Contrary to popular belief, Googling a set of keywords, clicking and then reading the first link does not equate to research.
To conduct original research, you need to comb through several resources and process the relevant information to your chosen topic and theme. Original research isn’t limited to online “sleuthing” either, it can involve interviews and surveys with other experts in the field.
An example of this is when a content marketing agency partners with an SEO agency to create content about keyword difficulty and why it’s relevant for small businesses that want to produce unique content.
Conducting original research enables you to create personalised content, which is one of the most crucial drivers of marketing success today. Amazon, Netflix and Grammarly have become industry giants because they’ve learned how to balance personalisation with machine learning algorithms, allowing them to offer highly tailored content for each customer.
Of course, it can be challenging to create personalised content given that there are already different kinds of information uploaded on multiple platforms. You need to cut through the noise on the internet if you want to reach your target audience.
It’s important to remember that there’s no such thing as a “new” idea, but conducting original research ensures that you’re constantly creating relevant content for your target audience.
Why you need a strong research process
A strong content marketing strategy is underpinned by an extensive research process. Establishing your research process will give you a strong foundation for the content you want to create. When you have a good understanding of the data you’ve collected, you can start setting marketing goals before planning your content lineup.
It can be overwhelming to begin your research, but these are great starting points for a small business:
- How your products and services are perceived by your target market
- How your current content is received by your audience
- How your competitors are creating content and promoting their products
- What kind of content is most suited to your target customer
- What are relevant topics that will engage your target audience
Each point above involves its own research process and may take some time to get satisfying answers. For example, learning about how your products and services are perceived by the public will involve social listening on multiple platforms. This means proactively monitoring online conversations about your brand as well as your products and services.
After you’ve conducted your research, your findings should answer the starting points or initial questions you’ve set. This will allow you to create great content since it’s backed by original research.
Having a research process also allows you to schedule a monthly lineup of ideas that aligns with your marketing and overall business goals. This ensures that your content is always evergreen and relevant to your audience.
The importance of doing your own research
Conducting original research allows you to build a consistent content marketing strategy given that you’re learning about one topic from multiple sources. Reviewing your sources and the relevant data allows you to identify patterns in existing content. This can help you figure out what works, what doesn’t and what hasn’t been tried yet.
You might come across viral marketing strategies in your research, but it’s important to remember that a consistent content strategy is more manageable than unreliable marketing tactics. A viral hit can result in sudden spikes of engagement but it can also be highly unpredictable. The results of a viral hit are difficult to measure as well since online conversations can spread across different platforms.
Building customer trust and loyalty takes time as well as quality content. Original research ensures that your lineup of content ideas consistently aligns with your brand values and marketing goals. Whether you’re an emerging business or an established one, your content will be immortalised on the internet so it’s important to create content that your brand can confidently stand by and share with your audience.
3 steps to conducting original research for your content
Conducting original research takes time, and it can be challenging to do when you’re focused on the core competencies of your small business. It’s best to partner with a content agency that can manage your marketing strategy as well as your research requirements.
We’ve shortlisted three key steps in conducting original research for content.
1. Search for preliminary sources for your upcoming content
It’s important to conduct preliminary research because there is usually an onslaught of data when you start with an initial query or question. The challenge with searching for preliminary sources is choosing the right articles to review, especially when it seems like there’s a lot of information to get through. The New York Institute of Technology recommends prioritising your readings (or sources, in our case) so that you can narrow down the scope of your content ideas.
Reading through preliminary sources can also give you a fresh perspective on your initial idea. It can open up a new set of questions or potential data points that may need more extensive research. Preliminary research allows you to set aside irrelevant information while discovering data that aligns with your content marketing strategy.
2. Extract relevant points of interest from your resources
Shortlisting your final resources and highlighting the relevant information is an important component of original research. The most effective and accurate way to extract the information you need is by doing data analysis.
There are three key steps in the data analysis process:
- Data organisation
- Summarisation and categorisation
- Data analysis
As the last step, data analysis gives you insight into the information you’ve collected and categorised, enabling you to implement a clear content marketing strategy.
Reviewing your resources and understanding your audience will also help you identify patterns that are necessary for creating personalised content that aligns with your brand values.
3. Outline the main ideas you want to include in your content
It can be overwhelming to start the content creation process when you have so many ideas you want to include. Outlining the main points of each piece (whether it’s a blog, a podcast or a video) can give your content structure and clarity.
Doing an outline before creating content will save you time and energy, it ensures that your ideas are organised and focused. An outline acts as a guide for you and your team so that everyone knows what their responsibilities are in producing the content. It will also give you an idea of what you need to acquire and accomplish for a content piece (i.e. a podcast episode or a video will require equipment and a crew).
Original research can help you discover ideas or trends that are relevant to your brand as well as your audience. It’s important to prioritise original research in your strategy as it ensures that you’re consistently creating relevant content for your target audience.