I have a friend over while sitting down to write this. She’s trying to finish her degree in education. Strewn about the coffee table and couch are textbooks and piles of paper she printed at the library - a crazy, disorganized organization. This cluttered scene makes sense only to overly caffeinated college students and old-time movie detectives haphazardly connecting pictures and newspaper articles on the wall with thumbtacks and string.
Oh, yeah, she’s doing some online research, too. And this got me thinking about blogging best practices and the role research plays in crafting a well-fed, credible, informative, well-performing blog.
Specifically, the time and organization it takes to do it right.
Perhaps you’re a renowned expert in your field (you may have literally written the textbook). If so, congratulations, you’re a wealth of knowledge and your ravenous fans will fawn over your wisdom. If not, sorry to say, you’ll have to take time to research your topic and become knowledgeable (and, yes, your subscribers will quickly learn the truth if you suck).
But you’re busy. You likely have other deadlines and responsibilities on top of feeding your company’s blog. Good news, research doesn’t have to consume your life.
Cut Your Research Time in Half with These Best Practices
We’ve shown you where to hang out online for research and inspiration. We’ve also shown you some research efficiency techniques. Now, we’ll give you some organizing tips to cut your research time in half.
1. Narrow Your Topic Down to ‘One Big Thing’
You sit down to write a blog with a million thoughts in mind, and you can’t organize a single one of them. Boy, do I know this helpless feeling well. You do more staring at a blank screen and blinking cursor than researching and writing.
Writer’s block happens, more often than not, because you’re over-complicating the process. You’re thinking about too much at once. Now, no one’s telling you to become a Zen master and clear your mind of whimsy.
But you will fail at blogging if you fail at focus. Find a broad scope, a large, overarching theme (ex.: Problems manufacturers encounter) and break it down into subtopics that’ll be explained even further (ex.: finding skilled and unskilled labor candidates, union strife, supply chain logistics, regulations).
2. Dive Into Your Archives
What, you don’t have archives? (Relax, this could simply be a handful of webpages you’ve bookmarked.) The point is, your research will be that much easier if you’ve stockpiled potentially useful information over time.
Let’s (again) run down some places to mine for resources and inspiration:
- Actively using search engines
- Mindlessly scrolling social media
- Mainstream news sites
- Aggregate news sites
- Email newsletter subscriptions
- Trade publications
- Academic journals
- Even competing blogs … and your local library (gasp)
When you spot a great article, tuck it away in your bookmarks for safe keeping. I have bookmark folders for each of my client companies (which range from a winery to a flexographic printing sleeve manufacturer) to store helpful tidbits of information as I encounter them daily.
Not using your own computer or device? Email the link to yourself. Not tech savvy? Have someone help you email it to yourself. No one to help? Jot some notes and write down the website on paper.
3. Make a Plan for Further Research
In many cases, the information you’ve compiled in your digital travels (or maybe you actually did go to the library) is not enough. Further digging is inevitable, and that takes time. But not so much if you have a plan of attack.
- Quest for new enlightenment (Georgetown University has some tips on vetting online sources here).
- Revisit trusted sites and social media accounts (perhaps a new post will provide just the right insight).
- Jot down some pertinent keywords and their synonyms (multiple options for the same keyword will boost your chances of finding what you’re looking for, and, in turn, the keywords will come in handy for the right readers to find you later).
Another quick glance at a place you trust and anticipating different searches you may perform should slash your research time.
4. Compile Relevant Sources and Trim the Fat
As a former journalist, I learned early some of your best writing will end up on the cutting room floor. We had to our own best editors (and worst critics) to beat deadline.
Logic: If some of your best writing gets cut, what does that say for your research? That’s right, even your best research may end up in the recycling bin (not the trash, because you might use it for something else). Pick out only what is truly relevant to your piece.
If you can’t tell if it’s relevant, there’s your answer. Relevance should be painfully apparent.
Blogging Best Practices: Organization Brings Clarity and Speed to Research
Everyone researches differently. But following some common-sense best practices will bring clarity and speed to your blogging.
- Narrow down your research to one topic supported by all other subpoints.
- Build a small arsenal of trusted resources for quick and easy reference.
- Have a plan for further investigation.
- Cut the irrelevant crap.
You’ll declutter your world, pump out that blog post, and move on to the important task of making money. No strings and thumbtacks needed here.