With the rise of content marketing, the ability to quickly and accurately research new topics is at a premium. As an academic-turned-writer, sometimes I feel like it’s my superpower.
So today’s post has two parts. First, I’ll share why I think good fact-checking should be a priority for content writers. Then, I’ll lay out 3 of my best tips and tricks for producing awesome, accurate research as quickly as possible.
The Importance of Good Research
Part 1: Market Share
There is no silver bullet when it comes to creating great content. On the other hand, a blog post full of glaring misinformation usually won’t win repeat customers.
Part of the inspiration for this article was a poster that recently popped up on my Facebook feed. Check out the last line. I’ve circled it in yellow for easy reading.
Currently, 33% of millennials rely mostly on blogs before they make a purchase. This is great news for writers, content marketers, and the businesses they work with.
However, Laura’s poster illustrates a growing mistrust of online content. If we’re not careful, bloggers could lose their unique influence in the global market. Accurate, well-researched content will go a long way to counteract these types of negative stereotypes.
Part 2: Helping People
I was recently hired to write a post about the benefits of using a mortgage broker. I’m not a financial expert, so I started doing some research.
The first article I read contained this helpful stat: According to an Angus Reid survey, almost 27 per cent of households automatically renew their mortgages when the term is up.
“Great!” I thought. “I’ll find the original survey and link to it.”
Here are my search results:
I had to shorten the image, but I ended up finding 12 different posts that not only used the same statistic, but quoted the exact same sentence.
The biggest problem? Not one of the articles linked back to the original survey. In fact, no matter how long I searched, I couldn’t find the original data anywhere.
Now, we could assume that since the statistic was quoted so many times, it must be right. But without being able to check the original survey results, I had no way of knowing whether it was really was the correct information, or whether another blogger had included it incorrectly and then every other post had just copied down the wrong information.
So why does this matter?
As content writers, we are offering advice to our readers. In this case, financial advice about a mortgage—probably the single biggest investment an individual will make in their lifetime.
We have a responsibility to make sure the information we are using is as accurate as possible. Otherwise, we could cause harm to the people we are trying to help.
That’s where good research comes in. If we can’t source the original data, how can we know that we are giving people the right advice? Simply put, we can’t. It’s our responsibility as writers to do our homework and make sure the information we are providing is correct.
How To Do Awesome Blog Post Research
OK. So hopefully we all agree that research is important. However, I get it, we’re all extremely busy people (and we’re probably getting paid by the word) so it’s important that the research doesn’t take too long.
Here are my top 3 tips for generating fast, accurate information.
- Use a date range.
Whenever you use Google to look something up, type in your search query and then try clicking on Search Tools. You can then use the dropdown to select the time period that you want to filter results by. I like doing this because then you are only served the most recent, up to date research, and with any luck, you might even find a resource that summarizes all the previous research in one handy article.
Why does this work? Chances are, somebody has already synthesized all of the older posts into one up-to-date overview.
In academia, that’s called a “review”. In the blogging world, overview posts are a decent option for those days when deadlines meet writer’s block.
- Get trendy.
Using the date in your search can also give you clues about the best context and framing for your topic.
For example, the “always be helping” (ABH) concept is pretty old news. However, in 2016 Forbes ran an article linking it specifically to millennials.
Incorporating the date into your searches is also a great way to make sure your article reflects the most relevant and current discussions around a topic. For example, you might find that new research has disproved an old theory or that an issue has suddenly become controversial.
- Cite the original data.
Let’s say you are writing a post about nutrition. As Laura pointed out in her poster, there is tons of misinformation out there. The best way to convince your readers that you know what you are talking about is to provide a link to the original research.
The easiest way to find “real” data is to use Google Scholar, a search engine that specifically returns peer-reviewed articles from universities and other academic institutions.
Use the options on the left hand side of the screen to filter your results for the most recent dates.
Of course, your readers may not want to wade through a technical document. That’s why I usually provide a link to the data along with my own explanation.
Here’s an example:
“If you’ve never sent out thank you emails—it’s not too late! The data shows that the word ‘thank’ achieves an email opening rate of 52.7% above average.”
The reader can follow up with the original data if they want to, but the blog post hasn’t been bogged down by technical details.
Go Forth and Research!
Bloggers and content marketers have never been more influential, and with this power comes great responsibility. Not only do we need to protect the integrity and reputation of online content, but we owe it to our readers to provide accurate information and sound advice.
Using the date, watching out for context, and incorporating Google Scholar are three quick ways improve the quality of blog research. I hope you find them useful!
Agree? Disagree? Have any other tips? Please share in the comments below.