You Have Been Doing Content Research Wrong… Now Do It Right!

Alright, so the title of this post might be a little clickbaity for my tastes. But I stand behind the statement: you are probably researching your articles the "wrong" way. Or, you are at least probably not going it as efficiently as you could be… which could be detrimental to both the results of your work, and your overall productivity.

The Stages Of Article Research

Unlike academic research, which we all learn in school and often get bogged down in, online content research is pretty simple. Unfortunately it is that simplicity that can often lead to mistakes, or just bare facts that don’t hold as much detail as our readers could use.

Instead of doing the usual source citation, you should break your research down into two stages. The first is the research you do before, and the second is the research you do during the article writing process.


Before you write is the pre-research, as in pre-writing. This is where you are going to find your general facts that will support your post. This is also where you are going to draw your primary sources, which will be linked through the body of your content.

I always prefer to follow the 3x rule. You want to find three times as many sources as you will use, and pair them against one another. You keep finding sources in batches of three until you are able to verify each against one another.

This is a simple way to ensure you are finding non-biased, verifiable facts, and not baseless opinions. With misinformation running rampant thanks to lazy bloggers and social media, this is a very important process.

You don’t want to become one of those bloggers posting factual inaccuracies like they are gospel truth. Not only does this add to a serious problem in online content creation, but it impacts your authority. We all know how important that authority is to the growth of a brand.

Your article is going to be broken into sections and subheadings. These will steer your research in many ways giving you more ideas which angles and problems to cover. SERPstat is a great tool letting you research niche questions:

SERPstat keywords

All of these questions may become subheadings of your future article (or inspire follow-up articles). You can export them in Excel and sort them into "existing content", "currently working on" and "future articles".

Supporting Research

Next, you have the research you do while you are creating your post. These are supporting details related to the above citations you have found. It is also where you will narrow down the links you intend to embed, if you don’t choose all three supporting posts.

This part is much simpler, and it more about giving readers additional information to follow. Sometimes I just provide a small masterlist of links for more data if the reader chooses, so I can focus more the quality of the content.

6 Tools To Make Research a Breeze

First Site Guide has a neat guide on how to brainstorm, research and creat different types of content. And here are a few tools to help out:

  1. Google Drive Research Box – I use Google Drive for pretty much everything, including writing and backing up posts. I find it much more manageable than other cloud services. One of the features I love best is the research box. You highlight a keyword or phrase, and right click. It will have an option to research the highlighted section. This brings up a side box with related sources, which you can view right in your screen. Because it uses Google results you have to be just as selective as you would be from a straight search, but it is much more convenient.
  2. Freemind – This is a great tool if you are dealing with a large post that is going to have a lot of involved research. Breaking the task down into simpler, smaller parts is a tried and true tactic. Freemind is a mindmapper tool that lets you do that. You can plan out the entire post, including linking sources so everything you need ends up in one place. All using a template that lets you easily move, edit and reformat before you ever get to the writing process.
  3. Bulk Suggest Tool – You may be wondering what an SEO tool is doing here. After all, this is about researching for articles, not for marketing. I would argue that they are technically in the same vein, but that isn’t why I included it. I have used this bulk keyword suggestion app to create lists of related key phrases I may not have thought of. This helps me to broaden my research based on what people have published or searched for online. So I may end up with sources I never would have found, because I wasn’t using the right combination of keywords.
  4. Digital Research Tool (DiRT)  – This is a fantastic masterlist of tools aimed at scholars, especially those in the social science and humanities. However, I think it is a great place for bloggers to find research tools they need for any number of purposes. They are broken down into categories, which you can select on the front page. You are then taken to the tool that is best for the job at hand. It is the best collection of research redirects I have ever found, and much more efficient than trying to keep track of everything on your own.
  5. Quora – Normally I would avoid social media like the plague when it comes to research. There is just too much garbage floating around, and opinion outweighs facts and logic at almost all times. But I will make an exception for Quora. In spite the fact that it is a platform that is very easy to abuse, it is full of genuine experts with backed up information. It requires you to offer well thought out answers, and to provide a source or reason for your knowledge. I go there all the time to find great links to scholarly articles, studies, website tools, or to get first hand soundbites from major players in the industry that know about topics first hand.
  6. MyBlogU – Speaking of experts, MyBlogU is another great place to find them. I usually go here for expert quotes as part of the secondary research process (finding backup information and supporting details). It is an easy way to add further gravity to something you have already officially cited, straight from the mouths of the people who know best.

Do you have a research tool to put on the list? Let us know in the comments!

4 Link Building Cardinal Sins

Every digital marketing agency’s SEO tactic has been changing exponentially since the industry came about, mostly because Google and other search engines have kept it evolving to keep providing results on content that is relevant, of a high quality, and add an overall value for the end user, that is to say whoever you are trying to direct to your website to, your target audience.

