
To be on the safe side, also make sure that your content does not contain information from a single source. Use a variety of other sources to inform your content. For more ways to avoid plagiarism, check out this guide from hosting facts.
Give Credit Where Due
When you are using information, graphics etc. from other sources, you need to cite those sources in your content. This can be in the form of a bibliography, footnotes, or in-text citations. Here\'s an example:
For the purpose of creating content, you can simply provide the name and link to your sources at the end of your content, or exactly at the locations where you include the material from those sources.
Quoting from Experts or Authors
If you want to include direct language that is used in a source, then you need to include that language within quotes and cite the source of the quote. For example,
Remember that your quote should not be too long or should not form a substantial portion of the content that you are making. Otherwise, the quote may also be considered as plagiarism.
If you are quoting from an online source, then you can also consider adding a link to the source.
Research is one of the crucial content writing skills which should be taken seriously. In fact, I'd say the ability to carry out thorough research is a super power. Here's why:
- I've seen content writers who, despite having expertise in a given subject, deliver poor content on the same subject.
- And I've seen content writers with little knowledge in a subject, yet being able to deliver great content on the given topic.
In both the cases, the main differentiator is research. If you can research, understand and organize well, it doesn't matter how little or much experience you have in a subject area. You'll be able to write great content.
Did I miss anything? How do you conduct research? Do you have any questions or comments? Share your thoughts below in the comments section.