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3 tips to master content research process

Apeejay alumna Deepika Dhawan, Creative Services Manager at Havas Media, highlights key ways to amp up content research skills

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“Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.” 

This titbit of harsh truth by Von Braun, a German-American physicist and rocket engineer, is particularly intriguing and inspiring. 

It is not uncommon to find people struggling with something. That’s why we had thesaurus, and now, Google. With about 600 billion web pages in its reach today, it can still be a lot challenging to find the precise content for your topic. This practise of supporting human knowledge with databases of content has led to a new field of mastery— Content Research.

For someone who loves to google every little thing during the day, it is easy to navigate your way through a plethora of information. But, not necessarily a clever and pointed way to create meaningful content. And as for those, who do not like to research, here is a crisp summary of what you really should do to amp up your content research skills.

1. The Key(word) is Search Query

First rule of internet search: Ask the right question. Umm, isn’t that good advice anyway?

Web content is simpler than we think. It needs more common sense than systematic thinking to find what we are looking for. You need 0.2 seconds using 1,000 computers to retrieve an answer on Google. That’s not to say that the finest research technique should be the shortest. Keyword search for content research is a purely iterative process with which Google Autocomplete predictions can also help you. After typing in your main key term, just browse your eyes through the autocomplete predictions to give you an idea of what other people are searching, which might also inform you about contexts that exist with the keyword that you might be unaware of.

Limit your words to those that are necessary. Brevity is your friend. Google Power Search that uses operators to sharpen your search results, may also come in handy.

Ask simple questions. The ones writing on web pages and searching them are humans. They are conversational, interactive. Use their language. No human thinks and writes in SEO keywords. Those are just for the purpose of creating and managing huge databases.

Content research is about exploring subjectivity of the subject at hand. If it helps, create raw maps or note down all the new things you found linked to your topic. Don’t shy away from YouTubing it. Sometimes, very obvious content is in the form of videos that are not just significant, but also easy to grasp and collate in your head. Video content also might give ideas for better search queries on google.

2. Source is sacred. 

Read the right websites. To reach them, try to look for credible sources of information and content. To get there, identify which industry does your topic belong from? Then, find out which organisations create reports on that topic. Consult those articles and reports that talk about your topic with ample evidence.

There might be experts who might be writing on blogs or any organisational websites. A good glance at those also might be helpful. Twitter and LinkedIn are newer places where experts like to show off what they know.  

For human insights on something, browse through Quora, comments on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Reddit, depending on the target audience. 

Narrow down your search query again and again. Go back to google search. Search again with a new query, possibly with a new motive, new references, new keywords and targeted fields. Content research is never a mechanical process. It first happens inside your head, and then on your keyboard. 

During content research, your brain is trying to fight back existing learning and associations, and building new neural networks to re-learn. In this process, re-adaptation of the way we approach a subject matter also takes place. This is the most human thing. Most ingenious and elevating for the gray matter in your head.

3. Focus on the con(text)

Nothing is universal. Everything is contextual.

Only a fool would assume, without comprehending the premise. There may be a thousand different angles, takes, sub categories, perspectives and elements to your topic of interest. But what should interest you first is the objective of your research. And while you take that forward in your search query, look for search result titles in your Google search engine results page (SERP) that reflect or better yet, mimic or mirror your query. Then to boil down, read the snippet at a glance. If those intrigue you, that means they resonate with the thought process in your mind.

The flip side of this is that you might end up ignoring content that might branch out your understanding of the topic. So do keep an open mind and read more.

A clean slate enriches content research. Visualise new charts and connections in your mind while reading new content. It would be helpful if you create flow charts, label the contexts of the information you note down and then connect them with certain themes that emerge as you read along. There is nothing more fulfilling to content than to read more content. And mind you, content is not just information. Content is all sorts of text, knowledge, perspective, communication and ideas that have been passed and exchanged between people and still continue to be. 

The packaging, curation and uniqueness might evolve but everything we do, see, say and create, is content, which is exactly the premise for user generated content on social media that is taking over content capacities across the world. There is practically more content to be consumed than possible consumers.

With more and more devices and advanced technology to search better, even with the help of a live camera search, expands to a whole lot of avenues for content research. And while content is easy to create and even easier to access, there is a need for well-researched content that is quick to provide any kind of value to the content consumer. For that, you don’t need to be a scholar. Just being curious, intuitive and search-savvy is enough while adapting this three-pronged approach that will lift your content creation process.

Content is a manifestation of your ideation and it becomes relatable when you research it better. And you know what they say, the more relatable the content, the better it is!

Please Note: This article has been written by Deepika Dhawan. Views expressed in this article are that of the author only.

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