Len Williams

Freelance Writer

Category: Businesses

7 reliable data sources to find stats for your content

Using statistics and data is an effective way of summarising your arguments and shows readers that your article is backed up by research. From an SEO perspective they’re useful too – if you’re linking to sources of data, that tells search engines more about your niche and industry and can help your page rank higher. But how do you go about finding reliable data sources?

People are increasingly discerning about what they read online and that means that content writers need to be more discerning about the sources of data they use too. You can Google any topic and find a statistic to back up almost any argument. However, if those data sources are questionable (i.e. a biased survey with a tiny sample), then readers are relatively likely to question the trustworthiness of what you’re saying.

It’s therefore worth searching a little harder for reliable data sources from trusted organisations. Here are seven examples of where you can get this data.

7 reliable data sources for content writers

I regularly use the following sources when searching for facts and figures to use when writing content for my clients. You may not always find the data you’re looking for on the following websites – but search for similar organisations and you might just find the numbers you’re looking for.

1. For international development, GDP and indsutry

If you’re ever looking for data about countries, economic conditions or industry, the World Bank is an excellent and reliable data source. They collate and verify statistics from government agencies in countries right across the world as well as conducting their own surveys and rankings.

The World Bank has a number of data sites. If you’re looking for the broadest data sets, head over to World Bank Open Data – it can be a bit of a fiddle to use, but does throw up some really fascinating stuff on development and GDP. Another handy World Bank data set is their Ease of Doing Business rankings, where you can compare countries along measures such as how many days it takes to set a company up or rates of taxation.

Another option is the IMF who also have datasets (and a clunky website).

2. For markets and industries

Want to know how much broadcasters pay to distribute the NFL or the number of smartphones sold worldwide last year? There’s a decent chance Statista will have the numbers. It’s worth saying that a lot of their data is behind a paywall, but many statistics are freely available and they collate an extraordinary amount of data on a huge range of topics related to businesses and markets.

3. Facts and figures about countries

Writing a piece on Botswana’s GDP or Panama’s industry? The CIA’s World Factbook is a decent place to look. You can find all sorts of information about countries, from the number of kilometres of surfaced roads in the place to the amount of electricity they generate.

4. Public opinion

What do people think of Boris Johnson? How do British people use cheese graters? Do people care about buying antique ivory?

YouGov is a major public opinion polling company who make large amounts of their own data available for free online. The surveys cover all sorts of things, and it’s a good place to start if you’re looking for more ‘fun’ statistics. Gallup, another major polling company is a good alternative.

More tips: How to find expert sources to quote for your articles

5. National data portals

Looking for data on specific sectors of the economy, demographics, health figures or financial data? Many national governments provide large amounts of data for free through open data portals.

If you’re looking for figures from the UK, the UK Data Service is a good place to start (you can also check out the Office for National Statistics, and there are a few other websites for specific government departments where you can find facts and figures on things like health, labour, environmental protection and so on).

Outside the UK, the EU’s Open Data Portal is pretty good, while the USA’s Data.gov website is another reliable data source.

6. Statistics from trusted companies

We’ve all come across “remarkable survey findings” which by incredible chance promote the products of the firm that designed the survey. As a consequence, people are naturally sceptical of this kind of data. All the same, there are several companies who have a reputation for providing trustworthy statistics. These include the big consultancies (PwC, McKinsey, Deloitte, KPMG, EY) as well as analyst houses (EIU, Forrester, IDC and so on).

As far as I know, none of them have a go-to open data platform, so you have to visit the websites of each and look up their surveys and research. It can be a bit slow, but you’ll likely find some really interesting data.

7. Google

Last but not least, the world’s leading search engine also offers a couple of interesting data tools. Google’s new-ish Dataset Search tool throws up some interesting results and is an attempt to compile data from a very wide range of sources online.

I also turn to Google Trends if I’m looking to see what’s popular in the world of search. Want to see which celebrities are getting attention right now, or how much people have searched for a specific term over the years? Google Trends will tell you.

Facts and figures

If you need to produce content that is supported by thorough research, I can help. I’ve worked as a researcher on academic and European Commission projects, written articles for the likes of the BBC and Reuters and have worked with some of the world’s leading brands and consultancies to produce content their readers can trust.

Contact me today about your project.

5 ways to find expert sources to quote for your articles

When writing articles for your publication, including quotes from an expert source can really lift the piece. Expert sources provide insight, context and depth to your article, and they also add weight, making it feel more authoritative and balanced.

However, finding an expert source can be a challenge – especially if you’re on a tight deadline. Here are five methods I use to find academic and industry experts to provide quotes for any kind of article.

5 ways to find expert sources for your articles

Want to avoid spending hours on Google searching around your topic to try and find someone to quote? The following methods are a much more effective way of locating expert sources fast.

1. The Conversation’s Expert Finder

The Conversation is a website where academics can write articles about their research as well as comment on news and events. To write for The Conversation, you must be an academic and an expert in your field. The good news for journalists, PR and communications professionals is that they have an expert finder where you can search by keywords to find sources on practically any topic.

2. Twitter

Twitter is a go-to place for professionals and academics who are promoting their work or interests. Twitter’s keyword search can be useful for finding people who have an opinion on a topic – although you have to be picky about the kind of people who show up in your search results and verify that they are genuine experts (look them up on LinkedIn, their university website or company page too).

3. Your personal and professional network

Your personal and professional network can be a fantastic way of finding expert sources for articles. I, for instance, have a friend who works in psychological research – on more than one occasion I’ve asked her if she knows of anyone in her field who can help on articles. Similarly, a source I quoted for an article I wrote on the future of the electricity grid was a friend’s parents.

