Ultimate Guide to Creating Original Research Content

It’s getting harder and harder to create content that stands out from the crowd. There are millions of blog posts being created each day. How do you stand out from the crowd? I found a type of blog post and process that gets you noticed that I call “Original Research Content”.

I’ve done various startups over the years, and I know how insanely hard it is to get attention on the internet. I always considered blogging and getting email subscribers, but I was (and am still not) a great writer.

Then, I noticed a different type of blog post: original research content. Bloggers analyzed data and turned it into content. Brian Dean of Backlinko has done this several times, including analyzing 1.3 million Youtube videos for ranking factors and analyzing 10,000 google voice search results. BuzzSumo created a blog post that analyzed 100 million headlines and the article has received over 10,000 shares and 400 backlinks.

Priceonomics has a whole studio that helps companies turn their internal data into content. The founder and CEO, Rohin Dhar, created a 30,000-word handbook about how they do content marketing. It’s a different but fascinating look at turning data into content. I like to focus more on general business goals whereas they like to focus more on getting attention and backlinks (not criticizing, just an observation). The Priceonomics blog is filled with examples of interesting stories they’ve created from analyzing data.

I remember seeing these posts and thinking, “I’m a programmer. I could totally do that. The writing they’re using is simple and straightforward.” I decided to try it out. On a brand new blog, with literally zero traffic and no audience to speak of, I analyzed what caused certain infographics to get shared more than others.

I reached out to influencers and journalists. People thought the article was good. Ayaz Nanji of ICW content wrote about me on Marketing Profs. Influencers like Shane Barker tweeted my stuff out. People I had never met before like Frank Strong, who runs the agency Sword and the Script, wrote about my research. I managed to stand out from the crowd and get traffic, shares, backlinks, and email subscribers.

I needed to prove to myself that what I did was repeatable, so I created a new post in which I analyzed 100,000 viral posts. This one did even better. Cheryl Conner, the CEO of SnappConner PR, wrote about me in Forbes. Ayaz Nanji wrote about me again in Marketing Profs. Michael Brenner, the CEO of Marketing Insider Group and one of the top 20 marketing influencers, tweeted out my article. I got even more traffic, backlinks, email subscribers, and shares.

That convinced me that what I’m doing can be sold and talked about. I could help bloggers and companies turn data into better performing content with my programming, writing, and content promotion skills.

I’ve decided to write about my entire content creation and promotion process here. This guide is long, but I tried to be as succinct as possible as I’m trying to completely flesh out what is a very detailed process:

Original Research Content Process

That is my current process for creating an original research content piece, but it’s always evolving. The program I used to create that outline is Workflowy. It’s the best to-do list and life management tool on the web. I use it to manage my writing, my business, and my life in general.

Now that the introduction is out of the way, let’s get started:

This is a long, information-packed post and you probably won’t be able to remember everything. If you want a PDF copy of this 13,000+ word guide then just click here

Table of Contents

Part 1: Why Original Research Content Performs Better than Regular Content

Chapter 1.1: Original Research Content is Unique and Visual

Chapter 1.2: Original Research Content is Hard to Reproduce
Chapter 1.3: You don’t need Academic Rigor to Deliver a lot of Value

Part 2: Figure out what to write about, so you know readers will love it

Chapter 2.1: Why do you create content?

Chapter 2.2: What does your Audience Like?

Part 3: Getting Data without Spending too much Time

Chapter 3.1: Analyzing your own Data

Chapter 3.2: Analyzing External Data

Chapter 3.3: Conducting a Survey

Chapter 3.4: Manually Retrieving Data

Chapter 3.5: Qualify your Data Source

Part 4: Getting guaranteed Traffic and Backlinks to your Original Research Content (Pre-Publish)

Chapter 4.1: Find Communities who would be Interested

Chapter 4.2: Searching  for Relevant Keywords

Chapter 4.3: Finding Influencers and Linkers

Chapter 4.4: Building Relationships with Influencers and Communities

Chapter 4.5: Getting a Medium Following

Chapter 4.6: Asking Influencers and Communities for Research Questions

Part 5: How to Effortlessly Analyze Your Data (Even if You’re not a Programmer)

Chapter 5.1: Finalizing Your List of Research Questions

Chapter 5.2: Visualizing Data

Chapter 5.3: If you’re a Programmer, Python and Matplotlib are Great

Chapter 5.4: Analyzing Data as a Non-Programmer

Chapter 5.5: Using Humans for Analysis Computers can’t Do

Chapter 5.6 Keep Redoing your Visualizations Until You’re Happy

Part 6: Quickly Write your Original Research Article

Chapter 6.1: Come up with a Thesis and Statistic for Each Chart

Chapter 6.2: Create Your Outline

Chapter 6.3: Write your Article

Chapter 6.4: Write your Headline

Part 7: Getting Guaranteed Traffic and Backlinks to your Original Research Content (Post-Publish)

Chapter 7.1: Reaching Out to Your Existing Audience

Chapter 7.2: Reaching Out to your Influencers, Linkers, and Communities

Chapter 7.3: Repurposing your Research

Chapter 7.4: Ranking for Your Relevant Keyword

Part 8: Leveraging your Results to Grow More

Chapter 8.1: Measure how well you Did

Chapter 8.2: Doing Original Research Content Again

Chapter 8.3: Blogging but not doing Original Research Content

Chapter 8.4: Guest Posting and Publicity

Chapter 8.5: Remember to keep up your Relationships with Influencers

Conclusion

Part 1: Why Original Research Content Performs Better than Regular Content

I’ve explained to you how I’ve used original research content to establish a little niche for myself in the content marketing blogosphere, arguably the most competitive content space to break into. But what makes these types of posts so successful? I feel that there are two main reasons: it’s unique and it’s difficult to create.

Chapter 1.1: Original Research Content is Unique and Visual

I read A LOT of marketing content. While I have seen a rise in surveys and original research content, I haven’t seen it take over that much. The fact of the matter is that it is unique. And even if this trend takes off, which I suspect it will, there are ways to make sure that your post can still stand out (which I’ll talk about later).

Visual content has been on the rise. This makes sense since we can process information so much faster through visuals than through words. According to a survey by Impact, 90% of marketers they surveyed use visual content but only 14% use charts and data visualizations as their most common visual content. So while other marketers understand the importance of visual content, not many are putting a lot of effort into creating visual content from data.

Luckily, doing original research means that the visuals are part of your process. You don’t need to go out of your way to create data visualizations since coming up with charts are an absolutely necessary part of original research content. You’ll create a unique and visual piece of content without having to try too hard.

Chapter 1.2: Original Research Content is Hard to Reproduce

So why don’t content marketers produce more original research? Well, to be frank, it’s hard, time-consuming, and expensive. You have to be willing to put a lot of your time and/or money into a piece of content. If you’re not comfortable with spending over $1000 on content creation and promotion, then you’re not in the right place. That being said, it’s pretty clear that the time and money are well worth it in the end.

Many content marketers don’t have the skills to create this type of content. While you don’t need to be a programmer, there are some types of analysis that you can only do as a programmer.

In my infographics piece, I wanted to measure the impact of the number of words in an infographic. I had to use the Google image search API to analyze the number of words on each infographic because it would take forever for a person to count every word on 1,000 infographics. In my viral posts piece, I had to use the Moz API to measure the Domain Authority and Page Authority of different pieces of content. These are the types of things that only programmers can do.

