In a world of ever-changing algorithms and increasing competition, it’s not enough anymore to just create keyword-focused content. Especially when you’re trying to reach new markets.

To introduce your company to a brand-new audience and make it stand out from the competition, you need to create content that demonstrates expertise and familiarity with the new market. 

Easy to say, not so easy to accomplish, right?

Fear not. In this post, we’ll discuss how original research can ramp up an international SEO strategy, by building links and getting traffic from your target market.

What is original research?

Before we dig in, let’s set things straight: What is original research? Simply put: It’s the process of collecting data through different methodologies and analyzing it for content purposes. In other words, it’s about using data to create captivating stories that engage your audience.

Most people think that original research comes exclusively from the results of questionnaires. And, while it is certainly one of the most common sources of data, it’s not the only one.

Let’s take a look at the different ways you can collect data:

  • Survey: You can start from scratch and create your own survey. This source of data is particularly useful when you want to learn about a large number of people’s experiences and opinions about a topic. The vast array of tools (both free and paid) for running online surveys makes it the most affordable and fastest way to collect a great amount of data. 
  • Interview: This type of source is more costly and time-consuming than running a survey, and it won’t give you the same wealth of raw data. However, it can give you a deeper understanding of the subject matter by delving into specifics. Since it’s a qualitative research technique, the insights you get from a series of interviews are more detailed and personal. This source of data is recommended when you want to target a small group of respondents.
  • Internal data analysis: Regardless of the nature of your business, you have data you can leverage. From the most basic data (email marketing campaign CTR) to the most intricate (sales close rates based on seasonality and type of service), there’s always plenty to work with. Keep in mind that what seems obvious to you and your team might be groundbreaking for someone outside of your organization. 
  • External data analysis: Finally, you can pull data that is publicly available to find new insights. As in the previous case, external data analysis might not come from brand-new data, but the outcomes of these analyses must offer the reader an original take on the topic.  

No matter what data source you choose, the most important thing is what you make out of it. If you’re asking the same questions, you’ll keep running into the same answers. And what’s the value in creating a report that’s just regurgitating what the other 25 reports already said? 

How does original research contribute to international SEO?

SEO is a multifaceted discipline. You need to make sure that the content you produce is of quality, while you build up your reputation and establish your brand as an authority in the matter. 

In the case of international SEO, you have to focus on different regions simultaneously, which can be challenging. By creating original research that resonates with international audiences you can engage them more efficiently and, ultimately increase visibility in your target markets. 

  • Link building: Backlinks aren’t as important as they used to be a few years ago; that’s true. But they do still matter, and I haven’t seen any convincing evidence to the contrary. By increasing the number of referring domains from a specific region, it’ll be easier for search engines to consider your site relevant for that market, which increases your chances of appearing on the right SERPs.  
  • Brand awareness and authority: Original research not only increases your brand awareness, but also contributes to building a stronger brand. The reason is very simple: When you publish a new report with relevant information for your target market, you become a reliable source of information, which ultimately leads to brand authority.
  • Referral traffic: The value of a backlink is not just the so-called link juice. When you land a link on an authoritative site, you’re likely to earn some high-quality referral traffic from users who are relevant to your industry and, of course, to your market. 
  • Internal links: One of the greatest benefits of original research is that you can become your own source of information. The insights you generate from your research can add value to existing and future pieces of content. This way, you can cite and link back to your report, which can help your site structure, enhance user experience and increase time on site.
  • Google Helpful Content update: As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, it’s no longer enough to create content solely based on keywords that just summarizes what’s already on the web. To comply with the Google Helpful Content update focus on people-first content that provides new information and demonstrates first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge of the subject matter. 

Original research for international SEO: 3 use cases

When it comes to original research for international SEO, there’s no one-size-fits-all. How you approach the research and how you use the results depend on several factors: regions, languages, business plans, domain strategies, etc. Let’s see some examples of how this can look based on business goals and site structure. 

