Content Marketing Research: Dig Into Books, Papers & Videos (Part 2)

January 12, 2023
Updated: Jan 17, 2023
Content Marketing Research: Dig Into Books, Papers & Videos (Part 2)

In the first part of this guide, we discussed the value of good research. 

The TL;DR?

  • Better clients.
  • Higher authority. 
  • Higher paying work. 

But with Google’s content update, the stakes — and rewards — just got even higher. 

Google upgraded its framework to E-E-A-T:

Experience 

Expertise

Authority

Trustworthiness

With a premium on experience and expertise, writers who can incorporate these elements into every piece will never run out of work.

So let’s dig into how you can use widely available internet resources to research and establish expertise and authority. In this guide, we’ll cover

  1. Books 
  2. Research reports
  3. Youtube videos 

When to use each channel: 

1. Research reports 

Research reports are one of my favorite places to begin my digging. Why? They’re fresh, thorough, and backed by data. 

But more than that, they go beyond sharing mere information and share trends, predictions, and analysis. 

I’ve also been on the other end of research reports, where I’ve actually written them. That’s how I know that reports from credible sources have a three-step verification process:

  • Internal stakeholders review questions.
  • External experts share proprietary information.
  • Brilliant writers bring together the best pieces. 

Sounds fantastic but overwhelming?

Let me show you the exact steps on how to research from a report with an real example. 

Step 1: Google ‘State of [Topic]’ or [Topic] Report. 

Sometimes, when you’re writing on slightly less popular topics, you can google related words and synonyms to get better results. 

For example, I was recently writing a piece on sales forecasting and typed ‘State of Sales Forecasting’ in the search bar. But I couldn’t find too many good results. So I found related words and googled those. 

I use Wordtune to do this.

The final result? 3 credible reports with the titles:

  1. The State of Revenue Forecasting
  2. State of Sales Research Report 
  3. The Ultimate Sales Analysis Report 

Alternatively, use the Data Vault by Marijana Kay to access organized research reports in one place. 

Step 2: Read the executive summary line-by-line. This is a section you don’t want to miss because it gives you a summary and tells you where to look in the report. (If you’re lucky, it also gives you links to other credible reports.)

For example, let’s look at this summary from ‘The State of Revenue Forecasting’ by Varicent:

Right away, it gives me another report to add to resources, ‘The Renaissance of Revenue Forecasting’. 

It also gives me a trend analysis, a list of what the research studied, and who it’s meant for.

Step 3: Go to the survey information section and see if it applies to your audience and/or industry. 

Step 4: Look at the data visuals in isolation. When you don’t look at the data along with the highlighted trends, you can form your own opinions and evaluate critically.  

For example, let’s look at this graph on tools used for forecasting.

Here’s how I interrelate data points and build an analysis. 

This exercise has told me what else to search for and how to do more research. 

In contrast, if I’d only looked at the insights highlighted by the report, here’s what I’d have found:

“Currently, the most popular forecasting tools used are spreadsheets, CRMs, and BI Tools, whereas only 20% use revenue intelligence solutions.”

When researching from reports, it’s important to analyze as much raw data as possible. Use the graphs, but don’t limit yourselves to the highlighted insights. 

Step 5: Go through the glossary section if the report has one. Sometimes the same term can mean different things to different people and industries. So make sure you define these for yourself and your readers.

Example:

I used reports to write a Klaviyo blog titled: Your Memorial Day email marketing and SMS campaign guide: best practices, themes + 16 templates. 

To do this, I created a resources library and noted down important data points from each report to guide my perspective. 

Here are the exact reports I used and the data points I dug up (the yellow highlighted text is the notes I make for myself):

1. Adobe Unboxing the 2021 Holiday Results 

PDF: https://business.adobe.com/resources/sdk/holiday-shopping-report-2021.html?faas_unique_submission_id=227AB51D-879E-1079-165E-55F0EB49647F

Note: Useful graphs to showcase trends

Important Data Points:

  • During the holiday season savvy consumers saved $9 per $100 compared to $14 per $100 last year.
  • Average discounts: 2021 at -9% vs 2020 at -14%
  • As expected, toys, video games, gift cards, and books drove growth, each producing 3x their preseason sales.
  • For the entire Holiday Season, $88B or 43% of online retail sales were made from smartphones.