Paul Graham, the famous startup investor, said that a startup should focus on solving the hardest problems it can. That way, it’s harder for larger companies to copy you. Similarly, you should try to make the most challenging original research you can. That way, it’s harder for competitors to copy you and there’s more of a chance for your content to stand out. That’s my philosophy and why I’ve been able to stand out as a new blogger.

Chapter 1.3:  You don’t need Academic Rigor to Deliver a lot of Value

On several occasions, I’ve had people question the legitimacy of the type of content I create. They ask whether I’m qualified to deliver the data-driven content that I create. They’ll ask whether I know enough statistics to come up with significant conclusions. They think that if my articles don’t have the scientific rigor of academically published papers, then they might not have any use.

I appreciate these concerns since they were ones that I had when I first started creating original research content. My response to these questions is to first say that I know my articles wouldn’t be accepted into an academic journal (though science does have a reproducibility crisis, that’s a story for another day). I also know that while I know more statistics than most people and have taken several courses on it, I know there are plenty of academic researchers who understand statistics better than me.

The fact of the matter is that I don’t need to subject myself to that level of rigor. The areas I deal with (content, infographics, marketing, etc.) have lots of proprietary data that would make a truly statistically perfect study almost impossible to conduct.

What I need to do with my content is to create value for my audience. As John Hall, the CEO of the content marketing agency Influence and Co., said in a piece in Forbes:

Focus on information that’s most valuable to your audience.

That’s the point of most content marketing. To add value to members of your audience so that they trust you and are willing to buy from you later on.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t try and use all of what I know to create statistically significant content and research. I have a personal rule that I suggest you follow when doing research: Never lie! I always try and explain exactly how I conducted my research to my audience and be as transparent and honest as possible.

As long as I do everything in my power to create accurate content, explain the limitations of my research, and only state the conclusions that I feel the data allows me to give, I can hold my head up high and keep my conscience clean. I know that I have used my research to create value for my audience in an honest and transparent way.

Part 2: Figure out what to Write About, so You Know Readers will Love It

Now that I’ve convinced why you should create original research content, you have to figure out what data you want to collect and analyze. This is important because the last thing you want to do is to spend a lot of time working on a piece only to have it seen by 100 visitors and only give you two email subscribers.

Chapter 2.1: Why do you create content?

There are many reasons that people engage in content marketing. While everything, in the end, revolves around getting more customers, there are many sub-goals along the way.

Maybe you want to get more email subscribers. Maybe you want to get more backlinks so your website ranks better in search engines. Maybe you want to increase visibility for your startup to get more free users. Maybe you want to display your expertise to potential customers.

The great thing is that original research content can help with all of these goals. It can get you more traffic, visibility, and email subscribers. It causes big sites to link to you and increase your SEO. It can prove to your potential customers that you know what you’re talking about and that you have something worth buying.

Of all of these, displaying expertise is what original research content really excels at. By doing original research, you show that you’ve engaged with a subject so much that you’re able to create information that didn’t exist before.

While original research can and does get a lot of traffic and email subscribers to new blogs, it does that better with an existing audience. There’s always a chance that content doesn’t perform when you have a new blog. You can minimize that happening by using the process I describe here, but the cold, hard truth is that content is both art and science. Some of it is up to chance.

As for backlinks, original research is great because people like to link to statistics and facts in their posts. When you do it right, you can get absurd amounts of backlinks. This article by Tim Soulo on the Ahrefs blog that analyzed 2 million featured snippets in Google was linked to over 300 times.

While SEO is much more complicated than just building backlinks, they’re still quite important. An example of this is how Nathan Gotch of Gotch SEO ranked #1 for the “buy backlinks” search term without using backlinks, as he describes in this interview. Creating great content that searchers consume has become a huge part of ranking well. Luckily for us, original research has done very well in getting search engine rankings.

Make sure you have a clear goal for your content. Something measurable, actionable, and attainable. Getting 200 email subscribers is a realistic goal. Getting 20,000 email subscribers is not. Getting 30 backlinks is realistic. Getting 300 backlinks is not.

This all depends on your traffic of course. The more traffic you have, the easier it is to promote your content and reach your goals. Content is a bit of a chicken-and-the-egg game like that.

Chapter 2.2: What does your Audience Like?

Once you know your goal, it’s time to start thinking about your (potential) audience. Where do they hang out? What are they worried about?

I could go into detail about it here but the topic of user research has been covered extensively. The best article on user research I’ve ever seen is this one by Benji Hyam of Grow and Convert. To sum up the article, you’ll want to know where your audience hangs out (Facebook groups, online communities, blogs they read) and what they want.

Now that you’ve done the user research, I like to use a variation of Brian Dean’s Skyscraper Technique. Look at content topics that have done well in your audience’s communities and niche. You should have a decent idea of what content does well in your audience’s communities if you followed the advice in the Benji Hyam article.

Use some type of tool to see what content does best in your niche. I’m a customer and big fan of BuzzSumo. Though you’ll get better insights if you upgrade to the paid tier, you can still learn a lot by using the free product. Just start searching for things that your audience is curious about, like “infographics content marketing”:

buzzsumo screenshot

The first result is an article on the state of content marketing and not relevant to me, but the second one shows that people are interested in learning about creating infographics. That signals that original research on infographics has potential.

You can play around with what you search and many different parameters in BuzzSumo, but the important thing to know is that content on a certain topic has achieved your desired result (traffic, backlinks, etc.).

If you have significant traffic and have a history of content, then you can do a similar analysis on your own site. See which articles and topics on your site resonated the most with your audience. If you see a particular topic gets shared by your audience a lot, it’s probably a sign that they will love research on that topic.

One last note, don’t worry about being too original. The best content is often not something completely original but something just a little bit better or unique from what has come before. Remember the Buzzsumo headline study I talked about earlier? It was certainly not the first headline study ever created. It was just done and promoted extremely well. As this article from Elvis Michael of Listiller says, wanting to be completely unique is a common and unfounded fear that a lot of bloggers and content creators have.

Part 3: Getting Data without Spending too much Time

Now that you’ve picked a topic, it’s time to actually get your hands on the data you want. Make sure the data you get relates to the topic you chose in the previous two parts. You don’t want to let all that hard work you did in researching your audience and picking a topic to go to waste.

In general, the more data you collect, the more impressive your results are. Saying I analyzed 1 billion articles is more impressive than saying I analyzed 1 million. That being said, even small amounts of data, presented well, can produce original research content that gets results.

There are four different ways to collect data to research, and I’ll go over all of them here:

Chapter 3.1: Analyzing your own Data

If you own or work for any modern company with a website, you generate a lot of data. Google analytics data, email open rates, purchase information, and so much more. Plus, you get the added advantage of knowing that no one else can copy your article since you and you alone own the data.

This is the approach that Priceonomics takes on their own blog and for their clients. With Craft, they analyzed the commit frequency of cryptocurrencies and earned seven backlinks. With Redbooth, they analyzed the productivity of different countries and earned over 300 backlinks.

This approach works especially well for Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies since all SaaS companies need to store information in a database. You can slice up your data in several different ways to come up with stories that your audience would appreciate.

This is how companies’ research can stand out if every company starts doing original research content. By creating original research content from your own data, you guarantee that you’ll have something that no other company can reproduce.

Chapter 3.2: Analyzing External Data

There is an insane amount of data being created on the internet as this infographic from Domo that I found on Alphr shows:

Internet Data Infographic

There are virtually unlimited places to find data about your chosen topic. I love using BuzzSumo because it’s easy to get relevant information about any topic, and it conveniently gives you a CSV file to analyze.