But through all the changes, the importance of backlinks have entrenched themselves deeper into SEO strategies, so much so that any mistakes made with them can have utterly devastating results for the overall rating of the sites concerned.

So if your traffic has been struggling to reach your target mark lately, you might want to take advantage of the internet to gather helpful tips in selecting a web hosting company, SEO firm, or whichever digital marketing agency you feel can best assist you in achieving your business’s goals, and reach your target audience properly by ensuring that your website ranks highly enough to reach your targets audience and provide a favourable conversion rate.

Or, you can go ahead and read on to determine where you could have been going wrong, and what you can do to change it for the better. This guide will help you review your link building profile and polish it up by pointing out some of the most common mistakes in this regard.

They include spamming your homepage with all your links; taking a backseat once you’ve achieved your initial results; not making the best use of your anchor texts and trying to push links to content which are not relevant to who you are attempting to link to.

So let’s start with the first of these:

Building most of your links to your homepage

Building most of your links to your homepage

You obviously do want some of the links referring back to your homepage, this will help with making your site all the more crawlable which will help your rankings, but it happens all too often that just about every one of a website’s links directs you back to landing pages.

The trouble with this is that it makes for very shallow indexing of your site, and so can end up being counter-productive.

It’s recommended to spread your link building efforts equally across your site to ensure that users don’t have to trawl around for ages to find what they need, and so it is incredibly good at building trust with your users and creating an overall, high quality user experience.

A good rule to follow is that when navigating your site, a user should never be more than three clicks away from finding content which is relevant to them, anything more and they start losing interest, which means you will undoubtedly suffer a ranking drop from a high bounce rate.

Deep linking (or spreading your links across your website) will give your site more link juice, making it easily crawlable and therefore having favourable outcomes for the site’s ranking.

As far as SEO is concerned, deep linking gives you more opportunities to achieve favourable search engine visibility since it backlinks to all of your pages. This also makes your links seem a lot less like spam, which Google dutifully penalises heavily for.

Slowing down once you get good results

SEO is a dynamic field, and changes are just about constant. Getting to the first page of the search results is an enjoyable achievement indeed, but don’t expect it to stay that way once you’ve gotten your website there.

Staying on top (in fact featuring at all) requires you to constantly work to get the best online marketing for your business today, and not later. So keep on building up those backlinks and with a bit of luck you will enjoy the fruits of your labour for a long time to come. Give up on it however, and you will soon be taken over by sites which are consistently active, since Google doesn’t really want to push sites that seem inactive.

This means concentrating on building an energetic link-building profile by reaching out to other website administrators who share some form of relevance to your site. Beyond that, your efforts should still be as strong when it comes to creating interesting and informative content that will attract backlinks, and most importantly, you should still be conducting regular site audits even when everything seems to be working properly.

Doing this will not only help ensure that you consistently achieve favourable rankings, but will tighten your current paradigm and keep your backlink profile easy to manage in the future.

Leaving these efforts until later may not have an immediate negative affect on your SERP appearance right now, but it will make things easier for your competitors, and will almost surely lead to poorer results when Google eventually releases any updates (forcing you to rush back to your profile and knock out another site audit to rectify your link profile when there isn’t really time to do so.)

Forgetting about Brand Anchor text

So you’ve opted for extensive keyword research through a supplier of SEO services and you are adamant that only the keywords that they kick up should be used as anchor texts. And why not? They are the professionals. But how many times in your content have you used your name, brand, or URL?

Using either of these without making them into backlinks is just a wasted opportunity here you could be doing more to push your brand, so try not to forget to do it whenever it comes up.

The important thing to remember here is that the names and URLs you’re referring to should come up as naturally as possible, if it sounds forced and robotic, it will likely just end up looking like spam.

Thereby taking what could have been a great marketing opportunity and making it detrimental to your efforts. Always take the opportunity to attach appropriate links to your company or brand name, unless it runs the risk of making the content sound unnatural.

Not bothering with content relevance

content relevance

Even before the days of Google, content relevance has been a big determining factor for search indexes. Search engines want to provide their users with websites that are of high quality and are relevant to what is being searched; and that’s the bottom line.

This is often overlooked, especially when sites take advantage of mass backlink services (or link farms) which may boost your ranking initially, but when users arrive at your site and leave in annoyance, not having been directed to what they are looking for, it will negatively affect your bounce rate, and ultimately damage your site’s rating.

Beyond this, irrelevant content will do nothing for a natural link building profile. No self-respecting website administrator wants to link with a site that may put a dent in their own profile, so in this regard, your content’s attractiveness should come almost purely from its relevance.

A final note

Always consider the do’s and don’ts of link building to stay ahead of the game. SEO and content marketing is a long running and time consuming process which, if you’re doing it within the search engine’s guidelines, shouldn’t give you staggering results over night.

