In content marketing, like many disciplines, a tradesperson is only as good as their tools.
As a content marketing strategist, I like to keep a variety of powerful tools in my belt, to make sure every strategy I create is as well-researched as possible.
Wondering what to use to improve your content marketing research? Here are six of my favourite content marketing strategy research tools:
1. Think With Google
As a starting point in my strategies, I usually like to browse Think With Google and see what I can find that’s related to the client, their industry, their audience and their objectives.
Often, it’s simply to get my brain juices flowing, to find inspiration and to broaden my perspectives in the world of digital consumer behaviour. Other times, I stumble upon a gem that will directly translate into a content recommendation, distribution channel or tactic.
Part of the reason Think With Google can be so useful in this way is it allows you to access country-specific analyses (which in Australia can be a rarity!), and the information is credible, is representative of a large sample size (over one billion people use Google around the world), is regularly updated and, importantly, it’s easy to interpret and translate for marketing purposes. Think With Google is a free tool, which makes it even more attractive.
I really dislike company email newsletters, and I’ll rarely sign up to them. Think With Google is an exception to this rule. They have a great newsletter program which allows you to customise the content you receive by your interests. If you’re someone like me, who’s regularly making strategic marketing recommendations, I recommend you sign up.
SerpStat is a free or paid tool that allows users to see the search data surrounding a keyword, domain or link. If the intention of content marketing is to reach users where, when and how they’re looking for you, this kind of information is essential to any content marketing strategy.
If your content marketing strategy will also make recommendations for paid promotion, as they do at Lush, SerpStat can also give you an indication of which keywords are going to be of most use to your brand (the ones with the lowest competition and highest opportunity).
Besides volume of searches, keywords, competitors and interest over time, one of my favourite features of SerpStat is the ‘content marketing’ tab, which allows you to access search questions grouped by ‘where’, ‘what’, ‘why’, ‘who’, ‘whom’, ‘do’, etc.
Take a look at this example – this is what comes up when I search for ‘digital marketing’:
This content marketing tool helps you to directly answer the questions your audience is asking. Using the ‘Export’ button, I download this information in the form of an Excel spreadsheet. Often, I can take these questions and put them straight into a list of suggested content titles.
3. Google Scholar
One of my pet peeves when researching modern marketing topics is when information is presented as facts or representative statistics, without credible backing.
For example, if an SEO business were to email its 100 clients with a survey and report back that “90 per cent of business decision-makers rate SEO as their most effective marketing tactic”, that statistic is complete rubbish. But, imagine that this statistic then gets parroted in a bunch of industry blogs and podcasts and, before you know it, the statistic finds its way into more legitimate sources, like white papers, case studies, and so on.
Frustrated? Join the club. This game of marketing “whispers” (or “telephone”, if you’re from the US) gets played all the time.
It’s one of the reasons I’m so grateful for Google Scholar. Unlike ‘regular’ Google, Google Scholar allows you to search through articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and reputable sources.
Importantly, the way the Google Scholar algorithm works differs slightly from the regular Google algorithm. According to Google Scholar, they attempt to rank and distinguish between results the way researchers do, “weighing the full text of each document, where it was published, who it was written by, as well as how often and how recently it has been cited in other scholarly literature.”
Useful features of Google Scholar
- Search all scholarly literature through an easy-to-use interface
- Easily link to related works, citations, authors, and publications
- Locate complete documents through excerpts saved in your library
- Keep up with recent developments in any area of research.
Due to the nature of the documents available, a lot of results will require pay for access. Realistically, the ‘you get what you pay for’ adage does ring true to a certain extent in content marketing research.
4. Syndicated Research
While it’s an honourable pursuit to spend time trawling through research to draw conclusions for your strategy, you’ll find syndicated research has often done the work for you — if you’re happy to pay a fee for access.
Syndicated research is research that is independently conducted, published and (usually) sold by a firm. These specialist firms leverage their existing data, expertise and experience to develop robust studies in areas of interest to clients. Well-known firms for syndicated research include Nielsen and Roy Morgan, who have the access and budgets to undertake wide-reaching studies. Some smaller, local market researches also sell syndicated research on a smaller scale.
Syndicated research is particularly useful if you need to obtain reliable, in depth information about whole markets, audiences or industries. The risk involved is if you’re looking for answers to specific questions, or particular insights, you can pay the fee and fail to find what you were looking for.
5. Australian Bureau of Statistics
I have a love-hate relationship with buyer personas. I love them when they’re substantiated by research, but I can’t stand them when they’re based only on opinion and creative vision.
I don’t need to know whether ‘Persona 1’ prefers orange to yellow. What I do need to know is what suburbs they’re most likely to live in based on their age demographic and income bracket, how likely they are to vote conservative or liberal, what proportion of the audience is from dual income families, and so on.
In Australia, getting this kind of information is made much easier through the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Census data, in particular, is my favourite.
Of course – this tool only would be relevant for our Australian readers, but fear not American and British cousins! You have the same ilk of information available through the United States Census Bureau and the Office for National Statistics, respectively.
Dear marketers everywhere,
Use this data in your buyer personas.
Agency staff who have had to read through what scents different personas prefer.
6. Original or custom research
And last, but in no way least, the Holy Grail of content marketing research tools: the original (sometimes referred to as ‘custom’) research.
If you’re lucky enough to have some of this conducted on your behalf, perhaps by a specialist agency like Mantis Research, you’ll be laughing all the way to content marketing success. Original research is by far the best research tool a strategist can get their mitts on. It’s specific; it’s recent; it’s credible; it’s representative; it’s golden.
Now remember, original research does not mean a casual survey of your email database. Original research would typically be conducted by a dedicated market research firm and would abide by set guidelines and practices.
There are many more tools available for you to add to your content marketing research tool belt. These are six of the best and most reliable ones.
Need high-quality content marketing strategy research? Get in touch with Lush — The Content Agency. We have a team of specialist strategists.