There are lots of other places to get free datasets.  Here’s a list of 100 free data sources compiled by Column Five. Whatever topic you want to do analysis on, there is almost certainly somewhere on the internet you can find a dataset for that topic.

Chapter 3.3: Conducting a Survey

One way to get completely original data to analyze is to conduct a survey. There are a lot of survey tools out there, but I’d have to recommend SurveyMonkey out of all of them. It’s an industry standard and will do whatever you want it to do. It starts off with a free tier but you’ll need to pay if you use it a lot.

Surveys can result in content that performs quite well. Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media does an annual survey of bloggers. The article on the 2017 survey has received over 200 links and over 1,800 shares.

If you’re designing a survey, take this advice from Michele Linn of Mantis Research into account:

While there are many things to consider when it comes to survey design, start by asking yourself: how do you want your data to help your audience? What insights do you want to reveal? Each and every question needs to contribute to that story in some way (even if the story is that the results are different than what you hypothesized).

Chapter 3.4: Manually Retrieving Data

I’m warning you now that this is the hardest method of all. If you absolutely cannot or do not want to find data another way, you can manually get data. As I warned you earlier, this can take you A LOT of time.

The good thing about going this route is that it’s unlikely that someone else will take the effort to do what you did. You’ll be more likely to impress your audience if you take the effort to do something so time-intensive.

Asher Fergusson took two months to collect 1,021 Airbnb horror stories and negative reviews from several different websites to answer the question: Is Airbnb safe? The article received over 100 backlinks and over 2,000 shares and, as far as I can tell, is the second-best performing article on his site.

Chapter 3.5: Qualify your Data Source

In an ideal world, you’ll get your data in a spreadsheet file, like a CSV or XLSX. That’s the easiest format to work with. But, there’s a chance you get a file in a different format, like a SQL dump.

Learning SQL just to create one piece of research content is probably not worth it. Better to hire out a programmer (like me) to do the analysis for you.

If you can’t afford to pay for a programmer, then either find another data source or prepare to start learning. Your best bet is to try this SQL for Marketers course from Justin Mares. It’s hard for me to say how long you’ll need to practice for, but I’ll estimate that you’ll need 10-15 hours before you can do any analysis. If you do go the teaching yourself route, then email me at [email protected] Don’t want to sell you anything, just want to help you out.

If you can’t or don’t want to learn SQL, then find another dataset. I know it sucks to have to look for another dataset, but there is a lot of data out there. If you try hard enough, you’re sure to find or assemble the relevant data (I’ve never been in a situation where I couldn’t find a sufficient data source).

I should also spend a paragraph on an extremely rare case: NoSQL databases. If you don’t know what these are, don’t worry about it. Just know that they are lesser used databases. If you do have NoSQL data and are willing to analyze it, then I’ll suggest NoSQL for dummies. I’m guessing you’ll need to spend at least 10-20 solid hours of studying to be able to analyze your data.

Once you can analyze your dataset, then actually open it up and look at a few rows. It’s helpful to manually look at a few entries just to see what’s actually in your dataset. Brainstorm some questions you might be able to ask about your dataset. You don’t need to have all your questions yet, but it should be something that you keep in the back of your mind.

At this point, you need to make a value judgment as to whether your dataset is good enough for your final analysis. Maybe you could augment it with other datasets if you know how. Talk to your programmer (or me) about it if you have to. If you know that there are good questions that you can get answers to from your data, then you’ve got a good enough dataset and can move on.

Part 4: Getting guaranteed Traffic and Backlinks to your Original Research Content (Pre-Publish)

So you’ve figured out the topic for your original research and you have a data source. What now? Before you start analyzing your data, you have to create and start a promotion plan. If you don’t do anything to promote your data, then you get no traffic, shares, or backlinks. I know I’m spending a lot of time not talking about doing original research, but all of the pre-work you do will teach you more about your audience and help make your original research content a success.

I’m writing this in March 2018, but I’m going to try to continue to keep this guide updated. Thing is, the internet and what people do on it keeps changing. What won’t change are several core principles that have been true since the start of the internet:

  • Backlinks play a strong a role in SEO, so you need to find people who will link to you to do well in search engines.
  • Even if backlinks play less of a role, creating great content that searchers want will continue to be a winning strategy in SEO.
  • Every audience hangs out somewhere online. If you post content that helps them in a non-spammy way, then they will respond.
  • There are influencers on every platform. These are people who have large followings and have built up a lot of trust with their audience. Convincing them to share your content can explode your success.
  • People will automatically share great and helpful content.

Chapter 4.1: Find Communities who would be Interested

People have been hanging out in online communities since the beginning of the internet. People have also been spammed in online communities since the beginning of the internet. The result is that your audience is online somewhere, but you have to make sure that they are somewhere where marketers haven’t saturated the whole thing.

The best way you can tell if a community online is saturated or not is by the amount of commenting that happens. When marketers ruin a platform, the engagement goes down. The amount of people in a community seems nice but is next to worthless.

In order to find communities, rely on the research you did in finding what content your audience likes. You should have an idea of the facebook groups, slack groups, and online communities your audience hangs out in. If you don’t, start talking with people in your audience or start googling.

One trick I’ve found is that paid communities tend to be very receptive to great content. An easy way to find paid communities is to find courses created by influencers. Oftentimes, communities are an add-on to courses, so check them out.

I suggest getting a list of at least five communities to post your research in. It’s possible for your content to completely fail in a community, so you want to give yourself several shots at getting traction.

Chapter 4.2: Searching and Ranking for Relevant Keywords

If you don’t care about SEO at all, then feel free to ignore this section. If you do, then keep reading.

When optimizing for SEO, there has been a recent trend of Google optimizing for searcher intent as opposed to just keywords. That being said, keywords are still a great place to start when optimizing for SEO, and that trend isn’t going anywhere.

A very thorough look at the topic is this article by Sharon Hurley Hall. My quick summary: Use a tool to find keywords with decent volume and low competition.

My favorite tool for looking at keywords is Ubersuggest on Neil Patel’s website. It’s simple and all you need to is to just type in a keyword you’re looking for in order to get relevant suggestions, keyword volume, and competition level.

Chapter 4.3: Finding Influencers and Linkers

The best way to find people to promote your content is to 1) find people who shared similar content in the past and 2) find people who get lots of shares.

If you want to find people to backlink to you, then do the same thing.

Right now, Twitter is still the best social network to try and promote your content. It’s entirely public, making it easy to find the people you want and to find how often their content gets shared.

Once again, Buzzsumo will do the trick here. First, find a popular piece of content covering the topic you’re going to research (you should have already done this). Then, see who shared that piece of content and sort by average retweets:

As you can see, I looked for sharers of this post on infographics by Neil Patel and found sharers who get a lot of retweets. Look at each of the sharers’ Twitter accounts to see whether they are active. If they don’t tweet at least once a day, then don’t bother. They probably will ignore you. Also, check in BuzzSumo that they have an average retweet ratio of at least two. Some influencers have lots of followers but get no traffic.

You can also use BuzzSumo to find people to link and write about your article. First, find a popular research post online on a similar topic. Just google “TOPIC research” or look around your communities. Then, enter the URL of the article on the topic you want to cover and then click the “View Backlinks” link. Now, you can see who wrote about that popular research post.

