Do you know one of the best ways to be an expert writer is to learn how to conduct original research? I didn't know that for the first six years I was a content writer.
It's only this year that I decided to compile my first statistical report for my brand.
And doing that one thing helped elevate my content and made it easier for me to see how valuable and necessary it is for all businesses to publish original content.
This type of content is becoming increasingly popular and – dare I say – a necessary part of a business's content marketing strategy.
Brands are finding it harder to stand out amongst their competitors. And if you're an eCommerce company, good luck. Just perusing the Amazon listing for nasal sprays, there's only so much you can say that's different from the dozens of other listings.
Fortunately, for most B2B and B2C businesses out there, one of the best forms of content to have is a blog (with a 13x ROI you can't beat), and one of the best posts is original research content.
But how do businesses go about conducting original research? I'll share why this is important and go through original research examples to help you with your editorial calendar.
Why Original Research Is a Must in 2023
Let's just get this out there –
According to Semrush, businesses with the most successful content strategy focused the most on improving the quality of their content.
And with the recent Google Helpful Content update rewarding first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge, having original content is a no-brainer.
And, if that isn't enough, look at these statistics from a Mantis Research State of the Industry Report about original research:
- 37% of B2B and 20% of B2C businesses conduct regular original content
- 58% of original research is survey-based
- 57% of marketers say original research outperformed and exceeded their expectations
With only a ⅓ of B2B brands publishing original research coupled with the difficulty for content marketers and business owners to create insightful and compelling content, it's no wonder that more aren't conducting their own research.
(As a side note, I realize how meta I'm being since I link to two original research articles to make my point about publishing original content for a business blog.)
But businesses who are conducting research are seeing direct results.
Director & Owner Gerrard Lipscombe of LandmarkLabs has collected data from their 6,000+ members on monthly revenue, hours worked per week, monthly costs, and profitability.
The company has a dedicated page for its benchmark results, and Lipscombe says, The business benchmarks section has driven a lot of highly targeted traffic for our site, which in turn has led to:
- More signups;
- More Pro membership subscriptions; and
- More product purchases.
Original research also makes brands stand out and have more authority as subject matter experts (SMEs), especially when they do something that very little has done. For example, I shared a report only on freelance writing stats, while most brands who also did a similar report focussed on freelance stats.
Even though writing is a popular freelance service and is the third most valued skill people can offer, businesses overlooked this. They wanted to speak to a broader audience of freelancers.
I say niche down and narrow your focus. The website will gain valuable backlinks when a brand does this because its report or survey is unique and original.
After I published my report, Shopify, Contently, and other brands linked to my report which helped grow my business and SEO profile.
And because of my original research, I regularly cite my results in other articles. When I do this, my audience can trust what I say as an SME, giving my brand more credibility to stand on. Unfortunately, trust amongst people is at an all-time low, but on the flip side, SMEs are the most highly trusted source for information.
4 Types of Original Research Businesses Can Use
So, what is original research anyway? According to the University of North Florida, "it's the report of a study written by the researchers who actually did the study."
This is called primary research. Secondary research means the person doing the study compiles 3rd party or existing data for their report.
With most original research, the person conducting the study must clearly state the methodology used. This means the sample size, demographics, how the sample was chosen, and anything relevant to the survey or poll.
Let's check out four of the most popular original research examples and how to conduct each of them.
1. Survey with report
The #1 form of original research marketers use is the survey or poll. Why?
- It's easy to set up
- You gather a lot of information
- It can set a benchmark for a brand's industry
It's easy to set up
You can use many survey tools like Typeform, Google Surveys, or SurveyMonkey to send to your audience.
Similarly, you can leverage social media and use a Twitter, LinkedIn, or Youtube poll to compile recent data.
The one thing businesses do need, though, is a dedicated audience either through email, networking, or social media. Wordtune surveyed over 200 content marketers and writers on their blog writing processes and practices.
They asked six highly targeted questions like, Do writers who use AI writing tools produce different types of content?
When coming up with nominal questions for your survey, use a word enhancer to improve the sentence or question by expanding your ideas.
Expanding sentences improves readability, adds more detail, and helps the audience understand exactly what you are asking them.
You gather a lot of information
No matter how many questions you ask in the survey or poll, the one advantage of this type of original research is the varied questions and answers you will receive.
And to get the right information, rely on different types of questions to ask:
- Multiple choice questions
- Open-ended and closed-ended questions
- Likert scale questions
- Matrix questions
It can set a benchmark for an industry
Hubspot often creates original research that sets the benchmark for the content marketing industry.
For example, Hubspot dove into blog post frequency and created a report as a blog post and lead magnet. What did they find? They set a blogging benchmark of publishing 3-5 blog posts a week for the best results depending on whether a business is small or large.
When Hubspot set the criterion, other brands talked about it and linked to their report, helping Hubspot gain more recognition as the thought leader in their industry.
It's Your Turn
Whether you're the content writer assigned to this project or the business owner, a simple way to collect data over a few days or weeks is to create a poll on social media.
On LinkedIn, when you go to write a post, click on the bars to create a poll.
Write out the question and answers and set the time frame.
After the time frame, you can check to see what the results are.
If you go to the impressions link in the LinkedIn poll, you can view the demographics of people who took the survey.
This information is critical to note in your blog post report when going through the answers.
While having original research as part of your content strategy can help owners be seen as an SME, another way to show your brand's authority is to interview other SMEs. Why?
- More brand visibility
- Co-branding potential
- Implicit marketing
More brand visibility
Interviewing SMEs are highly appreciative of this request.
A writer asked me to do an interview for Business Insider, and I know once the content is published, I will share it with my email list and on social media.
