IN THIS ARTICLE:

    Does your content research consist of a quick review of the first search engine results page (SERP)? If so, it’s time to dig deeper so that you can develop a rigorous process for your content research strategy. Doing so will help you surface unique takes on topics important to your target audience.

    Why You Need To Invest in Content Research

    Google is the most used search engine. It’s where millions of people turn when they have a question or want to learn more about something. So if you want to create content that ranks, you need to consider what content Google surfaces for different keywords. 

    Content research allows you to:

    • Identify the content that’s ranking for your desired keywords.
    • Learn what your target audience cares about and uncover the types of content they’re interested in.
    • Understand what’s popular on your chosen social media platforms to evolve your strategy.
    • Create content that meets the needs of your target audience at different points in their journey.

    With a consistent content research strategy, you can move beyond identifying search intent and see whether long-form blog posts, how-to videos, case studies, skimmable listicles, or other content formats will increase engagement with potential customers.

    It takes time to create content — to get the most out of it, invest in content research at the outset to pinpoint the content that will best support your business and SEO goals.

    Top Tools for Content Marketing Research

    Bookmark these content research tools and use them often. They’ll help you uncover the topics that will have the most impact.

    Google Search

    Of course, the first place you should start your content research is with a Google search. Google Search allows you to access data and articles on a variety of topics quickly. You can also use the autocomplete function, People Also Ask SERP feature, and Related Search box to find topics related to your desired keywords that could be of interest to your target audience.

    Google Trends

    Google Trends lets you see how keywords have performed in the past and extrapolate how they’ll perform in the future. If you’re on the fence about creating content around a particular keyword, enter it into Google Trends to see how many estimated searches have been completed with that keyword. The results will show whether the search volume is trending up or down. 

    Google Analytics & Search Console

    Google Analytics and Google Search Console focus on what people do on your website and how your website shows up in search results, respectively. 

    So what does that have to do with content research?

    You can find additional content ideas when you look at your website data. How? See which of your pages, posts, and downloads are the most popular with searchers and site visitors. Once you know what is driving the most traffic, you can focus on creating additional content around adjacent topics.

    Keyword Research Tools

    Keyword research tools don’t just let you see your desired keywords’ search volume and keyword difficulty. Some also allow you to uncover the organic keywords a URL currently ranks for on search engines like Google. Others let you compare multiple domains so you can see what your competitors are ranking for that you aren’t. Using these tools is a great way to surface new-to-you keywords.

    13 Content Research Tips To Add to Your Strategy

    1. Learn From Google

    I already mentioned four Google tools you should use for your content marketing research.  If you think that was too much, consider this: 

    Google is the most used search engine. It’s where millions of people turn when they have a question or want to learn more about something. So if you want to create content that ranks, you need to consider what content Google surfaces for different keywords. 

    I can’t overstate the value of this. Google wants to provide searchers a great experience so they’ll come back with additional queries. It’s consistently improving the algorithm to deliver high-quality results. At the same time, Google provides a lot of information to website owners so they can improve the user experience on their sites. 

    2. Don’t Stop at Page One

    When Googling as part of your content research, it’s easy to just peruse the first page of search results, pick a couple of sources, and start writing. However, you’re doing yourself and your content a disservice by not digging deeper.

    The internet isn’t fact-checked. Just because it shows up on page one in SERPs doesn’t make a claim true. Build trust with your audience and showcase your authority in your field by performing due diligence and thoroughly researching your topic beyond the first page of search results.

    3. Identify Search Intent

    If you want potential customers to connect with your content, it should align with the search intent of the keyword. 

    When I Googled “content research” to see what the search intent was for this post, I found most articles covered tips or tools for performing content marketing research, which helped shape my outline for this piece. Because I wanted it to be more insightful than other posts on the topic, I’ve provided additional tips, limited extraneous information that doesn’t add value, and defined clear actions you can integrate into your content strategy. As a result, I maximized the search intent while adding my own unique spin.

    4. Look at Length

    While Google says there’s no ideal length for getting a piece of content to rank, it does mention content should be “comprehensive.” However, the comprehensiveness of an article is relative to the topic. A post about the “best dog breed to get” may require 4,000 words to discuss different breeds and their needs and temperaments, whereas a post on “why you need a dog leash” may only require 800 words to cover all essential points.

    To better understand how long a piece should be, check the length of the top-ranking posts. These posts are currently meeting search intent and sufficiently answering the query. While there’s no need to match ranking posts word-for-word, looking at their length provides you with a ballpark number for what a comprehensive post might look like when creating your content. 

