Why write a case study?
Whatever company website you visit, there’s a high likelihood that you find at least one of them – case studies.
Here’s how case studies work: you share about a certain project that you worked on for a client, and discuss the strategies you used to achieve the desired outcome.
But why are case studies so popular? In a nutshell, when you write a case study, it allows you to demonstrate your expertise to your customers.
When your case study is substantial, original, and has depth, it gives you credibility and influences how customers see your business. Writing a case study also allows you to stand out among your competitors, and gives your customer a reason to do business with you (instead of someone else).
Can’t wait to get started on writing your very first case study? Read on for tips on the planning process!
Planning your case study
When writing a case study, the worst thing that you can do is to dive headfirst into writing.
Before you do that, you’ll want to sit down and plan it out. Think about what value you can provide to your customers through your case study, and the logistics of putting your case study together.
Creating a valuable case study
Rule one of creating a case study? Put your customer first.
Now, many business owners or marketers often get caught up in what they want to achieve with their case study. On your end, you might want to use your case study to promote your email list, get more people to sign up for your product trial, and get more followers on your company’s social channels. That’s fine and dandy, but what’s in it for your customers?
If your customers don’t find your case study useful and valuable, all your hard work will have gone down the drain because they won’t feel compelled to sign up for your newsletter or sign up for a free trial.
Bearing this in mind, start by asking yourself what your customers need. What’s their pain point? What challenges are they facing? What do they want to learn about? Make sure you build your case study around what your customers need (vs. what it’s easy to write about) so that you’ll have satisfied customers on your hands. On the other hand, it should present how your service or product is different from the competition and why customers should choose your solution to their problem.
Get approvals and permissions
Obviously, you’ll have to speak to your client first, and ensure that they’re okay with you featuring their name or logo on your case study, in addition to sharing project details. If you want to be on the safe side, you might consider getting your client to sign a case study release form, so that everything is in black and white.
Decide where your case study will live
Now that you’ve gotten the go-ahead from your client, the next step is to decide where your case study will live.
If you already have a website with an established blog, it’s relatively straightforward to publish your case study there. But if your company’s blog hasn’t been updated in months, or you don’t get much traffic on your site, you might consider sending your case study to a publication, and getting them to publish it instead.
Assuming you do want to publish your case study on an external site that’s owned by someone else, it’s a good idea to do some research to see which sites you want to pitch to.
Different sites have different guidelines when it comes to accepting guest posts (like HubSpot or Outbrain). At the most basic level, there may be word count limits or limits on the number of times you can mention your company and/or link to your website. On top of that, some publications also expect their guest writers to promote the post to their own social networks when it’s live.
PS: To get you started, here’s a bumper list of 200+ sites that accept guest posts.
Come up with a structure for your case study
Next, you’ll need to establish a structure for your case study, so as to ensure that your case study is well-organized and easy to read.
For example, if you’re writing a Google Ads case study, your structure might look something along the lines of:
- Client is experiencing higher cost per conversion (CPA)
- Getting fewer conversions with the same amount of ad spend
- Perform an audit of Google Ads account to clean up old campaigns
- Identify irrelevant keywords and add them as negative keywords
- Identify best-performing keywords and expand the use of keywords
- Experiment with new ad formats such as YouTube ads
- Improve conversion rate by X%
- Reduced CPA from $X to $Y
- Improved Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) from X to Y
From there, think about how you can format your case study to add even more value to your customers.
For example, in each item that you share in the “Strategy” component of your case study, you might add a “How to do it yourself” section that walks readers through actionable tips that will help them execute said strategy.
Creating your case study
Now that you have the details of your case study all worked out, it’s time to get to the exciting part… writing your case study!
Use numbers and statistics as much as possible
As a general rule of thumb, the more numbers and statistics you include in your case study, the more convincing and compelling it will be.
This doesn’t just apply to the body of your case study. By utilizing numbers in your case study title, you can also make your case study look more attractive, and entice people to click through and read.