You want to focus on people whose articles are primarily about the research, not just who talk about it in passing. The cool thing about unique research is that people want to talk and write about it. There are journalists whose full-time job it is to write about research.

You may also find people with article roundups who like to link to research. Include a few of them as well. It’s good SEO juice as well as traffic.

My goal with my pre-promotion is usually to identify 100 promotion opportunities including communities, journalists, and influencers. Usually, my breakdown is 10 communities, 50 influencers, 5 roundup linkers, and 35 journalists. I prefer skewing my ratio towards influencers over journalists because you’re asking a lot more of journalists: to write about you (though the payoff is much higher). When contacting influencers, your only hope is a social share, which is a lot less work for them but results in less exposure. Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that many people can do both and can write about your research as well as share it with their massive audience.

Your ratio doesn’t need to be exact but be sure to put the communities, influencers, and journalists into a spreadsheet. I have a google sheets template that I personally use, which you can find here. Fill out whatever information you have. Then document each contact or outreach you have. It helps you to not go insane when dealing with so many people.

Chapter 4.4: Building Relationships with Influencers and Communities

If you reach out cold to an influencer or journalist without any advance notice, then they’ll be a lot less likely to share or write about your research. When dealing with influencers (or anyone in business, for that matter), I follow two principles I learned from this Ramit Sethi article: Give more than you get and give without expecting anything in return.

So you want to give them value. How do you do that? The person I go to for finding out how to give value to influencers is Selena Soo. Check out her site for finding more on how to do that. I’ll share two of her strategies here that I like to use:

  • Retweeting them, commenting on their blogs, and tweeting at them. This is the absolute minimum you should do. Try to retweet one post and add one thorough blog comment or tweet at least every week. A lot of the big influencers, like Neil Patel and Ramit Sethi, respond to every comment they get. For most people, a good comment is an unusual and very welcome thing.
  • Consume their courses and books and show that they work. You might already have some of these from looking for communities earlier. A big issue in the online course world is that people buy a course and then never act on it (I’m absolutely guilty of this). If you can show that you used their advice to get a fantastic result, then they can use that testimonial going forward.

Remember to give without expecting in return. If you reach out to people for help, some of them will ignore it because they’re busy with their lives. That’s okay! You’re just giving. Even when you ask for something, be 100% okay with them ignoring you. If you give enough to others, you’ll get plenty back in the end. That’s absolutely been my experience in my career.

In the communities you want to share in, start posting something completely helpful (whether it’s sharing something new or replying to other people) at least once a week. Get a feel for what the place is like and the types of content that they like to consume. Again, you are only trying to give here.

You want to start the process of giving as early as possible. Ideally, at least one month before your original research content goes live. Two months or more is better. The longer you build up a relationship with someone or with a community, the likelier they are to respond.

Chapter 4.5: Getting a Medium Following

Medium, the site for creating and sharing articles, is a great place to promote content and is worth a chapter to itself. I was initially skeptical, but I learned about it in depth from Tom Kuegler (who has a great email course on Medium), and now I’m a convert. What makes Medium so unique is three things:

  • Medium allows you to follow up to 125 people a day. Some of those people will follow you back. The result is that you have a guaranteed audience.
  • There are publications with large followings that allow almost anyone to contribute. It’s like getting a guaranteed guest posting opportunity, without the backlink. Go to http://smedian.com to look for publications that accept contributors.
  • Medium works to promote your content and rewards content that gets more engagement with more traffic. It’s automatic content promotion.

All you have to do for now is to create a Medium account, create a publication (where you will post your research), write one helpful comment a day, and follow 125 people a day. This will get you noticed by the Medium audience and prepare them for when you release your article. You can try writing for other publications to increase your followers, but it’s not at all necessary.

Chapter 4.6: Asking Influencers for Research Questions

Now that you’ve built up a relationship with influencers and journalists, it’s time you figure out what questions your readers would want to know about your research. At a minimum, you should have been building up credibility with influencers and communities for at least two weeks.

The first thing you want to do is to get the email addresses of your potential influencers and journalists and add them to the spreadsheet. I recommend using Clearbit as they have an awesome free tool. Sign up for a free account and install the Chrome extension. Then, open your Gmail account and click the Clearbit logo at the top right:

Then enter the domain you got earlier for your contact and then search their name. 95 times out of 100, Clearbit will get you the email. If that doesn’t work, you can use various other services or try looking around their website. If after 10 minutes, you just can’t find their email, then opt for sending a Twitter direct message. Emailing people out of the blue is a bit of a numbers game so don’t worry too much about one contact over another.

Now that you have their email addresses, it’s time to actually reach out. I know that I almost hyperventilated when I first started cold emailing, but after a few emails, I realized that nothing bad ever happened to me. One prospect inquired about how I got their email address and when I told them I used an email tool, they didn’t mind at all. In fact, they’re now one of my best contacts.

There are a lot of articles that cover tips on how to write emails to reach busy people. One concise yet helpful article that I found is this one by Strong Content. When I ask busy people for research questions, I use this template that follows a lot of advice in that article:

Research Question Template

You can download a copy of that here.

This email template has consistently gotten me replies over 10 percent of the time. What makes it work so well?

First, let’s get into the psychology of a busy person: They get lots of email, but they don’t want to spend time on email. Any email you send to them is a potential waste of their time. That being said, if you are someone who can give them lots of value, then they want to take a bit of time to answer your emails.

Second, you show you’re not cold blasting out this offer to everyone by personalizing the email. You show that you’ve attempted to contact them before. You’re also wowing them by putting a number in the email subject line to make it stand out in their email inbox.

Third, you’re not asking them for too big of an ask. You’re just asking them to answer two small questions. Ideally, you want the influencer to feel as if it’s better for them to answer the email now then to answer the email later.

Finally, you’re getting their help in creating your research. I found this out from Dmitry Dragilev, who found out that 70 percent of journalists prefer collaborating on content to finished assets. Not only does it stroke their ego that you’re asking for their opinion, you’re also customizing your research to fit their audience.

If you’ve gotten no responses back after a week, then most likely you’ve chosen a bad topic despite all the work we’ve done or you’ve gotten extremely unlucky. If you feel like you’ve messed up with your topic, then go back and choose another one. Yeah, it sucks but it’s better to cut your losses now. You can still use the connections you’ve built up. If you feel like you just got unlucky and that there’s a great piece of original research content to be created on your topic, then you can keep going. Just know that there’s a chance of your article flopping.

If you did get responses back, then look at the questions your influencers and journalists gave back to you. Put all of them into a document and go forward. You’re ready to start analyzing your data.

Part 5: How to Effortlessly Analyze Your Data

Alright, so now you’re finally ready to do some real analysis. I apologize that I’ve spent so much of this guide not on the actual data analysis. The truth is that the previous steps are crucial to making your content become a success. Getting people to read what you write about is the hardest part of content marketing.

The good news is that the effort you put in until now can inform your analysis. You know what people want and have even gotten busy strangers to weigh in, so you know the direction you’ll want to take your analysis. To be honest, the analysis itself is one of the easiest parts of creating original research content once you do the pre-work right.

Chapter 5.1: Finalizing Your List of Research Questions

My general rule is to come up with 10-12 research questions you want to ask. You want to ideally have 8-10 questions that you attempt to ask and it’s likely that the data won’t support a couple of questions or you won’t be able to display the data in a way to answer a certain question.

