Steps to take when you do blog post research.
Researching blog post topics is a process. And that’s a good thing: creating and refining a good process will help you be more efficient in your content marketing, and it will help maintain a certain level of quality in the blogs you publish. Plus, there’s nothing more reassuring and confidence-boosting than being able to break down and justify every step of your work. Clients want to know how you’re going to deliver on your content promises, and being able to describe it in detail helps reassure them that you know what you’re doing.
If you’re trying to come up with a good process for when you research blog topics, or if you’re trying to understand how someone else might research blog topics, these steps should give you an idea for how the process works.
1. Settle on a topic.
OK, this isn’t actually research, but it is often a side-effect of research: the more you know, the more you know to blog about. As you research other blogs, you will almost invariably stumble across more things you could be writing about. Maybe an article inspired an idea, or you spotted a topic with a lot of content written around it, or you notice a question that people keep asking about and you think you have a really good solution.
The best thing you can do to help you in this stage is to keep good notes, or at least to have a system in place where you can toss your ideas as you come across them. It doesn’t need to be very complicated. For instance, I use a simple spread sheet where I keep notes on possible blog titles, bullet points on what the content structure might be like, and links to relevant articles. Once I have this system in place, I can quickly reference it whenever I’m looking for a new blog post idea, and usually these notes mean my research is already half started.
That said, my first idea for a blog topic is usually rather general. For example, a few weeks ago, while writing about creating relevant content for your blog, I had the idea of putting together a post on some of the top benefits that come from taking time to research your blog posts. My basic idea was: Don’t take short-cuts, blog research pays off in the long run. But as I started doing keyword research, I noticed that a lot of people didn’t know how to research blog topics. Thus, today’s blog topic idea.
2. Research your keywords.
Keywords are the search words or phrases you hope to target with your post. In theory, by designing your content around specific words or phrases, you will increase your rankings in Google, drawing more organic traffic to your website. Keyword research is a huge topic which we’ll be diving into very soon. But the main purpose of it is to know what people are searching for when they want to know more about your topic. To break it down, here are some of the main things keyword research can help you avoid.
Your business might have developed some pretty specific phrases to discuss certain aspects of your business. These may be important and meaningful to you and your colleagues, but many of your readers will have no idea what you’re talking about if you employ them on your site. This leaves you with two options: You can either take time to unpack these phases in your blog, or you can learn to avoid them in public-facing communications. Keyword research will help you find phrases people actually use, and thereby cut down on the jargon in your blog posts.
Maybe you’ve got a topic you think is really great. But then you plug it into your keyword research tool, and realize it doesn’t receive a lot of search traffic per month. You may not have to abandon your topic entirely, but you may need to think of a new angle. Or maybe you decide there’s some other sort of value to the post and are willing to go forward with it in spite of its low search traffic. (For instance, it could be a frequently asked question, and you want it to be able to send to customers when they email you.) Either way, this will help you understand what the search traffic value is, and whether your idea is worth pursuing.
Maybe you’ve got a great topic, but you’re not sure how to talk about it. You can’t decide between writing about “blog topics” or “blog posts,” for instance, or if you should use “research” or “analysis.” You could debate the topic endlessly with yourself or others, or you could pop it into a keyword research tool and know. Honestly, there’s nothing like data.
3. Review SERPs.
At this stage, you should open an incognito window or some other form of invisible browsing and put yourself in the shoes of someone trying to learn about your topic. You want to do this incognito so that you don’t get interference from your search engine history, and so that you don’t have advertisements from your blog topic popping up everywhere you go. In any case: search for your keywords, and see what you learn from what comes up.
Not everyone will have the greatest advice. In fact, half the time someone’s bad advice is the launching point for a new blog post idea (see step 1). Often times I see some good advice that I hadn’t thought of myself, or might have forgotten to include. It’s also useful to help gauge the knowledge level people are after. For instance, if someone has typed in a phrase that includes the term “SEO,” do I need to explain what SEO means or can I take that for granted? If you notice a lot of people begin their blog posts by defining SEO, that may be a clue that you should do the same as well. (Or it might be a clue that you should write an entire blog post about what SEO means!)
Sidenote: this is why I have 50+ browser tabs open at almost any given time.
What data backs up your post? Maybe you came across a PEW report, or a relevant article from a major publication. Maybe you’ve found images, infographics, or screengrabs to share, or a relevant YouTube video to embed. Any piece of content that will help corroborate your post is worthwhile, and you should find a way to add it in.
This is one of the more time-consuming aspects of writing a blog, but it’s well worth the effort you put into it. It’s also worth mentioning that not every post will require examples. But keep an eye out for anything you can add to help enrich your post, and save it in your notes as you go. It will make the process go a lot smoother.
How long does it take to research blog topics?
I usually spend about half my time on any given blog on research. It would be more, only my topics often contain a significant amount of overlap, so knowledge gained from previous posts overlaps with my current topic. However, no matter how much time you spend when you research blog topics, you can rest assured that it will pay off in higher-quality content and better search engine rankings. Creating a process for writing blogs often takes time and experimentation, but these steps should get you most of the way there. Happy blogging!