Case 1: New region with multiple languages + ccTLD

You’re a SaaS company that recently started to offer your service in Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Brazil. The research you conducted includes results from these four countries. In this situation, you’d need to publish the report on each ccTLD (country code top-level domain) with versions for each language (Spanish and Portuguese). An example of a ccTLD is “.br” for Brazil or “.mx” for Mexico.

Case 2: New market with multiple languages + subdirectory

Your company now serves all of Canada (including French-speaking Quebec). Since the results of your research are relevant to all Canadians (regardless of the language they speak), it’d be best to post the report in English and share the French version on the .com/fr subdirectory.

Case 3: New region with shared language + subdomain

The company you work for now covers all Spanish-speaking Latin American countries. In this scenario, it’s not necessary to create different versions of the report, so you can publish it directly on the es. subdomain.

How to spot research opportunities

When choosing a topic for original research we first have to ask ourselves: Who is our audience? Many people tend to focus on their buyer personas as their main target, and that’s a big mistake. Let me explain.

While we definitely want the outcomes of our research to be useful to our potential clients, they are not necessarily the ones we should think about when looking for research topics.

The most valuable audience is actually made up of journalists, editors, bloggers and other publishers. Ultimately, they’re the ones who will share the results, add links back to our sites and generate traffic from their own posts.

With that in mind, let’s move on to the six most important considerations when deciding which research opportunities are most worth pursuing:

1. Your business type. 

The way you approach original research may differ depending on the types of audiences your company targets:

  • B2C: Consider anything related to consumer behaviors. Seasonal topics work very well for the B2C sector. Remember: consumer trends are super interesting to journalists (and they can be interesting to consumers, as well).
  • B2B: B2B audiences crave information that will help them make decisions—for example, anything that measures the status of an industry, such as benchmark or year-end reports. Depending on the type of industry, these investigations can be conducted quarterly or annually. 
  • SaaS and tech: Research that focuses on the impact and evolution of technology not only helps showcase software features but can also serve as a guide for buyers.

2. Relevance to your audience.

Before you start your research, make sure that the topic you choose is relevant to your audience, but also close enough to your business to be relevant to it, too. Choosing too broad a topic may seem like a good idea because more people would potentially be interested in it, but if it’s too distantly related to what your company does, the original research won’t help build your brand or make your company stand out as an authority on the topic.

3. Never-before-seen approach.

The point of creating original research is to bring new information to readers. That means the results of your analysis must be completely new. After all, why would anyone be interested in an investigation that repeats the same thing as other reports? If the topic you choose has already been investigated, consider adding new variables to the equation, so you can run a new analysis and get new insights.

4. Brand alignment. 

As I mentioned before, original research fulfills several goals. It can introduce more people to a brand in a new geographical market or endorse a company as an authority on the subject. Whatever the case, the research topic must be aligned with the image and values of the business. This will help build a brand consistent with the company’s objectives.

5. Cultural fit.

In some cases, the investigations can be replicated from one geographical market to another without any problem. To guarantee the success of your strategy, you must consider the cultural characteristics of each market and make adaptations if necessary. For example, your survey on hamburger consumption per capita might have been successful in the U.S., but you might reconsider the topic before analyzing the Indian market. 

6. Launch strategy.

Finally, we must take into account the issue of timing. Publishing the results of original research can help boost a business’s entry into a market or the launch of a new product. However, scheduling is a determining factor in this type of strategy; a delay in publication can severely affect the results. It’s also a good practice to consider research topics that are thematically tied to a local holiday; this way you can leverage the buzz around the topic.

How to plan and conduct original research

As in any other content project, it’s essential to understand from the beginning what you want to achieve from it. At first, a research topic might seem like a good idea, but once you dissect it you might find it’s too broad, so the impact on your brand’s reputation would be minimal. Or, the topic could be a perfect match for your marketing strategy, but the scope of the research is too ambitious, making it unattainable. 

Avoid any of these pitfalls by following these 5 steps for planning and conducting original research:

Step 1: Set goals

The first thing you should do is set clear and measurable goals. This is essential to ensure that your research efforts align with your overall content marketing strategy and provide valuable insights for your audience. The easiest way to ensure your goals are clear is to use the SMART framework: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.

