When it comes to content marketing strategy, it can be tempting to just publish content on trending topics or keywords in your industry.
For example, if you’re running a software business, doing some pieces on AI is bound to generate at least some traffic for your website.
But if you look at the content marketing results of highly-successful brands in any given industry, peeling away the layers will reveal a well-thought-out, well-researched content marketing plan.
Content marketing research can be a powerful tool for content marketers looking to build brand awareness, increase leads and convert customers.
In this article, we’ll unlock the power of content marketing research, explore its benefits, and discover actionable research steps that you can implement today.
What you will learn
- The definition of content marketing research: what it is, and the key objectives to consider when implementing research for your online content
- Why content marketing research is important and possible short- and long-term goals you can set for your content marketing strategy
- Three crucial benefits to prioritizing content marketing research that can make or break your content strategy.
- 5 simple, but powerful steps to start your content marketing research today and see a boost in your content results.
What is content marketing research?
Content marketing research is research that is done before (or during) the implementation of a content marketing strategy.
It’s about gathering the information and data necessary to create valuable content your target audience will love.
Content marketing research involves finding relevant topics and keywords as well as analyzing competitors in order to understand what content your business needs to produce to stand out in the industry.
More importantly, it involves in-depth research into the mind of your ideal customer.
Great content research will give you insight into what your target reader likes, dislikes, wants and needs - and how to tie this information into content that will convert your reader into a lead, and eventually a customer.
The goal of content marketing research is to uncover content strategies that align with these three criteria:
- The content is aligned with your business goals,
- The content aligns with your target reader’s goals, and
- The content strengthens your business’ brand voice and authority.
Research-based content marketing can give your business an edge in the digital economy by generating organic traffic to your website, increasing conversions, and building trust with your readers.
Why research is important for content marketing
Research is an essential part of content marketing, as it helps you understand your target audience, create more effective content strategies, and stand out from the competition.
Before you dive into any one content marketing strategy (because there are many to choose from, and it can get overwhelming), it’s important to first lay your foundation.
Content marketing research allows you to have a solid understanding of your industry, and the needs of your target audience. Research should be a priority for business owners and content marketers who want to market their service/product through online content.
An important reason for content marketing research is to define and achieve your content marketing goals. Here are some examples of goals you can have with content marketing:
- Create a solid content marketing plan that positions your company as an authority in your field. A great example of this is Shopify’s Ecommerce Blog - an up-to-date resource for research, business ideas and how-to guides in ecommerce. Shopify is one of the top ecommerce platforms, and no doubt one of the reasons they stand tall is how they’ve positioned themselves as an authority in ecommerce and internet-related business.
- Identify emerging trends in your field, and use content marketing to position your brand in the ever-changing landscape
- Create content that is evergreen and optimized for search engine algorithms and can reach potential customers from all over the world.
These are just examples of the goals you can have for content marketing, and is in no way an exhaustive list. You can have more than one goal, and a good content strategy will certainly help you to achieve multiple objectives.
It all begins with good research.
Benefits of content marketing research
When you conduct content marketing research before content creation, you give your business a good foundation to build a targeted, and effective plan that boosts your business goals. Here are three benefits for content marketing research.
1. Research can guide your content strategy
Good content marketing research is key to developing and guiding a good content marketing strategy.
With good research, we can understand who our target customer is, where they are (i.e what platforms/media is best for reaching them), and how to get their attention, interest, and engagement.
Getting this essential data is the difference between diving headfirst without any preparation for your content resulting in minimal (or negative) ROI, and having an optimized, tailor-made content strategy that will have your target reader thinking it was made just for them.
Content marketing research can guide your content plan by helping you to identify topics and keywords that your target audience is interested in.
A great example of research guiding content creation is Canva’s Design School. Canva is an online graphic design platform and tool.
By identifying the ideal customer for their product, they were able to make a series of design lessons that are both helpful to the consumer and points to Canva as an ideal design solution.
Content marketing research is also great for getting executive support before you can decide on a marketing budget. Solid, data-backed content marketing strategies can get executive members on board with your content marketing efforts.
2. Research can help you understand audience preferences
Successful and effective content marketing is reader-focused, and customer-first. If your content can’t address a problem, need, or desire that your reader might have, it likely won’t be read at all.
Content marketing research helps content marketers and business owners better understand their customers’ needs, and create content that resonates with them at every stage of the customer journey.
Every piece of content that your business puts out should fulfill one of two objectives, and ideally both:
- They should help the reader to solve a problem or give them helpful information related to our industry (building brand expertise and authority)
- They should direct your readers' attention and interest to your product/service as a solution to a problem
Colgate’s Oral Care Center demonstrates a good understanding of its audience. This page links to a wealth of resources and posts, organized into oral health-related topics that people may search for online, such as healthy habits, common dental problems, and conditions.
A good way to conduct research to understand your audience is to conduct surveys, interviews, or focus groups (direct research methods). That way, you have the opportunity to learn directly about their preferences, needs, and pain points.
3. Research can help you lay the foundation for building long-term brand authority
Truly successful content marketing is a long-term strategy that can take months, or years, to bear fruit.
When you focus on the long-term, you set your business up to become an industry thought leader, and can build trust with your readers.
If your content marketing is consistent and has a well-researched plan, it can pay off years after you launch.
