- Why research is important for business bloggers
- How to assess the validity of a potential source
- How to find the most valuable sources for your research
Why is it a good idea to seek out external research for a blog post?
Many entrepreneurs are confident and independent, leading some to believe that outside research sources are no better than their own thinking. Many times this is true, but I would remind business bloggers and leaders that no matter how important they are, their message will be more potent with research. It will add validity and credibility to what you say, and it will make you more knowledgeable and influential in your field.
Lack of research is almost always seen as a lack of power, effort, knowledge and diversity. Use research to empower your influence and professional image, because relying on your merits or influence detracts from the face you direct toward the public.
When I start a post, I see research as an act of communication, and not just with my audience, but with writers who have gone before me. I know that others have already written about the topic in some form, and I feel obligated to read at least some of that information.
Doing in-depth research and citation shows your readers that you have done your homework, you thoroughly understand the topic, and you are writing something new in the context of the existing information.
What are some ways to assess the validity of a potential source?
Be sure to use sources that provide relevant and specific information for your readers and teach you more about the topic. You need to find sources that are valid and help you to establish credibility with your readers. Since anyone can publish on the internet, some sources are credible and others are junk. Your readers will know the difference between the two.
Think of sites like Wikipedia or Brainy Quotes as the starting point for your own research, rather than a source of quotes or links to include in your post. For example, check out the reference materials at the end of each Wikipedia article. Look for sites that end in .gov or .edu. These add a lot of credibility to your writing because they are from the government or a university.
Here are four questions you should ask of every article before including it in your blog post:
- When was the article published? Ideally it should be within the past five years. This will vary based on your topic and industry.
- Who authored the article? Read their biography to find out if they are a credibility authority on the subject you are writing about. What education do they have? What have they published about? Where have they published? Have other credible sources verified them as an influencer in the topic area? If you can’t find this information, find another source.
- Is the site solid and reputable? I use Chrome browser extensions to assess this. My favorite tool is WebRank SEO 3.3.7. It reviews most standard rankings: Google PageRank, Alexa & Compete Rank, Social Stats, Whois Lookup, Pages Indexed and Backlinks in Google & Bing. If the rankings are decent, then you can usually trust the site. The MozBar extension is also helpful in providing domain rank and domain authority.
- How much advertising is there on the site? Generally speaking, the more advertising, the less likely it will be a valid source. This is not always a sure thing, but you can tell when advertising is overdone.
How do you find the most valuable sources?
Since we all write in unique areas, here is a process to find the best sources in any topic or industry:
- Bloggers – Narrow down to the most professional and reputable blogging sites. For example, since I write about the science of blogging and writing, I trust ProBlogger and CopyBlogger as solid, reputable sources that I use often in my writing.
- Research data – Pure, unanalyzed research will surely lead you towards a unique way to create an article. While you can find rich research and data, it’s up to you to mentally process and create an opinion about that data. Check sites like the Pew Research Center, Stats.org and Gallup.com. You can search for statistics and research sites from your particular topic area.
- Top-end online magazines and blogs – These are useful because they typically double check their sources. Examples include: Huffington Post, Mashable, Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Business Insider.
- Feed readers – Plug the most helpful sites and blogs you find into a feed reader like Feedly, which will track the most current posts from your sources of choice. They also suggest other sources you might be interested in. Feedly is invaluable for keeping up to date with current, relevant posts.
- Aggregators – These tools browse content about specific topics and help you discover new authors and sites. The favorites I rely upon for research include Flipboard and LinkedIn Pulse. They preview the sources for you and pull up things that are usually well written and reputable. They also have mobile apps.
Research keeps you up to date and on the cutting edge of your field. This will make you a lifelong reader, which is essential to maintaining power as a lifelong leader. You always want to be a step ahead of the reader, without being condescending in your writing.
The strongest writers are familiar with the ideas of others, including those with opposing views, and their research empowers the persuasive tone of their writing. Reading the writing of other influencers makes you an open-minded businessperson.
Great leaders read, write, maintain an open mind, and embrace new truths as they encounter them. Sharing these innovative ideas will make you a powerhouse in your industry.