A Research Guide for
Online Content Creators
We’ve all heard the saying, “content is king”. Although content is constantly evolving, and now comes in many mediums (text, video, images etc.) we all turn to content when we head online.
Whether we’re looking to buy something, we want to be entertained, or we need some inspiration, good content will help us out!
As an online marketer, your business will start with a good content strategy. And at the core of that content comes the research.
Why Good Research Matters
Good research matters for a number of reasons. Gone are the good old days of keyword stuffing to rank on page one of Google and other search engines. It takes a little more effort nowadays to make money from a product, service or website – but it’s more than worth it.
And if you want to develop a reputation as the supreme authority in any niche or market to develop a rabid fan following, simply using a keyword over and over does not get the job done.
You absolutely must produce massive amounts of actionable and excellent information which is both easy to digest and pertinent to your market.
Think about your own experiences when searching for answers on the World Wide Web…
Isn’t it frustrating when you hit a squeeze page or click on an advertisement, follow a Facebook post or Twitter tweet, only to find yourself on a website with very little and/or poor information? Even if that particular website owner in the future became the premier expert in his or her field, you would still never go back.
The old saying that “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” is even more important online, where extremely short attention spans and demanding web surfers simply won’t put up with a poorly researched piece of content.
Research Helps You Become a True Expert
Aside from the obvious benefits that your social media followers or list members receive, intensive and extensive research helps you as well. Simply by performing more research than your competition, you are subconsciously and automatically becoming more and more confident when speaking or writing about your particular market, product or service.
Whether conveying your information through video, audio or text, your level of expertise and confidence will directly relate to how you are received by those that come across your online content.
Taking the time to properly research the content you are publishing online also gets you into the habit of doing more for your readers, followers and video viewers than the bare minimum.
You begin to confidently feel like an expert, while you are simultaneously viewed as a leading authority in your market. The law of reciprocity will reward you in the future for the hard work and diligent research you perform before releasing your content to the ‘net.
As you can see – doing proper research is a win-win situation! You become a true expert, and you help others as a result!
Now it’s time to learn more about exactly how to do that research!
How “Niching Down” Your Market Makes Research Easier
You know that research matters, for a host of reasons. But just about every market, both online and off, can have countless areas that need to be properly researched.
Make Your Research Easier
This is why you first and foremost need to understand your market. When you know exactly what your potential customers are really seeking, you can then focus in and deliver those very specific needs.
Quickly Become an Authority in Your Niche
The second benefit of narrowing your focus during the research stage of content creation is speed. Since you are spending less time researching a massive marketplace, you become an authority in a smaller niche much more rapidly, giving you more time to actually work on product development.
Exercise: Niche Down by Asking Questions
Try this… The next time that you begin market research, break down the problems and questions your community is talking about into their underlying emotions. If you happen to be in the Get Your Ex Back field, you may think that men and women that have broken up with or lost their significant other have a simple problem. You believe that they want to get their ex back.
But that belief does not have you digging deep enough. Yes, they do want to get their ex boyfriend or ex-wife back into their life. But what they are really yearning for is the amazing emotional feelings that being in a symbiotic, loving and selfless relationship provide. They long to be held lovingly. They want to feel loved and appreciated.
Getting their ex back is simply the vehicle which delivers what they are really looking for. Keep asking why, and niche down to core emotions instead of surface level desires or questions to truly understand your market.
Now that you have totally narrowed down your focus and located the most burning questions and problems plaguing your ideal customers, how do you find out what questions they are asking? Remember, where there is smoke, there is always fire.
And if you want to find those questions burning in the minds of your potential customers, go to those places online where they are asking for help in clearing the smoke out of their lives. Then your research efforts will be a piece of cake.
Finding Questions That Your Community Wants Answered
The Internet can be a very social place. And we will explore how social media can help you create excellent content later on in this guide. But Facebook and Twitter are not the only places you need to be hanging out if you want to know the burning questions your market is asking.
Forums in Your Niche
Use the power of Google to understand just what the marketplace is looking for. Type “your niche + forums” into Google to find out exactly where you need to sign up and get some free inside info to help you create relevant and timely content for your field.
