We've all heard the saying, "content is king". I doubt Bill Gates had an inkling of how many times he’d be quoted when said it in an essay on the Microsoft website in 1996. Although content is constantly evolving, and now comes in many mediums (text, video, images, etc.) we all go online when we’re looking at content these days.
Whether we’re looking to buy something, we want to be entertained, or we need some inspiration, good content will amuse us and great content will change our lives.
As a business owner, your business will start with a good content strategy. And at the heart of your content plan comes the research.
Why Good Research Matters
Good blog post research matters for a number of reasons. Gone are the bad old days of keyword-stuffed blog posts would rank on page one of the search engines. It takes a little more effort nowadays to make money from a product, service, or website – but it’s more than worth it when you get it right.
If you want to develop a reputation as the authority in any niche or market to develop a rabid fan following, simply using a single, lone keyword over and over will not get the job done. In fact, you'll sound like a loon.
You absolutely must produce massive amounts of actionable and excellent information which is both easy to digest and pertinent to your market.
Think about your own experiences when searching for answers on the World Wide Web…
Isn't it frustrating when you hit a squeeze page or click on an advertisement, follow a Facebook post or Twitter tweet, only to find yourself on a website with very little and/or poor information? Even if that particular website owner in the future became the premier expert in his or her field, you would still never go back.
The old adage that “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” is even more important online, where readers simply won't put up with a poorly researched blog post.
Research Helps You Become a True Expert
Aside from the obvious benefits that your social media followers or list members receive, good research helps you as well. Simply by performing more research than your competition, you are subconsciously and automatically becoming more and more confident when speaking or writing about your particular market, product, or service.
Whether conveying your information through video, audio, or text, your level of expertise and confidence will directly relate to how you are received by those that come across your online content.
Taking the time to properly research the content you are publishing online also gets you into the habit of doing more for your readers, followers, and video viewers than the bare minimum.
You begin to confidently feel like an expert, while you are simultaneously viewed as a leading authority in your market. The law of reciprocity will reward you in the future for the work and diligent research you perform before releasing your content to your audience.
As you can see – doing proper blog post research is a win-win situation! You become a true expert, and you help others as a result!
Now it’s time to discover exactly how to do that research! Are you ready?
How “Niching Down” Your Market Makes Research Easier
You know that research matters, for a host of reasons. But just about every market, both online and off, can have countless areas that need to be properly researched.
Making Your Research Easier
This is why you first and foremost need to understand your audience. When you know exactly what your potential customers are really seeking, you can then focus on and deliver those very specific needs.
Quickly Become an Authority in Your Niche
The second benefit of narrowing your focus during the research stage of your blog posts is speed. Since you are spending less time researching a huge, ginormous marketplace, you become an authority in a smaller niche much more rapidly, giving you more time to actually work on product development, writing, or just doing the everyday business things that you do.
Exercise: Niche Down by Asking Questions
Try this… The next time that you begin market research, break down the problems and questions your community is talking about into their underlying emotions. If you happen to be in the Get Your Ex Back niche, you may think that men and women that have broken up with or lost their significant other have a simple problem. You believe that they want to get their ex back.
But that belief does not have you digging deep enough. Yes, they do want to get their ex-boyfriend or ex-wife back into their life. But what they are really yearning for is the amazing emotional feelings that being in a symbiotic, loving, and selfless relationship provides. They long to be held lovingly. They want to feel loved and appreciated.
Getting their ex back is simply the vehicle that delivers what they are really looking for. Keep asking why, and niche down to core emotions instead of surface-level desires or questions to truly understand your market.
Now that you have totally narrowed down your focus and located the most burning questions and problems plaguing your ideal customers, how do you find out what questions they are asking? Remember, where there is smoke, there is always fire.
And if you want to find those questions burning in the minds of your potential customers, go to those places online where they are asking for help in clearing the smoke out of their lives. Then your research efforts will be a piece of cake.
Using Keywords for Research
If you're writing a blog post on something, you've thoroughly researched it with great data sources backing up all your thoughts and ideas… You now need to know if anyone is searching for it. And if they are searching for it, what are they doing next? In other words, what is the user intent behind the keywords? is it commercial or informational?
For this, I use Market Samurai. It's the older brother of Content Samurai. Hop on over, download the free trial and watch their videos on how to determine which keywords you need and user intent.
Some content strategists will advise you to avoid keyword research. I believe this is because they don't actually know how to do it properly, and understand the information. The secret to keyword research is simply understanding what the user wants when they type in that phrase.
Search volumes ie how many searches are taking place for your product or service can tell you a lot about what people are searching for online, but they don't indicate anything about your visitor's commercial intent.
What's the point of commercial intent, you may ask. And many people do.
