March 27, 2023 Content Chat Recap: Great Research Strategies for Blog Posts

A Content Chat header image that says today’s topic is Great Research Strategies for Blog Posts with guest Kristen Hicks, who is @ATXCopywriter on Twitter.

Your writing foundation can make creating your next piece of content feel like an uphill climb, or a pain-free stroll through the park—if you’re hoping for the latter, then you’ll need to invest the necessary time in research.

In this #ContentChat recap, Erika joins Kristen Hicks, a freelance content marketing writer specializing in B2B tech, to discuss great research strategies for blog posts.

Read through a few highlights from the conversation below, and listen to the full recording here.

Q1: Why is it important to conduct research before starting to write a piece of content?

One of the most obvious reasons to conduct research before writing a piece of content is so you can understand the topic you’re writing about. Research will help you cover all angles and perspectives in your content, and ensure you create something truly unique and valuable.

A1: The most obvious reason is: to understand the topic you’re writing about. You want your writing to be accurate and relevant to your audience. Plus, do enough research and the writing part gets a lot easier #ContentChat

— Kristen Hicks (@atxcopywriter) March 27, 2023

A1: Kristen, this is totally right. It makes your life easier when writing, and it is important to be knowledgeable about the topic before putting content out there. #ContentChat

— Emma Lange (@EmmaLange78719) March 27, 2023

A1: Even if you are an expert on the topic, it’s important to take a look at recent content to ensure you create content that offers up something above and beyond what your reader has likely already seen. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 27, 2023

A1A: Yes in addition, research also helps make sure that you cover all angles and perspectives. Research helps you ensure that you are presenting the views accepted by the experts.#ContentChat

— Sweepsify 🎈 (@Sweepsify_) March 27, 2023

In the recording, Erika and Kristen shared the following:

  • “You do have to spend time on [research] if you want to get things right, but it makes the harder part—the writing itself—that much easier.” – Kristen
  • “If somebody has already written an ebook on your topic, for example, then you need to discover gaps in their information or have your own angle if you’re also going to [cover that topic]. And you’re not going to know that if you don’t read other people’s content.” – Erika
  • “If I’m reading a piece and it throws out a statistic but doesn’t have a link, or it is just making statements without telling me how they came to that conclusion, then that suggests to me that this isn’t a trustworthy source.” – Kristen
  • “I can’t tell you how frequently I’ve gone into an organization and they’ve said ‘here are some of our quotes and stats that we use all the time,’ but there hasn’t been a source attached. It almost always turns out to be an internal statistic that, in fact, was made up by somebody at some point, and doesn’t have any way to actually prove it. This is really not okay.” – Erika

Q2: What internal resources should brands provide writers (including freelancers) to help them create on-brand content faster?

Kristen and Erika name a few must-share resources below, including a style guide, audience persona, competitor list, and any content templates.

A2: For onboarding, a style guide, audience persona, list of your top competitors, plus examples of writing you like and top-performing pieces. If you don’t have a style guide or persona, just send as much info on your style preferences and audience as you’re able #ContentChat

— Kristen Hicks (@atxcopywriter) March 27, 2023

A2: For each post: a brief with details on what you want is appreciated. This can include: goals, desired scope, relevant internal resources, other posts on the topic, relevant brand info (like specific product features that relate), and what CTA to include #ContentChat

— Kristen Hicks (@atxcopywriter) March 27, 2023

A2: Finally: access to internal experts is valuable. Having someone knowledgeable available to answer questions can help a writer fill any gaps in their knowledge, and make sure what they write matches what your top employees think. #ContentChat

— Kristen Hicks (@atxcopywriter) March 27, 2023

A2: I appreciate getting the brand’s style guide, a glossary with any preferred word usage, and the names of any sources they’d prefer I not cite (typically competitors). If you have a content template for freelancers that incorporates all this, even better! #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 27, 2023

Q3: What types of content should a writer review when conducting research for an upcoming blog post or article?

Any type of content on your topic area is valuable to review before writing, especially if it comes from sources you recognize and trust.

A3: Depends on the details of the piece, the client, and style, but can include: blogs/articles on from reputable sources, research reports with relevant data, related internal resources (webinars, case studies, sales decks, etc), and insights from experts #ContentChat

— Kristen Hicks (@atxcopywriter) March 27, 2023

A3: I try to look at internal content, industry analyst content, recent research, and some competitor content, too, to get an idea of what’s already been done and gather resources to cite. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 27, 2023

“Usually the easiest to find statistic is going to be really old, from a source that doesn’t exist anymore, or something that somebody made up once. It takes time to find the good research reports that have good, current statistics you can use. That’s one of the big things that separates higher quality writers from the others—I wasn’t always as particular about it as I am now to make sure I’m only finding good statistics.” – Kristen Hicks

Q4: How can writers infuse real-world experience and viewpoints into a post if they do not have first-hand experience with the topic?

