Internet marketing relies on credibility. If you want to sell anything, you first have to convince people that what you are saying is true.
With so much garbage online these days that can actually be pretty difficult to do.
For many niches, a particularly good way of establishing credibility is to learn how to write case studies.
Case studies are interesting. The term is most often used in scientific research, where it applies to research that looks at a single group, person or time.
But, case studies don’t have to be limited to scientific circles.
In internet marketing, they offer a fantastic chance to examine the impact of a given change or approach, or just to consider how a person has been successful.
Well-written case studies can be a very important tool, as they let you connect with the audience on a personal level. They also let you prove to your audience that what you are saying is true.
However, figuring out how to write case studies that work well can be difficult, particularly if you have never done so before.
Case Studies for Internet Marketing
A case study in internet marketing is not the same as a case study in a business, in academia or in scientific research.
So, you have to approach it differently.
For example, businesses often use short, concise case studies to prove a specific point.
Often, their case studies will be illustrations that their product works or that their customers are satisfied.
That’s not the case in internet marketing.
You’re not just trying to prove that something works; you’re also trying to make a connection with your audience.
Take a nutrition site for example.
Say I was writing a case study on my own experiences with the Paleo diet.
If I was a business, I might write 500 or so words focusing on how I lost weight (or didn’t), how much weight I lost and why the process was effective.
For a business, that works well. But for an internet marketing site, not so much.
Instead, case studies in internet marketing are more like blog posts, more like the regular content you write. By that I mean, you are telling a story. If I was to write a case study on the Paleo diet, it would probably be a lot longer. Maybe 2,000 to 3,000 words, maybe more.
Part of the case study would be about what I did and my results. But there would be other things too.
An internet marketing audience isn’t just interested in whether the diet (or the product) works. They are also interested in how it works, how well and what the experience was like overall.
So, if I was writing about the Paleo diet, I would probably talk about some of the challenges I faced.
I might mention that it was really hard not to eat bread. I might talk about how it affected my social interactions or my energy levels. I might talk about my emotions.
By talking about myself in this way, I connect myself to my reader. That emotional connection is critical and it makes me seem legitimate.
Most readers will be far more likely to read and believe that longer case study than the short business-like one.
A Case Study is a Story
With a case study, you are telling a story.
Most of the time, you are considering a specific problem or issue and how that was solved.
For example, a case study might be the story of how a person lost weight by making small but significant changes to their eating habits.
Alternatively, a case study might be what happened when a person took a supplement every day for three months.
Because of this, case studies work well for just about every niche – although they may vary in complexity.
Another example is that some authors make a change to their website then document how that change impacted their traffic. In this case, the case study ends up being more factual and less personal, but both types are effective tools.
One of the first things about how to write case studies is to consider the structure.
Every good story has a beginning, a middle and an end. This structure lets people know what to expect and it lets them keep track of the where they are. This is something you need to do with your case study.
Most often, the beginning of a case study will be a discussion of the problem, the reason for trying to solve it and the reasons for picking that particular solution.
In my Paleo diet example, this would involve talking about why I was interested in that diet in particular and why I chose to do a case study.
It’s important to note that a case study would not be the time to go into a lengthy description of what the Paleo diet is. Instead, I would provide a link to an earlier article on the topic.
The middle of the case study is where I would talk about what I actually did and my experience overall.
This would end up being the longest part of the case study by far and I would try to write it as a progression. For example, in the case of the Paleo diet, I might break this down into sections.
One section could talk about the how challenging the diet was at first, the next could talk about how I began to get in a rhythm and the third might talk about the final weeks that I was on the diet.
This would create a sense of progression overall and make the case study easier to read.
Finally, the end would talk about what I learned, whether it was worth it and whether I would actually follow the diet in the long term.
I might close by applying the case study to my readers, saying who I think would benefit from the diet and asking them for their experiences.
The structure of your case study is very important, and it is something that you should be considering before you start writing your case study.
After all, it’s much easier to write content to fit a specific structure than to try and adjust content after it has been written.
The length of your case study really depends on context.
Some people argue for short case studies, such as 500 words. This can be effective if you are using the case study as evidence towards something specific. For example, I might write a 500-word piece of how a friend of mine became a freelancer as part of a freelancing article.
However, if you are trying to make a case study into engaging content in its own right, more length is normally needed.
Realistically, there isn’t a limit to how long a case study can be and your length will really depend on how much in involved in the case study.
This means length shouldn’t really be an agenda as you are writing a case study.
