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7 Free Ways to Get Original Data for Your Content

I knew creating content from original data was one of the best ways to attract links and exposure with little promotion. But I always thought it was expensive … until I had a chat with Andy Crestodina from Orbit Media.

A guest on my podcast, Andy shared how he used original data that cost nothing to create content that generated thousands of backlinks.

The catch? You have to be clever. So I asked a group of clever marketers to suggest how to generate original data on a budget and use the resulting insights to create effective content. Here’s what they have to say (and they all work even when you have no extra dollars to spend).

The trick to doing no-cost original #research for #content? Be clever, says @mmahoney587 via @CMIContent. Share on X

Scrape public data

Website life span

Andy wanted to know the average life span for a website. But the statistic didn’t exist then. In true clever content marketing fashion, he set out to calculate the statistic.

With the help of a virtual assistant, he pulled the list of the top 200 marketing websites according to Alexa. Then they checked the Wayback Machine to find how often each website was redesigned.

The assistant completed a spreadsheet that showed the average life span was two years, seven months.

.@Orbiteers used @WayBackMachine to #research web page life span. The post he wrote on the finding drew 376 backlinks, says @crestodina via @cmicontent. Share on X

That stat resulted in an Orbit Media blog post, What is the Average Website Lifespan. That one-stat post generated 376 backlinks from over 130 referring domains. It also ranks for nearly 300 keywords.

Salary project

Andy had another data-driven idea – how much money do marketers make. He went to publicly available data on two sites – and

From Payscale, he captured the salaries for the top seven marketing job descriptions/titles. Next, he went to Glassdoor and collected the data from the same categories. Using two independent sources made the data more credible.

Using both site’s figures, he calculated the median salaries for each position and published it in the blog post, 7 Marketing Job Descriptions and Salaries: How Much Do Marketers Make?

Find a relevant partner

When Mantis Research launched, Michele Linn, co-founder and chief strategy officer, wanted to conduct a study about research (yes, meta), but she didn’t yet have an audience to survey. She solved the problem with collaboration.

She found a partner with a sizable audience that shared her curiosity about research – BuzzSumo. Mantis Research created, programmed, and tested the survey, BuzzSumo distributed it. Mantis then analyzed the results and crafted the final report: The State of Original Research for Marketing.

Don’t have access to audience to do a survey? Partner with a brand that does, says @MicheleLinn via @cmicontent. Share on X

Both Mantis and BuzzSumo distributed the results, which was worthwhile for both parties.

“It was a great way for us to get visibility for our brand – and learn a ton in the process,” Michele says. “Even though our brand was new, we were able to get backlinks to our study. And, it’s common for potential clients to mention that they learned about us by reading the study.”

Organize public data

A lot of data is just waiting for a clever marketer to turn it into a valuable resource.

Scott Brinker and his Chief Marketing Technologist blog makes a lot of data available through its Marketing Technology Landscape:

Velocity Partners’ Doug Kessler and Agu Rejon took that data and enriched it using the marketing data engine software Clearbit. The result was the creation of a new content product – martechbase, a free tool for marketing technologists and operations people.

Ask Google Analytics

If your website has a lot of visitors, you have good data waiting in your Google Analytics. Fortunately, you don’t have to be an analytics whiz to take advantage of it.

Christoph Trappe of Authentic Storytelling says his favorite way to gather original data is using the voice feature in Google Analytics. When he was writing a post and wanted to know which social network drove the most traffic to his website, he asked Google Analytics, “What social network drives the most traffic to the site?”

My favorite way to gather original data is using the voice feature in @GoogleAnalytics, says @Ctrappe via @cmicontent. Share on X

He then incorporated that data into the article, What’s the Easiest Way to Check Metrics in Google Analytics? Here It Is …

Leverage customer data

Your customers are providing original data in almost every interaction they have with your company.

A great example of this is a call-to-action study done by Wistia. They wanted to know which CTAs performed the best. The team at Animalz, led by Jimmy Daly, took on the project. They scrutinized the over 480,000 CTAs from almost 325,000 videos

The result? The Wistia Guide to Calls to Action in Video Marketing, which has attracted almost 500 backlinks and ranks for over 100 keywords.

Analyze a third party

Ann Handley shares a data-driven content example done by Jon Burkhart, a reader of her Total ANNarchy newsletter. He scraped the text of her writing- and marketing-focused newsletter to create a word cloud and published it on LinkedIn. The unique visual presentation not only attracted Ann’s attention but several other influencers in the field.

TIP: Think about where your target clients’ audiences get their information and cultivate data from those sites. For example, you could look at the titles of the Buzzfeed articles with the most comments to identify popular format frequencies.

Think about where your target clients’ audiences get their information and cultivate #data from those sites, says @mmahoney587 via @CMIContent. Share on X

Get started

Next time you plan a piece of content, don’t try to find a fresh idea based on already available statistics. Create the relevant, recent, and accurate statistics yourself. You don’t need to have a big research budget, let these examples inspire some clever thinking around your industry and content marketing.

Please note: All tools included in this post are suggested by author. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute