Welcome to my ultimate guide on how to conduct content research.
If you keep running out of content ideas and you’re tired of spending countless hours doing content research, then you’ll hopefully love this post.
I’ll cover proven strategies for conducting content research, creating content, and some best practices that you need to consider to produce a winning content marketing campaign.
But first, let’s talk about the basics.
What is content research?
From a birdseye view, content research is about analysing content ideas, brainstorming topics, and developing a winning content strategy for your content marketing campaign.
It sounds easy, but it isn’t.
After all, you can’t just come up with topics out of thin air.
You need to learn a slew of tools, techniques, and best practices to produce successful content.
You can’t rely on hunches or gut feelings. You need a data-driven approach to discover content ideas that will help achieve your content marketing goals.
Remember, it’s not enough to create content that will bring visitors to your website. You need in-depth, authoritative content ideas that will establish your brand as a trusted information source in your industry.
You also need content ideas that will impact your bottom line by turning readers into qualified leads.
Those are the ideas that proper content research will get you.
Aside from how interesting a topic sounds, you also need to look at a number of things:
- Content relevance. How can your content help your audience reach their goals?
- Topic popularity. How much traffic can you gain by writing about a topic?
- Keyword strategy. What are the keywords you’ll weave into your content idea?
- Competition. How can you outperform existing content from competitors?
- Seasonality. When is the best time to create and publish your content?
- Content formats. What are the most sought-after content types for your topic?
Now that you have a better grasp of content research, let’s jump into the good stuff.
How to do conduct content research
There are several things you can do to find click-worthy ideas for your digital content strategy.
1. Obtain ideas through keyword research
Keyword research tools provide you with profitable keyword opportunities for content marketing.
With just a touch of creativity, you can turn long-tail keywords into potential content ideas that can magnetise readers.
For this, I recommend using a keyword research tool that also reveals crucial keyword metrics. This way, you can discover content ideas along with viable target keywords in one place.
The Keyword Magic Tool from SEMrush is perfect for this job.
To use it, start with any seed keyword relevant to your niche.
Let’s say you’re in the home security business.
Upon entering the seed keyword “home security,” SEMrush will immediately provide you with the following keyword suggestions.
Right off the bat, you can find keywords that can be fashioned into content topics.
For example, “best home security camera” can be a listicle article called “The Top 10 Best Home Security Camera Products in 2022.”
That’s not all.
Clicking on any keyword suggestion will reveal even more related keywords that can be used for content ideation.
You can also click ‘Questions’ in the filters bar to find question-based keywords. These keywords are usually good enough as content topics by themselves.
You can also use filters to include keywords that you normally find in content topics.
To do this, click ‘Include keywords,’ select ‘Any keywords,’ and enter words like “how-to,” “best,” and “tutorial.”
Click ‘Apply’ to reveal keyword ideas that contain any of the terms you’ve entered.
There you go—more content ideas.
Please take note, I only used ONE seed keyword. Change up your seed keyword a little, and you’ll have dozens of potential content ideas waiting for you!
Want to know the best part?
When using a keyword research tool like SEMrush, you can check whether people are looking for the topics that you are planning on tackling. After all, what is digital content if there’s no one around to see it?
Alongside most keyword data is information about the average search volume for each keyword.
The bigger the volume, the more organic traffic you can potentially gain. That is if you know how to do SEO right. But also, the more competitive it could be to rank for.
2. Find questions that your target readers are asking
Using a keyword research tool isn’t the only way to unearth content ideas using your target audience’s questions.
AnswerThePublic, for one, cuts to the chase and provides you with a collection of question-based content ideas—and more.
It works by sifting through autocomplete data from search engines to identify helpful content topics.
The fun thing about AnswerThePublic is that it doesn’t just present you with an ordinary list. Instead, it shows you a web of content ideas based on questions that people ask online, and a hierarchy of questions and sub-questions.
You can practically fire up AnswerThePublic and walk away with a month’s worth of content ideas.
There’s also a separate list of content ideas based around prepositions, like “for,” “with,” and “without.”
Here’s what this list looks like if you switch to the ‘Data’ viewing mode:
Again, these are just the results for one seed keyword.
We’re only two content research techniques in. But with all the ideas we’ve pulled out so far, you’ll pretty much never run out of content resources.
However, we still have a lot to unpack.
3. Comb through online communities and groups
The internet has no shortage of content writing resources.
Social media platforms and online communities, for instance, may not look helpful for content research on the surface. But with the right tactics, they can provide you with a wealth of valuable information for your content strategy.
Why don’t you go ahead and do some light Reddit reading for a few minutes? Of course, you need to browse subreddits that are relevant to your business.
Tell me, what can you find?
I’ll give you a hint: people looking for answers.
You can dissect posts like this to find content ideas you can cover.
For example, in the screenshot above, you can come up with the following content topics:
- “Best multi-camera home security system”
- “Benefits of motion alerts in a home security system”
- “Wired vs wireless home security systems: which one should you choose?”
- “Does your home security need motion alerts and night vision?”
You can also look for valuable content ideas by joining groups and communities.
