Conducting Online Market Research: Tips and Tools

 Rick Riddle
  Oct 11, 2016

The more you know, the better informed your decisions will be. In days past, getting information was an often expensive and laborious affair. Nowadays, however, it has become a great deal easier and cheaper – particularly for smaller businesses.

All you need is an internet connection and a basic understanding of what to look at and how to look at it and you’ll get a good idea of your market, your business, and your competition. Even better, it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg because a great deal of it can be looked up for free.

Who links to the competition?

For example, do you want to know how many people link to your competition? This is easy enough to do. All you need to do is type your competitor’s address into a google search and the search result that comes back will tell you every web page that links back to that page.

In that way, you can summarize how well established they are. What’s more, you can find out where there are lists that they are mentioned and where you might want to get yourself mentioned as well.

The usefulness of typing in your competitor’s address doesn’t end there, either. You can also quite easily find out what marketing campaigns and in what other ways they are pushing their products. This, in turn, can be used to inform your own campaign – for example, if you have a better or newer product.

Keywords and their semantic cousins

No doubt you’ve heard all about keywords and you’ve been trying to corner certain words in your own market. The thing is, there is a lot more information out there about the keywords you’re using and the semantically related phrases that you also might want to corner.

And the best part is that Google makes them readily available for you. All you need to do is type your keywords into Google, scroll down to the bottom of the page and look at the suggestions Google provides.

There might be some great long-tail keywords that you’ve missed out on and should really try to corner so that you can draw in more traffic.

What’s more, as far as Google is concerned these are semantically related to your keywords. That means that if you can rank well for these phrases, you’ll actually push yourself up in terms of your central keywords as well.

Keyword analysis

There are even some tools available that give you a good idea of how much traffic you can expect for certain keywords or phrases, as well as how much competition you’ll face when you try to corner that part of the market.

For example, Moz Keyword Explorer will give you a detailed breakdown of whatever words you type into them, including how much traffic you’ll get, how much competition there is for that word and whether it’s a good phrase to try to corner.

What’s more, with every search they provide you research help in the form of a whole list of other keywords that you can look at and try that might potentially draw in more traffic.

The best part? You can use this tool twice a day for free (if you want to use it more often you’ve got to pay).

Explore your social media audience

Did you know that you can analyze on Facebook what are your audience’s other favorite websites? It’s straightforward and easy. Just go to your ad manager, click on ‘audience’ specify your own website and see what other websites come up.

From there you can then figure out what other things your audience is interested in and thereby play more to their wants and desires.

UTM tracking

You might believe that URLs are all about getting you to the pages that you want to go. That is only part of what they do. It’s quite easy for you to add a bit of extra code to the end of a URL that doesn’t actually send anybody everywhere, but instead tells you where they came from.

These bits of extra code are called ‘UTMs’ and they can be insanely useful if you want to know where people are coming from and how your links are spreading.

You see, if you start a new campaign that directs to your page, you can add a UTM tracking code to it and then in such programs as Google Analytics find out easily who came to you from the new campaign and who came from elsewhere.

Then all you have to do is remember which UTM code you used where and a wealth of new information will be at your fingertips.

Heatmaps

Some people think that the questionnaire is the best way to get people to tell you about how they use their website. Sure, it gives you some valuable information about how people think they use your website.

Wouldn’t you rather, however, know how they actually use your website? That’s possible. There are a number of tools out there that will show you where people click and other information as to how they use your site.

They’ll show you where people move their mouse, where they spend their time and what links they follow. In this way, you can find out where you’re losing people, what buttons are the most often pressed as well as what bits you should move around to improve the user experience.

Last words

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There is just so much information out there and so many ways that information can be tracked. It’s really a goldmine of market data that you can use to improve your outreach, our user experience and your understanding of what’s going on.

And, as I said, most of its cheap or free.

No longer do you have to struggle under a blanket of ignorance as the big boys hone their strategy and steal your customers. Now you can compete on a level playing field. Good luck and good marketing.

Conducting Online Market Research: Tips and Tools

Rick Riddle

Rick Riddle is a marketing consultant and an up-and-coming blogger whose articles aim to help people with digital marketing, blogging, entrepreneurship, and career. Feel free to follow @rickrddl on twitter.

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