And when you do in-depth research before you implement your content marketing plan, you can avoid having to start all over again because of poor results.
By understanding the benefits, trends, and strategies of content marketing, you can unlock your business's full potential and create content that leads to long-term results.
How to conduct content marketing research
Conducting content marketing research is a crucial step in creating content that resonates with your target audience.
To help get you started on your content marketing journey, here are some research steps to help you get the best results:
- Identify and understand your target audience
- Find relevant topics and keywords
- Analyze your competitors
- Monitor trends
- Measure your content marketing performance regularly and adjust
All of these steps work together to provide you with the insight and data points needed to create content that expresses your brand and drives results.
Let’s examine the practical benefits and application of each step below:
1. Identify and understand your target audience
Identifying your target audience is the first step in content marketing research. It involves understanding who your target audience is, what their needs and preferences are, and how you can best reach them.
In a recent survey of marketers and business owners, “researching [your] audience” was cited as the number one factor in content marketing success (source).
It pays to take your time on this crucial first step.
Doing some research on your industry can help you get a profile of who your ideal customer may be. There are three main methods for drawing up a detailed and helpful audience profile:
- Brainstorming from your product: Who does it help? Who are your target customers for your product?
- Surveying your current (and potential) customers to get a more realistic and grounded view (an example of primary research)
- Getting vital information from your sales and support teams about typical customer behavior and preferences
These last two points are especially important to get a whole-picture view of your content marketing target audience, so we’ll dive into these methods below.
Ask your customers
Asking your customers directly is one of the best ways to get feedback and insight into their needs and preferences.
It’s important to have conversations with both current and potential customers, as this will give you an idea of what they’re looking for and how you can best serve them.
When taking feedback, try to keep the customer journey in mind so that you can optimize your content for each step in the journey. Here are a few ways to get honest customer feedback:
- Surveys sent through email or social media,
- Interviews with individual customers, for more personal insight,
- Small businesses can take advantage of networking events to interact with potential customers,
- Finding and querying online interest groups (forums and communities) through social media,
- Customer reviews (if you have any) can be brutally honest but is vital for finding potential needs to be filled with your content
Talk to sales and support
Talking to sales and support can help you understand your customers from the perspective of team members that interact with them directly on a daily basis.
The sales and support team also have a vested interest in the growth of your business and can provide valuable feedback on your content and offer suggestions on how to improve it.
2. Research topics and keywords
Researching topics and keywords involves understanding what your target audience is looking for online, as well as what content is already out there.
To get the best results, you’ll want to look into popular searches, targeted keywords, and long-tail keywords.
You’ll also want to analyze the strength of the keywords and make sure you know what people are actually wanting to know when they use keywords (otherwise known as search intent).
Researching good keywords can take time and energy. With Surfer's keyword research tool, you can quickly establish topical authority with loads of keywords and topics that can help you form a content plan that will boost organic traffic and establish your brand voice and expertise. Learn more here.
3. Analyze your competitors
Comparing your content marketing to your industry competitors is an important part of the research process.
Doing so will give you an idea of what they’re doing that works, and will inform your own content strategy.
By looking at data such as website traffic, keyword rankings, and customer engagement, you can get a better understanding of their content marketing strategy.
You’ll also want to look into their products, sales, and marketing strategies, check out their online presence, and read customer reviews to pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses.
From this data, you can identify areas where your business can innovate or improve in order to stand out.
4. Monitor trends
It’s also important to monitor trends, both in your industry and in the world at large. This will help you to stay on top of the latest news and assess demand generation while providing timely, relevant content for your audience.
Understanding the key trends in your industry can give you a competitive edge and help you stay ahead of the curve.
Orbit Media, a web design and development agency, was one of the first to conduct and share original research on how the COVID-19 pandemic affected agencies during the lockdown.
If you can keep your business, and content, up-to-date in an ever-changing digital and social landscape, your content marketing will dominate the competition.
5. Measure your performance and adjust
Measuring your content performance is an important step in understanding the success of your content marketing.
After implementing a content strategy consistently over a period of time you should conduct data analysis on your campaigns.
Keep track of metrics such as website visits, page views, and conversion rates.
This data will help you understand what content is working for you and what you need to adjust in order to reach your goals.
It's important to know your content's return on investment (ROI) to make sure that your content is providing value to both your customers and your business.
Additionally, you can pay attention to customer feedback. This can help you to understand what content you should do more of, and what can be left behind.
- Content marketing research helps businesses understand their target audience, create a successful content marketing operation, and optimize content for search engines.
- Research is important for laying a strong foundation for your content marketing and helps you to achieve your content goals
- The main benefits of content marketing research are: having a clear guide to your content strategy, understanding your audience deeply, and laying the foundation for long-term success.
- Effective research strategies include: identifying and understanding your target audience, collecting relevant topics and keywords, analyzing your competitors, monitoring industry trends, and measuring your content marketing performance.
Content marketing research is a crucial part of any successful and effective content marketing program.
Great research leads to great content which can build brand awareness, generate leads and convert customers.
By taking time on the research step, we can maximize our ROI on both time and money when it comes to our content marketing efforts.
In this guide, we covered the benefits as well as the best practices for content marketing research.
How can these content marketing research tools help you to maximize engagement and traffic to your online business? Try them out today and see a boost in your content marketing results!