For example, the goal we set for our latest research was to survey 100 digital marketers to understand how they manage their content marketing internally. 

The findings from this research are useful for both journalists and potential clients. The former can find value in using the statistics to back their articles, while the latter can benchmark themselves against the average content marketing team.

Step 2: Create your hypothesis

Once you have your objectives ready, you can create your hypothesis. This is a statement that seeks to predict the results. In the end, your predictions may or may not be correct, but it is of great importance to begin with a hypothesis, as it is the starting point from which we will begin to build the story.

Keep in mind that the success (or failure) of your research shouldn’t hinge upon the accuracy of your hypothesis. Your ultimate goal is to learn and find something new, not prove your hypothesis right.

Step 3: Define research methodologies

At this point you should have a good understanding of the scope of your research. With the goal in mind, it should be easy to decide what approach to follow: survey, interview, data analysis, etc. As a general rule, it’s recommendable to opt for surveys when you need to collect data from numerous respondents. If, on the contrary, you’re looking for more personal insights, running a smaller set of interviews is a good idea.

Depending on the type of research you’re going to carry out, you will have to prepare for the analysis of the results. Here are two activities we’ve found helpful when sorting through responses:

  • Structure the flow of your questions: Although it may seem simple, the creation of a questionnaire is a complex task. As a first recommendation, you should always start with the simplest questions and close with the open-ended questions that require a little more depth. Try to limit open-ended questions, as too many unstructured answers can hinder your analysis.
  • Think about your dream stats: Another tip that could help you draft your questionnaire is to think of the dream stats you’d like to share as a result of your research and then work backward to collect the data. For example, in this case, we wanted to know the percentage of B2B companies using TikTok as part of their marketing strategy. With this idea in mind, we were able to come up with questions that served that goal while also helping us create a story around the topic.
  • Ask quote-worthy questions: Think of all the data, statistics and charts that could make a journalist’s life easier. And then write your questions based on it. By doing so, you’re making sure you’ll collect the data that are valuable for journalists and editors, who will ultimately help you spread the word about your research. 

Step 4: Collect and analyze data 

Once your survey is ready, it’s time to launch. Collect your data and spend an appropriate amount of time analyzing it. Data collection and analysis are the stages that take the longest. However, it is important that you do not take it lightly, since the correct processing of the data guarantees the quality of your research.

Step 5: Results

How you visualize your results is crucial. Some data points will work best as charts, while others may be more intuitively represented as infographics or in videos.

3 examples of brands using original research to reach their audiences

Faye

Faye is a company that offers whole-trip travel insurance. It started operations back in September 2019 and has quickly grown its presence thanks to its original research. In November of 2022, they shared their results after surveying American travelers. Since it was published, that single piece of content has received 48 backlinks. As a result, they went from ranking for 79 organic keywords in the U.S. to 336 after one month.

Taxi2Airport

This is a B2B technology company that operates a global marketplace for ground transportation, mainly to and from airports. Founded in 2020, it now operates in five countries. In October 2019, they published an analysis on the cost of parking for an hour in Europe’s busiest airports. That article received backlinks from referring domains (RDs) in five different countries. Their site’s overall number of RDs increased 14% and their overall traffic grew 5% in just one month.

Preply

Preply is a global language learning marketplace. The company now offers courses in 17 languages. In 2021, Preply researched the most translated books by country and created an infographic with the results. Since August 2021 when it was first published, the post has received more than 1,800 links in more than 10 languages. Over the course of one month, their overall organic traffic increased from 914,854 to 1,147,440. Spain, France and Mexico were some of the countries that registered a significant growth in traffic, with 88%, 83% and 57%, respectively.

A closing thought

Creating original research is a great way to not only break through a new market but also establish your brand as a reliable, thought leader. 

It is certainly more time-consuming than a regular blog post, but the overall results are worth it. Both your branding and international SEO strategies will thank you.