You might find it useful to put out a call on social media platforms – “do I know anyone who is an expert on…” or message people directly.

4. Management consultancies and analyst houses

Management consultancies are another excellent source for experts if you’re in a hurry and need a quote. I’ve often turned to the Economist Intelligence Unit when in need of analysis of industry, especially at a global scale (they usually respond fast!).

You could start your search with some of the big name consultancies (think Deloitte, KPMG, PwC etc.) – call up their press officers and they may be able to find someone. That said, I tend to find these firms are almost too big and it can take ages to get a response, so you might want to search for analysts and consultancies that work in specific fields.

5. The ‘find an expert’ page on university websites

Universities all want to ‘up’ the profiles of their academics and promote their research, so any form of press coverage is usually welcome. To help do this, many universities have created their own expert source databases you can use to hunt down someone in the know.

Simply plug something like “university find an expert” into Google, and you’ll see lots of UK and international universities have set up pages to let you do just this.

How do you find expert sources for articles? Let me know in the comments below.

If you’ve got a deadline and need content backed up with rigorous research, I can help. Contact me today.

How to write a blog intro – 7 useful hooks for business blogging

You have done the research into your topic. You have ordered your points into a logical structure. And you have a good idea of how will end your blog. But you’ve run into an obstacle – how are you going to start writing the thing? 

Many people find writing an introduction one of the hardest parts of producing content. A less-than-compelling introduction can immediately turn readers off and means they may not read the rest of what you have to say. And that means all the effort you put into producing corporate blogs goes to waste! 

The good news is that there are plenty of easy writers’ tricks to get your blog going. So, let’s look at how to write a blog intro – I have put together several kinds of hooks that writers use all the time to draw readers in. I’ve also provided examples of how they might be used in different industries.  

7 tips on how to write a blog intro 

The following seven methods can be applied in any industry or medium – you just need to tailor them to your subject. So, here are my tips on how to write a blog intro with examples from different kinds of business: 

1. Set the scene 

Setting the scene can be a very useful way of starting an article. Describe a particular scenario or event which relates to your topic. This gets the reader immediately interested as they start imagining the scene unfold. I recently used just this technique when describing the experience of eating plant-based meat for a finance publication.  

Example of how to write a blog intro for an accountancy business: 

“Sweat is rolling down your brow. Your heart is palpitating. Your palms are moist. Why? It’s time to file your VAT return and you can’t seem to find all of your receipts.” 

2. Ask the reader to imagine something

Tell the reader to picture a memory, image or hypothetical scenario which leads into the rest of your article. Again, this method gets the mind working and the reader will be unlikely to walk away! I used this technique a couple of years ago to describe the notion of a 6-hour workday

Example of how to write a blog intro for an IT support company: 

“Imagine you come into the office one morning to discover none of your computers will turn on.” 

3. Ask a question

Do you know why it’s impossible to ignore a question? Ask someone a question and they’ll almost always feel the need to find out the answer – it’s like a mental itch that won’t disappear until it’s ‘scratched’. Here’s how I used this technique in a blog last year.  

Example of how to write a blog intro for a food business: 

“Do you know how long you can leave cooked meat in the fridge?” 

Woman looking ponderous

4. Hit them with an amazing fact or figure

Extraordinary facts or huge figures are a great way of getting a reader interested. Can you tell them something that surprises, amazes, shocks or scares them? Incredible facts and figures open people’s eyes – and they’ll inevitably want to read on and find out more. I did this in an engineering magazine article, showing how cement is humanity’s most-produced item.  

Example of how to write a blog intro for a higher education institute: 

“By the end of 2019, more than 20% of the world’s population will have completed a degree of some kind” (I just made this number up for illustrative purposes!). 

5. Find a powerful quote

Using quotes can be an effective way of starting a blog, although do so with care – you don’t want to come across as cliched. Readers might also find it a bit distasteful if you use a quote from Gandhi to sell them some product or another! 

Ideally it would be a quote from someone at your organisation, a person you interviewed or from one of your customers. I recently wrote a piece about fintech which began with a quote from one of my interviewees that encapsulated the topic at hand.  

Example of how to write a blog intro for a waste treatment business: 

“’It makes me sick to see how much rubbish I produce’ said Mary Jones, a local teacher, shocked by the annual waste measurement system at our Exeter facility”.  

6. Address the problem directly

It’s not necessarily the most imaginative approach, but addressing your customer’s problem directly gets you right to the heart of the matter fast. Seeing their problem described will make the reader feel that you empathise with them and there’s a good chance they will decide to read on. Here’s an example from my blog of just this approach – if a little jazzed up.  

Example of how to write a blog intro for a physiotherapist: 

“Lower back pain can ruin your day and leave you feeling miserable. The good news is that there are tons of things you can do to manage it”.  

7. Describe a trend

People are constantly seeking out new information about the world around them. If you can describe an interesting new trend or technology, most people will want to learn more so that they feel informed. I used this approach for a BBC article about a new form of public transport. 

Example of how to write a blog intro for an import/export services business: 

“Import/export businesses are finally catching up with the digital revolution. Over the past year, we’ve noticed ever more customers using mobile apps to manage shipping and logistics…” 

Knowing how to write a compelling blog intro is essential if you want to keep people reading your content and learning more about your company. By using some of the techniques described above, you can hook your audience in and keep them reading till the end! 

I help companies like yours write blogs and other content. Contact me today to talk about your content marketing strategy.  

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