For instance, if your market is sunflower gardeners, you would type “sunflower gardening forums” into Google for a list of relevant hangouts where gardeners discuss that topic. Forums are an excellent place to find those questions that your community wants answered.
As a secondary benefit, when you join a forum central to your market or niche and began answering questions and solving problems, your brand as an authority figure becomes much stronger.
And by placing a link back to your website or blog in the signature file you create when you join a forum, you develop not only powerful and industry relevant backlinks, but also free traffic.
Yahoo Answers, located at answers.yahoo.com, is also an excellent resource that you can tap for premium content creation. Imagine a central location where web surfers in your market hang out, asking those questions which bother them the most.
The questions you’ll find in Yahoo Answers are absolute gold to a marketer such as yourself!
Those individual questions can be used to form chapters for an eBook, slides in a slideshow presentation or YouTube video, and awesome blog posts.
Extra Tip! Plus, registering for a free account at Yahoo Answers allows you to answer those questions that people in your market are asking, further building your brand as a sunflower gardening expert!
Using Amazon Products for Your Research
Another outstanding way to research great topics for your content creation is to head over to Amazon. Search for the bestselling books in your niche, and then click on each one of them in turn.
Amazon allows you to view the table of contents for any book you choose. Take the chapter titles from the bestselling books about sunflower gardening, reword them, and use them to effectively create your own “bestselling” content.
Note that this does not mean copying the book in any way! Chapters should be used for general ideas. You can then dig deeper and find related subtopics simply to use as content titles and article ideas, rather than taking any information from the main text itself.
How to Find Reliable Sources for Facts & Figures
Okay, you have compiled some really great questions that you know your market needs answered. So how do you get reliable facts and figures online to solve the problems of people in your niche?
Numbers are very powerful, and they help establish you as an authority figure in your market. But you have to ensure that the statistics and data you are spouting are absolutely correct.
How Reliable is Google?
One very popular way to gather statistical information and other relevant data is to use your friend, the Big G (Google!).
Now, we’re not talking about searching for a fact and using the first answer Google gives you. No way! That is not the way to do reliable research. How do you know that source is correct?!
Instead, we’re using Google to find further sources of reliable information.
Other Useful Sources for Facts You Can Rely On
But since you always want to double and triple check your information, there are some excellent spots online where you can be ensure your research will produce reliable numbers and data.
Do you need to know US demographics? Head over to Census.gov. That is the official Census Bureau for the United States government. The website has a specific area titled Research, where tons of free and accurate geographical, personal and business data can be found.
FedStats.gov is another federal US site that offers verified government statistics on a number of subjects. You can even search by subject matter or state.
Are you in a medical market? Then you will want to head over to MedlinePlus.gov to access medical research that has been conducted and published by the United States National Library of Medicine.
Statistics.gov.uk handles official United Kingdom statistics in a wide variety of areas, and is the National Statistics headquarters of the UK. Abs.Gov.au is the Australian equivalent, where you can research facts and figures compiled by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
A very powerful tool that lets you know exactly how web surfers access information and consume it can be found at en-us.Nielsen.com. This versatile website also shows you how and why consumers buy goods and services.
Looking for a virtual library? A Questia.com membership provides access to over 1.5 million books in print on a variety of subjects.
And the self-explanatory FactCheck.org will help you research claims, facts and figures made during political campaigns, including but not limited to taxes and healthcare.
These few resources for research are the proverbial tip of the online iceberg when it comes to reliable web locations for verifiable statistics and data.
Simply type into Google “statistics about + your niche” to get a list of excellent sources for information on your market, and as you dig for data, take note of recurring keywords which you can use later.
How to Use Keyword Research for Content Ideas
Now that you know what questions to ask and where to find reliable and verifiable data, you need to make the search engines and your potential customers happy. That means filling your content with keywords, phrases and relevant themed information that is market-specific.
The Google Keyword Planner
Google has retired their old keyword tool, retooled it and renamed it Keyword Planner.
You may see a recurring theme in this online research guide concerning Google. There is a very good reason for that. Big G controls more than two thirds of the online search market place, and they have compiled many terabytes of data. Why not let them do the hard keyword researching work?
Log into your Google account on the Adwords page, and then click on Tools and Analysis > Keyword Planner. Then click on Search for keyword ideas.
