8 research tips to help you find free content sources
9th February 2010
This is for all of you free content hunters. I hope this article helps you locate that elusive, specialised content a little easier and in a more timely manner.
Search engines, Portals, Vortals, Category Killers, Directories, Indexes they are all valid places to start looking for information on the internet. The internet has evolved now so that anyone can publish information and anyone can share their thoughts and knowledge. It is a vast swirling quagmire of data, with no core protocol for managing and indexing the information on it. Whenever you search for information you must approach multiple search engines and each one returns different results, all of which may have to be painstakingly followed through, search engine by search engine — link by link, in fact research shows that even the largest search engines have only about 20% of the internets URL’s.
Eight tips to help you better search the internet for your information
1. Reverse Engineer the process
When you initially make a foray into locating information on the internet you are usually swamped with either too much information or not enough. The trick to narrowing down and locating your data is to write down in as much detail the type of data you are looking for and then write down a list of people and organizations who would most likely create or collect the data. Now put yourself in the shoes of the person whose job it is to disseminate that created/collected data.
- What search engines would you publish it too ?
- What keywords would you use to describe your data ?
- What specialist publications, directories and portals would you likely contact to list your information.
Armed with this knowledge you can then plan your search strategy.
2. Have a search strategy
Sit down and write out your objectives. Think about where you would like your research to take you and then write down the search engines and indexes you should visit and in what order.
Its your biggest asset when searching for information online. It is so easy to go wandering off down the wrong path, distracted by something that may seem useful later on, yet is not really relevant to the task at hand. The trick is to stay focused and plan your research strategy in advance and then stick to it.
4. Learn to skim effectively
Skim those resources, whittle them down, make them into a manageable list that can be pursued in more depth. Anything that doesn’t grab your attention within your search strategy, dump it, anything that passes muster, put it into a sump. Keep digging until you have about 20 to 30 key urls to explore.
5. Cost it
Huge amounts of information are free and although it is not usually an issue for free content hunters, if you are after accurate data and statistics to publish on your website, don’t be surprised to learn that a report you finally locate after hours of searching will actually cost you (not the headlines, but usually the rights to publish the content of the article). For anything but the most basic of research and articles, always budget some sort of cost into your project, whether it be a few dollars for a particular news article or $5000 for a premium report from a fully fledged market research corporation such as Jupiter Research or PC Data Online.
6. Think Laterally
Who is the intended audience of the data ? Are their specialist sites or organizations that the data may have been listed with ? Perhaps an annual report contains the information ? Perhaps a competitor ?
7. Document your search
It can be easy to lose track of what you are doing. Record your progress and make notes to be able to come back and retrace your path. Keep notes on your favorite search engines and directories, as your list grows you will realise the importance of describing the type of data found on each one.
If things are starting to look grim and time is of the essence, don’t be ashamed of outsourcing parts of your research. A professional researcher can usually find the information you require in a fraction of the time.