In case, you didn’t know it: the foundation of writing insanely good content is thorough research.
Research is the foundation of any valuable content piece. You can’t call yourself a writer if you don’t take the time to gather information, learn about the things you’re covering in your writing, get to know your audience, and use their reactions to improve your writing style. It is involved in every stage of the writing process.
Let’s say you’ve just accepted a new writing project. How do you approach it? You’ll probably say it depends on the specifics of the project, but here are the steps I follow and recommend:
The 6 Phases of Research When Writing Online Content
1. Research the Type of Content You Have to Write
For example, at one point, I was asked to write an infographic, and I had no idea what infographics were. I searched for information online, and found several useful resources. I can’t remember what those were, but I know I read them all, to get an idea of what my infographic should sound like.
You should be able to find relevant advice and examples on how to write various content pieces on CMI, Quick Sprout, Copyblogger, Kissmetrics, CoSchedule, and the Iris Content Blog, among others. If looking for advice directly on specialty websites seems too much, you can always use Google as a starting point.
2. Research the Business You Are Writing For
Before you can start writing for a particular business, you need to know more about it, the products and services it sells, and what they bring new to the table. If you don’t research the business you’re writing for, you risk making recommendations that go against its interests.
For example, “how to” guides on building cheap solar panels could be a gold mine for companies supplying solar cells and other necessary parts, but worthless, even detrimental to a company that sells solar panels at luxury prices.
3. Research Your Audience
Your content should match your audience. You can’t address a millennial as you would address their parents, just as you can’t address attorneys as you would address farmers or auto mechanics. If you want to engage your audience, you need to know their pain, their needs, their interests, and their budget.
In fact, the more you know about them, the easier it will be to personalize your content and engage your readers. Always focus on providing what your audience expects, otherwise you risk disappointing them and losing them as potential paying customers.
3. Research the Competition
The content you write should help the business you write it for rise above its main competitors. If you want your content to reach its goal, you need to know what you’re going up against. In some cases, you can use the content of the competition as a starting point to create even better content. In other cases, you find knowledge gaps and cover them, helping the business you write for build a name for itself and maximize its ROI.
4. Research Trending Topics
Each industry has its hot topics. Covering them could help you draw traffic. Identifying them is a matter of following industry influencers and finding out what topics received the most attention over a given period. It is up to you to identify the influencers in the industry you are writing for.
As far as topics are concerned, Buzzsumo can help you identify the hot ones. You just type in your topic, and you get a comprehensive list of posts ordered according to their success at engaging the audience on various social media platforms.
6. Research the Topic You Have Chosen
No matter how much you know on the topic you have chosen, it helps to discover new perspectives, double check the information you have, and support your opinion with links and quotes. Google remains your best friend for that. When it doesn’t provide the results you need, don’t hesitate to alter your search query until it does.
When you do your research, stick to popular, reliable websites. Many websites contain shallow, even erroneous information, and by taking that information for granted, you could lose your credibility. When possible, focus on “.org”, “.edu”, and “.gov” websites, look for information on the websites of the state and national institutions activating in your field of interest. If that is not possible, or the information you find is insufficient, check the authority of the website you want to use as a source with a specific tool. I use two tools for that:
Alexa – It is preferable to work with websites ranked in the first 100,000 in the US. If you use Google Chrome, you can just add the Alexa Traffic Rank extension to it and check the traffic rank of any website you visit by hovering or clicking the dedicated extension icon on the right of your browser.
Domain Authority & Page Authority Checker – This tool measures the authority of a page and/or domain on a scale from 1 to 100. My advice is that you use sources with DA and/or PA over 50.
Like what you’ve been reading so far? This is part of a larger guide I am launching in a few weeks: How to Become an Insanely Successful Writer with Just a Few Tools. Come back for more or check out with our copywriting team at Iris Content for a few more tips and possibly even a copywriting collaboration. Happy New Year!