Our Content Analyst, Maggie Owens, spends her days at FANDOM researching the topics that have the potential to drive the most traffic to our website. But her methods aren’t some kind of magical trickery -- some of her research techniques are simple, intuitive, and crucial for writers to adopt.
Research Basics 101
Method 1: Google autocomplete
Type the topic or title of what you’d like to write about in the Google search field. The list of suggestions that the search field autocompletes means that a lot of people are searching for those things. Get creative with what you input and see what happens.
For example, typing in “Wonder Woman feminist” shows there’s a lot of people looking at “icon” and “controversy.”
From this, you can see that there are mixed opinions. Use this as a jumping off point to pitch an article that has a strong opinion and point of view, like “Why Wonder Woman Isn’t a Feminist Icon” or “Ignore the Controversy, Wonder Woman Is a Badass Feminist”.
Sometimes only typing in a few letters can reveal some interesting results as well. Take this example of typing in “The Walking Dead e”
It looks like people are interested in not just the episodes, but also in the characters and how it ends. These could be jumping off points for you to write about Enid’s relationship with Carl and where that could go given their situation, a speculative piece about how The Walking Dead should end, or even “Should The Walking Dead Just Give Up Now?” explaining why the show has lost its spark.
Say you’ve chosen “The Walking Dead ending” as a jumping off point for your research, your next step is to see what other people have written on the topic.
Here you can note a few things:
- The search was conducted on September 15, but the bulk of the articles came out several months ago. This means these articles have been circulating for a while with little else competing with it. This is a good start.
- Much of this is talking about the comic series, but there’s little talk of what that means for the series. That means there’s potential for you to cover this angle. You’d want to do a follow up search to confirm, but it looks like a potential lead so far.
- These articles are all about comments that the comic book and TV series creator, Robert Kirkman, made from San Diego Comic Con. This is the perfect resource to grab quotes and further research what the creator said (as long as you remember to link back to the article you found the quote in).
- These articles are news-based rather than opinion-focused. This again shows that there’s an angle to take that could easily compete with these other sources.
All of these things point to this being a good topic to pitch.
Method 2: Related Google searches
Another tactic you can use is the “Searches related to…” section at the bottom of your Google search page. This shows you other things related to the topic you searched that a lot of other people have Googled.
Let’s say you’re interested in writing about Enid from The Walking Dead. You type in “The Walking Dead enid” in Google, and at the bottom, you see these related searches:
There’s clear interest in Enid and Carl, so that gives you one angle to explore. But “enid walking dead spy” is a curious search, so follow that thread and see where it leads.
Clicking into the “enid walking dead spy” search query, and the related searches at the bottom of that page bring up some more interesting topics to explore:
Here you’ll find even more angles to take with Enid, including any proof that Enid is Negan’s daughter and what it might mean for the show, or taking a different approach and discussing fan theories about who Negan’s spy is. Repeat method 1 to check what the competition has written about this topic and go from there.
Method 3: Answer the public
No, we don’t mean you literally go out and answer the public! The website https://answerthepublic.com/ collects search queries from Google and Bing and separates them into the questions that people most frequently search for. Much of the results are more fact-based, like when does this thing air, where can I buy season 1, who plays this character, and so on. But you can also find some really interesting questions that can spark an idea or angle for your pitch.
Let’s say you’d like to write about the TV show Rick and Morty. Search the title, and see what you find.
This section may inspire you to discuss whether Rick and Morty can time travel.
Season 3 of the show had some new developments about Evil Morty, so you could use this as a jumping off point for exploring that angle.
Right at the bottom of this query has a question “what Rick and Morty is really about.” This question implies that many people suspect that the show isn’t just about a grandfather and grandson adventuring through space and alternate worlds. So, how can you add your expertise to help people answer this question?
From this, you may consider researching further ideas about fan theories, a beginner’s guide to Rick and Morty, a more in-depth piece about what the show is actually exploring, or many others.
These questions are also great at assessing which characters are popular or interesting. If they weren’t interesting, no one would look them up! So consider why people are searching for these names and think about listicle ideas that may include these characters in some way. In this instance, you might consider “The Best Rick and Morty Characters Who Were Only in One Episode,” or “The Best Versions of Rick.”
Method 4: Discussions
It sounds fairly obvious, but if people are talking about a topic, that means it's probably interesting. If you find a lot of heated discussion on a topic, then there’s definitely something there you could use to take a side and pitch a topical idea with a strong point of view.
Reddit is a great resource for discovering weird fan theories, hot discussions, and interesting angles you can use as a jumping off point to create your own pitch.
It’s a bad idea to blatantly rip off another person’s idea, so don’t do that. Rather, take the topic or thread as a conversation starter. What’s making people angry about that topic and what can you say about it? Do you agree with the angry responses or is the anger an overreaction? Pick a side and consider how you’d convince people to join your side.