(If you do not have a Google or Gmail account, setting one up is quick and easy, and gives you access to this wonderful and free keyword research tool.)
This allows you to search keywords for content ideas according to products and services, your landing page on your website or blog, and your product category or niche. Clicking the Get Ideas button and then Keyword Ideas after the results populate will give you a wealth of relevant information.
Bing Keyword Research
The Bing search engine can help you with your keyword research as well, and if you head over to the Bing Keyword Research page
and sign-up for a Bing Webmasters account, you have free access to all the keywords, phrases and themes that Bing finds relevant to your market.
Extra Tip! Bing and Google can also provide excellent insight about your website concerning SEO and traffic as a bonus.
Other FREE Keyword Tools
Some other great and free keyword research tools are:
Wordtracker – http://www.wordtracker.com/
A popular and well-known piece of online keyword research equipment, Wordtracker boasts a very easy to use interface and speedy results. It actually lets you know exactly what people are searching for on the World Wide Web. You must sign up for a free account, but it is well worth it for the sheer number of phrases and keyword suggestions you will get.
WordStream Keyword Tool –http://www.wordstream.com/keywords
This tool allows you to perform custom-made searches of a huge database with several filtering levels. You can also identify negative keywords and other niches which relate to your relevant keywords and phrases.
Ubersuggest – http://ubersuggest.org/
An excellent keyword tool, Ubersuggest is not widely known. But it actually puts Google Suggest to work alongside other online “suggest” services. But be ready for some time-intensive keyword selection, since you instantly receive literally thousands of keyword suggestions and ideas that come from actual web surfer queries.
SEO Book Keyword Tool – http://tools.seobook.com/keyword-tools/
SEO Book is an outstanding keyword research tool that is also free actually sorts by volume for all the top search engines. SEO Book Keyword Tool will break down search numbers by market share for Google, Yahoo, and Bing, so you can see which keywords relevant to your market appear across all the major search engines.
Using Current Events to Inform Your Research
Using free keyword research tools online for content ideas is a simple and intelligent tactic for developing relevant content-based products. However, sometimes you may want to piggyback on hot trends or new product releases. This is also an excellent way to get free and massive traffic, and can make online content research a snap.
Many keyword tools free and powerful, as well as easy to use – but they won’t tell you hot new trends. But did you know that Google has a free piece of software that works per your commands 24/7?
You can actually tell Google what information you want according to your desired keywords and phrases. Then the Google Alerts system will actually let you know the instant that any news or data which falls under your search parameters hits the World Wide Web.
This is not only an amazing way to put the world’s largest search engine to work for you during your content research efforts. It is also an excellent way to find out what hot trends and breaking news are hitting your market. You can be alerted to new product releases, become an affiliate for that company, send an e-mail to your list or make a blog post within minutes of the product launch.
This puts you at the head of your industry, and can also reveal some wonderful information, data and current events which will help you create news-like content that solidifies you as a market leader.
Head over to http://www.google.com/alerts, type in a search query and choose all results or filter by books, news, blogs and other formats. Set up the frequency with which you would like the results delivered, and enter your e-mail address.
It is as easy as that to put a multibillion-dollar data crunching company to work for you, doing much of your online content research.
Google Trends is located at http://www.google.com/trends, and this wonderful free tool gives you real-time access to the hottest searches and trends which are happening right now.
But you can also search niche keywords and phrases, and other topics important to your market. Cyclical information allows you to look back over time to see exactly when a specific search term or keyword is most popular.
Google Trends and Alerts are incredibly powerful and productive tools every online researcher should be using. And the last few years, social media and networking sites have absolutely exploded as a way to find out what’s hot and what’s important to your community.
Did you know that websites like Facebook and Twitter actually have built-in market researching tools you can use for free? If you are focusing on content delivery to any online social network, use the marketing tools that each particular site offers.
Facebook currently boasts more than 1 billion users. That is more than one seventh of the world’s population. And while Mark Zuckerberg and his team of engineers and developers can sometimes frustrate online marketers with their constantly changing advertising system, they do have some excellent research tools built right into the world’s largest and most popular online social network.
