Build More Convincing Business Plans with Free Market Research from Google

By: Robbin Block, SCORE Mentor & Creative Marketing Strategist at Blockbeta Marketing

“Proving” your business model to investors relies on being able to back up your assumptions about your market. Data about how people search or discover products brings you one step closer to making your case. Now imagine if you could get that information easily, quickly and at no cost — and create good looking charts and graphs to use in business plans, presentations and on social media.

Going straight to a search engine for market research is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Imagine you’re creating a new line of products for pets, a highly competitive industry. A search for “pet products” yielded 3.5 billion results (yes, that’s a “b”).

Google makes it so much easier with a range of tools designed to mine their own mega-pile of information to understand what people are doing online. What better way for you to learn about your potential customers, than to go right to the place so many people start their buyer journey?

Three Market Research Resources in One 

PEWInternet is one of my go-to’s for robust and free market research for learning about online behavior, with a section devoted to “Internet and Technology.” Combined with Google’s Consumer Barometer, you’ll get an even clearer picture about how people use the Internet to discover and purchase products and services.

Consumer Barometer includes Trended Data, Audience Stories, Curated Insights and Graph Builder — saving the best for last.

Trended Data

Trended Data compares Internet usage over time.

Let’s say you were wondering how many in your target audience used their smartphone to access the Internet, filtering by country and demographics. Here’s the result of a search for US aged 25-34 vs. US aged 45-54:

While there are differences as of 2017, it becomes pretty clear that everything is pointing in a mobile direction with smartphone and Internet usage becoming ubiquitous across age groups very soon, if it hasn’t already. This is useful, whether you’re creating a mobile app or wondering how important mobile access is to your marketing strategy.

Audience Stories

With Audience Stories, Google segments Internet usage, exploring audience clusters like Brand Advocates, Digital Moms and Millennials.

For example, Google tells us the “how-to” video category is trending strongly. “1 in 10 internet users watch DIY or How-to videos in a typical session.” They go on to explain that, “23% of online videos are viewed in order to learn something new.” This means that educating customers and demonstrating your expertise can help you gain exposure, ultimately being a way to drive more traffic to your website.

When you’re wondering about a good length for your video, Google provides the answer, “How-to Video Viewers are also open to longer videos (5-10 minutes). As many as 75% of How-to Video users watched online videos longer than 5 minutes in the prior week, compared to just 60% among other users.”

Of course Google is in a great position to know what works and what doesn’t, since they own YouTube.

Curated Insights

With Curated Insights, Google displays its own research in charts and graphs, going into depth about shopper buying and media behavior. It can be parsed by country, but there’s demographic data presented as well. Here are some particularly interesting insights:

 

Graph Builder

The tools we’ve looked at give you Google’s point of view, but with Graph Builder, you can create your own graphs and charts based on their data. There’s a simple 6-step walk through to show you how to use it, which starts with selecting questions like these:

  • The Online and Multiscreen World —“How do people watch TV?”
  • The Smart Shopper —“How did people first hear about the product/offer they bought?”
  • The Smart Viewer — “What motivated people to watch their most recent online video session?”

Once you figure out which questions are most relevant to your research, you can drill down further by:

  • Country
  • Demographic
  • Internet Usage
  • Device Usage
  • Product Purchased
  • Most Recent Video Context

From there, you can investigate by a particular product category. You’d want to, because not every business is the same, and you’ll want data specific to your industry. Granted, the categories are pretty general, but selecting something even close can provide direction.

Unfortunately, it’s not particularly useful for my “pet products” example, since there’s no category for it — weird, not to offer information about such a huge industry. Oh well, even Google isn’t perfect. Stay tuned — their tools are always changing.

Another drawback is that product filters vary by the question being answered. It would be nice if you could choose your product category first, then apply the questions to it.

Moving on, let’s say you wanted to know if you should spend time using social media to promote hair care products to US consumers. Go to: Smart Shopper>Research Behavior>Online Information Sources, and then use the “product filter” link to select hair care under “most recent product purchased.”

Now, let’s say you’re thinking of offering a discount to encourage people to make a purchase. Here’s a relative comparison of how a discount influences a purchase by category. Go to: Smart Shopper>Research Behavior>Motivation for Purchase. Filter by product, as described previously. Then, you’ll need to hide all the other motivations to create this graph.

Unfortunately, there’s no information about services or B2B “business to business.” However, the tool allows you can compare filtered segments in one chart by selecting more than one at a time.

Now Put Your Information to Good Use

This is just a taste of what you can do with Graph Builder. Once you’ve created the charts you want, you can export as a CSV or png, or share, by selecting the 3 vertical dots in the upper right corner of the graphic. That sharing option may be especially useful for creating a post to a social network.