If you don’t have 10 questions yet, then think about your data and audience. To me, content marketing is about being interesting and helpful to your audience. Look at your data and think: What are your audience members struggling with? What are trends that they like to talk about? What goals are they trying to achieve? Then, look at your data and try to imagine all the different factors you can analyze. What are the different correlations and factors you can measure? Which columns in your data have ranges or different values? Keep exploring until you have 12 research questions.

Chapter 5.2: Visualizing Data

So how do you want to display your data to your audience? There are many types of charts which I’m sure you have seen. Our goal is to produce one chart per question, but it’s not a hard and fast rule. If you can create charts that answer multiple questions, then that’s okay too. The goal is to show several visualizations that deliver value to our reader.

What I’ve found is that different data sets are better suited to different charts. Once you figure out what type of chart works for your particular set of data, then it should work for most or all of your questions. Both my infographic article and my viral posts article pretty much only used one type of chart.

Ideally, you won’t need to create more than two types of charts, but it’s much more important to do things right then to do what’s easy. Your goal is to create charts that answer your research questions. Don’t be afraid to spend the time to get your visualization right.

As you create your visualizations, make sure you record the relevant statistics and even try to show them on the graph if possible. This will come in handy later on as you write about your charts. It makes it easier for people to quote you when they can use a real statistic instead of a generality.

I’ll show several chart types that have all done well online. Most are quite common, though I’m including a few rare ones that are so good that I had to mention them.  I’m presenting all of them here before we do the analysis so you can think about the ways that you want to slice up and show your data. Don’t limit yourself to these charts if you think of an effective alternative (I can’t possibly go every possible chart, so you’ll have to use your own judgment). Just know that these chart types are likely to be a good choice.

Bar Graph

I found this bar graph of research done by serpqIQ comparing average content length to Google position on Sujan Patel’s site. It’s simple and obvious to the reader, exactly what you want from a graph.

The bar graph may be the most popular chart out there. It’s great at showing how different groupings compare to each other. Oftentimes, you present averages of a characteristic on a bar graph.

You can also put bars right next to each other to show a different type of comparison. These help to show trends among different groups. A great example is this chart:

This chart from ZocDoc shows how patients from different regions rate healthcare providers. For some reason, patients from the Midwest give the highest ratings while patients from the Northeast give the lowest ratings.

My first thought when doing analysis is to see if I can create a bar graph if I can. It’s the most straightforward and easiest to understand graph out there. When considering a bar graph, I like to ask myself: What groupings are you comparing? Can I show my data as individual bars or do I want to group bars together?

Scatter Plot

I found this scatter plot that shows how Old Faithful waiting times are correlated to eruption duration on Infogram. Again, a simple diagram that is obvious to the reader.

Scatter plots are great at showing how two different factors affect data points. It seems like the least “tidy” of all the graphs, but that also makes it feel the most honest. The one drawback of this type of graph is that it doesn’t work too well if you have very large datasets with points that are too similar to each other. With an inappropriate dataset, a scatter plot can look like a clumped, undecipherable mess.

Another issue with scatter plots is that you might run into huge outliers that stretch your graph out and hide the rest of the data points. In that case, it’s okay to not show the outliers in your visualization. I’d still keep them in your analysis, but you want to hide them from your charts to show a more realistic view of your data.

Pie Chart

The previous pie charts from Feedvisor shows which devices Amazon customers used to make purchases in 2016 and 2017. The main focus of the charts is that mobile shopping is increasing while desktop shopping is decreasing.

Pie charts are great at showing how different sections make up varying proportions of something bigger. I’d suggest a pie chart if you’re measuring something of which the sections show something interesting.

Line Chart

The previous chart from PR Underground shows how much more PR managers have been paid than specialists over time. I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: It’s a simple and obvious chart. Simple and obvious charts are the best. You don’t want to make your readers think too hard to understand the meaning of your graph.

Line charts are great at showing how data changes over time or how data changes when compared to some other type of ranking. Line charts are great if you have time-based data or have data with clear ranked positions (like search engine rankings).

Onomics Table

Priceonomics released a tool called Onomics to show the values of different amounts in a straightforward and interesting way. The tool was used to create the chart above for an article on Datafiniti. It shows a definite relationship between the rankings a reviewer gives a product and the number of grammatical mistakes they make. If your data can be displayed in a ranked fashion, then you can use the Onomics tool by Priceonomics to quickly generate the previous graph.

State-by-State Comparison

I found the above chart on Policy Genius. It simply shows the percentage of life insurance applicants who have a health condition. You can speculate all you want why certain states are healthier than others. I’m not sure why North Dakota is so unhealthy, but your guess is as good as mine.

Credit again to Priceonomics for introducing me to this type of chart. As Americans (and I’m sure this goes for people of other nations), we feel both curious and competitive when it comes to how different states rank to each other. Once you display this data, the stories and conclusions and speculations almost write themselves.

You can also consider creating a worldwide graph that compares countries or a state-by-state chart for another country. I’m simply focusing on state-by-state charts because they do particularly well with American audiences, and I know that most of my audience is American.

If you want to make a state-by-state chart, then I highly suggest using a tool like Pixel Map from acmharts.com, even if you are a programmer. It makes your life so much easier.

Chapter 5.3: If you’re a Programmer, Use Python and Matplotlib to Analyze your Data

If you or someone who’s working with you can write code, then your life will be a lot easier. If you don’t, that’s okay. There’s a lot of software to analyze spreadsheets if that’s what you have. If you’ve got a SQL dump, then you should have taught yourself enough SQL already. The rest of this chapter is only for programmers (ie people who are or could become minorly proficient in python), so if that’s not you, then feel free to go to the next chapter.

If you are a programmer then my advice to you is to just use Python and Matplotlib to produce your visualizations. I’m sure that every programming language has a library for data visualizations, but python is not only a simple and well-known language, but it also is frequently used for statistics and machine learning. Even if you’ve never used Python before, you’ll be producing visualizations in no time at all.

If you have your data in a spreadsheet, then convert it into a CSV and just use the Python CSV library. If it’s in a SQL dump, then put it into a SQL database (I prefer Postgres) and use a library to connect to the database. From there, you’ll be able to produce any of the graphs I talked about except the Onomics table. You can use the Onomics website to produce that if you want.

If you want to make a state-by-state comparison, then you could use the Basemap library of Matplotlib. My recommendation, however, is to just use the free Pixel Map tool from AM Charts. Just because you can program something, doesn’t mean you have to.

Chapter 5.4: Analyzing Data as a Non-Programmer

If you have your data in a spreadsheet, then your life is a lot easier. Just upload your spreadsheet to Google Drive or Excel then use formulas to analyze your data. Here’s a list of common Google Drive formulas to help you get started.

If your data is in SQL form, then I hope you took some time to understand SQL. Again, I’ll recommend the SQL for marketers course if you didn’t take it already. Once you know your SQL, then load your data into a SQL database and start running SQL queries on it.

Likewise, if your data is in NoSQL form, then you’ll need to understand how to query NoSQL databases. Study a book or course like NoSQL for Dummies. Once you have a basic understanding of NoSQL, load your data into a NoSQL database and start running queries on it.

Regardless of how you analyze your data, calculate the raw numbers so you can visualize your data. There are a lot of tools that will do this for you. My recommendations are based on what type of visualization you want to create. If you want to create a line chart, bar chart, or circle chart, I suggest you use Beam by Venngage. If you want to create a scatter plot, then I suggest you use plot.ly. If you want to create an Onomics table or a state-by-state comparison, then use the Onomics tool or Pixel Map respectively.

