Stop rewriting what everyone else has written
While researching for a personal finance post I came across the same advice, phrased in slightly different ways on maybe a couple dozen blogs and websites. Since I wasn’t exactly in the position to follow the advice to the letter, I tried it by skipping a step. And guess what happened? I got the desired results without needing to follow what is heavily inferred to be that crucial first step.
What does that mean?
It means that good research for writing is not just doing a quick search, picking the most effective keywords and rehashing the same information.
Information changes faster in some topics than others, so when the first writer posts an article the information may have been 100% accurate. Maybe the information is something the first person didn’t know but believed. Maybe it’s something that just sounds like it would be true.
Then other people believe it and repeat ad infinitum.
In personal finance the damage from bad advice might not be much to most of your target audience, but a relatively small amount can mean the difference between paying the bills on time or complete disaster. Once, as a full grown woman with a house and children, I had to call my mother and ask her to deposit less than five dollars into my checking account to stave off an overdraft and bless her, she drove 40 minutes to my bank to do it. I have been there.
Don’t be a source of damage to your readers by repeating advice just because it doesn’t sound obviously dodgy.
If you want trust and authority in a topic: Earn it.
This kind of research isn’t hard or time consuming. Writers are not always experts in a particular topic so we rely on direct sources, interview subjects, experts and firsthand experience. We’re all experts on our own experiences, if you don’t have access to any other resources then you need to rely on your experiences and that means practicing before preaching.
Most of us self publish and/or write for content mills, we aren’t held to set of high standards by an editorial staff so it’s up to us to do stupid silly things like actually testing the advice we’re about to dispense. The example that prompted this post I literally dug a credit card out of my purse, called the phone number on the back and asked the customer service representative that I spoke with if they could reduce my interest rate. This isn’t hiking the Himalayas, it wasn’t hard and I actually benefited directly and immediately from this particular little act of research.
It’s also not difficult to find people who are legitimate experts in other areas who are overjoyed to tell you more than you ever wanted to know about their subjects on sites like LinkedIn.