Research Ain’t Easy (But it’s Necessary)

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Let’s face it — doing research might not be as fun as creating killer headlines, writing the first draft of a genius blog post, or crafting your next irresistible offer.

But solid research is absolutely essential if you truly want to be successful as a content marketer.

When you hear the word “research” in conjunction with content marketing, you might immediately think about keywords (and optimizing your content for search engines using those keywords.)

And yes — keyword research is incredibly important. Mostly because it’s the language of your audience — even if search engines didn’t exist.

But to really dig into your research, you need to start thinking beyond just search engine optimization research. You need to think bigger.

Your audience is online right now, searching for things they want to discover more about, and looking for real-time answers to their questions. They’re also socializing online in LinkedIn groups, Google+ circles, and Twitter chats.

So, it makes sense … your best research will come from the digging around and exploring in the places where your audience is socializing and searching.

You need to find out what really makes your prospect tick. You have to figure out their frustrations, understand their desires, and find out what problems keep them up at night.

This all sounds great on paper, right? You’re nodding and smiling and saying, “Of course!”

But research is the often-ignored, frequently avoided red-headed stepchild of content marketing.

What good research does for you (and your readers)

When you do research well — when you build a solid foundation for your content marketing efforts — you can build a complete profile of your ideal client, and how that person thinks, feels, and buys.

This profile shapes everything you do online.

Solid research means your copy practically assembles itself. Your content will be easier to put together because you know your audience so well that you can speak directly to them without a lot of stress or strain.

Writer’s block will disappear, and your biggest problem will be trying to find the time and energy to crank out all the high-value blog posts and articles that you know your customers want and need.

Good research also leads directly to more click-throughs, better opt-in rates, more social media shares, better search engine rankings, and more conversions. Your content marketing metrics improve because research helps you speak directly to your ideal client — in the language they understand, and in a voice they will trust and want to buy from.

When you research thoroughly, you’ll be able to anticipate what your customers need — even before they really know they need it. Your relationships with your readers and clients will be better, because your thorough investigations (via social and search) make you look like a mind-reading genius.

And bonus points to you if you got the Ice Cube reference in the headline. ;-)

A guide to mastering the art of research

So how can you do better (and more efficient) research, even if it’s not your favorite thing?

This post is the kick-off for our series on research, which will take this typically unsexy topic and turn it around.

In this series, you’ll learn:

  • What you should be researching
  • Where to find the tools you need to make the research process faster, better, and more interesting
  • The most important thing to consider before doing any research (it’s not what you think!)

To get the full series, watch for future posts here on Copyblogger.

If you’re not already subscribed, sign up to get new posts delivered straight to your inbox.

What questions do you have about the research process?

About the Author: Beth Hayden is an author, speaker, and social media expert who specializes in Pinterest marketing. To find out how to get more traffic to your website or blog using Pinterest, grab your free copy of Beth’s e-book, The Definitive Guide to Driving Traffic with Pinterest.

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Comments

  1. Hi Beth, Nigel here from Zenologue

    A very timely post, for me at least, as I’ve been trying to take the cover off my target audience for some time to reveal the things that are really frustrating them, what they really want, and how they feel about the place they’re in right now with their photography business.

    On Sunday, I placed an innocent-looking post into one of the Facebook groups where these people hang out, simply giving them permission to vent about where they feel stuck, what they’re having trouble with etc. After just a couple of days, there were over 50 comments, all of them expressing their problems in their language, and giving my amazing insights into what makes them tick.

    Definitely looking forward to the rest of this series for ideas on how to take this further!

    Thanks

    Nigel

  2. What a great and timely blog post series!

    I’m finishing my studies at university and if there is one thing that separates a good student from an excellent one it’s research. Hands down. Some people often confuse research with “Well, I’ll look for it on Google”. Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with that approach, but there’s just so many other resources and ways to go about it… A lot of them are subscription-based though, which can be a pain if you can’t afford them. .

    Looking forward to learning more on how to use social media in your research process :)

    I’m off to do some research on Almodóvar and authenticity in All About My Mother.

    Wish me luck!

    Cheers,
    Olle

  3. I’m very happy thatyou’re going to be covering this topic.

    I have recently been wondering how to piece together the structure of my content. ie should I use a mind map to get clear on what topics there are and how to present them so that I have complete coverage, but in a very unconfusing and unmuddled way.

