Did you ever feel that researching a topic to write about in a blog post made you less productive? Worse: Did research steal your writing creativity and joy, and then get away with it? Trust me: I know the feeling, but I’m here to teach you how to research a blog post like the pros do.
And once you master the craft, practice makes perfect. You might even customize some steps for your niche, company, client, or project. So, one day, you’ll realize that you do it so well that you can teach others how to research a blog post.
Let’s start with the why — why you need high-quality research. You’ll learn the techniques you should follow to become a content writer who’s also a research rockstar. Additionally, you’ll discover how to select and cite credible sources for research (with examples).
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Why Is Research Important?
Maybe, so far, you survived doing ad hoc research, or you only felt the research pain a couple of times. Lucky you, let me tell you!
Probably, you accidentally stumbled on high-quality sources because they’re all ranking high on the search engine you use. Or, you selected good ones by chance! However, you don’t want to risk losing your credibility as a content writer, do you?
You must put some system in place to find and select the best sources every single time. As a result, you’ll improve your writing workflow — and writing outcome.
These are the reasons why you need to learn how to research a blog post:
- Backed-up facts mean more than stated facts.
- Populating your articles with splashes of statistics, cases, stories and examples helps support your arguments.
- Confirmation that you’re accurate and up-to-date with the knowledge you’re putting into words has great value.
- Understanding what’s already out there contributes to creating a unique and original article.
But there are more reasons to learn how to research a blog post — SEO reasons.
Because of Google, Research Matters for SEO
One of the factors that influence your credibility as a content writer is the quality of your sources, right? We talked about this earlier, but we barely scraped the surface of source quality. So, let’s do that now.
It’s super important — business-wise — that your prospects, clients and partners recognize you as a credible content writer. It’s also important that your credibility becomes visible to your peers. They might recommend your services or invite you to collabs, which is great for promotion (if they’re credible). On top of that, conference organizers, training school owners and college professors might invite you to be a speaker.
These are all strong arguments in favor of using credible sources for research when writing blog posts. Nevertheless, other people acknowledging your credibility doesn’t make a case for researching a blog post.
You need high-quality sources to build the E-A-T of your clients’ brands, or your own. “E-A-what?” Expertise, authority and trustworthiness — E-A-T. Your content must show evidence of these three features to rank well on Google.
“Oh, come on…many pages rank high on Google and don’t sit on, let’s say, the best quality sources!” You’re right but not entirely — you’re only half right.
Your content must evidence E-A-T to rank high on Google. But, you’re not necessarily an expert, online authority, and trustworthy because your content ranks high on Google.
It depends on the actual quality of your content, research, and sources, especially if you’re writing for a “your money or your life” (YMYL) niche. E-A-T matters for credibility in SEO, but it matters the most in YMYL niches.
Google classifies some websites as YMYL websites. This classification means that if the quality of the content on the website isn’t accurate, it might compromise users’ health, finances or safety. Therefore, the content on YMYL websites must be correct, and not just interesting and appealing. Google wants to show its users high-quality search results with correct information in them. Period.
Your content must be educated and backed up by facts. If you publish opinions or myths as facts, you’ll risk your search engine credibility. Guess what can help you in that mission? That’s right, my dear content writer: the finest research! You must develop top-notch research skills so that your content demonstrates E-A-T.
So, where do you begin? What comes next might help you start your research engine.
The Pro’s Formula for How to Research a Blog Post
Here are some steps that you should take in the process of researching to write a blog post.
Investigate the Search Intent for Your Keyword
The audience that finds your content organically searches for information for some reason. And that reason is the search intent. Your goal is that your content fits within your audience’s search intent.
Think of the search intent as a series of questions you should answer with your content. Search for the keyword yourself. And don’t forget to adjust your browser’s location and language settings to equal those of your audience.
Look at the “People also ask” and “Related searches” sections from the search results, along with the search bar’s autocomplete predictions. All of them provide good hints on the search intent for your keyword.
As your research progresses — and as you screen the information you find — you can go beyond the search intent. This means searching for information with different keyword combinations that stand out from the sources you collected.
Rely on Content From Credible Sources
I’ll give you more details on this below. But for now, I want you to have credible sources top of mind. And by credible sources, I mean the most well-known and reputable news websites, online magazines, blogs, podcasts, and corporate websites or websites where gurus — or subject matter experts — publish. Government and official association websites are also credible sources for research.
Prefer New Content
Recent content should be more up-to-date than older content, even if the source of the old content is credible. The pace at which the world spins is high enough that content can become outdated in a blink of an eye. Even the content that’s almost Jurassic-old should evolve with fresher examples or new use cases.
Choose Source Content That’s Ranking High in Google
If Google listed that content high, it should mean that the content revealed E-A-T and is accurate. However, and just in case, you should make sure that it’s from a credible source and is up-to-date.
Oh! And be careful with black-hat SEO — you don’t want to refer to content ranking high for less legitimate factors.
The Inside Matters, So Pay Attention
The content itself — and not just its source, date and rank — should be high quality.
Does it reflect the most recognized style guides and content writing guidelines? It’s likely that if it does, the underlying research process was also appropriate.
Does the content sound like too much of an opinion? An article that sounds too much like an opinion might mean that the author didn’t care much about sources. The exception is content written by gurus, as they are sources in their own rights.
Turn to Experts Whom You Trust
They’re credible sources for research. You can always reach out to them by email and ask them to give you:
- An expert quote. Tell them that you’re writing a piece, and you could use their comments on the topic. Don’t forget to mention that you’ll give them author attribution.
- An interview. They’ll give you unique information about the topic you’re writing about. Later, you can either turn it into a blog post or include parts of the interview as quotes (with attribution). Apart from conferencing applications, you can use email to get an interview with an expert. Just send them a set of questions and ask them to send you the answers by email as well.
