Doing Creative Content Research with Sleuth
Sitting Down with Captain Content is, as some of you might know, one of my favorite sections where I get the chance to interview whoever I want. For this occasion in particular (and since Lady Gaga told me she was busy preparing her not-surprising outfit for the Met Gala 2016–judge for yourself), I decided to interview my dearest friend Sleuth. I have been working with him in our superhero content marketing agency since the very beginning when I didn’t have the honor of wearing a cape and when the online world had several less catastrophes. But we owe it to Sleuth: he has shown me and the rest of our league of superheroes the importance of content research and its role for our clients’ success.
Today, I get to ask Sleuth about all of the details, tactics, and tricks of his role, and how he helps clients find the right content for their audience and keep it share-worthy. Well, I must admit, I’m also very intrigued to know what makes his job so sexy and appealing to Engage (Damn it! I need to know that for sure). Anyway, let’s get started!
- Captain Content (CC): Good to see you, Sleuth. Welcome to Sitting Down with Captain Content! Ok, so let’s see if we can all get this question clarified… I’ve been asked this question millions of times: where do you guys get the inspiration to know what to write about in order to get your reader’s attention?
- Sleuth (S): Pleasure to be here, Captain! Well, it definitely is a great question, and it’s pretty much the key to content marketing success. The answer is three words: creative content research. By doing this research, I’m able to give answers to our focus question: what are our competitors writing about, and what type of content is getting shared the most?
- CC: That’s it, three words? Really? Wow. Okay, and tell us, why should marketers care or invest their time doing this research instead of just writing about whatever they think is cool?
- S: Well, in this research phase, we are going to discover some main facts that will lead us to wise content creation. Content research will give you the opportunity to deconstruct other content and learn from it, to see what your competitors are doing and talking about, and to better educate yourself to get the data that is out there, and then you can improve it or enhance it with your own insights and knowledge.
- CC: That actually makes sense and sounds pretty interesting. Now that we know all the benefits of doing research, let’s get our hands dirty and drill down to what this process consists of.
- S: Let’s do it! The first thing we are going to need to know is our target demographic. We need to know aspects of our audience’s life like: location, interests, language, sex, and age. Also, we need to come up with a list of websites that we want the client to get visibility in. In addition, it will be crucial to have a list of topics that we can talk about without being strict about our client’s products or services and really focus on what their audience loves and is showing an interest for.
- CC: Nice, but I guess this would be the initial warm up before you start doing your content research. Am I right?
- S: 100% right. With this information in mind, we’ll need to continue to look for the answer to the question I mentioned above: what is our audience sharing, and what is our competitors talking about? Here is where I like to get very rigorous and methodic and try to collect as many insights as I can based on my observations. Every time I find a piece of content that grabs my attention, I ask myself the following questions: Why is it interesting to me? Why would I read it? I take notes about the title and the formula used for the headline, the internal links, and the number of links pointing out of this blog, as well as the number of shares. I look for ways to repurpose the content and nurture it with more useful information.
- CC: I see, paying attention to what others are doing and what’s working for them is definitely a great way of kicking off your research. How do you get to know what your audience shares, though? Do you stalk us on a daily basis or what?
- S: [Laughs] By any means Captain! Even though it might sound scary, it’s as easy as paying attention to the social media profiles. Pretty sure Engage knows what I’m talking about. Spending some time reviewing your social media followers’ profiles pays off. It gives you some main pieces to your puzzle in terms of getting to know their interest better. And this is something you can easily do in social media networks like Twitter where most profiles are public.
- CC: Cool! Well, I can imagine Google Analytics must be among one of your main tools to get to know the interest and behavior of your core audience.
- S: Most definitely! I actually have a list of apps that I like to use when finding remarkable pieces of content. Open Site Explorer, for instance, is a great tool to find out the piece of content for a particular domain that attracted most of the links from other websites. Some of my other faves are Social Crawlytics and Shared Count; these help me identify the content that got shared the most. While those are free tools, on the paid side, you can also find Buzzsumo and Ahrefs Content Explorer. Both very useful tools to find the most shared content around a certain keyword.
- CC: Now, once you have all this good data, how do you come up with some real insights for your content creation?
- S: Ultimately, the purpose is to have those sites, that we mentioned at the beginning, covering one of our pieces. So, by looking at the type of content that they are covering and what is getting traction, we’ll be able to identify some patterns. What I always tell our clients is that they need to make their topic focus broader than just their main products or services if they want to get some coverage. Also, the story needs to be compelling and told in a unique way, otherwise you’ll be just regurgitating what others are doing. And that’s not cool!
Great insights, Sleuth. Man, I didn’t know you did all that for us and our clients! Go and treat yourself to a nice Appletini, you deserve it!
Before you go, I would like to add my two cents here, and share with our audience what works for me in terms of content inspiration. When Engage is not around, I check her secret Pinterest account. She doesn’t know, but by looking at her boards, I always know what to get her for the special occasions. I really couldn’t read her face, though, when I got her the Guide to Make Your Booty Pop, but it’s all good. I mean, she pinned it! Another one that I LOVE is Quora! Oh man, I can’t tell you enough about this one. Quora is the place where people feel free to ask any questions. LITERALLY. The other day, I saw this thread: “I’m 17 years old and I’m making $150,000 a year, where can I invest my money so that I can retire by the age of 35? Listen kid, first of all, if you are making that amount at your age, you should be smart enough to know what to do with that money! Second of all, call the Kardashians and ask them what they do with it. Wrong target demographic here, sorry! Oh well, you get my point, right? By looking at people’s concerns and questions, you can get some ideas of what to write about, as long as that is related with your industry. Quora gives writers a real opportunity to give your audience answer to their questions.
Thanks for reading and holding on for my stupidity until the end. Your time and patience is much appreciated! I hope to see you soon in my next Sitting Down with Captain Content episode. Click here if you missed the previous one, and if you can’t wait until the next one, just stay tuned. And sign up on Quora, (that will keep you busy and entertained. Guaranteed!) If you want to start getting some traction for your content call our content marketing agency, Sleuth and his team of investigators will be glad to that for you!