As a blogger and copywriter I often have to do some research online collecting materials and information for my article or link bait. To be honest, I enjoy the process. For the years online (and while still studying), I have fine-tuned the process to be able to both find as much information as needed and do it fast and efficiently.
Here is the exact way I am doing that:
1. Get Focused
The first thing to do is to collect some basic info on the subject that would work as foundation to my further research. Here are the steps I usually take at this stage:
- Find definitions (Google's DEFINE: operator usually does a good job here);
- Scan through top 10 - 20 results in Google for the base term;
- While scanning, keep brief notes (open the .txt or .doc file and drop some basic info there: names, dates, numbers, major opinions, quotes, etc).
The most important part here is to save all the essential information using as few words as possible.
Once this initial step is completed, I usually have a "tree" of the basic information.
Here's an example of this "notes tree" I have done while doing research on "Online Shopping Behavior by Gender":
Now I can "grow" that tree expanding my search tools as well as the keyword range.
2. Expand The Keywords
For more results I need to vary the keyword phrase I am using: start experimenting with various synonyms and ways to express the similar concept / idea.
Besides using my brain, I take advantage of traditional (and not only) keyword research tools and other various ways to expand my search:
- Google's "Related searches";
- Google's "Wonder Wheel" (as well as other keyword research tools provided by Google);
- Online dictionaries and thesaurus sources;
- Any of the free keyword research tools from the list.
3. Expand the Search Tools and Sources
Now that I have created the list of all possible keywords and phrases to use, I can vary tools and sources to use in my search:
- Use Google's "Time" search;
- Use online glossaries and dictionaries
- Use Twitter search;
Tip: If you are doing research and using Twitter search, you may be up to useful resources on the topic. Get Twitter search results include tweeted links by using [filter:links] operator.
- Use social search aggregators like Social Mention (with plenty of filters inside, like Blog search, social network search, Q&A site search, etc)
4. Putting It All Together
With my keyword and source choice being expanded, I don't forget to grow my "tree" of notes as well. Here are my rules of thumb:
- Get really focused at the beginning of the research - this will save my time by letting me both get an idea of the subject matter and keep from going through unnecessary details;
- Expand moderately: the key is not to find as many related keywords and alternative sources as I can - the key is to move in the right direction researching the topic.
- When saving my info, use as few words as I can: my notes are to be used to save details, to create the content I am going to use my own brain (this way I will end up with the totally unique content).
Do you use any tricks when conducting online research? Please share them!