When a billion dollar company has 1 billion users constantly entering search data and other requests on its website, they horde that information and use it in their marketing efforts. And now you can access much of that data for free.
Option 1: Create Your Own Fan Page
A great way to use Facebook as a research tool is to build a fan page and begin asking your fans questions that get them involved. (*Tip* You can get a Facebook Fan Page built for just $5 at Fiverr.com if you are not technically gifted.)
Remember, this is a social network, not a retail store. Facebook should be about delivering content, information, videos and pictures that pluck the emotional heartstrings of your market. Build a market relevant fan page with lots of great information that you have obtained using the previous steps we talk about in this guide, and then ask your fans exactly what they are looking for.
Option 2: Follow Other Fan Pages
The information you receive on a social networking platform like Facebook is truly what people want and desire.
You should also start following other pages in your niche, even though these are your competitors. Lurk on their fan pages and see what people in your market are talking about and sharing. This is valuable and free online content research!
Option 3: Graph Search
You can complement your Facebook research even further using the new Graph Search feature.
Tip! A tutorial for Facebook’s marvelous new site searching tool can be found at https://www.facebook.com/about/graphsearch.
Can you begin to see the power of the Facebook Graph Search?
Option 4: Hashtags
Facebook has also unabashedly copycatted a Twitter tool, and has its own hashtag version. By typing #sunflower or #sunflowers into the Facebook search bar, you are delivered to every single instance where someone posted that very hashtag.
This can give you access to the Facebook users interested in your topic or market, as well as give you relevant research on just what your competition is doing on the world’s largest social networking website.
But since Facebook is not the only social media hangout online, you should also explore content research at Twitter, Pinterest and the other top sharing-based Internet social networks.
Pinterest and Twitter can both provide excellent research opportunities, so let’s take a look at these two major social media players.
As of 2013, 21% of all online adults located in the United States used Pinterest (70 million). With four times as many female as male users, Pinterest is a treasure trove of female demographic information. Predominantly users between 18 and 49 years of age, the average Pinterest pinner creates Boards which they then give a topic name or description.
They Pin pictures, videos, infographics and other information on their boards that they find useful, fun or worthy of sharing with others interested in the same markets or niches.
Just understand, using Pinterest as a research tool requires time and elbow grease. You have to do the work. But by browsing the boards and pins of other Pinterest users in your market, you can find images, recipes, products, keywords and phrases that are relevant to your field.
And when you type a word or phrase into the Pinterest search field, you have access to all the users and pins relevant to that topic.
Through January of 2014, a full 18% of all Internet users were tweeting away on Twitter. Nearly a third of all Twitter users are 18 to 29, and most of them are accessing this quick moving social network from their mobile phone.
There are multiple ways to put the power of Twitter to work for you, but easily the most powerful and easy-to-use research tool on that network is the hashtag. The precursor to the Facebook hashtag, Twitter’s version works the same way.
Then type into the Twitter search box the # symbol, followed by whatever phrase, keyword or term you want to research. In just a few seconds, you will see a list of the most recent tweets that contain that hashtag and phrase.
How can you use this as a content research tool?
Many users on Twitter link to news items, products, videos and other content when they use a hashtag. This can reveal different types of media and information that would be perfect for your eBook, blog post, list of e-mail subscribers or Facebook followers.
Researching in our example niche, #sunflowers on Twitter shows that you can narrow your search by photos, news or video, or simply browse tweets where that hashtag was used.
Now that you have learned some powerful and free online tools and tips that can help you speedily conduct research for your content creation projects, it’s time to get organized.
You might wonder why a section on organizing your research is necessary. However, once you delve deeper into creating content for your niche, you’re going to find that you come up with ideas and new research sources quicker than you can keep up with them! This is why it’s crucial to stay organized.
If you can efficiently research and organize your information, you can establish and maintain a position as an authority figure in your marketplace. And the wonderful technologies available to the online marketer today make organizing your research simple, speedy and available anywhere there is a stable Internet connection.
Many of the popular applications that marketers use to stay organized online like Evernote and Scrivener offer true mobile access from virtually any location, for your smartphone, mobile PC or tablet, or the nearest desktop computer.
Download page: https://evernote.com/evernote/
Evernote’s tag line is that the company “makes it easy to remember things big and small from your everyday life using your computer, phone, tablet and the web.” And that is really how the company works.
