How to nail your market research & discover your audiences

19Jul, 2016

Carrying out good market research is a vital part of developing an effective digital marketing strategy. It helps you identify your audience’s needs and motivations (very different things) and can help you see what your competition is doing.

If you need to get better insights into your customers, here are some essential tools and places to go for information.

Think With Google

Google is more than just a search engine, it provides a huge number of free market research tools to help you with your marketing research. Go to ‘Think With Google‘ and you’ll discover a whole site dedicated to helping you research your market. Below is a summary of the key tools.

Google Trends

Google Trends is a fantastic tool to find out what terms are popular on Google across a period of time. Through it you can discover how aware people are of an industry or market, you can research your competitors, and you can get ideas about what content is currently trending online.

We wanted to see which marketing terms are most popular to support our SEO strategy, we decided to use Google Trends to see if ‘inbound marketing’ is as popular a topic as ‘social media marketing’ or ‘content marketing’.

So what does the graph above tell us? Well, it shows that content marketing is a term growing in popularity, and it’s a more popular keyword to target than inbound marketing for our SEO strategy.

(*Although, you should use Google’s Keyword Planner to check search term frequency to support this, as we explain later on).

If you sell a particular product, use Google Trends to see when people search for it. You could find a seasonal spike for your product or you could discover different regions where your product is more popular.

Go and give it a try!

Consumer Barometer

Google’s Consumer Barometer is another great free tool. As Google say themselves, “Consumer Barometer is a free tool that delivers consumer insights to support planning and decision-making in a fast-changing digital landscape.”

The tool can be a great way to find out a person’s decision making online, showing the steps they take from considering a product to purchasing it. Google provide a number of their own findings and also allow you to create your own graphs.

By understanding what steps a consumer takes, you’ll know where to invest your marketing efforts. Is social media a key part of the research process? Could an influential blogger help you raise product awareness? Should you set aside a budget for search engine adverts? All these questions can be answered with the Consumer Barometer.

Above is just a general example of the sort of data you can find, but you can filter data for all sorts of demographics. Take a look and see what you can find.

Keyword Planner

If you create a Google AdWords account you can get access to their keyword planner. This tool is an essential for finding out keyword competitiveness, getting an understanding of your potential traffic size, and discovering common search terms people use to find your product or service.

Take my example of ‘Home Insurance’ below. On the left-hand column I’ve added some targeting filters, and in the centre I’ve found the monthly searches based on my filters. This gives me a rough indication as to how many people search for home insurance related terms.

Google AdWords offers you two tabs, ‘ad group ideas’ and ‘keyword ideas’. Ad group ideas are groups of keyword ideas, and can help you quickly set up targeted PCC campaigns, but we strongly recommend you select the keywords yourself so you don’t end up spending money putting your ads in front of users for keywords you don’t want to target.

Keep an eye out on how competitive the ad group is too, the more competitive the group the bigger the budget you’ll need as lots of competitors are bidding on the keywords. If you’re a smaller business with a limited budget, try and find your niche and focus on location-based ads.

The keyword ideas tab is great because it shows you related keyword search terms to your product or service and gives you an estimate of how frequently they’re searched for as well as how competitive the keyword is.

Keyword research through Google AdWords can help you decide if the keywords you’re targeting to rank for in the search engine results pages (SERPs) are competitive or not. It varies business to business, but generally you want to find less competitive search terms to rank for because it’s easier.

Generally ‘short-tail’ keywords – between 1 and 3 words – are far more competitive and expensive search terms, while ‘long-tail’ keywords – between 4-7 words – are more niche but less competitive.

If you’re a local business it makes more sense to target long-tail keywords specific to your location to be more visible to your potential customers. For example, if you sell home insurance to people in Cardiff, rather than targeting ‘Home Insurance’ for your PPC campaign or SEO strategy, you should focus on a long-tail keyword such as ‘Home Insurance Provider Cardiff’; this is more likely to be a term that a person in Cardiff might search for.

Keyword research is a big topic, and it’s too detailed to fully explain in this post. You can find a comprehensive article on using Google AdWords for keyword research here.

Getting Social Media Insights

If you need to do some social media market research, here is a list of some excellent tools you can use.


Followerwonk is a great free tool to use to find relevant and influential users on Twitter (there is a paid version). You can search for people based on keywords in their Twitter profiles, their location, and other useful metrics.

If you need to build your Twitter following or find people who may be interested in your business, this is a must-use tool.


Buzzsumo is an incredible bit of market research software. Do you want to find out what sort of content your audience is more likely to share and engage with? Buzzsumo can tell you that. Enter a keyword related to your product or service and it will show you all the content linked to that keyword that was shared on social media. It breaks it down by social media platform, content type (e.g. images, blog or video), and even tells you when the content is most likely to be shared.

Similarly to Followerwonk it also helps you find influencers and people online based on keywords. This is specifically for Twitter but they have also launched a Facebook beta version of the tool.

The only negative about Buzzsumo is that it’s expensive! However you can sign-up for a free trial, and your searches and results are downloadable so you can keep your research after your trial ends.

Audiense (previously Social Bro)

Audiense is a great tool to use if you already have a Twitter account in place.

If you have fewer than 3,000 followers you can set up a free account and get insight into your audience such as the best times to post, and what sort of content your followers like to talk about. This helps you understand what content you should consider creating or sharing! Give it a try.

And If You Do Need Offline Research?

Of course, it’s not all online for businesses. If you have a bricks and mortar store then you’ll probably want to know some crucial geographic and demographic information, such as shopping habits, population sizes, and income levels.

If that’s the sort of market research you’re after then you should go to the Office for National Statistics website. The UK government collects a huge amount of information every single year that marketers can use to understand potential market sizes and specific demographic segments.

It can get a little confusing weaving through all the data you find but if you know what you’re trying to look for then it can be a wonderful place to get reliable information. You can also contact their support team if you’re looking for specific information and need a hand.

*As a side note the Office for National Statistics offers a lot of information to help your online market research too. You can see internet access statistics for the UK, discover online behaviour patterns, and find a whole lot more! Even better all this information is broken down into age and gender segments.


Market research is a vital part of developing an effective digital marketing strategy. Once you understand your market and your various audiences, you’ll be able to develop smarter marketing messages and invest your time more wisely so make sure you take the time to do it properly!

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