4 Effective Content Marketing Research Steps to Take (That Actually Work)

All too often marketers simply post content on their website for the sake of having fresh content for their visitors to look at. However, if the actual aim of your content is to attract new visitors and convert them into leads, then content marketing research is a crucial step to take before you post anything.

In this blog, we will cover the four main steps you should take before publishing any new content on your website. These are just four of the steps we suggest taking when researching content. There are also other important steps such as creating your buyer persona.

content marketing solutions


Step 1:

Finding the right keywords that you should be writing content for


The first step to your content marketing research is to define the keywords that you should be using in the content you create. Before you do this there are some things to understand.


Understanding the value of keywords

The first step to finding a keyword to use on your website is to ask the question, will this keyword be valuable to your visitors? This keyword needs to be relevant to your content keep visitors engaged on your website and provide them with value, meaning they won’t want to leave your website. The keywords you choose also need to have financial rewards for your business.


Finding different types of keywords (are long tail keywords dead?)

There have been recent talks to suggest that long tail keywords are a thing of the past. This theory has developed after the analysis of Google’s new ranking tool ‘RankBrain’.

The best way to describe the changes that RankBrain has implemented is using an example.

Before RankBrain it would make sense to optimise each page for a new long-tail keyword. This is because Google would only show search results for pages containing that exact phrase.

For example, if you searched for ‘the best content marketing tool’ you would only see results with the word ‘the best content marketing tool.’

However, RankBrain now has a greater understanding of what you’re searching for. So searches that are essentially looking for the same thing, just using different terminology will now see almost identical results.

Brian Dean at Backlinko does a great job at explaining Google’s new ‘RankBrain’ feature.

In a nutshell, it is now thought that you should be targeting medium tail keywords. Using our example from earlier, optimising simply around ‘content marketing tool’ is now enough to rank for similar, long tail, keywords without even using them in your content.


content marketing research


Keyword research (the top 3 FREE tools to use)

Now you know you should be targeting medium tail keywords, it’s time to introduce you to some of the best free tools you can use for your content marketing research.

  1. Google AdWords Keyword Planner Tool
  • Google Keyword Planner is the best place to begin keyword research.

  • It’s designed for advertising, but you can use it to research organic keywords. Your search can be based on your product or service, your competitor’s landing page and a specific product category.

    With Keyword Planner, you can:
  • Get ideas for new keyword and ad groups.
  • See search volume and other useful metrics for a list of keywords, or group them into ad groups.
  • Get traffic forecasts for a list of keywords.
  • Use an existing keyword list to get new ideas.

  • If you plan on doing SEO and PPC together, Keyword Planner can help you determine which keywords are better to target organically or with advertising.

  1. Moz Keyword Explorer
  • Moz’s Keyword Explorer is a great tool that provides some additional dimensions to keyword research. As well as the standard Volume and Keyword Difficulty metrics, Keyword Explorer also offers:
  • Opportunity: Relative CTR of the organic results on a SERP
  • Importance: How critical the keyword is to your campaign
  • Potential: A combination of all keyword metrics to help you prioritize

  • The tools generate its data based on Keyword Planner (tool number 1), Google Suggest and Related Searches. Moz’s tool is perfect if you already know the keywords you’re targeting but require more insight.

  1. LSIgraph
  • LSIgraph is the best place to go if you already have the main keyword you’re going to be targeting in your content, but you need alternatives to avoid keyword stuffing.
  • With LSIgraph you get an extremely easy user interface, all you have to do is enter your keyword into the search bar and hey presto, you’re presented with a list of related keywords that have been searched for previously.


How to evaluate keyword statistics (get ahead by knowing your numbers)

The main keyword statistics that you will need to understand are as followed:

  • Volume – The number of times the given keyword is searched for (usually per month but can vary depending on the tool you’re using).
  • Keyword difficulty (KD) – An estimate of how difficult it would be to rank organically for the keyword.
  • Cost per click (CPC) – The average price that users pay for an ad that’s triggered by searching for the keyword.
  • Competition – How many advertisers are using the given keyword to display their ads.