Chapter 5.5: Using Humans for Analysis Computers can’t Do

When creating my infographic analysis piece, I realized that I wanted certain analysis done that computers weren’t capable of, like counting the number of charts on an infographic. As smart as computers are, there is still a lot that only people can do.

Sometimes, you’ll need to rely on people power. While you can do it yourself, you can always delegate it out to other people to save your time and sanity. The issue with people is that they’re expensive (when compared to computers), so be absolutely sure that you need and are willing to pay for human analysis before you go down this road.

Before you get someone else to start analyzing your data, here’s what you need to do to get started: Upload your data into a spreadsheet in Google Drive and make the document public. Make sure that each row is something that needs analysis done on it and has all relevant links and information in that particular row. Also, make sure that there are empty columns for someone to enter in the results of the manual analysis.

Then, do ten rows of analysis by yourself and time how long it takes you. You should now know about how much time someone else will need to spend to finish the rest of the analysis. I suggest you round up your final hour total, as people will get fatigued after doing too much manual analysis.

Finally, write up detailed instructions for doing the manual analysis. Think of every possible edge case you can and what the analyst should do. Encourage the analyst to use their own judgment and not to spend too much time on any one single case. If you’re doing a large enough analysis, a mistake here and there isn’t the end of the world. Remind the analyst that you will do some random spot checking of their work.

There are three options for having humans do manual analysis: virtual assistant, cheap freelancer, or mechanical turk. Regardless of which method you choose, make sure to manually check a few random entries. I’ve found people to be generally trustworthy when doing this type of analysis, but you should still double-check.

Virtual Assistant

Hiring your own virtual assistant is great for if you’re willing to spend a bit more to find someone who is willing to do the work right. You get someone who you know personally who is accountable to you. It’s also likely that this person speaks good English, as communication is important. The major tradeoff is that this is the most expensive option.

The hiring a virtual assistant is not something I’m a total expert in, but luckily there is an expert for everything on the internet. Gina Horkey, of Horkey Handbook, suggests that one way to find a virtual assistant is to ask business friends or coworkers. The other is to use her virtual assistant finder. Expect to pay around $25 an hour for a North America based virtual assistant.

Cheap Freelancer

Even cheaper than a virtual assistant is to hire a freelancer. The problem with trying to get something done cheaper is that you may run into quality issues. You’re also likely to work with someone who doesn’t have a great command of the English language. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t a lot of qualified people to do your analysis, it just means that you have to be careful.

If you want a freelancer, I’d suggest searching for “data entry” on Fiverr and finding someone who looks like they know what they’re doing and has a lot of good reviews. Again, don’t get too stingy here with what you’re willing to spend. Expect to pay around $5-$10 per hour.

Mechanical Turk

Mechanical Turk is a way for you to get a swarm of people to work on your analysis for you. This is great if you want your work done fast and you have so much work to do that it would bore a regular person to death. With a virtual assistant or freelancer, they are going to be spending lots of time doing a repetitive task. Even if they sound eager, they may want to stab themselves in the eyes if they do something this repetitive for 20 hours in a week.

Mechanical Turk has a confusing interface, but the important thing to understand is that you create small tasks called a Human Intelligence Task (HIT). Figure out how much work could get done in an hour and then assign that many rows in your public spreadsheet for a human to work on.

I suggest that you first create one HIT and make sure everything goes right. Then, you’ll have to create the same HIT over and over again with different row numbers to have people finish off the rest of the analysis. As the HITs are taking place, be by your email to answer any questions that might arise. If you do it right, you can watch in real time as people from around the world update your spreadsheet without your supervision. I found it to be pretty cool. Expect to pay around $5 per hour.

Chapter 5.6 Redo and Improve Your Visualizations

Now you have completed your analysis and created some charts. You should have some solid results already but maybe there are ways you can do better. Maybe another chart type would be better? Maybe there is a different way you can analyze your data? I’ve found that until you actually go to create your charts, it’s hard to be exactly sure of what the best visualizations are.

Every time I’ve done original research content, I’ve found that several questions I thought I could ask ended up being not practical.I’ve also found that every time I’ve done original research content, I’ve realized that there were other questions I could answer that I hadn’t thought of. You can do all the planning you want, but you’ll find that it’s only when you start doing real research that you can know for sure what your analysis can produce.

The cool thing about this process is that you can redo your visualizations all you want. You can tweak and them in any way you see fit (as long as you are honest!) until you’re happy with the result. Play around with colors if you can. I can’t tell you here exactly what to do because every case is different but just know that if you have access to any of the tools I”ve talked about before, you have many options at your disposal to customize your visualizations.

Keep in mind that it’s okay for a chart to produce an obvious or unexplainable result. People like seeing data that confirms their preconceived notions. In fact, a lot of the quotes I get from my research are about obvious trends. If a chart presents data in a clear way, then feel free to use it.

Once you are happy with your charts, then watermark them with your company logo. If you want to watermark the images yourself, you can use watermark.ws, but you can also use Fiverr and search for “watermark” if you want to pay someone else $5 to do it.

You should watermark your images so that people are more likely to go to your site when they see your charts. If you do everything right, your charts should be seen by people all over the internet.

Part 6: Quickly Write your Original Research Article

Now that you have your charts, the last thing you need to do to is to actually write your article. Writing the article is easy after all the analysis is done. I have a simple but battle-tested template that I use. I’m not that great of a writer, but I can write simply and clearly. If you can do that, then your writing will be good enough to create an effective article.

There are an infinite amount of ways to write about your research. My template is not the only way to do it. I simply like to use my template because I know that it will present the information to the audience in a concise way.

I suggest you use my template, but even if you don’t, you want to follow one key principle: Discover at least one insight and one statistic per graph.

Chapter 6.1: Come up with a Thesis and Statistic for Each Chart

For each chart you’ve created, you will want to come up with a thesis statement either summarizing that chart or highlighting something unusual that the chart shows. If you can’t think of something or your chart doesn’t show anything useful, then just state the obvious. You don’t need to get cute or clever here. A simple summary can just confirm to your viewers what is apparent.

Then, find at least one important statistic from each chart (you may have to go back to your raw data).  It’s important that you can use real, hard numbers in your article. People prefer proper statistics to generalities. Also, the statistic you pull out should be related to the thesis statement of that chart. If you’re having trouble figuring out what statistic to use, just say what is most clear and obvious. Go for simplicity above all else.

Chapter 6.2: Create Your Outline

I like to create a simple outline before I start writing. I start with the introduction, then I create a section for each of the thesis statements we created before. Under each statement, I nest the corresponding statistic. Next to each statistic, I put a link to an article from an influencer that I’ve already connected with.

You should know your influencers well enough that you can find some of their articles that would be relevant when writing about each thesis. Take your time to dig around your connected influencers’ works if you don’t know exactly what you want. When you’re done with that, put in a sample section for the conclusion.

If the above process is hard to visualize, then just look at a sample outline here:

  • Introduction
  • Thesis from Chart A
    • statistic from chart A
    • link to influencer relating to chart A
  • Thesis form Chart B
    • statistic from chart B
    • link to influencer relating to chart B
  • Thesis from Chart C
    • statistic from chart C
    • link to influencer relating to chart C
  • Conclusion

How do you order your sections? I try to order them in such a way that each section is related to the previous. That way, it feels like a story. If you find that you have a couple of sections next to each other that aren’t that close, it’s not a big deal as long as we make our sections distinct from each other.