For example, SearchEngineLand has a great case study that’s titled SEO case study: Zero to 100,000 visitors in 12 months.
Can you imagine if they had named their case study SEO case study: How to bring more visitors to your website via SEO instead? Yep, it’s nowhere as compelling as the original title, which features specific numbers.
Other than using numbers and statistics in your case study, it’s also a good idea to add screenshots. This does two things:
- It helps you verify whatever you’re saying
- It breaks up the text and makes your case study easier to read
People tend to regard whatever they read online with a pinch of skepticism. So while you can say that you’ve achieved X, Y and Z in your case study, it’s a lot more effective and convincing if you show your readers using a screenshot.
Next, no one has the patience to wade through lengthy walls of text. By adding screenshots to your case study, you’re breaking up the monotony, and helping your reader to stick it through to the end.
For instance, check out how Robbie Richards uses screenshots in his case study:
The red arrow is a nice touch – it provides a visual cue, and indicates to readers which part of the screenshot they should focus on.
Take SEO into consideration
If you want to drive organic traffic to your case study, you need to factor in SEO. Here’s a quick guide on what you should do:
- Figure out your primary keyword and secondary keywords.
- Use your primary keyword in your case study title (bonus if it’s located at the front – going back to SearchEngineLand’s example, “SEO case study: Zero to 100,000 visitors in 12 months” works better than “Zero to 100,000 visitors in 12 months | SEO Case Study”
- Use your primary keyword in your meta description
- Use your primary keyword liberally in your case study. Make sure that it shows up at least once in the first paragraph of your case study.
- Use your secondary keywords in your case study, wherever appropriate.
- Optimize your images by adding your keywords into the image alt text.
If you do it right, your case study could bring you organic traffic for years after you’ve first published it. For example, when you Google “PPC case study”, SEMrush’s PPC Case Study: How We Cut AdWords Costs by 67% With a Simple Tweak shows up on the first page… and this was published back in 2016.
Create a table of contents
This one’s fairly straightforward. You can do this either before you start writing, or after you’re done with writing. Create a table of contents and add in the hyperlinked text so that your readers can jump to whichever section they’re most interested in.
For inspiration, check out how Robbie Richards uses a table of contents in his case study:
Add Calls-to-action (CTAs)
The “traditional” way of doing this is to add a one-liner CTA at the end of your case study, but we definitely recommend mixing it up. You can add multiple CTAs in your case study, within different places, and also experiment using a nicely formatted CTA button or “block” instead of using plain text.
Again, here’s an example from Robbie Richards’ case study:
If you want to go one step further, you can consider including a video testimonial as well. Videos can be more engaging than pure text CTAs and can help convince potential customers to take the next step.
BONUS: Tools to use when creating your case study
As you can already tell, there’s a lot of moving parts to consider when building a case study. Consider using these different types of tools to streamline the process:
- To coordinate the case study, including getting your client’s go-ahead, sourcing for relevant screenshots, getting colleagues to proofread the case study, use tools for task management and team communication tools
- To create good-looking graphics and infographics, use Canva or Venngage
- To crop screenshots, add arrows and boxes, and more, use presentation tools like Google Slides
Publishing and publicizing your case study
Once you’ve finished creating your case study, the only thing left to do is to publish and publicize it! Here are some ideas to help your case study get more traction:
- Share your case study with your newsletter subscribers. If you have pre-existing drip campaigns that you’ve set up using your marketing automation tool, add a link to your case study in one of your emails.
- Share your case studies via live chat. Proactively engage the people browsing your site by sharing your case study with them.
- Create a landing page for your case study, and use it to collect emails and generate shares. If you don’t want to make your case study available for public consumption, you can take the other route and use your case study as a lead magnet. Here, get potential customers to share their contact details with you in exchange for the case study, then hit them up with a lead nurturing campaign.
Max Benz is a writer and marketer at Filestage.
Last modified: April 17th, 2020