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Why Research Should Be A Fundamental Part Of Your Content Strategy

John Waghorn

by John Waghorn on 10th May 2013

Research Is KingCreating a detailed and thorough content strategy will take time, although making the effort to do this in the first place will bring its own rewards. Within your overall strategy, there will be a number of areas that you will need to address, from how to promote the content once it’s been created, how to measure its success and of course, undertaking the correct level of research before you get started.

With the right amount of research completed first, you will have a greater understanding of what you want to achieve from your campaigns and a clearer focus when it comes to creating content.

Whilst all of these elements are as equally valid as each other, they all combine to form the basis of your underlying content strategy. This is why you should assign a dedicated amount of time to each area. With this in mind, it’s important that you place a key emphasis on the very first process by incorporating research.

Creating a Content Audit

To make everything clear from the outset, completing a content audit will help you to observe what forms of content are likely to be successful and what your competition in the market is currently working on. Furthermore, it will also act as a reference point whilst you are working on your campaigns and for the future too. So what areas should you spend time researching?

  • Current Engagement – what forms of content are you currently working with that could be used as part of a more defined strategy? Perhaps you have started a blog, although very few posts are actually being set live. In this example, you could look to bring in more blog posts within your strategy so that you are really getting optimum performance out of this marketing channel. In contrast, you might have found that video marketing has worked well, so again more video content could be used in the same way.
  • Competitor Content – Researching what your competitors are doing in the market will also give you a good indication of the different forms of content that are currently working well. It will also allow you to spot any potential gaps in the market to aim for too. It’s worth using Majestic SEO, a great tool that allows you to view the amount and source of backlinks pointing to a particular domain. Once you establish the kind of sites that are using content, you can then target those within your strategy, or at least find ones that are very similar to approach.
  • Areas to Improve – Having a greater understanding about your own website statistics will help you to know where to focus your attention. By using Google Analytics you can visualise the current levels of traffic you are receiving across your site. This will allow you to view which pages and keywords are slightly underperforming and then incorporate these within your content strategy. You can also research which pages are performing well and seek to strengthen the authority of these pages to maintain their rankings.

Using the trackbacks report feature in Google Analytics also enables you to see which websites are currently linking to you. As a result, you can aim to target these sites once your content has been written. As they have already linked to you before, they are likely to be more receptive in featuring you again as a result.

All of this initial research will give you a clear focus of what you should include within your content strategy and give you an indication of what is likely to be successful. Spending time researching at this stage will save you time in the long run as your campaigns will become more targeted. Having an idea of the current level of activity of some of your key competitors will also enable you to focus on the best forms of content too. This knowledge is far greater to you than just simply ploughing into any campaign with no real focus or idea of what content you should create and where you should try and place it.

Hand Drawing Content Flow ChartCreating Your Content Plan

With the insights you have gained from looking at your current content activity and competitor analysis, it’s now time to start formulating your plans. Which types of content you should include is going to be your first port of call.

For example, whilst conducting your research you might have realised that Infographics and blog posts receive a lot of engagement in your industry, so you can start to place these in your own plans. Ask yourself, which forms of content have already proven to be successful and are there any new areas to exploit? By addressing these questions, you will start to create a plan using content that you know works well and content that could potentially work well too. Without this knowledge, you are likely to end up with a broader range of content ideas without any real indication as to what is going to pay off.

Researching Themes and Topics

Once you have an idea of the types of content you are going to include, you then need to work out which themes and topics to focus on. This is where your earlier research will prove to be valuable because you would have observed the type of content that is already being created. Although you shouldn’t copy these ideas directly if they’ve already been covered in detail, you can base your own strategy on similar themes or an extension of these ideas.

You should also spend time researching which topics have not been included before and content that could help to answer people’s questions and solve a problem. For example, if you are a computer company and you know that people are struggling to operate a particular piece of software, use this as a basis for your own content in order to assist them. One of the main reasons people use search engines is because they want to find answers to their questions. So by helping them come to a conclusion, you will start to gain trust as an authoritative source for them to use again in the future.

Topics and themes that are engaging and relatively new will also work well within your strategy and plans. For example, if there’s new legislation, or a change being introduced that will affect your industry, create content around these issues. Keeping an eye on current affairs and using these topics within your strategy is a great way to attract an audience. Again, this comes down to the level of research that you are willing to undertake in order to generate the best topics and themes that will capture an audience.

bigstock-Bright-Idea-2594409Creating Content Titles

After you have an idea of the type of content you will be working with and a focus for the themes you wish to incorporate, you then need to come up with titles to complete your content plans. What you have already discovered by this point will help you in this area and in addition there are plenty of tools available, such as Uber Suggest, which lets you view popular keywords around your unique search term. These phrases can then be used within your titles to make them more appealing and relative to those who will be searching online. During this phase you will still need to undertake a little research, although what you have already determined up to this point will help make this process a lot easier.

It’s also worth thinking about how you will phrase each title too. Will you use a question, a top five or ten list, a statement, or present a specific scenario for the reader to think about? It might seem like you’re paying too much attention to detail, but your title could be the difference between people clicking through to find out more and leaving to look elsewhere. Observe how other people have phrased a particular theme and bear this in mind when coming up with titles of your own.

Finally, if you are working with titles that are specialist or technical, make sure you allow enough time to be able to conduct the right amount of research in order to create a great piece of content. Your content needs to be engaging and without spending time researching the topics and themes it will be difficult to gain any significant traction once it’s live.

Final Thoughts

At the end of this process you should have an idea of the current forms of content you are working with, how your competition is utilising content and a full strategy complete with titles and themes to write about. Putting the time in to research all of these areas will allow you to end up with a logical and much more focused content strategy to make a start on. Content can be the catalyst to increase your website traffic if it’s used in the right way and the research phase will give you the insights you need to be able to use this content in the best way possible.

Image Sources

Research image by BigStock
Content image by BigStock
Light bulb image by BigStock

John Waghorn

John Waghorn

John works as a Content Marketing Executive at Koozai. With previous experience in PR, he helps the team by writing a range of client content including press releases, guest blog posts and website copy. He is also a regular contributor to the Koozai blog.

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2 Comments

  • Sahil 12th May 2013

    Great post John! Doing research for having the right content strategy at place is very important. Especially doing a competitor research on the types of content which is helping them get traction is very important. This can give lot of insights and help a brand come out of old/outdated content ideas which they still have been following and the ones which is not helping them gain traction or the competitive edge in the niche.

    Reply to this comment

    • John Waghorn

      John Waghorn 14th May 2013

      Thanks Sahil. I agree that with the correct insights you will have a greater understanding about what to target within your own content. These initial steps will offer you the basis for a better approach to your overall content strategy.

      Reply to this comment

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