There’s a little-known “trick” for higher-quality content and better-converting landing pages.
The best writers swear by it. Non-writers avoid it like the plague.
What is it? Research.
When I first became a freelance copywriter, I had a hard time with research. I knew I needed to do a lot of it, but I didn’t know where to start.
It was really simple to automatically think, “Let me Google that!” But sometimes search engines aren’t your best research tools.
In this article, I want to take some of the drudgery out of research. Here are five research tools—beyond Google—that you can use to add oomph to all your writing, whether it’s content, landing pages, or Web pages… and maybe increase its conversion power too.
My top 5 picks for research tools
1. The Creator of the Product or Service
The people most involved in the product or service often supply the best information (a.k.a. research).
That’s because they know the business inside and out, they likely understand their customers, and they probably know some interesting stories about the company’s start or mission. You just have to get the information out of them by asking …
- If you’re a copywriter, set up an interview with the creator of the product or series as soon as possible after getting a project.
- If you’re writing your own copy, interview yourself or a business partner. Or have a friend interview you.
What do you ask?
Using a standard template of “typical” questions can be helpful. Here are a few sample questions you should ask:
- How did you get the idea for your product or service?
- What’s your vision for the future?
- What’s the most positive thing you’ve experienced with your project?
- Who will benefit most from your product?
- What lessons have you learned?
- What one thing would you most like to tell your potential customers?
Listen as they respond and ask follow up questions. If you think there might be a compelling story behind one of their answers, say, “Tell me more about that.” Or, “How did that make you feel?”
2. Junk Mail
Your physical mailbox is a great research tool—study the “junk mail” you receive to see what’s working (the stuff that mails often) or what’s not working (the stuff you want to throw in the trash immediately even though you’re the ideal target market).
Many people throw these promotions away without a second thought. Not you (at least, not any more). Instead, next time you check your mail, stop and look through the promotions. Ask yourself what you like about it and what you don’t like.
If you find a certain piece of mail especially inspirational, save it to get you thinking later.
Tip: If you want less paper stacking up, scan your junk mail and save it in a program like Evernote. Then, you can get rid of the paper, but keep the lesson.
Wikipedia.org is a great website to find information and statistics. However, since it’s user-generated and user-monitored, you want to make sure you double check the information you find and make sure it was cited. Often sources are cited at the end of the Wikipedia entry so you can easily double check the accuracy of the information.
In this image you’ll see the “see also” and “references” at the bottom of Wikipedia when I searched for “copywriting.”
This is a great starting place because it gives you alternate terms and other sources of information to explore.
Keep in mind that there are a lot of “opinions” on the Internet. Many people try to pass their opinions off as facts. That’s why—if you intend to use their opinions as facts—you should always find a credible source to back it up.
4. The Library
When I was younger, I practically lived at the library. Now that so much is available online, I rarely think about going to the library.
However, your local library can be a great resource for finding information and ideas for your copy. No matter what your subject or topic you’ll find plenty of books and publications to sort through.
Plus, the librarians are often experts at finding what you need. Don’t be afraid to ask for a little help.
If you live near a University, call to ask if their library is open to the public—many are. University libraries have larger collections of scholarly texts than your local library so it may be easier to find what you’re looking for there.
Live too far to go to the library or just prefer to work from home? Check out The Free Library by clicking here.
5. Customer feedback
One of the most important research tools is your customer or your target market. It’s important to know as much about them as possible. You should know what they think, how they feel, their age range, their hobbies, and more.
Sometimes you can picture your ideal customer in your head and come very close to understanding them. But more often than not, it’s beneficial to have more accurate data directly from the source.
That’s where SurveyMonkey comes in. They offer both free and paid services that allow you to build targeted surveys, distribute, collect and analyze the data. They even have ready-to-use templates for everything from product testing to employee satisfaction.
Here’s a sample of a SurveyMonkey survey:
But … What about Google?
For the times that you can’t help but turn to Google—even if it’s just a starting place, check out these tools:
1. Google Advanced Search
Did you know that Google offers a search tool that goes beyond their typical search results?
It’s Google’s Advanced Search and using it allows you to go far beyond a few keywords when searching. Plus, you can narrow your results by language, region, site, reading level, and more.
One thing that really makes Google’s Advanced Search better than a regular Google search is the ability to search for terms only on sites that have been recently updated. This helps eliminate a lot of the junky search results that some terms bring up.
2. Google Alerts
If you don’t have a lot of time to stay up-to-date in your industry, I recommend Google Alerts. The setup is quick and simple and Google will automatically send you articles and information based on the keywords important to you.
This image shows a Google Alert that my husband set up for his emergency preparedness niche. See how simple it is?
Some things you might want to set up in Google Alerts are:
- Your name, so you’ll be instantly notified when someone writes about you anywhere across the web.
- Your company name, so you can monitor any customer complaints or gossip.
- The main keywords for your business, so you can take advantage of any opportunities to be in the news.
Remember, research is the foundation for good copy, and sometimes you have to go beyond a simple Google search to find what you’re looking for. And the results are worth it! When you adequately research before writing your copy—it will show and your conversions will increase.
What research resources do you use?
Please join the conversation below!