SMEs love to be interviewed and share their advice and story with a new audience.
As the business representative who asks for the interview, you can use their answers as quotes to add relevant information to the content like Shopify's writers often do or make the entire article the interview.
Take time to find the right people who will share the brand to their audience and be humbled and honored to be interviewed.
Create a template when searching for SMEs with this information to make the outreach process faster.
- Name and title
- Email address
- Type of business
- Social media profiles
Any B2B connection will always have the potential for collaboration. You can see this in successful co-branding relationships. Co-branding is a partnership between two brands working together, so their success boosts each brand.
While a business doesn't need an interview for this partnership, if they interview another brand, the businesses might realize a collaboration could help them grow faster.
There's a saying by Jim Rohn that states you are the average of your five closest friends. While this isn't literal, the ones closest to you have the greatest impact, which can also be said for business relationships.
Implicit marketing uses this idea of associating with others you look up to as a way for those traits to rub off on you.
When SMEs say yes to an interview, the brand associates with that SME to help them gain more leads. The Zebra is an insurance service, and they have interviewed many brands, including the Savvy Couple.
Brittany and Kelan, owners of The Savvy Couple, help families learn how to budget money. They were probably happy to promote their interview with The Zebra to their audience to help them with their finances. And this allows The Zebra to acquire customers.
It's Your Turn
While you can use past or current clients or colleagues, if there is a time crunch, the best way to find SMEs is with Help a Reporter Out (HARO). The content writer would sign up as a journalist and create the question and criteria for responses.
The writer would then set the time frame, and when they get HARO responses, they can use them for an upcoming article.
When interviewing with one expert instead of many, questions should be mostly open-ended and avoid pushing a point of view. You want the person you're interviewing to be relaxed and forthcoming with their advice and not overthink your questions.
3. Case study
Using case studies can be a powerful marketing tool for any business. With 82% of consumers relying on reviews for purchasing decisions, B2B brands can leverage a case study to nudge visitors into customers.
With a dedicated page focussed on case studies, a business can improve social proof and strengthen customer relationships, which all bode well for closing sales.
Drift, a marketing and technology company that helps you engage with website visitors conversationally, has a page full of customer stories.
Visitors can take the time to view each case study and see how a product or service helped others, making a connection and having the case study act as word-of-mouth.
Video conferencing tool eCamm uses their blog and Youtube channel to share success stories from their users – people with small businesses.
eCamm shows up multiple times a week on their growing Youtube channel and highlights their customers to build trust and have a good time with them, making eCamm a relatable brand.
Over half – 74% – of marketers say video has a far better return on investment (ROI) than static images, making video a preferred type of content to share customer success stories.
When coming up with case study questions, highlight the decision part of choosing the product. Many people on their buyer's journey struggle with deciding which product to use but if the case study pinpoints the challenges and problems that the product solves, it will make it easier for people to reach that conclusion too.
So create questions about the following:
- What was happening before the purchase was made
- The decision process
- Customer success
- Feedback given
It's Your Turn
Case study writing is a profitable and popular service for content writers. A successful case study's goal is to highlight how the product or service helped a person or another business reach its goals.
You need to treat these real-life examples with care and ensure you hear the person sharing their success story.
Content writer Melody Wright keeps the idea simple when writing a case study,
Before, During, and After. Every case study includes these 3 elements.
Focus on those three elements when writing the success story about the person or business using a product/service and your freelance client will be happy.
4. 3rd Party roundup (secondary research)
Next to the survey, secondary research is another popular method for conducting original research.
- It's a highly valuable piece of information
- It's a fast process
- Helps with growing traffic
It's a highly valuable piece of information
Imagine finding an article with 100 stats in your industry. Or, better yet, all the correct information in one place.
The CDC uses secondary information to share all important health stats.
As a health writer, this would be a great source to find many reports in one place rather than searching all over the internet for multiple sources.
A B2B or B2C business can be that brand that compiles facts for their industry, improving their reach and customer base and making it easy for their leads to see the business's value.
Adam Connell of Blogging Wizard put out a personalization report using secondary information, making it a highly needed resource for marketers, eCommerce, and advertising businesses.
It's a fast process
Secondary research is already done for you, helping you save hours, days, or weeks that you would have used to source leads.
As a content writer with multiple clients, time is money, so using a swipe file filled with stats and facts helps speed up the process, allowing you to generate more income.
Helps with growing traffic
If a business needs to build up its SEO profile, gather as many statistics as possible for your client piece.
Founder Scott Winsteadm of My eLearning World says,
We put out our own research reports as a way to gain press and backlinks – and have been very successful in the process. These have gained coverage from many major publications such as FOX Business.
Scott and his content team compile secondary reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the College Board, Pew Research, and other credible research-based websites to form their reports to help college students.
It's Your Turn
As the content marketer that manages writers, tell the writer in your content brief to link to the source that conducted the survey. All too often, I see a statistic, click on the link, and see another site that lists the same statistic with no link to the source.
Try to make this type of resource a high-list resource with dozens of stats.
List-based posts are more shareable – up to 22% more – than other types of content. And to add another sharable element, create an infographic detailing the stats and facts of your research. That way, you can easily repurpose your original research on social media.
No matter what type of business you have – retail, service-based, app, or product-based – the one way to elevate content is to show your website visitors and social media audience original research. This content immediately shows your authority and can lead to future collaborations and a new customer base. So don't wait – get started on those survey questions!
This article was co-written with Wordtune. Wordtune didn’t write the whole piece. Instead, it contributed ideas, suggested rephrasing alternatives, maintained consistency in tone, and of course - made the process much more fun for the writer.