Learning to research a blog post — and then actually writing it — can be intimidating, especially if you’re just starting your blogging adventure. That said, for many blogs, research is a necessity. Any post that includes specific factual claims, relies on statistics, or otherwise depends on outside information beyond common knowledge will require thorough and careful research.
Here are four main steps for researching a blog post, from start to finish.
1. Planning the post
Every blog post starts with an idea. That idea is usually best defined by a title or headline.
Therefore, the best way to begin to research a blog post is to identify a strong headline idea or a couple of variations on a headline idea.
Next, decide exactly what kind of post you intend to produce. There are only a handful of informative post types that deliver results and are attractive to online audiences, including the following:
- Tutorials and how-tos
Interviews and expert roundups
Decide which of these fits your idea the best and is the most likely to engage your reader.
2. Evaluating the idea
As you research, keep in mind the all-important question: Whom is this post for, and why would they care?
This is not about manufacturing a feel-good answer, but instead about seeking real answers on the web.
Start by googling your headline idea and browsing the existing posts on the topic. Determine the audience of these posts, and note the comments and number of shares they garner. This information will help you shape your idea, precisely define your audience, and gauge how much people care about this topic. It will also help you determine what you want your readers to take away from your post.
3. Looking for sources
After identifying your working headline and your audience, it’s now time to start creating the post itself.
First, think about the key elements you need to support your claims. Some common tools include the following:
Stats and data from reputable sources
Popular articles on the same topic
Quotes from experts and authoritative sites
You can find all three via Google. Take notes regarding each important point or stat, and also note the source so you can attribute it later on.
It’s best to start making your outline at this stage. In the outline, add each sub-point that you want to make and include any supporting comments, data, or quotes underneath. Then, as you’re writing the post, you can go subhead by subhead and fill in the blanks.
If you need expert quotes, nothing beats basic email outreach. Simply ask the person, respectfully, to provide you with a quote: “Hey, I’m writing a post about X. Do you have any comments on Y? I could use your input in the post (with proper attribution, of course).”
4. Completing the outline
Your outline doesn’t have to be huge. What it should have, though, is a list of all the key subheads along with supporting data and sources (as mentioned above).
Aim for a clear, logical structure that you can follow when writing the post. The more organized, the better.
With the outline and sources ready, you’re already halfway to a great blog post. As you’re writing, try to make each section between the subheads roughly the same length, as this will improve readability. Then, schedule the post when it’s finished.