You’ve probably heard a spiel or two about the importance of content marketing.
You know you need it.
But like most other business owners, you equate “content marketing” with any old blog or social media post that can fill up your website or company social media profile.
Well, I’m here to break it to you: What you’ve got in the works probably won’t cut it.
Far too much online content sounds like nothing more than that: “content.”
To stand out in a sea of information, and bring real value to your audience, you’ll need to level up your content’s substance and practicality. That’s why industry-relevant research is essential.
What people hate about today’s blogs
During my time as a quality assurance writer, I upgraded many-a-blog that clients returned for subpar quality. The most common complaints centered on regurgitated content. The writing sounded recycled and in some cases, the author had no clue what they were talking about.
I don’t blame those clients for requesting revisions (and often, full rewrites). Poor quality content wastes the client’s money, hurts results, and fails to accurately represent the brand.
Most people use the internet to research major life decisions. Your readers’ need for information is personal and important—so take your content as seriously as they do.
TLDR: Don’t churn out a phoned-in blog post every week!
When you craft your content carefully, your readers will take just as much care and time to consume it. This is why expert-led, industry-relevant research is key.
3 key benefits of research-based content marketing
Too many web professionals believe that people don’t like to read anymore. To them, this drives the demand for “skimmable” copy.
It’s not that people don’t want to read in-depth writing—they’re simply more selective. They’ll make time to read if it’s worth it.
There is so much online noise competing for people’s attention. People want actionable content. They want to know it will enrich their lives.
Research-based content establishes yourself or your company as a thought leader. It also attracts potential customers, builds trust, and strengthens customer relationships. Read on to learn how.
1. Interpreting research helps establish authority
Dr. Merten Reglitz, a Global Ethics Lecturer at the University of Birmingham told Science Daily that access to information is nowheavily dependent on internet access. Content marketing can rise to this occasion, perhaps better than any other digital marketing technique… if done properly.
For example, let’s imagine that you sell houseplants online.
Naturally, your readers will look to learn how to care for their gardens. All your competitors are publishing lifeless, recycled information. But you go directly to the source: The scientists and their research.
You instruct readers on the best care standards. Further, your guidance is informed by science-backed information, directly from the experts. Your ability and willingness to research on your readers’ behalf, as well as “translate” scientific research into plain, actionable language, signals loud and clear that you are much more trustworthy than most other businesses in your industry. But that’s not all.
The power of “translating” scientific research into readable blogs
This isn’t just about sharing research-based information. Consider literacy levels nationwide. Nineteen percent of adults in the U.S. between the ages of 16 to 65 can only read at or below Level 1. This means they can read “brief texts on familiar topics” to find one specific piece of information at a time.
Writing that’s below Level 1 “restates the question” using very basic vocabulary. It doesn’t require an understanding of sentence or paragraph structures or the ability to interpret other text features.
Reading at Level 1 requires slightly more advanced literacy skills. The reader should recognize basic vocabulary and understand whole sentences. They should also be able to read paragraphs. But this level still centers on locating a single piece of information in short, continuous or non-continuous text.
By “translating” college-level research articles—ranging from social surveys to mental health care to animal science—you open up a whole new world of information to your readers. That is the power of readable, research-based content.
Providing access to such high-level information strengthens new and existing customer relationships. As a result, customers generate referral traffic, helping to build brand awareness and expand your influence.
2. Research-based content meets the need for reliable information
Research-based content improves the buyer’s journey. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center showed that 96% of Americans depend on their own research to make an “important decision.” Almost half of these searches for information start on the internet. In particular, 46% of respondents cited “digital tools” as a central source. These digital tools consisted of:
Search engines/the internet
Forums and comments
Second to that method is asking other people, who likely gathered most of their information from the internet. Businesses that use traditional print marketing enjoy a larger footprint in the research landscape. This is because another 8% of survey respondents use printed materials for personal research as well.
The bottom line? People need online information, and are willing to trust web resources, when appropriate.
And that’s where relevant content comes in. It informs and supports your readers. Protecting your potential customers from subpar, faulty information will build trust and boost your brand.
Niche research-based content can also help backup the value and applicability of your product or service. This helps conversion potential, thanks to high-value, proven information at each step of the buyer’s journey.
3. Trustworthy, informative content helps build loyal community
High-quality content is crucial to building trust, and thus, building community.
This is especially true after most of the world spent the bulk of the last two years isolated in their homes. Throughout the pandemic, individuals’ screen time skyrocketed, further exacerbating their dependence on web resources.
Now, people aren’t as secluded as they were during the height of global lockdowns. But many still depend on their online communities for information and interaction. Enter: your company’s online presence.
Social media strengthens customer connectedness
Social media is a goldmine for business owners. It’s where you can engage with your audience directly, offer customer support, and provide information that’s useful to their daily lives. Plus, you can grow your audience at the same time. Various engagement types (e.g., likes, comments, and shares) increase your reach, dramatically raising your visibility.
Hint: One of the best ways to do this is with “user-generated content,” meaning you feature posts and other media created by members of your community. This, along with regular distribution of research-backed content, enhances your brand personality as a relatable, approachable educator and thought leader. Ultimately, this strengthens your reputation and customer loyalty.
And since it’s so fast-paced, social media is also the perfect platform for sharing breaking news straight from the experts, such as key statistics or insights from freshly published research papers. The ability to “translate” complex information will give you an edge over your competitors.