Now you need to know how to select the best keyword by analysing the statistics. We usually suggest targeting a keyword that has a good amount of volume but an easy to medium level of difficulty. This way you’ll be able to rank as highly as possible without having to compete against lots of other websites for one keyword.

The easiest way to get a list of all of the keywords that you’re currently ranking for is to get a free SEO report from Toast Inbound. This will allow you to pinpoint keywords that you should be targetting, we even throw in a free site audit assessment too!

seo audit


Step 2:

Research what content is currently ranking for the keywords you choose


Now you’ve got the keywords that you want to use, it’s time to start researching the content that you’re going to be competing with. There are a few questions to ask yourself at this point.


Who is ranking for the keyword?

If your competitors are ranking for this keyword then the chances are you’re on the right path and this term is relevant to your business. When researching your keyword you find that the results are full of businesses completely different to yours, you may be looking in the wrong area and want to choose a different keyword that may be more relevant. If you’re certain that this keyword is relevant to your businesses, we suggest doing some more research just to make sure that this is a keyword you will want to rank for.

Another factor to consider when looking at who’s ranking for your keyword is how much authority the websites in the top results have.


Website domain authority is defined by Moz as:

“Domain Authority (DA) is a search engine ranking score developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). A Domain Authority score ranges from one to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a greater ability to rank.  

Domain Authority is calculated by evaluating linking root domains, the number of total links, MozRank, MozTrust, etc. — into a single DA score. This score can then be used when comparing websites or tracking the “ranking strength” of a website over time.”

Domain authority matters because it would be incredibly hard for a new website with almost no traffic to outrank a website getting thousands of views each month, even if your content marketing is far better. If you find that your keyword is saturated with big names, it may be best to choose an alternative that won’t be as difficult to rank for.


What type of content is it?

There are lots of types of content that people want to read, including blogs, case studies, white papers and guides. Look out for patterns on the first page of Google. If, for instance, you see that the majority of the results on the first page are guides then it might indicate that the users searching simply want to know more about this topic as their knowledge is basic. This means that you should be writing content to educate people about your product or service because they aren’t ready to purchase anything yet.


How old is the content?

Old content could mean one of two things. Either the content is ‘evergreen’ and is simply just good content that stays valuable no matter how old it is. Or, there’s no new content being produced so the old content, even if it is out of date and poor quality, is still ranking well. If you find that the content for your keyword is poor and out of date then that’s great news for you. Google prioritises new content over old content, so it will be even easier to rank highly.


Step 3:

Analyse their content and break it down to see why it’s ranking


Understanding why a page is ranking well in Google is crucial for you to know how to get ahead of this page in the SERPS.


How many words are there?

It’s been proven that Google is much more in favour of long form, topic-based content marketing, including 1000+ words as opposed to traditional 300+ word blogs. You’re likely to see that the top few results are all long pages with lots of words on them. This means that you are going to have to produce your own long-form content which is even better than the top results. There is a chance that the top pages might not contain lots of words, which is a great opportunity for you to produce a high-quality piece of content to get ahead.


How is their page constructed?

What we mean by construction is looking for things such as how many images are being used or how much white space there is. If you see a trend in the way a webpage is designed then it may indicate preferences your buyer persona has.


Are they using lots of good keyword variants?

Keyword tools such as LSIgraph provide you with variants for the term you enter, these are based on actual search terms people have used. By implementing good variations of a keyword, it allows you to be found easier for search queries relating to your article. See if you can spot some of the variations and incorporate them into your content.


Step 4:

Now your content marketing research is over, it’s your turn


It’s time to put everything you know about content marketing research into practice.


Now that you’ve finished with your content marketing research, you should have a good idea of the type of content that you need to create in order to dominate search engines. If you still need help with your research and want to find out how we use content marketing research at Toast Inbound to assist our inbound marketing strategy, get in contact with us using the form below.


seo and content marketing

Author – Dan Stillgoe

Dan is a digital marketing executive at Toast Inbound, he has a HubSpot certification in content marketing and delivers content related services to clients daily.

Get in touch with Dan



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