This way, you can observe your target audience’s pain points in a way you’ve never seen before. That’s why entrepreneurs are likely to check out Reddit business ideas as well.
Apart from Reddit, below are a few other sites you can scour for lucrative content ideas:
4. Check out your competitors
If there’s someone in your network who’s already doing well with their content marketing efforts, it’s most likely your top competitor.
They likely wouldn’t be enjoying the level of success they have if they didn’t know how to create winning content.
The good news is there’s a way to take advantage and piggy-back on your competitor’s content marketing strategy.
Using platforms with competitive analysis features, like Raven Tools, you can effortlessly unveil their top-performing content.
From the dashboard, simply head to ‘Competitor Research’ and select ‘Domain Research Central.’
The next step is to enter your competitor’s website URL and then jump to ‘Pages.’
You should see a list of your competitor’s top content—feel free to “borrow” their content ideas.
Platforms like Raven Tools can give you backdoor access to your biggest competitors’ content strategy.
Here’s the kicker: you can click on each piece of content to have a closer look.
In doing so, you can take your own research further by analysing how your top competitors build their content, and, crucially, how to make yours better.
Remember, borrowing web content ideas from competitors isn’t effective UNLESS you can make your content better.
Pay attention to the following content aspects and plan how you’ll outshine competitors in each of them:
- Content length. How can you make your content more comprehensive?
- Headings and subheadings. Did your competitor miss anything important?
- Visual content strategy. How can you insert more visual content in your blog post?
- Keyword usage. How does your competitor weave keywords into their high-quality content? Are they using keywords that you aren’t?
- CTAs. What calls-to-action does your competitor use?
- Other elements. Does your competitor use a table of contents, video, podcast, or pop-ups?
5. Don’t forget about Google
At this point, we’ve covered a handful of in-depth content research tips to help you generate lots of content ideas.
You should have a full tank of content ideas by now. Still, there’s more to go on.
Your top competitors probably have loads of content ideation strategies up their sleeves. And unless you can match their dedication, you’ll always be a step behind.
For now, let’s go back to basics and utilise one of the most potent content research tools in any brand’s arsenal: Google.
There are a couple of ways to use Google for content research.
First, there’s the autocomplete feature that automatically provides suggested queries.
Second, you can take a look at the “People also ask” section for more specific, question-based searches.
Most of these suggestions are already useful as content titles. You need to add a few tweaks here and there to make them more aligned with your marketing objectives.
At the bottom of the search results, you’ll find the “Related searches” section.
You can handpick the searches you can use as content ideas based on the relevance of the topic.
Lastly, there are the actual search results themselves.
Remember to do a quick reconnaissance of each page.
More often than not, one can easily identify parallels between the top 10 Google Search results. Identify the common denominators in all pieces to help you get higher rankings.
In relation to the example above, you can see that the top pages are mostly listicles. And upon closer inspection, you’ll also notice that the top results use a lot of visuals—from photos to videos.
6. Look for trends and seasonal topics
One of my favourite secrets for writing: mind your timing.
There are certain times when the volume of readers looking for a specific topic increases compared to normal. You can capitalise on those trends to get a huge, short-term spike of traffic and raise brand awareness.
Google Trends is—without question—one of the most popular tools for spotting trends.
It’s also straightforward to use. Simply enter a keyword or topic, and the tool will do the rest.
At first, Google Trends will show you a chart representing the interest for the topic you entered over time.
But that’s not really what you’re after.
What you want can be found at the bottom of the page — right inside the “Related queries” panel.
What makes this list important is that it shows trending queries on Google.
The catch is, you need to cash in those ideas as soon as possible.
Trends tend to rise and fall. If you’re too slow, you may end up writing about something people are already fed up with.
Unless, of course, you’re writing about a seasonal topic.
These are topics that routinely become popular during specific times of the year.
“Black Friday” is a great example of this, rising in popularity every November.
Content research FAQs
Before I wrap up this guide, allow me to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about content research.
1. Why is content research important?
Content research not only supplies you with topic ideas. It also makes sure you create content that will help you achieve your marketing goals, like increasing web traffic or building brand authority.
2. Do you need a content marketing consultant for research?
A content marketing consultant will definitely help you through the process of building a solid content strategy. Unless you can afford to spend days conducting content research yourself, hiring a consultant is usually the more efficient route.
3. What type of content is best for SEO?
If you’re looking for content ideas to fuel your SEO strategy, you need to create posts that can attract backlinks. This includes case studies, stat lists, infographics, and long-form, in-depth content.
4. What are the best tools for competitor research?
The best tools for competitor research include comprehensive SEO platforms like Raven Tools, Mangools, and SEMrush. These tools can reveal vital information about your competitor’s strategy, like their keywords, top content, and link sources.
Put your content research on steroids
Doing content research is a time-consuming affair—especially if you don’t have a clear process to follow.
Cut the time you spend on content research in half and run successful content marketing campaigns by using the tried and tested tips above.
If you need help with content ideation, keyword research, and competitor analysis, I welcome you to reach out.