If SEO is your niche, our handpicked list of SEO experts and blogs is available to you here.
Next, you’ll find the promised details on how to select trusted sources of information for your blog posts.
How to Know If I Can Trust a Source
To investigate the trustworthiness of a source, you should:
- Check the author. Search their name and get to their resume. Do they have a career that evidences good achievements in the topic you’re writing about? Where did they publish or speak? Did they author a book with a good number of editions? Do they have a blog that’s widely referenced, or a podcast with broad attention? Check their social media profiles, too. Do they have community recognition? For instance, they might be a LinkedIn Top Voice.
- Check the author’s website. Whether the author is a company or a guru, read the “About” page carefully. In the case of gurus, do they have a team working with them? If they do, that’s a good indicator for their E-A-T.
- Check their sources. Read some of their published content. Does that content meet the standards of credibility that we talked about above? If they don’t, you should second guess their E-A-T. And probably, the best thing to do is not to rely on them as a source.
To help you speed up the research process for your blog posts, you can recurrently use a set of sources. Check it out below.
Credible Sources for Research
Whether it’s mental or written down, build a list with trusted sources that you can use repeatedly. I can’t help it, so I’m going to give you a hand. Here’s my list:
- IBISWorld. It’s an online center full of industry trends, statistics and reports by sector and country. They cover many sectors and countries. IBISWorld provides data, expert analysis and insights. It also has a blog — the Industry Insider Blog — in which you can search articles by sector, country and article category (including webinars).
- Statista. This source has statistics and infographics available to you in a high number of industries and topics.
- Gartner. If there’s content you can trust, it’s Gartner’s. They have an amazing collection of research reports, ebooks, blog posts, webinars and insights into business and technology trends. You can search them by sector, industry or topic. These are other types of resources with Gartner’s quality stamp:
- IDC. It’s a global provider of data in the shape of ebooks, white papers, podcasts and more. Plus, IDC has its own blog with trends and advice from its worldwide analysts. Its focus is the technology sector and some industries in which technology has the most impact.
- Deloitte. This Big Four consulting firm publishes articles, podcasts and reports (with interviews, videos, numbers and figures). Its resources include the Deloitte Insights Magazine, which contains articles — organized by sector or topic — with research-based insights, numbers and figures.
- KPMG. This is another Big Four that publishes insights. You can search them by industry or country.
- Accenture. This renowned consulting firm publishes reports, executive summaries, SlideShare presentations, and infographics on business and technology topics. You’ll find numbers, figures and videos spread across these resources. They also have different podcasts and varied blogs that you can browse by industry or topic.
- McKinsey Global Institute. They publish reports (with videos, numbers and figures), discussion papers, articles, videos, podcasts and executive briefings with key facts and insights. You can filter these resources by topic or region.
Besides this list of credible sources for research, save another list to go to repeatedly when writing your blog posts. It should contain online magazines, blogs, podcasts and websites that you find when researching. Make sure that they all pass your content quality test.
Also, when you find statistics in your searches, be sure to understand the numbers you’re using. If you’re not confident that they support your claims, don’t use them.
Now that you know how to research a blog post, you should learn to cite your sources properly. Find out next all about the process.
How to Cite Sources
I recommend that you use the Harvard citation style. However, regardless of the citation style you choose, you should learn to cite sources in two ways.
- At the bottom of your blog post. That’s where you include a list with references to all the sources you used to write the article. Each reference indicates the author, publication date, title and more elements that identify the respective source.
- Within your blog post’s body text. These are in-text citations that follow a quote or paraphrase of a source. They’re an abbreviation of the references listed at the bottom of the article.
You can find a comprehensive guide to the Harvard citation style (with examples) here. But you don’t have to write your citations by hand — you can rely on dedicated software to do it. For instance, you can use Mendeley or EndNote, the most widely used reference management solutions.
Whatever tool you choose, you should follow the two golden rules of citations.
- Cite the original sources. Other authors who used the same source might simplify it too much to educate an audience. Don’t get me wrong: Simplifying to educate is good. But sometimes, the author goes beyond the limits of accuracy and clarity. And you don’t want that for your audience.
- Don’t trust others’ interpretation of the facts. Always trust the source and your own interpretation! And remember, if you don’t understand the source or second guess its quality, don’t use it.
Research Is for Everyone (and Some Final Advice)
Researching is time-consuming and not that fun. It’s hard work and tests your patience. Luckily, some blog posts demand more research than others. For instance, if you’re a guru, you already researched, studied and practiced the subject matter.
Although it isn’t appealing, do you know the most important motive for learning how to research a blog post? Your audience’s trust in your work! Therefore, if you want your audience to follow your advice, you must use credible sources for research.
The good news is that research is for everyone, and every content writer can become a great researcher. As with science, research is methodical and systematic. For some of us, that comes naturally, but it’s possible to learn the techniques for most people. Even if you’re not organized, you can teach yourself to become methodical. And if you’re curious, that should be easier.
Don’t risk your credibility by not researching and citing your sources adequately, especially if you’re new to content writing. If you make a research mistake, own it as soon as you find out. Edit the content, and say so in the article. Don’t delude yourself into thinking that your readers won’t notice and will forgive you, even if you’re their favorite writer! They’ll notice, and things will get worse.
Also, don’t fall into the temptation of researching for more than a few hours per article. Start writing as quickly as you gather enough information. You can always resume research if you feel like you need to. Then, research will be easier and quicker, as writing helps you make sense of the topic and what’s missing.
This article is a great starting point to learn how to research a blog post and build your own method. But, the more you research for your articles, the better you’ll get at evaluating the quality of your sources.