Storytelling and tone of voice are both important aspects of copywriting. To create an effective, thorough piece of content, writers must also use research as their foundation.
Creating high-quality content starts with high-quality research. Leveraging insights and data from content research, copywriters can produce content that performs better and resonates with the right audiences.
Readers look for content that stands out, and brands must provide the right content to the right audience at the right time. But it’s more specific than that. Content should also be on the right channel, in the right format, with the right messaging, and include the right call to action.
While this may sound daunting, it can be achieved with the proper research tactics. Here are some of the types of research and the ways your team can leverage them to create a winning strategy and deliver content that is relevant, engaging, and unique.
Types of Content Research
Many different types of research activities and techniques inform content creation and optimization. Ideally, content strategists, writers, and SEO analysts each participate in the research to gain a first-hand perspective and to have the opportunity to ask questions. However, depending on the time and resources available, research is sometimes done by another team and passed off to the content team. Either way, it’s important to have a strong data-driven foundation when creating content.
“[Subject matter experts] can be instrumental in the ideation phases of your content strategy, lending their expertise to brainstorming sessions and subject ideas. Once you get to the writing phase, subject matter experts offer the most valuable service of all: subject-specific content that is truly accurate and relatable.” - Neil Patel, Digital Marketing Entrepreneur
This should be one of the first steps in any new project. Stakeholder research can be as simple as holding a kickoff session with all key team members, or it can be more involved and include detailed interviews and surveys to collect insights. Without this initial research and alignment, content may not accomplish business goals.
The writing may be good, but if it doesn’t live up to business expectations and requirements, multiple rounds of review will be necessary. Making the investment to conduct stakeholder research at the beginning of the project will help avoid this misalignment.
Another way to ensure your content is effective is for writers to become experts in the subject area. Before writing about a specific product or service, for example, copywriters need to understand your offerings, how they are differentiated in the market, and the benefits they provide. Knowing the ins and outs of each topic will result in more valuable content.
During the content creation process, content teams should consult subject matter experts (SMEs) who have a deeper understanding of the specific topic. These stakeholders can provide detailed knowledge and experience so that copywriters better understand what they are writing about. It is especially helpful when subject matter experts share helpful reference materials and documentation for writers to use.
Audience Research — Personas
One of the most critical parts of content development is understanding your audience. Research helps businesses understand customers better, and the more you understand your customers, the better you can serve them through content.
First, content teams need to know who is interested in the product or service they are writing about. Most strategy teams will create several personas that can help with this, capturing audience needs, pain points, preferences, and habits. Personas should be based on actual customers – interviews, surveys, support history, and analytics are all useful inputs. Once writers understand the target audience, they can create engaging, personalized content.
Forgoing audience research can be highly detrimental to content engagement. When writers do not understand who will consume the content, it’s likely their copy will be too broad or geared to the wrong audience entirely, which can lead to low engagement, loss of conversions, and abandonment.
Audience Research — Journey Mapping
Another effective way to create relevant content is to consider the user’s journey and experience. This is critical to personalization because it enables content and experience teams to serve up the right content at the right point in the journey and meet users where they are. Journey maps answer the following questions:
- What are users trying to achieve?
- What actions are they taking?
- How are they interacting with the brand?
- What questions do they ask?
- What pain points are they experiencing?
- How is a user getting to this website/page/piece of content?
- What are their next steps?
After understanding the customer experience, strategists can begin mapping content to the journey. This is the process of highlighting the various content touchpoints and recommendations that align to the journey, which should inform copywriting. Some aspects to consider include:
- Content purpose
- User expectations
- Types and formats
- Triggers and calls to action (CTAs)
- Gaps and opportunities
To maintain a strong and engaging content strategy, it’s crucial to evaluate competitors. This consists of analyzing competitors’ strengths and weaknesses and identifying gaps and opportunities to meet customer needs and position your brand above the others.
What types of content are different companies publishing? What channels are they using? How can your brand position itself against the competition? These are all important questions to ask when conducting competitive research.
“The best content experiences aren’t conspicuously personalized. Instead, they’re personal, relevant, and welcome. They are experiences that feel like they are just for you, without overtly telling you they are.” - Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Advisor, Content Marketing Institute
Another way to strengthen content is through search engine optimization (SEO) and keyword research. As the next section of this eBook will discuss, SEO and copywriting go hand in hand, and having a comprehensive SEO strategy can help with both content creation and performance.
Before writing starts, the content team should have a clear keyword (or multiple keywords) in mind. The important thing is that keywords should be natural and elevate the content – it should not sound forced.
It is also valuable to understand the search intent. This is usually narrowed down into four categories: navigational, informational, transactional, and commercial. The search intent helps determine the right types of content to create. For example, for transactional keywords, product or service pages are helpful. For informational keywords, blogs and thought leadership articles are valuable.
Lastly, SEO research can be done to build a content structure. Components like topics, subtopics, headings, and subheadings can serve as outlines for copywriters.
The Bottom Line
Research adds value and validity to content. When content is well-informed and based on data, it’s more likely to resonate with audiences, which helps attract the right customers and build loyalty.
Research should not stop when content is published – it should be ongoing. Looking at analytics and opportunities for continuous optimization will help your content thrive.
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