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Putting the ‘Search’ in Research

How much do you pay for research on your customers every year? Not just in terms of the in-depth panels, focus groups and customer surveys, but dues to organizations or one-off purchases of reports on industry trends and shopper behavior?

Knowing your customer is critical to reaching them effectively, and in creating the ideal environment in which to convert them to buyers. It’s critical to making the right choices about advertising, site design, pricing, and future moves. And because it’s that valuable and difficult to mine, that knowledge isn’t cheap.

Whether you’re using internal time and resources to dig through your own data or run tests, or ponying up for consultants or syndicated information, it can be difficult to make a business case to learn more about your audience. You have to make the most of free or inexpensive opportunities, whether your research budget is in the millions or the single digits.

Fortunately, your search efforts provide a great platform for learning about your customers through raw, publically available data, and inexpensive testing opportunities. And while focus groups, panels, and external reports can offer up gobs of very specific information, for the simplest and quickest of insights your search program and experts can provide a great supplement or outright resource for your business as a whole.

Keyword and Messaging Research

Want free access to general information about figures and trends on how people search, which can be leveraged for anything from ad copy to product naming, descriptions, or even new product selection? Effective use of Google’s AdWords keyword tool can offer you insights into terms people use to describe the products you sell — and thus the words that have clearly made a connection with them.

Do you sell “footwear” or “shoes”? Are they “grey” or “gray”? These can seem like small distinctions, but they all have traffic and audience implications that should be considered across your brand.

These can make a difference not just in your search campaigns (like your meta descriptions), but can help you determine the ways that they can be described in other copy. A broader view of how people are shopping for your products may also give you insights into other products that you should be offering: A seller of mainly black office chairs might find that, with the volume of searches (i.e. demand) for “white office chairs” versus “black office chairs,” it’d be worthwhile to look at adding white to its product selection.

Further tools like Google Insights and Google Trends for Websites offer deeper insights on seasonal trending and geographic niceties.

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