Ask experts for quotes and insights when you lack the necessary real-world experience (or to round out the perspectives in your content). Speak to subject matter experts in your organization, use services like Help a Reporter Out (HARO) and Help a B2B Writer, and turn to social media networks.

A4: Talk to people that do! Ask experts for quotes. To find them: tap your network, ask on social media, use HARO, or ask your client if there’s a subject matter expert (SME) at the company you can talk to. #ContentChat

— Kristen Hicks (@atxcopywriter) March 27, 2023

A4: People share their thoughts online a lot—including the people you’re writing about/for. So see what people in your target audience are saying on social, in forums, etc. for first-person insights. #ContentChat

— Kristen Hicks (@atxcopywriter) March 27, 2023

A4: Talk to experts! Interview and quote them to lend authority to your piece. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 27, 2023

A4. Ask the right questions to the right people. Document your research and quote at the right time. #contentchat

— Shruti Deshpande 🇮🇳🇬🇧 (@shruti12d) March 27, 2023

Interviewing smart people on topics they are passionate about also just makes the writing process a lot more fun, too! :)#ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 27, 2023

“Make sure that your’e looking at subreddits and across the social listening spectrum for all the channels that you know your ideal customers are using. This makes sure you’re getting that real view, because if you’re only listening on one channel you could get a very skewed idea of what people are thinking.” – Erika Heald

Q5: Many ghostwritten articles require a subject matter expert interview. What tips can you share for leading an effective SME interview?

When interviewing an expert for your content, do your research in advance so you make the most of your time with them, and record the conversation.

Prepare a list of questions, but be ready to jump around and ask follow-up questions (instead of sticking to a specific question order). It can be valuable to ask “what’s your reaction to [statement or topic]?”

End every interview by asking “What haven’t we covered that you think is important for the audience to know.”

A5: Do research in advance, so you know the right questions to ask. Record the interview so you can review what they said as you write (and get quotes write). Don’t skip the basic questions—the answers may seem obvious, but useful to hear it in their words. #ContentChat

— Kristen Hicks (@atxcopywriter) March 27, 2023

A5: To make the most of an SME’s limited time, do your research before the conversation, so you don’t have to use precious minutes getting clarification about basic things your research would have made you aware of. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 27, 2023

A5: Don’t ask a SME questions that you can easily find answers to online.

Instead, you should ask them to make predictions and share their thoughts on their own research that they’ve done.#ContentChat

— Sweepsify 🎈 (@Sweepsify_) March 27, 2023

On technical topics, it could help to say something like “I understand [topic/technology] to mean/do [what you researched online]. Does that match how you see it?” This ensures they agree with what your research uncovered. #ContentChat

— Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) March 27, 2023

If it is difficult to schedule a live conversation with your SME, send them questions in a shared doc, and encourage them to write out answers or record themselves talking through the answers.

Q6: What clues can a search engine results page give you about how to structure your content?

“If you’re concerned about SEO, then seeing what shows up now on the search engine results page is very important for understanding what it takes to rank. Pay attention to what results show up first and any trends you can notice in those top results, like how long they tend to be, topics they tend to cover, and what content formats might be embedded within them.” – Kristen Hicks

A search engine results page can give you plenty of information about the search intent for your topic and what content currently performs best. Be sure to not copy the high-ranking content, but study it to understand what elements your content should include (like a video or frequently asked questions section) and ways to differentiate your content.

A6: Everything on the SERP is based on a LOT of data about search intent. Pay attention to special features like featured snippets, and “people also ask” questions”—it tells you what your audience wants to know, which can inform what to include in the piece. #ContentChat

— Kristen Hicks (@atxcopywriter) March 27, 2023

A6. I like to think of organic search results as an organic ad.

> Title
> CTA is URL that makes sense
> Description
#ContentChat #SERP

— Tod Cordill (@todcordill) March 27, 2023

A6: On a search result page for your primary keyword, you will be able to see at a glance what kind of multimedia content is typically included in the high-performing content, so you can plan + budget accordingly. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 27, 2023

Q7: What are your favorite tools, websites, or resources to help with research?

A7: I start with anything the client sent, then look for relevant resources on their website. That way I learn about their point of view *and* the topic. Then I turn to Google (basic, but it works). Do evaluate those results though (ranking doesn’t = quality) #ContentChat

— Kristen Hicks (@atxcopywriter) March 27, 2023

A7: If a primary success metric for the piece is social sharing and engagement, I do a recent content search through @BuzzSumo. They are also helpful for helping you see what take on a topic was most shared on your primary social channel (except LinkedIn). #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 27, 2023

Throughout the chat, Kristen, Erika, and the community recommended the following resources:

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