How to research a blog post

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How to research an articleWe like to think of ourselves as one of the leading content marketing agencies in Bristol, writing hundreds of articles and blog posts every year, covering everything from immersive 360-degree video marketing to cleaning tips for stainless steel urinals. It’s been said our output continually sparkles and shines, never bog-standard or threatening to disappear down the pan. (We also like puns.)

Aside from excellent wordsmithery, the secret to our success is heavily rooted in one word: research.

It’s not enough to be an accomplished writer. No matter how articulate, impassioned or persuasive you are, failure to study your sector, plan a content strategy or back up your words with solid research means it will be hard to make much of an impact in the game of online copywriting.

The reason we’re able to write authoritatively on a wide variety of subjects is our fine-tuned approach to analysing what type of material target audiences are interested in, and then ensuring we only discuss the most recent, relevant and respected information. This guarantees our articles carry clout and have the best chance of attracting attention, helping clients achieve their marketing goals.

So without further ado, here’s our step-by-step guide to comprehensive blog research.

The relevance rule

Whether you’re a seasoned pro with a fully-formed content strategy or a relative newcomer to the world of online marketing, there’s a good chance you’ll have a decent idea about the type of content your ideal customers want to read. Ultimately, it comes down to your line of business, but rather than a direct sales platform brazenly promoting your services, your blog should be used as an opportunity to showcase knowledge and provide value to your audience, answering their questions and offering useful advice.

Nowadays, people don’t like being sold to in a one-way relationship, and savvy Internet users are much more prone to shopping around till they find a supplier that suits them. As such, if your blog acts as a portal to insightful information, you’ll be enhancing your chances of building a rapport that could convert into custom.

To help refine your blogging strategy, we recommend using Answer The Public – a free tool that reveals recent Google search queries which relate to your chosen keywords.

Now, talking of keywords, seeing as we’re an SEO and content marketing company, keyword research is a large part of the work we do and there’s a good chance our prospective clients will be searching for informative content on the topic. Thus, publishing our thorough guide to keyword research makes sense.

However, upon typing “keyword research” into Answer The Public, we then uncovered an ocean of blog ideas based on specific search queries, as depicted here:

Keyword Research search queries

Armed with this knowledge, we’re now able to write targeted content based on real-life questions, giving us a great chance of gaining traction in organic search results. Clicking the green dots (within ATP) takes you to each individual Google results page, allowing you to judge the popularity of each search query.

After some deliberation, we decided the term “keyword research with google keyword planner” was worth targeting, prompting us to write an article titled How to Use Google’s AdWords Keyword Planner in 5 Simple Steps.

By narrowing down the broad theme of keyword research and going deep on one aspect, we’re now far more likely to rank for that specific search query, and the more your content matches searcher intent, the better chance you have of higher search engine visibility.

In a similar vein, Google Trends can also be used to give you topical content ideas pertinent to your niche, maximising relevance. If you’re systematic about it, you can quickly conjure up a strategic content calendar that removes the guesswork, i.e. one that’s focused on producing blog posts people are actively looking for.

Survey opinion

It pays to be direct and ask your clients/customers what type of content they’d find useful. If you’re a B2B provider, you could email your contacts and ask what they’d like to learn in relation to your business – what articles they’d find helpful and, ultimately, what they think others in a similar position (your potential clients!) would be keen to know.

We took this approach, and one of our clients came back wanting to know what native advertising was all about. He’d heard the term bandied around at a networking event and wondered whether we did it, or recommend it. Subsequently, we published our Native Advertising vs Content Marketing debate.

He opted against native in the end, sticking with our content plan, but having this insight was fantastic as it led to a unique post that has proven very popular, helping to frame us as an agency that’s in the know and on the ball.

If you’re a B2C company, you could try reaching out to social media followers and ask them what blog content they’d find interesting, entertaining or in some way valuable. As with many things in life, instead of trying to figure it out by yourself, opening up and asking the opinion of others will naturally see a flood of good (and some bad) ideas come your way.

Beware of dodgy data

It amazes me how frequently I come across juicy blog posts that reference interesting stats, golden nuggets of information that help to hammer home key points, only to find that the cited source is spurious to say the least.

You’ve no doubt seen the ludicrous listicles that litter the web, i.e. 108 Fresh Marketing Stats for 2017. However, there are so many issues with this particular example, that it’s hard to know where to begin.

One of the “stats” referenced is:

72% of marketers believe branded content is more effective than magazine advertising (Source)

But upon clicking on the link, you’re greeted with this:

404 error message

So there’s no way of directly judging the veracity of the claim. However, if you search for the stat on Google, it returns over 2 million results. One of the top ones is to a SlideShare presentation from 2013:

A SlideShare stat from The Custom Content Council

Note the date in the bottom right corner – 2011. Yet, the original post we found was claiming to be fresh marketing stats for 2017! That’s six years of freshness right there. So, digging deeper we can eventually track down the 2011 Custom Content Council report.

However, maddeningly, after having scanned the 41-page report half a dozen times, I can only see the figure 72 appear once – and there’s no mention of magazine advertising at all!

Another dodgy statistic

After half an hour of clicking link-to-link and pulling my hair out, I’m none the wiser as to the accuracy of the original data. Even if it were true, it’s now wildly out of date and irrelevant, but it seems more likely that somewhere along the line somebody has confused two different stats and it’s spread like wildfire.

This just proves you shouldn’t always believe what you read, but unfortunately I think most people take facts and figures at face value, not thinking to double check before citing them in their own content. Failing to do so, however, is lazy and misleading, so if your blog posts are shored up by dodgy stats, you’re not painting yourself in a very good light.

Remember, your blog is a stage to demonstrate expertise and subtly position yourself as a voice of authority, so it’s imperative to take great care when quoting the work of others. We prefer to use trusted sites like eMarketer and Research Live when looking to back up our words of wisdom, and at the very least we always click-through to the original source to ensure the data can be referenced with confidence.

When searching on Google, there are some very simple tricks you can employ to ensure you only bring up the most relevant and recent information, as shown here:

Filter Google's search results

If you’re a UK business, more often than not you’ll want to discuss UK trends, so filtering by country makes sense, as does discussing the most recent information. If you’re trying to frame yourself as a maven in your sector, it’s no good blogging about data from 2011.

Keeping it local

There’s obviously much more value in referencing current, up-to-date, accurate, local information that your audience will appreciate. For example, we’ve recently cited ADLIB’s Creative Employment Today (SW) survey in a couple of our outreach articles.

They’re a Bristol-based recruitment agency, and they’ve done a great job surveying local employers and professionals, throwing up interesting tidbits of information like this:

Survey Results: Skill sets in demand

We’re particularly pleased to hear copywriting is listed as the second most in-demand skill on our doorstep, and have shared this insight far and wide.

If you’re able to quote your neighbours, that can only foster good relations, and you never know where these may take your business in the future. LinkedIn forums and groups can be a great source of information as well, with experienced professionals well placed to answer your questions and point you in the direction of great resources. Better still, you might be able to interview them and curate expert opinion.

We mentioned keywords earlier on, and when conducting your research it’s important to plan how, when and where to use them in your blog post. You can read more about this in our guide to digital copywriting, which outlines the natural next steps once you’ve completed your research and are ready to roll.

I suppose we better end this piece by following our own advice and asking our audience (you!) what type of content you’d like to read on our blog? Are you struggling to get your head around any of the finer points of SEO, content marketing and copywriting? What are the sticking points for you, and what would you like guidance on? Email enquiries@bespoke-digital.co.uk, and be sure to ask about our FREE Digital Health Check.