    For an ebook or whitepaper, you can also think about comprehensiveness. Are you giving your customers all the information they need to understand your topic? Have you successfully made your point? If not, what will it take to do so?

    5. Outline Along the Way

    As you’re encountering all this new information, make sure to take notes! Open Google Docs and start typing your outline. Paste in links you want to reference, important statistics, key points to highlight, possible headings and FAQs, and more. You can clean up and edit your outline after completing your research. Not only will this help you identify the questions your post should answer, but it’ll also guide the writing process and make it smoother.

    Here are our top tips for creating an outline.

    6. Check Out the Competition

    Consumers know they have choices. To be successful, you need to know what the competition is doing. For example, does the competition frequently publish original data and studies relevant to your industry? If so, is this something your target audience considers appealing? If they do, consider how to incorporate similar tactics into your content marketing strategy in a unique way. Can you create a research report with internal data or fund a research project?

    I mentioned using keyword research tools earlier. A paid tool like Ahrefs can help you identify the keywords your competitors are ranking for that you aren’t. This is an easy way to find possible topics for future content creation. 

    7. Uncover What’s Missing

    The competition may have beat you to the punch and published an article on a topic you wanted to cover — that doesn’t mean they got it right or considered all the angles. 

    Rather than giving up on a topic because a competitor beats you to it, read their content to identify what’s missing. Did they skim over an important note? Conflate two different points? Share misinformation? These oversights allow you to set the record straight and publish a more reliable piece of content that better serves your target audience. 

    8. Get Social

    If you know where your audience is hanging out — be it Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn — see what they’re talking about and sharing. This could give you insight into potential topics, help you better align your content marketing strategy with their interests, and create shareable content. It can also clue you in on the best ways to post your new content so your followers check it out.

    Want to learn more from your followers? You can use social channels to directly ask your target audience about the content they want to see from you or use it to survey your followers about an upcoming topic in your content strategy. For example, if you know you’ll be writing about “Best BBQ recipes,” quiz your followers on what they think makes for a good BBQ recipe. Then, include the results of your quiz in your post. Doing so is a fun way to build interest and create a connection with your readers.

    9. Follow Industry News

    If you’re in a fast-changing industry, staying on top of industry news can give you a leg up on the competition. You can analyze information gleaned from industry news in a blog post or newsletter and make it more digestible to your customers, or resurface evergreen content on the same topic and reshare it. Industry news can also help you identify future opportunities for content creation. For example, if your industry’s regulating agency shares they have new rules set to go into effect, you can start working on a piece to help your customers understand how this might affect them.  

    10. Talk to Subject Matter Experts

    Your internal team is comprised of subject matter experts, so make the most of them. Ask them for resources or for a quote to help flesh out a point. Their expertise can lend authority to your content, and their unique viewpoints can help establish your business as an industry leader.

    You can also speak to the individuals who interact with your customers day in and day out to see what type of content they think would best serve your customers’ needs and gain insight into the pain points your content should address.

    11. Question Everything

    Being too close to a subject can make us blind to obvious questions. Don’t take “common sense” or “that’s just the way it’s done” at face value — question everything. Not only might you find interesting answers, but you may also find a topic others have ignored because they assumed everyone already knew the answer. I’ve certainly come across this when writing about SEO. It’s easy to parrot the same standard points. However, when I dig deeper, I find a more nuanced approach that’s been neglected because it’s more difficult to discuss.

    In this same vein, channel your readers and think about the questions they might have. Has your research made it possible to answer them all? If not, keep digging. Creating content that matches the search intent of your readers is key, but so is writing content with a fresh perspective and unique take on the subject. If you can do both, you’re well on your way to a winning content strategy. 

    12. Create a List of Trusted Sources

    If you work with a team of writers or hope to in the future, create a list of resources to make it easier to research industry topics. You can partition your list to include reliable sources, sources that need fact-checking, and unreliable sources that writers shouldn’t cite. That way, you can help ensure everyone is getting their data from reputable sources and reduce your research time in the future.

    13. Implement a QA Process

    After you’ve researched and either outlined or written your piece, you need to have a process to ensure quality. If you have an editor on your team, have them fact-check as they look for errors. Or, if you’re able, have one of your subject matter experts look at your outline or content to verify what you’re saying is correct and valuable. Having a thorough QA (quality assurance) process in place is crucial. It will ensure your content is published in its best possible version. 

    Create Better Content: Download Our Free Ebook

    Writing is a skill — one that can be honed and improved over time. One way to do that is to invest time in the process, starting with research. Simplify your content creation. Download our SEO content ebook and learn our secrets for creating successful content. 

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