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by John Waghorn on 2nd July 2013
In a previous blog post, I wrote about the importance of carrying out research during the initial construction stages of your content strategy (see Why Research Should Be A Fundamental Part Of Your Content Strategy). As your strategy starts to come together and your ideas become set in stone, the next phase of the overall content process is to actually create the content.
During this stage, research will be equally as important to you as it was during the development of your content plan. In order to create content that is going to portray the most accurate message and connect with your audience, regardless of whether it’s a technical or jargon based user guide, or a more generic blog post, research needs to be carried out.
Using the resources that you have at your disposal, will mean that your content is more likely to capture an audience, drive traffic to your site, and maintain their custom in the future. We know that content can be the bridge between a fully optimised website and a ready and waiting and targeted audience, so therefore it must be created to a decent and coherent standard.
No matter what you will be creating from your initial plan, be it a guest post, press release or a whitepaper, here are seven research tips you can utilise in order to help you create quality content.
Everyone is capable of writing about a topic they are familiar with, but what if the topic in question is difficult to understand or interpret? Briefings are a great way to provide you with the insights you need to be able to put down your ideas and begin creating content that is going to connect with your audience.
Perhaps you are trying to write a technical piece relating to the medical industry or a comprehensive document relating to government policy. In this instance, see if you can speak to someone who has the required level of knowledge to explain the ins and outs, so that the correct ideas can translate within your own content.
To achieve this, you will need to speak to an expert in the field. If you are writing for a client, see if it’s possible to speak to a member of their team who fully understands the chosen subject matter. Alternatively, you might be able to arrange a briefing with an external contact that you know.
If you are working in the agency side of the industry and writing for a client, take time to review their own website. This will be a great starting point to help you understand and connect with their brand or business values and also gather the relevant information you need.
As you are researching the client’s website, make sure you know exactly what it is that they offer and also what they don’t provide, so that you don’t start creating content around something completely irrelevant.
Looking at the client’s website will also allow you to get a feel for the type of language currently used. This will be more appropriate for when you are creating on-page content, such as website copy or blog posts. The reason for this is because you will want to keep on-page written content consistent across the whole of their site.
In addition to reviewing a client’s website, make sure you also speak to them before you begin the content creation stage. Explaining to your client’s what you are intending to create might encourage them to provide you with further information on a particular area of focus.
For example, if you are writing about a significant change in their industry, no one else is going to have a better understanding of the intricate details than those who are experiencing the change first-hand.
Your client may also be able to provide you with ideas for subheadings and sections that you should definitely include within the text as well. Remember that they are the expert in their field, so utilise their knowledge where possible.
Speaking to clients during your research stage will ensure that you’re fully prepared to create the content and that you’ve covered all the bases for what to include within each piece.
As well as reviewing your client’s website to get a better feel for a particular subject matter, it’s also worth looking at industry specific sites.
In some cases a client’s website might not be very detailed, so sites that are industry specific will act as additional resources. These sites can give you more of a thorough overview about what it is that you will be creating and will provide you with useful ideas and inspiration.
If you can collate a range of information from multiple sources, your content is more likely to be relevant to your target audience and more engaging and comprehensive as a result.
It won’t always be the case that you have enough time to really go in-depth with your research. This will obviously depend on the time you have available, the level of quality you are aiming for, and the budget assigned to a particular campaign. However, in situations where you are creating something as comprehensive as a whitepaper, a user guide or a booklet, you may want to use academic resources.
Google Scholar is a great accessible resource which allows you to search for published literature and journals on academic subjects. Using this alongside other academic resources, such as books and papers, will allow you to create content of a high-quality nature.
You won’t need to utilise academic resources for every piece of content that you create, but if you are looking to write something really detailed, academic resources will be extremely useful.
Content that refers to external sources, statistics and facts will help you to back up what you are saying. As this information will be more useful to your audience than general assumptions, see if you can find and incorporate relevant market research within your own content.
Sites such as Experian Hitwise and ComScore for example offer a wealth of knowledge, insights and resources that you can tap into and use during your own content creation. Although these examples are specific to the digital marketing environment, there are plenty of sites that will be relative to the industry that you are writing for too.
Remember that your content really needs to stand out, so by incorporating facts, figures and statistics through existing market research, your content is more likely to be shared and valued by your audience.
Many companies create documentation alongside their own website, such as brochures, flyers and PDF files. Obtaining this information and data will be extremely useful to you during the writing phase of your content plan.
Due to the complex nature of certain industries, such as insurance, government and medical, many websites won’t include all of the details and information that you need on their site pages. Therefore, see if it’s possible to get hold of any existing documentation, such as the examples above, as these items will be more comprehensive.
Whether it’s a policy document for the insurance sector, or a PDF brochure specifically written about a technical subject, these resources will help you to create content that’s factually correct and detailed.
The level of research that you undertake before creating any form of content will depend on the time you have available and the length and quality of the work that you are looking to produce.
In some cases, due to these constraints, you won’t be able to use all of the above examples and in other situations they might not be applicable to what you are creating. The main point to remember is that you should always carry out the correct amount of research first before making a start on the writing phase.
Through the above examples, and with all of the relevant and necessary information gathered, you’ll be ready to focus your attention on creating something that will really stand out and help to draw in your target audience.
If you have any additional research tips to help create quality content, please feel free to add them to the comment section below.