An easy way to write original research
Think. Write. Lead. - Issue #50
Hey, friend. In the past couple of weeks, we began a conversation around Thought Leadership Marketing (TLM) and the types of content you should use in a TLM strategy with the I.D.E.A.S. acronym. In this issue, I will give you some tactical advice on one of them: Data-driven content (the “D” in I.D.E.A.S.). Let’s dive in.
One of the mantras of SEO says that to get top Google rankings, you must have a good domain authority (DA). And to earn domain authority, you must get sites with high DA to link to you (backlinks).
That’s why you get those weird pitches asking for random backlinks. Like this one I got this week:
Or your SEO Agency charges you a thousand dollars for getting you a “high-quality backlink”.
Or, what is most common: guest blog posts. People write blogs for free for other sites as long as they allow them to add a link to their site within the article.
Can you spot the problem with these tactics? They are artificial ways to game the algorithm, not a natural way of earning authority.
TLM, of course, is about genuine credibility, not hacks or gimmicks. That’s why there is a better way to create valuable content that is more likely to get lots of backlinks:
Original data or research.
In fact, according to the guys at Hubspot, the three types of blog posts that earn the most backlinks are:
Stories backed by original data
Thought leadership or expert interview posts
Posts that serve as foundational "Ultimate Guides"
Not surprisingly, the first two are part of TLM.
So, what is considered original research? The report of a study or analysis published by the people who actually conducted the research. The authors describe why they did the study, how they did it, and the results.
Sounds hard? Well, it depends on your niche or industry. If you’re a medical writer (which I was from 2004 to 2014), you’re usually reporting on original scientific research from others, but you’re not doing the clinical trials yourself.
My hunch is that you work in an industry where collecting data is less cumbersome than randomized double-blinded multi-year studies on large human populations.
SaaS companies can collect data from the use of their own software (think about Gong Labs, for example) or from customer interviews or surveys.
Solopreneurs can do the same, gathering insights from their audience or clients and writing about the results.
Let me give you an example of each. This is original research I did myself.
Case Study #1 - Original Data by a Solopreneur
As I was getting ready to launch my book, The Solo Thought Leader, I created The Thought Leadership Scorecard, which benchmarks a person’s ability to become the go-to expert in their industry and identifies opportunities for growth.
The 35 questions are divided into 7 categories: Expertise, Innovation, Branding, Education, Impact, Business Operations, and IP Creation. Each category corresponds to one of the 7 steps laid out in the book.
Many people from all over the world have taken it so far — and from the results, I’ve identified the weakest areas and the big mistakes solopreneurs are making.
From the results, I wrote one of my most popular articles on Medium: 3 Mistakes Solopreneurs Make When Trying to Position Themselves.
All I needed to conduct this research was a survey/quiz tool like Scoreapp and a series of questions from my framework.
Case Study #2 - Original Data by a SaaS company
Inspired by the success of the Thought Leadership Scorecard, I suggested to the marketing leadership at Dooly to create a scorecard on sales productivity.
I designed a 20-question quiz about the daily habits of salespeople and created a nurture email sequence. Then I promoted the quiz through social media, banner CTAs, exit intent pop-ups, dedicated email blasts, and partner newsletters.
When we surpassed 500 respondents, I exported the data from the Scoreapp and along with the insights in the app analyzed the results. I then wrote a report summarizing the findings and adding recommendations for improving productivity.
The designer at Dooly created a gorgeous landing page with the results.
We promoted the report through all the channels with two CTAs — one to try Dooly (which makes reps more productive) and another one to take the quiz.
Notice that we did not gate the results but made them freely available.
There was no need to create a PDF and add a lead generation form for people to download it. The quiz itself is the lead gen tool in this case.
More people keep taking the quiz and the sample size is growing for a future update of the report. It’s a virtuous cycle of data-driven content.
What type of original data or research can you conduct that would be of value to your audience?
Is there a survey you can create to gather data from your clients and readers?
What are some pressing questions that your clients have and that you can answer if you did some research?
Write down 20-25 questions based on your framework or the topic you write the most about.
Use this invitation link and get a 30-day free trial of Scoreapp and create a survey with those questions. Watch this video to see behind the scenes of my own scorecard.
Gather data and later write an article or report with the findings.
Publish it and get both leads and TLM content.
You can keep writing generic content for your site and guest blogs that nobody reads… or become a thought leader that publishes original research.
It’s your choice.
TLM involves more work, but it’s not impossible. I’ve shown you an easy way to do it in this newsletter.
So what are you waiting for?
Get started this week.
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The test is an excellent way to think about questions for our audience, to rate what they are doing and to have real data from real people. Thank you.