Here is How to Write Amazing Case Studies, According to Google
Case studies are deep dives, into a strategy, approach, or project, which show compelling results that can enable learning or a mindset shift for the reader.
The key elements of a case study are:
- A time- and issue-bounded dilemma, or otherwise — a widely shared challenge.
- Explanations of issues and concepts.
- A storyline
- Data and other information.
Recently, I have been writing many case studies as a tool to showcase my work as an SEO consultant, which I am currently in the process of finalizing and sharing with the world. During this journey, I went through many resources, but none so impactful as Think with Google’s guidelines for writing compelling case studies.
In the following few minutes, I would like to share with you the most important insights I have learned from these guidelines, which I apply to all case studies I write.
Let’s dive in.
Editorial principles you should follow
1. Put the user first
Make sure to communicate the strategy you used, providing helpful tools for its replication. Even the most compelling results are worth nothing to your reader, without relevance and applicability.
Focus on communicating the approach in a user-friendly way.
2. Keep it authentic
While you might be aiming to build credibility, the case study should remain accessible. Avoid saying generalities. Try to build authenticity by sharing what did and didn’t work.
Inspire the reader to attempt the approach and achieve the results showcased.
3. Publish fresh content
Provide insights to an approach that is worthy of the reader’s attention. Don’t hone strategies that are tried and tested countless times.
Novelty is the key to good case study storytelling.
4. Keep it focused
Try to keep things focused. Focus on an approach, strategy, or situation.
If you have a list of things you’d like to share with your audience, group them into themes. Simplify for best results.
Best practices to adopt
Answer a pressing question.
Think about the conversations people are having — how does your story fit into the narratives? Does it answer a pressing question?
Present a solution to a challenge, people are having.
There are constantly challenges that professionals are tackling. Write in a way that helps them not only solve a challenge they are facing, but also think differently about such challenges in the future.
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for his lifetime — Use this as your writing motto.
Show your thinking process and provide a blueprint. Show the ‘how’, not the ‘what’.
Show your mindset shift, to inspire others to test your solution.
A case study should promote a mindset shift. How did the described strategy change the way you do things at your company?
This can be formatted as a ‘Lessons Learned’ section or any other section highlighting the before and after of company or team practices.
Create evergreen content
Case studies often become either too vague, such as when companies try to anonymize data or are afraid of sharing their insights with competitors. They can also be too specific, showcasing approaches or situations that can only arise in highly niche scenarios, thus making them irrelevant to readers.
A best-practice approach is to create evergreen content, which teaches the reader something with every point it makes while also telling a compelling story.
If the case study is product-focused, try to reframe it in a broader way by reframing it in the context of industry challenges.
Plug-and-play frameworks to test
This approach shows one story, told by stakeholders with different viewpoints. It enables storytelling on why the approach or strategy worked, told with differing perspectives.
With this template, you can engage a wider audience of readers, each tuning in to read a problem framed in the language they speak and the implications of the solution that are relevant to them.
Challenge — Approach — Lessons
This is a golden storytelling standard. It enables a clear structure, with which the reader is familiar. Following this standard will also likely challenge you into simplifying your message, which is great for harnessing a strong insight.
Lead in with a challenge that is faced by professionals in the field. Then explain what the proposed approach does differently and why.
Go on with what the thought process was behind the solution, what was tested, and how the final result outperforms other approaches.
Finally, provide a blueprint for replicating the solution, including the lessons learned.
It really is as simple as one, two, three.
What to avoid when writing case studies
Don’t write case studies like testimonials, news, or PR.
There is nothing worse than reading a case study and feeling like you are reading a press release. Or even worse — a sales pitch.
Work on your storytelling and follow the best practice guidelines.
Never lead in with the product.
Write a compelling intro that hooks the reader in, never force a product on to the reader — that is not what they are here for. Case studies are about learning.
Case studies can be amazing tools for building partnerships, as well as for developing a company’s organic visibility.
Hopefully, these practices and guidelines allow for a clearer structure of your writing and editorial process. They sure did help mine.