2. Adobe Holiday Ecommerce Playbook: 

PDF: https://business.adobe.com/resources/reports/adi-holiday-ecommerce-playbook/thank-you.html?faas_unique_submission_id=2A7E582B-ED74-E13E-8D60-DD4461A9BE4B

Note: Highlights correlations between holiday shopping and marketing/sales strategies 

Important Data Points:

  • 27% of consumers in 2020 advised that shopping on a smartphone was "stressful", compared to 20% in 2019 and 23% in 2018.
  • Share of email driven revenue increases by 12% on Cyber Monday compared to the rest of the holiday season.
  • Social networks and displays drive traffic, but don’t immediately get consumers to spend. Combining the two channels they only account for less than 5% of revenue and only 1 in 10 visits.

3. IBM The 2021 Holiday Shopping and Travel Outlook

PDF: Vaccines, variants, and deja vu

Note: How holiday shopping will revamp post covid + online shopping

Important Data Points:

  • Only 41% of global consumers say they will be less concerned about the pandemic this holiday season than in 2020. 
  • Almost half (49%) of global respondents say their household expenses increased over the last year—but incomes are not keeping pace. Only 22% say their income has increased and 37% say it has declined.

4. Deloitte Holiday Retail Survey 2021

PDF: 2021 Deloitte holiday retail survey

Note: VERY comprehensive. 34 pages. Stats, data, graphs, you name it. 

Important Data Points:

  • Some pandemic behaviors are sticking with 62% of spending expecting to occur online, while a decrease in anxiety levels motivates some to return to stores.
  • Concern for stockouts (75%) and shipping delays will likely motivate shoppers to start earlier YoY
  • Four in 10 will likely start their shopping earlier this year, citing potential shipping issues (49%) and stockout issues (47%) for the shift in timing

Industry Insights on Holiday Shopping Trends

  1. Feb 2022, NRF: 3 key factors that led to a record-setting holiday season
  2. Nov 2021: NRF: Nearly 180 Million Shop Over Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend
  3. March 2022: Salesforce: Holiday Shopping trends, predictions and guides
  4. March 2022: Think with Google: 2022 Retail Marketing Guide: Be ready for the holidays and seasonal shopping moments

(Note: These are updated every month)

  1. May 2022: Think with Google: 2022 Retail Marketing Guide: Be ready for seasonal shopping moments
  2. 2022: Numerator: 2022 Holiday Shopping Preview 

(Note: Easy-to-comprehend stats. I built a lot of my arguments from this.)

Analyst Insights on Holiday Shopping Trends

  1. Nov, 2021, McKinsey: The retailer’s guide to the holiday shopping season
  2. Nov, 2021, McKinsey: US holiday shopping 2021: Strong demand meets big challenges
  3. March 2022, McKinsey: The five zeros reshaping stores
  4. Feb 2022: Forbes: What retailers need to learn from Holiday 2021
  5. May 2022, Deloitte: Recapping the 2021 holiday shopping season

Quote: “Eighty-seven percent of Gen Zs said that they expected to be inspired by social media for holiday gifts. Each year, over the past few years, our team tracks how social media impacts holiday shopping trends, but this was the first year that we actually started to see data come in to support this topic.” —Chloe Harootunian, consultant, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

In conclusion: if you can find 4-5 thorough reports, you rarely need other research materials to build your argument. Don’t overlook this incredible tool for research.

Pro tip: When using data points from different sources, I use Wordtune to reword the statistics so they are:

  • Easier to scan
  • Support my argument better.
  • Don’t show up unnecessarily on a plagiarism detector 

Here’s how:

I’d pick the second and third option and combine it for a better reading experience. 