Research your audience for highly targeted content
Online communities love circulating informative yet engaging posts. Getting in tune with your target audience is a must.
That said, “research-backed” content doesn’t always mean the use of scientific articles. In some cases, in-depth market research is more crucial to content quality and visibility.
For instance, imagine that you’re a web content creator. You need higher engagement, but science-backed research won’t do you any good, especially if it’s irrelevant or unseen. So, it’s best to beef up your content with targeted market research. Here’s how:
1. Determine your audience: Start by imagining the “perfect” customer. A freelance web developer might target online entrepreneurs. But if you run an e-commerce pet shop, it’s best to focus on pet owners. Beyond that, you should research your audience’s ages, income levels, and even location (for brick-and-mortar businesses).
2. Learn your audience’s challenges: You could consult hard data to pinpoint your audience’s exact challenges. For example, a marketer might cite studies showing that visual content has a 94% chance of being seen compared to text only. But don’t stop at the numbers. Joining forums and interviewing potential customers is the best way to create highly targeted, actionable content.
3. Optimize your social sharing: You need more than a few status updates to grow a following. Be strategic about the platforms you use, post length, hashtags, and timing. Check the times of day that sites like Facebook and Twitter are most active and the types of people that use them to increase your success rate.
As researchers Apurvakumar Pandya from the Indian Institute of Public Health Gandhinagar and Pragya Lodha from Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital assert, “Social connection is fundamental to humans.” That’s why social media engagement comprised 50% of the time spent online during the pandemic, as internet use increased by roughly 50-70%.
This is why it’s crucial to question your content: Will it nurture trust in your brand? Will it strengthen understanding of your product or service? If not, then it’s time to rethink what you’re producing.
How to develop trustworthy, research-based content
Now that you understand the importance of research-based content in your online marketing efforts, it’s time to apply this new knowledge.
There’s no one right approach—these are general guidelines to content development. Use them to establish your game plan and shape your thinking as you attempt to answer your target audience’s burning questions.
Determine the need
I’ve got a confession. When I first started out as a content writer, I’d shape a content marketing strategy with data on keyword popularity, mainly.
YIKES! Please don’t ever do that.
Although a keyword’s search volume is certainly an indicator of interest, it should never be your primary or sole factor in developing a content strategy. Instead, one of the most tried-and-true methods to figure out what your target audience wants: get plugged into the community.
Besides understanding search intent, this means you need to:
Follow hashtags on social media
Network with experts in your industry
Keeping up with with your niche through authentic interactions with real people ensures you meet readers where they are and helps to address their biggest pain points and most pressing questions.
Research your butt off
Research, research, research.
Have I said it enough times? By now, you understand my obsession with research-based information and its value to your brand. But you won’t be able to extract that value unless you know how to find it.
I was lucky enough to learn the magic of Boolean search methods as a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara. It’s one of the first things you learn as a budding researcher. Boolean search helps you wade through online information more efficiently than any other search technique (that I know of).
Using Boolean search methods
“Boolean search” simply means using operators in your search engine query to filter the information you need most. So, for instance, the only way I search when writing web content is with the operators, “AND,” “OR,” and the occasional * symbol.
For example, my everyday search structure is “[search term] .edu OR .org OR .gov.” This ensures that I get authoritative sources almost exclusively since these domains are typically associated with established higher education institutions, non-profit organizations, and government agencies, respectively.
(When searching this way, you should still vet your sources. This just saves time and eliminates all the subjective, unreliable information.)
AND: Yields results with all the keywords in the query
OR: Yields results that contain one or more of the keywords in your query
NOT: Excludes results that contain the keyword following the operator
*: Acts as a “fill in the blank” space (e.g., “search *” would yield results containing “search term,” “search engine,” “search results,” etc.)
Learning to use these to your advantage will take your online research to the next level.
Provide objective information with expert guidance
The best thing you can do for your target audience is to avoid becoming an echo chamber.
It’s not useful for anyone to exist only surrounded by those who agree with you. Instead, you should aim to be an impartial, objective source of factual information. But that’s easier said than done.
It’s simple enough to say, “translate the scientific articles into plain English.” But if you lack the training to understand and interpret those articles, it won’t do you any good.
The importance of seeking expert guidance
On that note, if you’re not confident in your ability to grasp and clearly relay the information then don’t. But don’t feel bad about it.
Think of it this way: Too many people are subjected to misinformation or disinformation online. The former means to give accidentally misleading or inaccurate information. On the other hand, disinformation deliberately shares false or inaccurate information (often to discredit others).
Only 26% of Americans are confident in their ability to recognize such media. The problem is only expected to worsen over the next few years.
But you can be a part of the solution—by using expert knowledge in your content.
This could mean hiring an experienced professional in the topic you wish to cover. For example, you could invite an expert on for a podcast interview. That way, they can explain complex topics themselves. There are many ways to share factual, engaging information with your audience. You don’t have to go it alone!
Level up your content with cutting-edge research
People look to the web when making decisions. This is true whether they’re making important life choices or mundane shopping selections.
When they visit your online platforms, they’re expecting informative, actionable content.
But they’ll get even better: Your content will enrich their customer journey and enhance their quality of life. The best way to provide that is through research-based content.
Relevant research will establish your authority, distinguish your brand from recycled competitor content, and cultivate community within your target audience.
It’s time to ditch those template marketing blogs and switch to something better. Take the time to develop quality content with the latest expert-led studies that are directly relevant to your niche.