All high-traffic blog posts have a hook. Some infuse comedy. Others rely on controversy or breaking news. And if none of those work for you? Industry research may be just the solution you're looking for.
Industry research comes in many forms but its purpose can be just as varied. Mostly, though, proficient bloggers use it to lend credibility to carefully thought-out arguments or develop a fresh take on a topic that's been tackled elsewhere.
Finding relevant data is easier than you might think. Research institutions regularly publish blogs and press releases that include useful data. Government agencies post thousands of reports online. Associations use research to demonstrate their research and influence. Universities and foundations publish study findings to relevant journals. And best of all? Google and other search engines index virtually all of it.
How to Use Industry Research
Say you want to write a blog about gaming and entertainment. A piece about the growing influence of major brands on eSports could benefit from the perspective of researchers who've studied recent acquisitions in the space. CB Insights probably has most of what you need to know.
What if you have a business and would rather your website focus on selling? Here's the interesting thing: a blog can help you sell by preemptively answering questions your customers may have when they arrive.
Look at Starbucks, which recently used research from the International Coffee Organization to reveal how climate change affects every cup of arabica-bean coffee served at thousands of its cafes around the globe. "Most coffee only grows between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, often referred to as the 'Coffee Belt.' Within this region, arabica coffee needs specific conditions to thrive. The trees grow best between 3,000 and 6,000 feet, where hot days and cool nights slow down the development of coffee cherries and create a more refined flavor," writes author Michelle Flandreau in a recent post at the 1912 Pike blog.
In gathering and presenting the data through verifiable research, and posting the results as a well-written narrative at its blog, Starbucks is pre-emptively answering questions customers and partners may have about its interest in and involvement with efforts to battle climate change.
Where to Find Industry Research
Every web-based business is different, of course, and knowing where to look for the research that suits your business may not be obvious. Here are a few quick links and ideas to get your started:
- Owler. Designed as a sort of business-infused social platform, Owler tracks business data supplied by its growing network of users while also pulling an aggregate of information from public databases. Enter your company's name and update the record if there is one. If there isn't, enter the name of your largest competitor and click the icon to "follow." Industry news that affects your largest competitor is likely to also affect your business, and may inspire a blog post.
- Justia. A legal database that pulls from the federal courts, Justia makes it easy to get a summary of judgments for and against companies you may be interested in or tracking through your blog. A similar service, Sqoop, searches corporate SEC filings and is available to bloggers and reporters who cover financial news.
- Data.gov. A broad-based tool for finding data that exists in federal, state and city government databases. Browse the main page for interesting trivia before digging into the search engine. You may find something worthwhile without having to ask the system to navigate the over 192,000 entries that exist within.
- Charity Navigator. This comprehensive tracker of registered charities has details you won't find anywhere else. From overall scores on transparency and accountability to detailed reports on financing and compensation, Charity Navigator has what you need if your blog would benefit from reporting on giving.
Finally, don't forget Google. Putting in quotes the terms "coffee consumption" and "research report" pulls up a variety of potential data sources for a blog post on the state of the industry, what's working and what isn't.
So, don't limit yourself. Think about what you want to find and then encapsulate your specific search terms in quotes before heading to Google. Do certain government agencies pop up in the results? Click the relevant links but then go the sites yourself and search again, this time starting with the archives. It'll take time, yes, but if it helps you stand out in an otherwise crowded industry—as the 1921 Pike blog does for Starbucks—the effort is worth it.