My final sentence would be:

Nearly half of global respondents report higher costs but lower incomes.

2. Books

In a digital world where people update content by the minute? 

Well, yes. 

In a constantly updating world, books that have stood the test of time (and critics) are a resource you should never overlook—especially if you’re writing on an evergreen topic. Here’s why:

  1. They’re written by experts: books are written by people who have almost a lifetime of expertise in their field. The ideas they put forward are nuanced, credible, and backed by studies. 
  2. They’re thorough: the level of detail you can find in a book can rarely be compared to that of a blog or website pillar page. 
  3. They’re unbiased: Most website content is written from the point of view of a product or a service. Not books. Their sole purpose is the inform and educate. 
  4. They’re credible: ​​They can be a good source for supporting evidence and citations in your blog post, as they are considered more credible. 
  5. They can provide context: Books often provide historical context and background information on a topic, which can help you better comprehend the current state of the field or topic you are writing about.

But how exactly do you research through a book? Where do you look for anecdotes, examples, or case studies?

Let me show you. 

Step 1: Read the author’s note or preface. 

This tells you the author's intent behind writing the book and upgrades to the recent edition. 

Step 2: Go through the table of contents to understand the structure of the book, and pinpoint where the most relevant information is. 

For example, I was recently writing a piece on how to write great content, so I began reading the highly recommended book “Paid Attention” by Faris Yakob. 

Right away from the table of contents, I identified the chapters that would be the most useful for me:

  1. 06: Do things, tell people: How to behave in a world of infinite content 
  2. 08: Combination Tools: How to Have Ideas: a genius steals process
  3. 10: Interactive Strategy and Social Brands: Be nice or Leave

Step 3: Dig into the specifics and remember to take notes. To save time, simultaneously add notes to your content piece outline. 

(Psst! I shared my note-taking methods in detail here: How to Take Notes from a Textbook)

Pro tip: Look for case studies, researches, and visuals to complement your outline. 

For example, here’s my outline for “How to Create Killer Blog Content” and the notes from Paid Attention. 

Note: To make my outline easier to understand, I’ve removed all content other than my notes from Paid Attention.

1. Introduction

  • Definition of "killer" blog content

Excerpt from Paid Attention: 

If content is no longer sufficient – what should brands do? Previously, the ability to make things public, to publish, was a privileged act. It was expensive and hard and, in many cases, illegal. When the printing press emerged it was viewed by the status quo as a tool that should be used to support the status quo, somewhat un- surprisingly. Unlicensed printing presses were illegal in England until the end of the 17th century, as they still are in Malaysia today. When the age of mass media arrived, only governments, the media-industrial complex and the advertising industry were able to create mass culture. So, when you saw these pieces of culture, you couldn’t help but be impressed.

  • Importance of creating high-quality content

Excerpt from Paid Attention:

In a world where mainstream media is increasingly supplemented by the media of the masses, one of the leverage points for creativity is earning attention, beyond that which has been paid for. This means that, as with art, part of the business of advertising is fame, at least among the desired customer base.

2. Identify your target audience

  • Who are you writing for?
  • What are their interests and needs?

Excerpt from Paid Attention: 

Airline Virgin America revamped its web storefront to make using it more intuitive across different devices, with a focus on making the arduous task of booking travel easier and faster. Booking travel is increasingly complex, due to the number of options available and the dynamic pricing models of the industry. Research by the Boston Consulting Group suggests that a customer spends, on average, 42 hours online to research, plan and book a four-day trip, which is both staggering and unpleasant.6 So, faster and easier is a huge boon and the Virgin brand is further bolstered by its other stated ambition for the site: to make every task ‘fun-erer’.