Instead, focus on how to make the case study interesting and engaging, and how to make it look good visually.
If your case study is interesting enough, people will read it regardless of how long it is.
However, don’t fall into the trap of associating length with value.
If you end up increasing the length of content because you think it is too short – you will find that you lose quality as you go along.
Additionally, no one likes reading content that takes forever to get to a point.
Readability and Appearance
With a case study, it’s very easy to get bogged down in details.
In a case study on a specific diet, for example, it would be easy to spend lots of time talking about the specific approaches taken, including what food was eaten, when you strayed from the diet and other factors.
If you get too focused on the details, your readers will never get to the relevant part of your case study.
As I mentioned before, the body of your case study should be the largest part and the most detailed.
If you are having problems explaining the background or other aspects of the case study, one approach might be to link out to another article.
For example, if you were to write an article on your experience with vitamin D supplementation, you wouldn’t want to be explaining the chemistry behind vitamin D and how it works. Instead, you have to assume that your readers already know this and offer them a link to the information if they don’t.
If you don’t take this approach, you will find that many people don’t get past your introduction, because they already know everything you are saying.
In terms of readability, you want to target your writing towards your audience. For example, if you are writing for people without much technical experience, don’t make your writing technical.
Likewise, take approaches to lighten the complexity of your article when you can. This might include making a joke or offering a short anecdote.
If you can do that, you can make your case study easy and fun to read.
In fact, some of the best case studies out there read like short stories and they are interesting even if you have no interest in the overall topic of the case study.
Whatever else you do – make your case study look good.
People constantly make judgments based on first appearances.
It doesn’t matter how good your content is. People won’t read it if they don’t like how it looks.
For case studies, particularly long ones, one part of this is to make them look interesting.
Images play a huge role here.
Putting good quality images in your case study can make all the difference in terms of appearance.
This actually makes the case study look much more professional. It also makes it easier to read, because people aren’t faced with walls of text.
In the same way, don’t write long paragraphs like you would in a book. People scan content online and long paragraphs make this more difficult.
Try for one or two sentences for most paragraphs and use three sentences every so often. Anything more than that should be considered carefully. To improve scanning, you can also highlight words and phrases using bold or italics.
This can help specific parts stand out.
Finally, using heading and subheadings well can play a large role in the appearance of your writing.
Headings help people to know what is coming up next and what to expect. They also offer a way of quickly figuring out the overall theme of the piece and allow people to skip forward.
While you might want people to read the whole piece like a book, they probably won’t. Catering for this reading pattern can help you to keep your audience happy.
One of the most important things about how to write case studies is to use data.
This is true for businesses, writers and internet marketers.
The data provides readers with a lot of value and it helps to reinforce the outcomes of your case study.
For example, if you did a case study on a diet, you could include information about how much weight you lost.
Alternatively, you might develop graphs based on change over time. These can provide a good way of illustrating data.
Overall, using data helps you to look more authentic and acts as an indication that you took the case study seriously.
Most case studies aren’t sales pitches, and they shouldn’t be treated as such.
If you use case studies exclusively as platforms for sales, you may find yourself filtering what information you include and not being totally honest. This can have major long-term issues for your credibility.
Being honest in case studies can help you show people both the advantages and disadvantages of a product or an approach overall. Even if a case study doesn’t get you any sales directly, it plays other much more important roles.
For example, good case studies can increase email signups or just improve what people think of you and your site overall. In the long-term, these are very important outcomes.
Working out how to write case studies for your own site will involve taking these general principles and tweaking them for your own needs.
Case studies can be quite a bit of work to develop and write, but their results are well worth it. Additionally, case studies will appeal to members of your audience who aren’t as interested in your other content. This is a fantastic way to engage different types of people.
Finally, case studies help you to stand out from other sites.
After all, no one will have done the exact same case study as you with the same results and same approaches.
In the end, case studies are relevant for many different types of sites although the specific approach you take may vary depending on the site and your audience.
With this post, I’ve focused on techniques for the internet marketing field, as that is my focus throughout the site, but you could tweak many of the concepts for a different type of site.
I focus on internet marketing (specifically, affiliate marketing) because it is a powerful approach for making money online. It’s also a field that attracts a large variety of people, including complete beginners and people who are experienced at building websites.
One of the great things about making money this way is that you don’t have to have any experience at all. Instead, you can learn what you need to know through training sites. Over time, I’ve seen a lot of different sites out there that offer training but my personal preference is one called Wealthy Affiliate, which is also where I learned affiliate marketing myself.