creative ideas coming from a white board

Take time to research blog topics. You may be surprised what you dig up.

Putting out a weekly (or twice-weekly, or daily) blog can be a real grind. It’s common to hit a wall and feel like you’re out of ideas. The temptation is to grab something—anything—that springs to mind and push out the minimum word count so that you can move on to the next task in your queue. You don’t take the time to research your topic very well because you’re under pressure and feeling uninspired. Sure, it might not have been the greatest post, but it’ll do till next week, right?

Don’t mistake me: sometimes you feel passionately about a topic, and it’s great to pound out an opinion piece stating your case. Inspiration is contagious, and I’ve often found that the pieces which were easiest to write—the ones that flew from my fingers in under an hour—struck more of a chord with my audience than the ones I spent two hours slaving over.

This can give the illusion that all blogs can be miraculously written in 45 minutes. But that’s just not the case: this is you at your absolute fastest. You can’t count on being that fast every day. And yet, because of how fast you were able to write that post that one time, it’s easy to convince yourself that you should be able to pull the same thing off every time. And it’s worse if the pressure to write quickly comes from above, because then you start wondering if researching your post is actually worth your time.

Well, the answer to those doubts is an unequivocal yes. Every second you spend on blog research will pay you back in any number of ways. Here are the top benefits I gain from putting time into researching blog topics.

Higher quality content.

The time you put into blog research you usually results in longer content, which, as we’ve covered before, tends to be higher-quality than short-form posts. As you read up on your chosen topic, you find more angles to cover, evidence to strengthen your position, and good examples to illustrate your ideas.

While blog research can often save you time, pulling together a thorough, sophisticated piece of content is more of an investment. The good news is that, after researching a topic for your blog, you can usually pull some of that research into a piece of high-value, gated content. It would be a mistake to view time spent on blog research as a once-and-done deal: you would use what you learn over and over again as you continue to write.

Sharpen your skills.

Related to the above point, research isn’t just about digging up evidence to support a particular post. It’s part of your ongoing education in your professional field. It’s part of a process whereby you feed your curiosity, hone you questioning skills, and challenge yourself to fill in some of your knowledge gaps.

Blogging is like teaching, in that the more you work at it the better you are able to discuss your subject matter with others. It’s like preparing for a presentation at a conference: the work you put into it ads to your knowledge and builds your professional skills.

Find more blog post ideas.

If you’ve ever done a really deep dive into a certain topic, you know that the further you go the more you discover. When you only skim the surface, you’re in the classic “you don’t know what you don’t know” situation. You can start to feel anxious about where your next blog topic will come from, because you’ve covered most of the high-level ideas and you’re not sure where to go next. Then you start getting deeper into your subject, and suddenly you realize that there’s far more to it than you initially suspected.

Blog research is the gift that keeps on giving in that the more time you spend looking in to your subject, the more you find to talk about. In fact, as you do your blog research you should keep a spreadsheet open to track future topics. Write down possible blog titles, and paste relevant articles into a notes section. That way, when you go to write your next post, you’ll have your research already started.

Stay relevant.

Inevitably, as you research your blog topic, you will find new, relevant information that helps you stay on top of industry developments. This is particularly true in fields, such as technology or online marketing, where constant updates and innovations change the playing field every few months.

This is an area where you can benefit from researching blog topics in advance. Keep an eye out for emerging trends, and bookmark key examples as you come across them, or take screenshots and save them in a folder. Save them somewhere where they’re easy to find, you’ll be several steps ahead when you sit down to write about them.

Blog research makes your writing go faster.

It takes me, on average, two hours to write a blog post. Half that time is researching the topic and the keywords, and optimizing the post. In fact, I usually find that the less I research, the longer it takes me to write. As it turns out, blog research is the perfect cure to writer’s block. Stuck on what to say next? Go read more about your topic. We read faster than we write, so chances are high that for every thousand words you read you’ll have a few hundred more to write about.

Research feeds creativity. It provides validation for your topic, and it demonstrates your expertise, and establishes credibility with your audience. That’s why, in spite of how tempting it may be to grab an easy topic that doesn’t require much digging, it’s almost always worth your while to tackle something harder. So stop thinking of blog research as a time sink, and start viewing it as one of the most valuable and cost-effective things you could possibly do for yourself and your client.

Published 03/23/17 by Laura Lynch