    I look forward to you sharing some of your insights and reading the comments of others.

    Thanks.

    Amelia

  4. I love research. I think it is very cool. One of the reasons I wanted to become a writer. I love to read and discover new things…so looking forward to the ways of doing it better with new tools. Thanks!

  5. Thanks for the reminder Beth. We need to go back to basics if things aren’t moving as fast as we should like. As you mention, we need a good foundation stone and research is one of the major foundation stones.

  6. I think research is the often avoided work. People inherently want to create great stuff that people will use (whether that be content or software or fill-in-the-blank-ware). But research often requires hearing that you are wrong, or at minimum not quite on target. Your audience is going to let you know what’s working and what’s not. Its the stuff that’s not working that sucks to hear, so we avoid even asking.

  7. This is a really great article Beth,

    But I’m not saying it, just because this article is written nicely, is easy to scan, or for any other obvious reasons.

    The main reason why I enjoyed reading this article is, because You Beth decided to write about something hidden, something NOT hot, popular or sexy at all.

    As You mentioned yourself – This is something we find not fun and not easy to do.
    So no one really likes doing it (with some exceptions, and more likely they’re just weirdos)

    Therefore I appreciate everyone who walks around all those shiny, hot and trending topics, but touch the ugly ones instead.

    I’m really looking forwards to these coming series.

  8. Research is the key to moving forward – great post. I am looking forward to the series, and keeping in mind that taking the information and knowledge gained from research ( and you are talking here about seeking out information rather than truly DOING the research) then needs to be applied to the situation that is being addressed. Knowledge transfer happens at the brain level but change happens at the heart level.

    Always great to read ideas on Copyblogger!

  9. I struggle with research because I serve a sub-niche.

    So, there’s information on people who want career advice.

    But I help people who want career advice in the entertainment industry. There’s smaller info on that market.

    Should I just use insights from researching the larger careerist market?

    • Hashim, let me tell You what I think:

      I really liked what Nigel said here.

      Sometimes even if there’s only little info available or no info at all, it definitely is somewhere.
      It is in people’s heads.

      Just because they are frustrated and finding it a struggle to achieve their next step in the entertainment industry, doesn’t mean they will shout out loud (on twitter, facebook, google+, etc).

      They might feel embarrassed or just feeling, that it’s pointless to say anything, as no one listening to their struggle anyway.
      Therefore what If You just tried to pull all of that info out of them yourself?

      I really believe they would open up to You much more, because they would feel, that someone finally cares and someone is actually listening to them, to their frustration.

      Just an innocent-looking post, can be more powerful and helpful than You think. Just like it was in Nigel’s case.

      Good Luck Hashim

  10. Nice article Beth. Several great take aways for me. I look forward to the series

  11. This is a great post, and it could not have come at a better time! There are days where I find my research interesting for particular topics, but lately it seems as though I can’t get through the research stage fast enough. This post has re-energized me to tackle research with a better attitude! I’m looking forward to the next post to this series:)

  12. Beth, I feel cheated…
    I was just settling in to your article and looking forward to learning some more research tips..:(
    This is a constant struggle for me so i’m looking forward to the next series.

  13. Great post, looking forward to the series. I love research! I even love the kind you must do using a card catalog :) What a marvelous piece of furniture in your picture! Any time you find these in person, buy them! Don’t let them go to the recycle bin, please!

  14. One thing I could never do when I was in college was sit down and actually do research. I was able to get through my studies, but only because I was able to do well in other areas.

    In the real world, research has helped me come across as an expert to clients and do my job better.

    This series couldn’t come at a better time for me either. I’m starting on a blog right now and will be looking to have as many epic posts as possible.

    I’m looking forward to the series and to learn how to research for content marketing.

    • It’s so exciting to hear someone launching something new.

      I can clearly see how full of enthusiasm You Kevin are.

      Sometimes when I feel a little bit down, tired or just struggling to find some good motivation to carry on whatever I’m doing, all I got to do is read something as simple and innocent as what You just wrote.

      I wish You luck with Your new blog.

      p.s Thank You for unconsciously “kicking my ass” to keep moving.