If that’s what’s happened then chances are that you are exploiting some kind of loophole. These black-hat techniques may give fantastic results initially, but when they are eventually flagged by the search engine’s crawlers, your visibility will take a nasty hit, one that is an absolute hassle to fix.

The trouble comes when you’re not prepared when Google rolls out an update, and their newly developed algorithms make the site’s rating suffer horribly as a result. So avoid the temptation for the quick fixes in your link building strategies; slow and sure wins the race, and gives you time to learn from your mistakes.

Spreading the destination of your links out evenly, staying active on your website where you can (this is where blogs are helpful) and remembering to keep links relevant are essentially key points in achieving SEO greatness for your site.

How to Use Social Media to Boost SEO

In his Entrepreneur post “Good Social Media Boosts SEO,” Larry Alton admits that we do not know how social media affects SEO because we don’t know how much emphasis Google places on social interactions and signals. Alton writes,

“Here’s what we do know: Google pays attention to social interactions such as likes, retweets, shares, and even +1’s.”

I like his analogy that Google is an “independent filing system” for a continually ” expanding library of virtual content” online. He argues that Twitter gets our content indexed more quickly and social search measures performance.

More importantly, all social networks are indirect link-building mechanisms. The more your content is shared across social media, the more likely a content creator will find it and decide to link to it.

Targeting the Right Audience

Just getting content shared is not enough; the point is to get content to your target audience. Targeting the right audience is just as important in social media as it is in SEO. Start with this tip from Capital Merchant’s “Tips to Improve Your Social Media”:

The most important thing is to define your audience. Think of your ideal customers and write down any and all information you can think of about them. Be specific with regard to gender, race, age, and profession. The more info you can think of, the better. Now expand it a bit — you want to have three to four different target audiences that will get your messaging at different times, letting you cast a wider net and still be able to figure out what messaging resonates with what customer.

Nothing is more important than reaching potential customers and clients, rather than wasting marketing money on people who aren’t interested in what you have to offer. It is not just a matter of getting impressions. The point is to get interactions: favorites, retweets, reshares, likes, +1s, stumbles, and especially clicks.

Those interactions are likely to also be important to SEO value. Mentions on social media improve brand recognition, increasing clicks during searches. The tighter your focus on the correct audience, the stronger your results will be.

SEO Specific Social Media Strategies

In his Forbes post “6 Social Media Practices That Boost SEO,” Jayson DeMers argues there are six social media strategies that definitely improve SEO. His first strategy relates to growing the number and quality of your followers.

Our social media profiles have their own trust flow and page authority, which is affected by the quality of sites linking to them. This is easily seen by comparing Twitter accounts for writers who contribute on major sites to non-writers.

Look at @Kikolani, @GrowMap or @SEOsmarty and compare them to the average Twitter account. This holds true on all social networks. They are authority sites, and although the links are typically nofollowed, they are still considered valuable as indicators of trust.

According to “How Valuable Is That Link?,” a post gleaned from a forum discussion with SEOchat member PhilipSEO:

“Some observers think that a nofollow link from a trusted site still passes along some kind of SEO value, even if it doesn’t pass any link juice. Phil states that ‘Many have reported and speculated, for example, that nofollow links from Wikipedia and similar high-trust sites can provide a great boost to rankings in spite of nofollow.’”

It seems safe to assume that social media accounts can develop higher trust rankings dependent upon where the links originate. This could include which other authority sites mention them or reshare their content. If those links are dofollow, the Page Authority (PA) of those social media profiles will be higher.

How to Use Social Media to Boost SEO

Does it then follow that shares from higher trust and PA social media accounts are more valuable for SEO purposes than shares from ordinary accounts? I would say, yes. It is possible to use social media to boost SEO.

SEOGenius Director Bruce Smeaton drills down even further:

“I think the key is in understanding what ‘more valuable for SEO purposes’ really means.” It stands to reason that a highly trusted social channel is, by default, going to generate more shares than a social media property with lower authority. And by doing so, the likelihood of these shares turning into links increases accordingly. This in turn results in higher traffic volumes being directed to your site… and this is where the magic starts. No, it doesn’t matter whether the links are “follow” or “nofollow.” What really counts here is that the traffic generated indirectly via social media interaction must impact positively on your site’s perceived value and authority. To quote the words of Search Engine Journal’s Dario Zadro, “What is more likely happening is that Google is recognizing these social signals as ‘brand signals,’ which they love.”

If higher trust and PA matter, it is highly likely that relevance does as well. There are tools like Klout and Kred that measure influence. Kred is of particular interest because it measures influence by topic.

No doubt Google algorithms can measure what is most relevant to any particular social media account. By identifying which social media users are most influential on any particular topic, they are also most likely to be valuable for SEO purposes.

SEOs need to be thinking about how identifying and using influencers will impact their SEO rankings. Those who do not will be wondering why competitors are outranking them without having any idea why.