3. Choose a compelling topic

  • Use keyword research to identify popular topics
  • Consider current trends and events
  • Think about what makes a topic interesting or unique

4. Research and gather information

  • Use reliable sources (e.g. books, articles, experts)
  • Take thorough notes
  • Organize your information into an outline

5. Write a strong headline

  • Make it attention-grabbing and informative
  • Use strong keywords

6. Use engaging visuals

  • Use images, graphics, and videos to add visual interest
  • Optimize for SEO

7. Edit and proofread

  • Check for spelling and grammar errors
  • Check for clarity and coherence
  • Consider getting feedback from a colleague or friend

8. Promote your content

  • Share on social media and other platforms
  • Engage with readers and respond to comments
  • Consider using paid promotion methods (e.g. sponsored posts, ads)

9. Conclusion

  • Recap the key points of the post
  • Encourage readers to share and leave comments
  • Suggest related content or next steps for readers to take

I make it a point to paraphrase whenever I paste content into my outline from other sources. This is so I can avoid even accidental plagiarism, and truly understand what I’m writing. 

Here’s how:

Excerpt from Paid Attention: 

In a world where mainstream media is increasingly supplemented by the media of the masses, one of the leverage points for creativity is earning attention, beyond that which has been paid for. This means that, as with art, part of the business of advertising is fame, at least among the desired customer base.

I picked option no.1 because it's the most straightforward and puts the main idea first. 

Step 4: Once I’ve finished fleshing out the outline with ideas from the book, I check out the “Further readings” and “References” sections. This tells me where to look if I need more detail. 

For example, here are the references from Paid Attention which I’m using as next steps in my research journey.

Similarly, you can use the “Further Readings” section to extend your research. 

Pro tip: When I don’t have the time to buy a book, I download kindle samples. The author’s note works as a wonderful summary of the concepts and often talks about how the idea came into being.

3. Youtube Videos 

I use Youtube videos when I’m researching highly complex but popular topics. The visual format helps me better understand concepts. 

Here are 4 reasons you should use Youtube for research:

  1. Finding expert opinions: Many experts and professionals post videos on YouTube discussing their fields of expertise, which can provide valuable insights and information for a blog post.
  1. Gaining a deeper understanding of a topic: YouTube videos can offer more in-depth explanations and demonstrations of topics, which can help you gain a better understanding of the subject matter.
  1. Visual aids: Incorporating videos or images from YouTube into your blog can help to illustrate your points and make your blog more visually appealing to readers.
  1. Providing examples: YouTube videos can be used to provide examples or case studies that can help to illustrate your points and make your blog more relatable to readers.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use Youtube for research.

Let’s say you’re writing a piece on “How to have healthier relationships”

Step 1: Search your topic and filter the results by engagement, number of views, or creators. 

Pro tip: If you type in “how to have a healthy”, youtube will offer it’s most-searched for keywords as autocomplete suggestions.

Step 2: Shortlist 8-10 videos to watch and download them. (This is crucial because Youtube is a vast web of information and you will go down unnecessary rabbit holes.)

Step 3: While watching the videos, take notes and screenshot any visuals you find interesting. 

Pro tip: If you find any brilliant ideas in Youtube videos that you’d really like to share with your audience, here’s how to do it without getting overwhelmed by the challenge of summarizing.

Go to the bottom right corner of the Youtube video and click on “Show Transcript”.

Once you’ve generated the transcript, copy-paste the text into a Google Doc and organize it into legible sentences and paragraphs. 

Here’s what that looks like:

It can seem very confusing why certain long-term relationships survive and some don’t. It can - from afar - look as if it’s the most cruel and alarming sort of lottery. Trying to explain love to a child or a visitor from another planet promises to be a perplexing matter indeed. 

All couples on their wedding day are united in wanting to make things work. Then, for reasons beyond anyone’s comprehension, some of them simply seem to dissolve and others don’t.

To remove some of the terrifying element of apparent chance (and encourage us to work on the  right aspects of our own couples),  it may be helpful to become deliberately reductive about the real reasons why breakups occur.

We need - in this regard -  first to discount certain causes that gain far too much airtime relative to their actual likelihoods.  