  15. Beth, thrilled about this series and look forward to signing up. In your opinion, does primary or secondary research hold more authority? Does it depend on the situation? And what types of content pieces should always carry end notes? Thanks, Carolyn

  16. Hi:

    When doing research, I often come across papers that cost $25-$50 to download. I e-mail the author and he/she will usually send a copy for free after they understand what I am doing.

    …Life is good

    Tom

  17. I would love to know what questions all of you have about research – I’m still digging into the series and want to make sure I answer your burning questions! Comment here to let me know what you need!

    • Hi Beth,
      I was just reading through the comments, looking for people’s responses to your question; I thought there would be something to learn from what others are asking for.
      Thanks for reposing the question so clearly.
      I have a sort of cloudy vision at the moment. It feels like I’m listening to a lot of voices stating and restating problems (real and perceived) over and over again, mulling them, examining them from all sorts of angles.
      There comes a point when I see how to make the big statement that starts with …’and if I can show you how to get to where you want to be?’
      So I pose two questions in response to yours:
      Am I on the right track or should I have a word with the nice man in the white coat?
      How do I get to the quiet corner in which I can pull up a seat and start listening to this conversation?
      Thank you for the inspiration
      Jo

  18. To be honest Beth I’d like to hear an example from Your own experience what brought You the best results.

  19. This series is exactly what I need right now. I’m shifting my target market and the process has involved identifying my ideal client and figuring out how to effectively deliver my messages. It has been a time-consuming and often frustrating effort, so I welcome your insights into how to do a better job of it..

  20. Research is so important because it allows you to establish credibility with your readership. Not only that but because you’re so full of verifiable facts you also establish yourself as an authority figure, even if the research isn’t your own.

    Well researched posts, especially those that fall into the Big Content, category have a huge potential to go “viral” as well. They are full of the high quality content that people not only love to consume but to share.

    Not everyone is willing to put in the time to research and write a large post and that is another reason why high quality Big Content has a huge upside. It sets you apart from the pack of “top 10 posts” people and says “hey, look, I really do know what I’m talking about!”

    Excellent article and a great tip!

  21. I totally agree with Casey and Big content has a lot more potential than top 10 and readers do like it. And research is what puts it apart. Great share Beth. I look forward to more upcoming posts from your blog on research. I also want to know how to do the research in order to know the exact mindset of my audience.

  22. I, too, felt a bit of a let down, but am looking forward to the series.

    In answer to you looking for questions, there are a variety of items needing research like white papers, content (website) writing, copyrighting, etc.

    How to blend your research so that it’s not a rehash, but fresh and shiny, would be something I’d be interested in reading your thoughts and strategies for accomplishing.

    (And a thanks from me to Nigel, too… so simple and obvious once it’s stated “out loud.”)

  23. I’m so excited for this series… This is exactly what I need :)

  24. Hi,

    Great post. Unfortunately I fell behind in my research for my niche. The trick to good research and good content is making time. I am a very busy lady. So research would just sit there in my book written down and not touched. And the idea for that article and blog post is lost. So I will make a concerted effort to do more research. Nigel what you did was excellent. Gathering the thoughts of readers to find out how to help them can further your research.

    Thank you for this post and the great comments.

    Stephanie

  25. Wow!!!

    Awesome piece of content and a really nice piece one can take a bit of cake from..

    Thanks so much for this informative post– one of the reason why I enjoy writing for clients is because of research. It makes my content rock!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

    Thanks again

  26. Research ain’t easy, I totally agree. But, once you’ve put in all that hard work, to those people who end up reading your post you’ll certainly make it look easy for sure.

  27. I like to research the good old fashioned way at the library. Something about getting hard literature from ancient times feels more valuable.

    Don’t get me wrong, the internet is great for ease of access and quick reference but as we all know, anyone can put up an informational website up overnight and claim to be an “expert”.

    The good thing about the library is that all the information in there is as free as it is on the internet and only requires the investment of one’s time.

    Well worth it though

  28. Here’s how I use research…

    I’m writing a play. It’s about the Civil War and I’ve read just about everything on Lincoln, his family, his problems with both political parties, editors, etc, etc.

    Yet, what I needed was something new, something that hadn’t been done before.

    Well, every time I hit what I thought was a dead end, I would get on Google or Bing or some other track and research — just keep looking till I found something that was new. Built my whole play that way. One example: the influence of the telegraph on Lincoln’s writing style.

    Hope that’s of interest…