In the modern era of: smartphones, laptops and the Internet, Google has become a key part of everyday life. The verb “to Google” is a part of common vocabulary. However, what many do not realize is that Google can be useful for so much more than simply looking up that potential holiday destination, or finding a local restaurant.
In fact, Google is a valuable research tool for content development. Used strategically, Google can help you find the information you need and, later, capitalize on SEO to generate leads and bring in the audience you want.
1. Search Strategically
In essence, searching strategically means considering your objective when approaching the task at hand. First, answer the questions: What is the central theme of my content? What am I trying to accomplish by developing this content? What are my keywords?
Answering such questions enables your Google search to be more focused and efficient. With such answers in mind, it becomes easier to hone in on appropriate source material and develop clear, directed content.
To begin with, your keywords may be used as Google search terms. Such use of keywords narrows the search to information specific to your topic. However, it can also be useful to search under related ideas that will bring in related material outside your immediate parameters in order to gain some scope and context.
It is also useful at this stage to consider the phrasing of your search terms. If the content in development pertains to education issues, for example, the search terms would be different if the objective is to attract teachers than it would be if the program is aimed at students. For teachers, the search term might be “funding state education,” or “trends in education.” For students, on the other hand, the terms might be “paying for college,” “the cost of higher education,” or even “jobs after high school.”
Regardless of the topic, the terms used to research online should always reflect the ultimate objective of the content as well as the customer base you hope to attract.
2. Consider Your Audience
It is important to remember that content development is a goal-oriented practice. Besides considering the central point of your article, consider who you are hoping to reach. The audience will have a significant impact on the kind of sources you will need to locate.
An academic or professional audience will require more scholarly source material than traditional consumers. If you hope to reach these groups it may be helpful to use the Google Scholar feature to search for journal articles related to your subject. You may also want to include keywords such as “study,” “report,” or “survey” to find official enquiries into your chosen topic. Also remember, professional audiences frequently require more recent sources, so it can be helpful to limit your search to documents from the past year.
On the other hand, other audiences may require more contemporary, colloquial sources. In many cases, your content will pertain to current events such as: legal news, tax regulations or education. In these cases, it is often useful to use tools such as Google News, or even newspaper websites, to find the most recent articles on your subject. Through Google News, it is possible to even input your keywords to track their occurrence in recent news articles. Blogs can also be a valuable source of information, so long as they have a clear author to which the information can be attributed.
3. Recognize Unreliable Sources
Perhaps the hardest part of using Google to acquire information is learning to differentiate between reliable and unreliable source material. First and foremost, you want to look for sources with a specific author to which the information can be attributed. While not all content development projects will require journal articles or other scholarly sources, it is important that authorship can still be identified in order to make the information credible. Thus, for example, while authored blogs are acceptable, sites such as Wikipedia and eHow, which are written en masse by the public, are not.
Ultimately, to a certain extent, identifying reliable sources depends a lot on your own personal judgement. Pieces that appear to be opinion or are written on message boards or other social media websites are typically not reliable. Look in your Google search results for recognizable websites such as: major newspaper outlets, well-known corporate experts or television network news stations. Otherwise, look at the web addresses for suffixes such as .gov, which signify government entities, that you can be certain are trustworthy.
Google can be an effective and efficient means of gathering source material for content development, if used appropriately. Research online should always be approached strategically, with a clear picture of both an objective and ideal target audience. With such a strategy, it becomes possible to identify a vast array of useful information, which can be invaluable in the process of developing unique, inspiring content.
This post was written by Kate Boehme, lead researcher at Content Equals Money. Are you looking for someone who can find nitty gritty details your potential clients will swoon over? Email us via firstname.lastname@example.org and we will set you up with Kate right away!
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