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Content marketing is a never-ending battle for your customers’ and prospects’ attention.

Every new piece of content is a link in a taut chain that connects your offerings to your target audience.

But what if your content ends up like one of the many articles on the net getting zero backlinks and two or fewer social shares?

Maybe it’s time to rethink your content strategy altogether. 

Perhaps it’s time to invest in the one thing that you’ve been sweeping under the rug all this time: effective content research.

Content research: the tried-and-true roadmap to creating the best content

Content research is all about analyzing online content, picking out the best-performing ideas, and crafting a unique content strategy based on those conclusions. 

If you want to go beyond mere hunches and actually churn out actionable, data-backed content that resonates well with your audience and create great content much more effectively, keep reading. 

How to efficiently conduct content research: a mini-guide for content marketers 

Here are nine original tips for effective content research (plus an insightful look at how Optimizely fits into your content marketing strategy):

  • Hit that Google search button
  • Make BuzzSumo your best friend
  • Don’t sleep on Quora
  • Capitalize on the infographics search engine
  • Strive to understand your target audience
  • Conduct (intensive) keyword research for SEO
  • Get on LinkedIn
  • Discover the magic of influencers
  • Pay attention to your competitor’s content

Okay, let’s dive in.

1. Hit that Google search button

Our very first content research tip is also the simplest one: perform a simple Google search.

Here are some ways to leverage the power of search engines:

  • Tap into autocomplete predictions: This will help you understand different high-value long-tail keywords and the intent surrounding them. Google’s autocomplete helps content marketers recognize the volume of content around specific stages of intent.
  • Don’t ignore paid search ads: If a search query brings up ads, you know there’s some business intent behind the topic or keyword you’re searching for.
  • Utilize the skyscraper’s technique: Reading through the 10 top-ranking posts for the primary keyword will help you understand how to outwit your competitors. 

2. Make BuzzSumo your best friend

If you’ve not been using BuzzSumo to inform your content research tactics, you’re missing out on some big wins.

BuzzSumo is a freemium platform that helps you discover the best content and outreach opportunities across social media.

At its core, this research tool allows you to discover new keywords, trending stories, and top-shared content. 

3. Don’t sleep on Quora

What better place to get clues on what to write than a site dedicated to answering other people’s questions?

With approximately 400,000 topics on Quora right now, you’re sure to find something that's worth crafting content. All you have to do is sign up.

4. Capitalize on the infographics search engine

In case you didn’t know, there’s a full-fledged search engine dedicated to finding infographics.

It’s known as Infographiqs. Enter a keyword or topic and find scores of infographics you can cite, review and attach to your content.

5. Strive to understand your target audience

This is arguably the most overlooked (and most important) part of content research.

Crafting effective content involves speaking to your target audience’s desires, goals, frustrations, pain points and fears.

Here are three ways to know your audience better:

Keep an eye on your competitors

This allows you to understand what your competitors are and aren’t doing well, how they’re targeting the audience you share, and what those audience members are and aren’t responding to.

Monitor audience feedback, engagements and comments

Keep track of audience feedback over time through surveys, online forms, as well as their engagements and comments on your web page, blog, social media channels, community forums, and customer support avenues.

Craft buyer personas

Think of buyer personas as semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers based on research and data. In short, they are outlines of the main customer categories that convert for your brand.

HubSpot has an incisive post on how to create detailed buyer personas.

6. Conduct (intensive) keyword research for SEO

Keyword research tells you what topics people care most about, and how relevant those topics actually are among your audience members.

By researching keywords for their intent, popularity and search volume, you can address the questions that the majority of your audience wants answers to. 

A robust keyword research tool you can utilize is Optimizely’s content marketing platform, which surfaces real-time SEO data, keyword suggestions, and social shares to uncover new content opportunities. 

Other notable keyword research tools include Moz and Google Keyword Planner.

7. Get on LinkedIn 

Linkedln is a great research resource for marketers and content writers alike.

Once you’ve signed up, use the content suggestions feature on your LinkedIn page to discover content that your member community is interested in.

8. Discover the magic of influencers

True to their name, social media influencers have the numbers on their side. 

They also know your target audience's pain points. 

The drawback? Influencers are not necessarily affordable. If your brand can make the investment, it will be well worth it. 

9. Pay attention to your competitor’s content

Alando mimicked eBay and made a killing. Xiaomi imitated Apple and made a name for itself. 

Google Home copied Amazon Echo and took the home-assistant market by storm.

Notice the trend? 

We’re not telling you to copy your competitor’s content marketing strategy in order to rank high on SERPs. 

In fact, there’s nothing that Google hates more than copy-pasted content

All we’re saying is, during your content research, consider monitoring your competitor’s content strategy. Finding out what works for others in your niche will allow you to gain insights into the type of content to which your audience responds best.

Level up your content research game with Optimizely Content Marketing Platform!

If you want to create successful content, knowing the ins and outs of content research is not enough. Being willing to put the aforementioned research tips into practice is not enough.

You must go the extra mile. Do something out of the ordinary. 

Try a different content marketing tool.

And by that, we mean…try Optimizely.

Beyond SEO and keyword research, with Optimizely’s content marketing software, you can:

  • Discover seasonal and trending keywords.
  • Manage and optimize the entire content creation process, from research to publishing, in a single workspace.
  • Drive collaboration across the entire campaign and content creation lifecycle.
  • Coordinate content across marketing thanks to a built-in template as well as plug-and-play integrations.
  • Deliver exceptional content experiences.