Chapter 6.3: Write your Article

Now you just need to follow the outline you created to complete your original research content. For the introduction, I like to keep it short and simple. Talk about what you did your research on, how you conducted your research, and briefly tease about your results. That’s it! After that, you can create a small table of contents/summary of your research by listing your thesis statements in order of appearance.

From there, you follow a very simple pattern: Write the thesis statement in a heading (I prefer an h2 tag), show the chart, write a few sentences about the chart, and repeat. Be sure to naturally insert the influencer link that you put in your outline. When writing about a particular chart, I only try to highlight what is interesting or unusual. If there is nothing interesting, then say that your chart displays the expected result. Feel free to engage in speculation as to why the data presented itself the way it did.

For your conclusion, you don’t need to be fancy. Just restate your findings. Since the core of the article is the research, you don’t really need a proper ending. If you have an engaged audience, then you can consider asking your audience to comment on your findings. You could also consider writing about some speculation you have about your findings and what you would like to do in the future. Feel free to give advice to your reader that the research warranted.

Don’t try to make your writing longer than it needs to be. Say what you want to say and be done with it! A lot of people put a lot of focus into the number of words, but it’s not a big deal. Since your article is full of charts, you’re conveying a lot of information without having to add too many words. If you want an actual number, then make sure you have at least 1,000 words. If you follow the steps I’ve laid out, I can’t imagine that you’ll have any less than that.

Chapter 6.4: Write your Headline

One of the most important parts of an article is the headline. What most people see when an article is passed around social media or an online community is the headline. There have been countless articles written about crafting headlines. One of the better ones I’ve seen is this one by Gini Dietrich. Some quick advice on headlines: think about your audience and what will draw them in and make them curious.

I use two tools to test my headlines. The first is the headline analyzer by CoSchedule. Just enter your headline and it will rate your headline on various factors such as length, sentiment, and wordiness. The second tool I use is the Priceonomics A/B testing tool. After you enter a sample article and some headlines, the tool will expose the headline to audiences using Facebook ads and will tell you the clickthrough rate. I love it because it takes a lot of the guesswork out of writing headlines. It’s $99 a month, but it has been well worth it for me.

Part 7: Getting Guaranteed Traffic and Backlinks to your Original Research Content (Post-Publish)

Now that you’ve finished your article and hit publish, you have to promote your research. Without promotion, no one will see or care about your article. However, we’ve already taken steps to make sure your article reaches your target audience. Now we just need to finish the job.

Chapter 7.1: Reaching Out to Your Existing Audience

Your existing audience members are the most likely share and view your content because they’ve done so in the past. Reach out to them! Post your content to your Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, email list, and any other social network you are a part of.

My main source of information on social media is top social media influencer Daniel Knowlton of KPS Digital Marketing. According to this article of his, he recommends you post to Twitter multiple times and post an image rather than just text. An easy way to create relevant images is to use Stencil, a tool that creates catchy images with words in them. I used to think that social media was useless, but I generate a significant portion of my traffic from social media as this screenshot from my Google Analytics shows:

If you’ve managed to build up followers on Medium, then post a copy of your article there. Before going live, you definitely want to double check how your post looks since Medium has a unique aesthetic.

Chapter 7.2: Reaching Out to your Influencers, Linkers, and Communities

Now it’s time to leverage the relationships you’ve built. By this point, you should have given a lot to the linkers, influencers, and communities you’re going to promote to. You should be so immersed in who/what they are that you have a good idea what will resonate with them.

I suggest you contact journalists and influencers who are likely to write about your research first. Since they need to write an article, they need more time to prepare. I have a template I use to contact people who you want to write about you but remember: PERSONALIZE. No one likes to get sent an obvious copy/paste email. You want to show them that you care enough about their time to craft a personal email. You’ve spent all this time cultivating a relationship, don’t ruin your effort with a bad outreach email. Also, be sure to tell any influencers if you linked to them in your post.

Now that I’m done persuading you to not send copy/paste emails, here’s my template for influencers you want to write about you. I like to send it as a response to my ask for research questions:

You can download a copy of that email template here.

I don’t mind asking a journalist for an article because that’s their job. For influencers that you just want a share from, I have a slightly different template. When it comes to asking for shares, I tend to not ask directly. It feels too forced and icky. Instead, I use a strategy I learned from Primoz Bozic: I just create great content and let them know about it. If they choose to share it, great. If they don’t, that’s okay too. Even if they didn’t respond to your request for research questions, it’s okay to send them an email about your research. I’ve seen influencers who didn’t respond to my ask for questions share my research anyway.

When someone runs a link roundup, I tend to be more willing to just ask directly for the link. For some reason, that feels okay to me.  Regardless, this email template will allow you to be as direct or as not direct as you feel comfortable with. I usually send it as a reply to my ask for research questions:

You can download a copy of that template here.

After a few days, you can send them a follwup email. If you want to use a tool, I suggest using http://follwup.cc which I found out about from Matt Heinz.

If you’ve taken the time to cultivate relationships with your influencers, then you should get over ten percent of your influencers to share or link to your content. If they don’t reply again, you can consider sending a follow-up email, but since they’ve already ignored two emails, I tend not to. It’s up to you.

Lastly, post your content in the communities you listed earlier. If you’ve gotten involved with the community, then you should have no problem if you post a link to your own content. Make sure you customize your pitch to each community. See what posts have done well in that particular community and model your pitch similarly.

Chapter 7.3: Repurposing your Research

Since you’ve put a ton of time into creating your research piece, you want to get it in front of many people as possible. To do that, you should adapt your content into different formats to be on as many platforms as possible.

Ana Hoffman is the master of repurposing content. Her article on content repurposing is quite thorough, so I’ll just summarize some key points and how they relate to research:

  • Create a video and post it on Youtube. Talk about your research. I know you might not want be in front of the camera, but one-third of all online activity is spent watching video.
  • Strip out the audio and convert the video into a podcast.
  • Create an infographic. These are especially good for attracting backlinks.
  • Create a Slideshare presentation.

Chapter 7.4: Ranking for Your Relevant Keyword

SEO has long been one of the best ways to get traffic to your site. Since people love to link to statistics and data, original research content tends to get a lot of links and does well when ranking in Google.

People have written countless articles on SEO. I really like this post by Neil Patel on the essentials of SEO for long-form content. I’ll just share a couple of thoughts that are relevant to research articles in particular.

If you haven’t found a relevant target keyword that you can compete for, then do that now and make sure your keyword is in your article title. Keep in mind the searcher’s intent when selecting the keyword.

Keep building backlinks to your target article, since it’s still important in ranking. My favorite tactic is guest posting since you can build traffic, a backlink, and connect with influencers.

Keep anchor text percentages in mind. For a complete breakdown of what you need to know about anchor texts, check out this amazing anchor text guide by OutreachMama. My biggest takeaway is that branded anchor texts (like your business name) perform best and should be a big percentage of your anchor texts for you to rank well. A cool tool that automates the process is Linkio.

Part 8: Leveraging your Results to Grow Even More  

When I first started doing original research content, I had dreams that I would create this amazing content and then hundreds of email subscribers would join my blog. That didn’t happen, but I did accomplish a lot more than I expected to. I impressed some of the biggest influencers in the marketing world and received recognition most bloggers could only dream of.