Let's imagine you're the number one position in the search engines for Black Kitten Heel shoes. Won't you automatically make money from this? Won't your website have floods of traffic, lots of women pounding down your virtual doors to shove fistfuls of cash into your virtual hands…
The short answer is No.
Wikipedia manages to find its way into the top 3 results on Google for many keyword searches – but do they make money from that? Hint: you don't see them selling Wikipedia t-shirts, you're frequently asked for donations, oh and there's not an advert in the sidebar, after the first paragraph and attached to the image.
On the other hand, your humble blog may only receive 700 visitors a month, but they're all visiting with the express intention of buying your black kitten heels, and what attracts them is your post that talks about 50 ways to wear black kitten heels without looking vampish, all nicely linked to the kitten heels that you stock.
Keywords and keyphrases fall into two camps, so there’s not a great deal of confusion: information keywords and buying keywords.
If you had never heard of Boules before, you might search for something along the lines of “What is/are Boules”. That would be a straightforward search for information to help you decide whether or not it may be something you are interested in. So, too, would “Rules of Boules” be another information keyword.
Once you had become familiar with what type of game Boules is, you might then decide to find a club near you and then start using keywords with geographic intent and buying intent, such as “Best Boules” or “Boule reviews” or “Boules Club in Essex”.
Commercial intent is easy to work out when you know your audience.
Using Amazon Products for Your Research
An outstanding way to research great topics for your blog posts is to head over to Amazon. Search for the bestselling books in your niche, and then click on each one of them in turn.
Amazon allows you to view the table of contents for any book you choose. Look at the chapter titles from the bestselling books about sunflower gardening, reword them, and use them to effectively create your own “bestselling” blog posts.
Note that this does not mean copying the book in any way! Chapters should be used for general ideas. You can then dig deeper and find related subtopics simply to use as content titles and article ideas, rather than taking any information from the main text itself. Remember unconscious absorption. This is where you read or watch something and then accidentally plagiarise someone because you didn't factor it in. Always note your sources. Here's mine for this article
How to Find Reliable Sources for Facts & Figures
Okay, you have compiled some really great questions that you know your market needs answering. So how do you get reliable facts and figures online to solve the problems of people in your niche?
Numbers are very powerful, and they help establish you as an authority figure in your market. But you have to ensure that the statistics and data you are spouting are absolutely correct.
How Reliable is Google?
One very popular way to gather statistical information and other relevant data is to use your friend, Google
Now, we’re not talking about searching for a fact and using the first answer Google gives you. No way! That is not the way to do reliable research. How do you know that the source is correct?!
Instead, we’re using Google to find further sources of reliable information.
Other Useful Sources for Facts You Can Rely On
But since you always want to double and triple check your information, there are some excellent spots online where you can ensure your research will produce reliable numbers and data.
Do you need to know US demographics? Head over to Census.gov. That is the official Census Bureau for the United States government. The website has a specific area titled Research, where tons of free and accurate geographical, personal, and business data can be found.
FedStats.gov is another federal US site that offers verified government statistics on a number of subjects. You can even search by subject matter or state.
Do you have a medical audience? Then you will want to head over to MedlinePlus.gov to access medical research that has been conducted and published by the United States National Library of Medicine.
Statistics.gov.uk handles official United Kingdom statistics in a wide variety of areas, and is the National Statistics headquarters of the UK. Abs.Gov.au is the Australian equivalent, where you can research facts and figures compiled by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
A very powerful tool that lets you know exactly how web surfers access information and consume it can be found at en-us.Nielsen.com. This versatile website also shows you how and why consumers buy goods and services.
Looking for a virtual library? A Questia.com membership provides access to over 1.5 million books in print on a variety of subjects.
And the self-explanatory FactCheck.org will help you research claims, facts, and figures made during political campaigns, including but not limited to taxes and healthcare.
My personal favourite is Statista and it is brilliant if you are looking for data around topical content for an opinion piece. Statista seems to have an infographic on every single thing under the sun!
These few resources for research are the proverbial tip of the online iceberg when it comes to reliable web locations for verifiable statistics and data.
Simply type into Google “statistics about + your niche” to get a list of excellent sources for information on your market, and as you dig for data, take note of recurring keywords that you can use later.
When you have done your blog post research your head will be full to overflowing.
I recommend at this point you go for a walk and see what your mind keeps returning to. This is what your content should focus on. The questions that come up from it and how you will be helping your reader will spring from your research.
When I started this post is was about researching your content. As I finish this post I've niched down, research good examples, and shared my research sources. This post is now about how to research blog posts. Because a well-researched blog post will do more for you than 500 sloppily thrown-together posts. The good news is you can go back and edit the other 500.