Free downloads are offered for both Mac and PC, and multiple mobile operating systems like Android and iOS. You can then download data, information and media into your Evernote account from any device with an Internet connection.
Imagine a virtual filing cabinet that you can access any time day or night, from any of your Web powered devices, and you can see how this wonderful free application can help you organize your research effectively.
Download page: https://workflowy.com/
Workflowy is a great piece of software for compiling to-do lists and managing your tasks. The company says it can help you “organize your brain”, and this note-taking application offers the anywhere, all-time access that is central to accessing and organizing your research no matter when or where the mood strikes you.
Download page: http://literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php
Scrivener is an effective piece of word processing software that also acts as a management system for organizing notes and documents. Support for text, PDF, audio, video and images is present, and this is a very popular content organization tool for authors.
You can conveniently drag and drop customized virtual index cards onto your cyber corkboard, and employ a split-screen mode which enables you to multitask, editing several documents at once.
Download page: http://www.instapaper.com/
Instapaper is another free application which allows you to turn web content, including blog posts, e-mails, articles and videos, into a text-based reading experience. This browser-based application requires no download, and allows you to simply save content that you see throughout your busy day for access later.
You just click a button in your browser on your PC, or choose “send to Instapaper” on your mobile computer or smartphone. A big part of the popularity here is the extremely simple and uncluttered user interface.
Typing “top tools for getting organized online” into Google or any other search engine will allow you to browse the most effective and popular research and content organizing tools, both free and paid, that the web has to offer.
The key is finding a tool that works for you. And, yes, it will take time to get used to using a tool and finding a system, but once it’s done you’ll save hours!
Researching content online reveals that there are plentiful ways to find information and media that is relevant to your niche. But one of the best ways to find out just what type of content you should be creating and delivering is to become a private investigator!
Your competitors are a treasure trove of market-relative information. So why don’t you let them do all the hard work and market research?
One great way to harness the research efforts of one of your competitors is to sign up as an e-mail subscriber on their website.
Go to your Gmail or e-mail account, and set up a separate folder with the name of the competitor that you just subscribed to. As you begin to receive auto responder e-mail messages from your fellow marketer, stick them in that folder.
Break down the e-mails when you receive them, read them several times, and think like a potential customer. When you get e-mails from a competitor that are compelling and that actually make you want to take the requested action, you can format and word your own e-mails in a similar fashion when delivering content to your marketplace.
You can also visually examine and investigate the top websites of your competition. It would be foolish to exactly replicate the theme and look of one of your competitor’s websites. And you never want to exactly copy any e-mails or other content that they are delivering.
But by watching how they use breaking news to tie into relevant market content, you can develop your own successful systems and strategies. Also, if you find that a particular website in your market or field seems to have substantial comments on blog posts, that social interaction is absolutely invaluable.
How did that website owner engage readers to get them to comment? Did they directly ask for comments and ideas? Or maybe they included a lot of videos and infographics which got their readers thinking, and feeling emotions, which then drove them to feel the need to comment.
There is no need to reinvent the wheel when you find a strategy that is successfully being used by your competitors. Simply tweak whatever they are doing for your unique style, and begin delivering online content in that way.
Social Media “Spying”
A few more simple ways to ethically “spy” on your competitors is to join their Facebook fan pages, follow their Twitter accounts and Pinterest boards and purchase their products.
And speaking of twitter, Topsy is a free tool that lets you look up your competitors’ tweets all the way back to 2006. Marketing Grade is a free tool that gives each of your competitors an overall score, based on such metrics as social media activity, SEO, and lead generation. And Monitor Backlinks is an amazing keyword tool that enables you to follow the backlinks of your competitors and even have them sent straight to your inbox.
Additionally, you can always type “how to ethically spy on your competition online” into Google for a virtually endless list of competition monitoring research tools and tactics.
As you can see, the internet provides a number of completely unique ways to research your content.
Sure, you can also use traditional methods like reading books – but these online methods will help you find out what really matters to your target audience.
Now that you know how to research the best content ideas and what your market wants, it’s time to get out there and start creating content. That is what will make you a true authority in your niche!