Whether you’re a seasoned blogger or have only just started delving into this vital part of content marketing, you’ll be aware that the ‘r’ word can rarely be ignored. Don’t shudder. We are talking about research.
Good research lies behind most great blog posts… but it isn’t always required.
The route you need to take will depend on several factors, which is why we’ve decided to put together the ultimate guide to whether or not you should research your next blog post.
When researching a blog post is important
So, you’ve been tasked with writing a blog post and you’re currently staring at a blank page. How do you know whether or not you can dive in, immediately, or if you should hit the web browser and do some reading first?
You know ZERO about the subject in question
This is an easy one. If you’ve never encountered the subject before, you’ll need to get into some research.
If you’re a professional blog writer or have been tasked with maintaining your company’s blog, you’ll regularly encounter subjects with which you have zero or limited experience. At first, they’ll feel uncomfortable – scary, even – but once you start dipping your toes into research, that fear will alleviate and you’ll begin to feel far more comfortable.
And, hey, you’ll learn something, too!
There are multiple viewpoints out there already
The internet is a noisy, opinionated place, which is why researching a topic that has already been subjected to multiple views on other blogs is a solid tactic.
The key lies in not being too heavily influenced by other opinions – unless they genuinely match your own. By instead digesting as much varying opinion as you can, you’ll be able to form your own and write a blog post which offers a unique take on the subject in question. The last thing you want to do is create something that has been written countless times before.
The blog is heavily based on statistics
Statistical blogs are great vehicles for drawing in lots of engaged readers and even better for gaining a few valuable inbound links for your SEO strategy.
However, of all the blogs, these need as much research as possible. Get a percentage, figure, date or source wrong, and you’ll instantly lose credibility (and potentially land yourself in hot water, depending on the source).
You were inspired by another blog
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to write your own blog on a subject that you read elsewhere. But it pays to be cautious; that original piece might not be factually correct.
Writing opinion pieces that are reactions to other blogs are great ways to incite debate, but before you throw your oar in, make sure you have enough research to hand to back up whatever opinion it is you’re laying down.
The blog is inspired by a news event
Content marketing is sometimes about reacting to recent events, and by reacting to a news article on your blog, you’ll be giving your brand a much better chance of finding its audience.
Just make sure you research any news-based blogs thoroughly. Even established news and media outlets get things wrong, therefore don’t assume what you read on the broadsheets is 100% accurate. Find as many sources as you can to back up any specific details featured in the original news piece.
When you can skip the research
Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can skip blog research altogether, but there are only specific instances where this is advisable if you want to create your best work.
You know the subject like the back of your hand
Are you 100% convinced you know everything important there is to know about the subject in question? Better still, is it something you invented yourself?
Be careful – few people know certain topics inside out – but if you have no concerns about your level of knowledge and if you don’t need to refer to stats or third-party sources, dive straight in.
Someone has done the research for you (but, proceed with caution)
If you’re lucky enough to have been handed research on a plate and you trust the person who gave it to you, research of your own can probably be avoided.
However, proceed with caution. How do you know, for definite, that the research in front of you is thorough and unbiased? Sometimes, it pays to run a few checks of your own.
You’re forging new ground
If the blog post you’re writing is based on a topic, product or even industry segment that you’re confident hasn’t been approached before, you’re in a unique and rather exciting position.
These opportunities are few and far between, but if there really is no past commentary on the topic and you’re forging new ground, let your creative juices run wild.
You’re tasked with writing an opinion piece
Some blogs are entirely based on opinion with little or no facts to back them up.
That’s fine, and while it’s not a blog style that suits every business or media outlet, if it’s something you believe in strongly enough and simply want to ‘let fly’ with your opinion – do so. It’s a great way to encourage discussion on social media and will help you build your personal brand.
The blog is company news-related
Being the creator of news is sometimes a nice position in which to find yourself, and if the blog post you’re about to write is about a new product launch or company acquisition, you can probably forgo the research – unless you need to dive into the company history books at any stage.
Our final tip? If you’re ever unsure about the research requirements for your next blog post, go with your gut and do some research.
Even if you think you’ve got the subject pretty much nailed, there’s clearly an element of doubt in your mind, and just half an hour spent on Google will ensure your writing is as informed, factual and damn-right awesome as it should be.