Of course, sometimes people break up because one party wants a younger partner. Or because they want better sex. Or because they are seeking a more exciting companion. Or because their hobbies or political views have drifted apart. Or because things have - somehow - grown ‘stale.’

Now, use Wortune to summarize and rephrase the ideas. 

This is the final version which I’ve co-written with Wordtune. 

Often, there is a great deal of confusion about why certain long-term relationships last and others don't. It can resemble a cruel, alarming lottery from a distance. “Love” can be a complex concept to explain to a child or a visitor from another planet. 

On their wedding day, all couples want to make things work. Then, without explanation, some of them break up, while others do not.

To remove some of the uncertainty (and motivate us to improve our own relationships), it may be helpful to think more critically about the actual circumstances that cause people to break up. 

To do this, let’s discount some causes that receive a great deal of attention relative to their true likelihoods.

Occasionally, people break up because of a desire for a younger partner. Or for the want of more invigorating sex. Or because they want someone who makes their heart race faster. Or because their hobbies or political beliefs have diverged. Or becasue they’ve lost the proverbial spark.

Step 4: Once you’ve understood and thoroughly absorbed the subject matter, go back to Youtube and study the comments for frequently asked questions and common contradictions. 

Again, you can use these to construct arguments around your topic. 

For example, here are some insightful comments I found under the video “Which Long-term Relationships Will Survive and Which Won't” by The School of Life and how I intend to use them in my article.

Comment: I completely agree, but the only other thing I think is crucial in a long-term relationship is whether the partner actively makes a contribution towards solving an issue - just saying ‘I understand’ isn’t always enough to reassure you that you’re being heard. They both need to want to make things right to move past it.

How it serves my research: Extension of the idea of “being heard”

Comment: I'm a psychology student and my Professor in Zürich (Bodenmann) has done a lot research about breakups, and the most concerning breakup type to me (which is on the rise right now) are breakups in stable relationships with high satisfaction rates, but where the partners simply think somewhere out there could be a partner, the perfect one whos maybe a little bit more like I want them to be.

How it serves my research: Verification of the idea from a person with subject matter expertise

Comment: For me, I was assuming my views and wants were obvious, and I tended to assume my partner generally wanted the same kind of things,just because it made so much sense to want those things. I've learned I needed to communicate everything, and not only listen to my partner but actually put effort into understanding and giving empathy even if their needs are different from mine. Now I'm single, but next time I'll do better.

How it serves my research: Verification of the idea from someone’s personal experience—possible anecdote.

Comment: No. I disagree with so much of what this video is saying.  

The reason many couples break up is NOT that one or both don't feel heard.  While good communication is necessary for a successful relationship, it isn't sufficient.  If a couple’s core values are incompatible the relationship is doomed.  Feeling heard isn't enough when your partner behaves in such a way that goes against your core values.  

This is why it may matter how a person votes, or how they treat your friends, or their attitudes towards money, or children, or how much intimacy is shared in the relationship.  Empathy and communication will not solve these thorny issues if core values are incompatible.  This is why it is SO important to know what your core values are, and honestly share them during the early stages of a relationship.  Otherwise, it is like trying to climb Mt. Everest with only a heavy coat and crampons.  You need a map and a lot more equipment than that!

How it serves my research: Possible contradiction. This helps me dig deeper into the idea, understand other viewpoints, and present both sides of the argument to my readers. 

(Note: It’s super important to find contradictory ideas so you can evaluate them before presenting an overview to your readers.

A final note

Like I said in Part 1 of this guide, research is complex and no one strategy can tell you what to do each time. 

What you can do before you start research, however, is figure out the kind of piece you’re writing and and make a targeted, strategic research path (using the chart in our guides.)

For example, if I were writing an authoritative piece on marketing trends, I’d combine research reports, one-on-one interviews with thought leaders, and industry events. On the other hand, if I were writing a piece on ways to accessorize during winters, I’d combine Youtube, social media channels, and customer reviews.

P.S.
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.

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