Just remember that content marketing is a long game. One piece of content, no matter how great, will not make or break you. It’s consistent effort over time that causes you to succeed or fail.

Chapter 8.1: Measure how well you Did

Way back in Part 2, I asked you why you create content and what you hoped to get out of your original research article. Well, how did you do? Did you hit your goals? Did you come up short?

If you hit your goal, then congrats! You can skip the rest of this chapter. If you didn’t, that’s okay. Let’s see what we can learn from this situation.

The most obvious reason you failed to hit your goal is that you had unrealistic expectations. Content marketing can have a strong impact, but it takes time. It’s hard for me to give you a hard and fast rule that your goals were unrealistic, but if you were *way* off, then that’s a good sign that you had unrealistic expectations.

The process I’ve described to you has not only worked for me, it’s also worked for other people in other niches. I’ve learned pretty much everything I’ve talked about in this guide by learning about it from someone else and trying to implement it on my own. I can say confidently that the process is probably not the reason you came up short.

If you were off but still relatively close, then you’re okay. It means that your goals were decently realistic but maybe your execution came up short in some way. That’s okay! Practice makes perfect.

Next time, you’ll know your problem areas and can compensate. If you didn’t get enough backlinks, then maybe you add an infographic next time. If you didn’t get enough email subscribers, then maybe you want to use a specific content upgrade instead of a generic lead magnet.

Chapter 8.2: Doing Original Research Content Again

Now that you’ve done a piece of research, it will be a lot easier to do another one. This time, you can adjust your approach to try and hit your goals. Feel free to aim for even loftier goals. Like anything, the more you practice, the better at it you’ll be.

I have to warn you to not skip steps even though you’ve built a small audience and group of influencers. Everything is in there for a reason and builds upon the previous actions.

One way that you can be guaranteed to have content that will be more successful than your previous research is to do your research again next year and create a yearly series. A clear example of this is the yearly blogger survey that Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media does. Now that he’s established a pattern of success, he knows that he has a guaranteed audience, year after year.

The cool thing about doing awesome research over and over again (even if it’s not a yearly series) is that it builds up demand. Brian Dean of Backlinko has done several articles with original research. These articles always do well because his audience knows that they’re going to get to enjoy an interesting and relevant read.

Chapter 8.3: Blogging but not doing Original Research Content

Doing original research can take a lot of time and effort. If that’s all you do, then your audience might not build a strong connection with you, since you’re posting so infrequently.

There’s no rule saying you ONLY have to post research. Post helpful content of any kind. It’s important not to post mediocre content in a world that is overrun with content. You’ve used your research to attract an audience, so nurture your relationship with them.

Chapter 8.4: Guest Posting and Publicity

Now that you’ve taken the time to build up some authority with your research, you can start posting on other people’s sites. Guest posting has been talked about endlessly on the internet. I highly suggest this guide by Sarah Peterson if you’d like to learn about it.

Hopefully, you’ve connected with some influencers by now. A lot of them run successful blogs and are happy to take guest posts. On their sites, you can talk about the research you did in a way that brings value to their audience. It’s another way of milking your research for as much value as possible.

Another possibility is to do your next research as a guest post. One thing I learned from my viral posts research is that almost all viral content is posted on popular sites. If you want to maximize the impact of your next research post, then guest post it on a popular site. Buzzsumo did this when they analyzed 100 million posts on Noah Kagan’s site: Okdork.

Don’t just go after the most popular blog you can. I can tell you this from experience: A smaller more targeted blog gets you better converting traffic than a larger, more generic blog.

You don’t have to limit yourself to guest posting. You can be a podcast guest, do interviews, or anything else that gets you in front of other people. I always wondered why people display those badges on their site that say they’re featured in Forbes or Entrepreneur or any other popular website. It’s not just for the audience, it’s to show off to the media.

The fact is that publicity builds upon itself. You can use your mentions on lesser-known media platforms to work your way onto the more popular ones. Selena Soo calls this the Publicity Pyramid and she talks about it on her site Impacting Millions.

Whatever you do to get yourself in front of your audience, I highly suggest you work to bring them back to your site and make them an email subscriber. As many of the best marketers, like Arnie Kuenn, say, you want to own not rent your audience.

Chapter 8.5: Remember to keep up your Relationships with Influencers

No one knows how the future of the internet will play out. Snapchat came out of nowhere. Now live streaming is growing. Who knows what’s next?

One thing that has been consistent is that certain personalities, aka influencers, manage to attract a disproportionate amount of attention. Attention is what matters and will continue to matter going forward. According to Sam Hurley, the founder of OPTIM-EYEZ and a major social influencer, relationships are everything in modern marketing.

It’s also certain that some influencers will not respond to any of your emails no matter how direct and personalized your messages are. That’s fine. I have a three strikes you’re out rule: If they don’t respond to three different personalized emails, then I assume I can’t reach them and put them on a do not email list.

If influencers have even answered one of your emails, then be grateful! Their time is limited and the fact that they’ve given you any attention is amazing. Continue to nurture those relationships and give value in any way you can. I know it’s super cliche and overused on the internet but the Zig Ziglar quote is absolutely true:

You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.

Conclusion

Thank you so much for reading through over 13,000 words of my writing. I’m incredibly grateful. I know I’ve covered a lot of topics in this guide, so I just wanted to reiterate a few key points:

  • Writing about data, especially your own data, helps you create unique content.
  • Always keep your audience in mind and how you can use your research to provide value to them.
  • Use simple and obvious charts to present your research to them.
  • Find out who the influencers of your audience are and what communities they hang out in.
  • Connect with those influencers and communities and share your research with them. If you have given enough value, they will respond to quality research.
  • Keep building your audience and relationships by continually delivering value.

If you just keep doing those things, you’ll be just fine.

Thanks for reading to the end. It’s likely that you might not remember everything that I wrote about. If you want a PDF copy of this 13,000+ word guide then just click here

11 Comments

  • Brian Dean

    March 21, 2018

    Niel, amazing work on this guide!

    As someone that’s done a few original research pieces, I can tell you that they’re worth it. As you mentioned in your post, they’re not easy to pull off (hence the need for a massive guide like this). But they’re worthwhile in terms of links and traffic.

    And as long as people follow your excellent guide, they should be able to create original research content themselves.

    Reply
    • Niel

      March 21, 2018

      Hey Brian.

      Thanks for the comment. And yeah, as I try to emphasize, these pieces are a major investment but can have a huge payoff if done correctly.

      Reply
  • Dan Knowlton

    March 21, 2018

    Thanks for the mention. 🙂

    Reply
    • Niel

      March 21, 2018

      You’re welcome Dan. I enjoy everything you’ve written about social media.

      Reply
  • Reinaldo

    March 23, 2018

    Wow Niel, this is a thesis job, great guide!

    Reply
    • Niel

      March 23, 2018

      Glad you enjoyed it Reinaldo. It is basically a thesis for my business going forward.

      Reply
  • Lillian De Jesus

    March 27, 2018

    This is an amazing guide, Niel! Thanks so much for the details and mentioning Stencil.
    Definitely bookmarking this. 🙂

    Reply
    • Niel

      March 28, 2018

      Hey Lillian,
      Glad you enjoyed. I love Stencil. It’s simple yet effective at what it does.

      Reply
  • Pingback: Dataviz: A Critical Skill for Modern Marketers

  • Pingback: I Love Citations

  • Pingback: Dataviz: A Critical Skill for Modern Marketers | It-Communication.pl

Leave a Reply