Content Strategy

Writing Is the Easy Part: How Great Content Marketing Begins with Smart Research

Noemie Delfassy
December 5, 2022

This post is sponsored by the good folks at Waldo. Waldo helps you find what you need faster–datapoints, contact info, insights, and more–by making Google search more productive. You can try the Waldo chrome extension for free.

Every content marketer has been asked to write expert-level content about a topic they know next to nothing about. 

Subject-matter experts have years to master their craft. Content marketers don’t have the benefit of time. Seasoned writers learn how to bury that imposter syndrome deep down and treat each piece as a journalistic endeavor.

The common research advice—talk to your customers, interview your sales team, interview subject matter experts—while good advice, ignores the time pressures of being a content marketer.

In-house marketers face tight deadlines and aggressive publishing goals. Freelancers are paid by the word or a flat rate per piece. Every minute spent researching is less bang for your buck.

So how can you produce deeper insights, faster, in a way that’s profitable for you as the writer?

In this article, we’ll share time-saving research tips and tricks that will bring relief to any time-pressured writer.

Great Content Starts with Great Research

Because of time and budget pressures, the content marketing industry has neglected research as a skill—at the cost of content quality.

Experts have preached strategies like the Skyscraper Method or “writing 10X content.” These are fancy ways of saying “read the search engine results page (SERPs) and write something longer.”

As a result, the default form of content research is using SEO tools that suggest keywords and topics based on what’s already ranking in the SERPs.

The side effect of this strategy is a sea of sameness. Everyone’s sharing the same information, albeit rehashed differently. 

If the goal of content is to educate, inspire, entertain, and generate brand love, is creating more copycat content achieving that goal?

And with the rise of AI writing tools, this surface-level writing will be replaced by the machines.

Next-level content marketers, in contrast, operate like journalists. They introduce new data points, fresh points of view, emerging trends, and second-order analysis. They future-proof themselves by synthesizing ideas and producing new insights rather than adding to the pile.

For in-house writers, more insightful content leads to better results—more clicks, conversions, and shares. This means higher revenue, happier bosses, and raises.

For freelance writers, more insightful content leads to happier clients, better retention, and better pay.

So how can you balance great research with hitting your deadlines?

Content Research Pitfalls & Solutions: When Google doesn’t cut it

Google is the best way to do research in a pinch. But the default SERPs are often a mess. They’re full of ads, SEO spam, and outdated articles.

Waldo—a free Chrome extension—helps you find higher-quality information on Google faster by making search results more skimmable, more actionable, and more reputable.

Here are some of the most common challenges when trying to do research through Google, and how Waldo helps you in your search.

Challenge #1: Too many browser tabs

The first thing any of us does when faced with a blank draft document is to fire up a Google search and open all the top results in new tabs.

We do this mass tab opening over a few phases:

  1. First, solidify our own understanding of the topic
  2. Then scope out what we’ll have to cover
  3. Then research competitor content
  4. Then supplement our writing with insights as we go

This is incredibly inefficient. We fumble between dozens of tabs. We scroll through long articles trying to find unique insights. We spend more time reading than writing.

Solution: Skim the SERPs without clicking

Rather than opening tons of tabs, you can skim articles directly from the SERPs to find what you’re looking for faster.

Waldo’s Skim feature lets you read the content from each search result without having to click through to the article. Waldo pulls every sentence with relevant keywords directly into the SERPs.

Waldo skim gif

If you find a useful content excerpt, you can either copy the text and the link to paste into your notes, or click directly into that section of the article.

Challenge #2: Finding first-party data and examples

Trying to find first-party data can also send you down a rabbit hole. 

Every content marketer knows the pain of trying to find the original source of a statistic. You click the cited source of a statistic, only to be led to another article that cites another source, that cites another source, that cites a study from the 1980s—or worse, leads to a dead 404 page. 

In other cases, you might be looking for tangible examples—like great homepage designs—only to find HubSpot articles from 2016 where all the examples are extremely outdated.

Solution: Search directly for datapoints

Waldo has three features to help you find original data.

You can use the Skim feature again to skim the SERPs by datapoints. This will pull every statistic from an article directly into the SERPs. You can also skim by dates, emails, and quotes to find other examples to back up your content.

While this saves you time, it doesn’t necessarily solve the citation problem.

For that, Waldo offers a Frequently Cited section at the bottom of the SERPs. This points you toward the articles that are most frequently linked from other articles—sending you directly to the source.

frequently cited feature waldo

Finally, Waldo’s X-Ray feature lets you further comb the search results for specific keywords. For example, if I’m searching “sleeping stats”, I can X-ray the keyword “hours”.

This will pull all the sentences out of the SERPs that contain datapoints with hours.

Or if I’m searching “marketing channels” and add an X-ray with the “$” symbol, I can easily find data around marketing budgets or channel ROI.

It’s like a super-powered CTRL+F for every search result.

x-ray feature waldo
waldo xray feature

Challenge #3: Surface-level SERPs

Most search results are oversaturated with SEO fluff: shallow listicles, common sense advice, and keyword-stuffed articles written to satisfy Google’s algorithm.

When you’re experienced in a field, you know which publications to turn to for unique insights or reliable data. But when you’re wading into new waters, you’re reliant on the SERPs.

That makes it near-impossible to add a thought leadership angle to your content.

Solution: Filter by curated sources

Resources like Help a B2B Writer can help you get insights directly from experts.

If you don’t have time to wait for expert responses, Waldo’s Lens feature lets you search for hand-curated sources rather than the default SERPs. This makes it easier to find expert perspectives and reliable research.

For example, if you wanted to write an article with nutrition tips—an area rife with pseudoscience and misinformation—you could use the Lens feature to filter search results only by public health resources.

Without a filter, you’ll get a mix of sources both reliable and unreliable.

With the Public Health Lens on, the results are limited to articles in medical journals.

how to use lens feature waldo
lens feature results waldo

The Lens feature is also a great way to find unique angles on a subject. For example, a default search of “coffee trends” brings up a mixed bag of businesses and SEO listicles.

The same search, with a beverage industry lens applied, turns up more poignant articles with recent trends and studies.

If you do have expertise in an area, you can build your own lenses too and then share them with your colleagues—ensuring you all stick to the same source quality.

You can also blacklist low-quality content sources so that they never show up in your SERPs.

coffee trends search with Beverage Industry lens
coffee trends SERP with beverage industry lens from Waldo

Enhance your research with Waldo

Waldo’s free browser extension helps content marketers cut their research time in half, track down better data, and generate fresher ideas.

Many folks in the Superpath community have already signed up and are loving Waldo. 👇

Waldo conversation in Superpath community
Waldo conversation in Superpath community continued

Waldo is completely free, so give it a try when you’re writing your next article.

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