No matter what product or service you plan to offer, the marketing of that product should be based on a good understanding of the industry and consumer behavior — and the Internet is a good place to start if you know where to look. These free market research tools are a good start, providing valuable insights you may not be able to find elsewhere. Plus, they can help you create and share some compelling graphics, whether that’s for a business plan, presentation or social media marketing.

Visit our website to learn more market research shortcuts.

Robbin’s unique perspective and extensive experience has been put to good use solving her client’s stickiest marketing problems. Not to be missed, she’s presenting Slay the Social Media Dragon and Do It Yourself Websites at this year’s BizFair.

 

Find the Missing Link in Your Social Media Strategy

By: Robbin Block, Blockbeta Marketing

An effective social media strategy depends on finding the right sites to reach your audience. Beyond the major social networks, which attract a large, generalized audience, there are plenty of niche sites which will help you build exposure and website traffic.

Benefits of Niche Sites

  • More targeted: Relevance trumps size
  • Buyers, not browsers: Leads to more qualified, convertible traffic
  • Big fish, smaller pond: Less clutter and noise, more chance to get noticed
  • More meaningful sharing and engagement

Be Where They Are

The point of using social media for business is to get in front of potential customers, which means you want to be where they are hanging out. Whether you choose major or niche sites, define your audience using the following and then match it to the sites that meet your criteria:

Geography: Neighborhood, city, regional, national, international.

Interest: Consider the site’s focus: i.e., design, games, business, etc. Drill down as much as possible to match your target audience.

Demographic: Easily identifiable stuff about participants, like age, income, education. For data about social sites, start your research at PEWInternet.org. For small sites, you may have to find out from the site itself. Look for advertising information in the footer (just for info, not to advertise).

Activity: What people do at the site, i.e., simply commenting vs. watching videos. Think about the kind of content that fits with what your business is about, i.e., if you have a visual business, Instagram and Pinterest may be a good fit.

Affinity: What participants have in common, i.e., people planning a wedding or those that like to invent things with Legos.

Many people participate in both major and niche sites, so select a balance of each. If you choose a major, join subgroups that match your audience, ie., a food related business in Seattle could join the Seattle Foodies group on Facebook.

Where to Find Niche Sites

The more sites seek to create interactivity and engagement, the more they’re likely to offer social opportunities to participate in. Start with the associations and groups your audience belongs to (ask them), then look for social opportunities in the following places:

  • Search Google like a customer looking for a product like yours and see what social sites come up.
  • Industry Associations
  • Online Publications
  • Social site directories
  • Check competitors’ sites for their social badges
  • Look at your own referral traffic data
  • Vendors sometimes have their own social networks too
  • Search Google for “niche social sites” + your area of interest
  • Go local (websites, blogs, publications, etc. in your geographic area)

Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of niche sites, finding the best match you can, prioritize them by highest amount of traffic. Then, start using them and track the referral traffic to your site, using something like Google Analytics to see if all that effort is paying off.

Learn more about social media marketing.

Robbin is presenting “Slay the Social Media Dragon” at this year’s Bizfair.

10 Things Savvy Online Marketers Do To Get Web Traffic

 By: Anita Campbell, SBA Guest Blogger

Today there are 1.2 billion websites — or one website for every seven people in the world! That’s a lot of competition. If you want to get traffic to your website, you’re going to have to take the right steps.

Take a look at the following 10 things savvy online marketers do to get web traffic.

Improve Website Speed

Sites that load painfully slow will cause visitors to bounce away. Slow loading sites can be penalized by search engines, too.  Tip:  Use one of the free testing tools to test your site’s speed.  Google offers one, but there are others including Webpage Test and Pingdom. Use test data and insights to identify improvements, and then talk with your website developer.

Attach a Blog to Your Website

Having a blog gives you a place to add content to your website — content that attracts traffic. According to Hubspot, businesses with blogs tend to get 3 to 4 times the traffic as those without. Tip: Keep blog content relevant — and informative — but not a sales pitch. Ask yourself, is this topic relevant to why a customer might choose to do business with a company like mine?

Use Proper Keywords

Keywords are search phrases that visitors use to find web pages when hunting in search engines.  Include relevant keywords in your pages and blog posts, used in a natural way, and over time you’ll be more likely to attract traffic from search engines.  Tip:  Choose keywords as specific as possible to your type of business, product, service or industry. That way you’ll attract visitors that are really interested in what you have to offer.

Share all Your Content on Social Media  

Share all of your blog content, whitepapers, videos and more on social media. Social media is no time to be overly modest. Tip: Don’t go overboard. For example, don’t share the same blog post ten times a day on Twitter — that’s spamming not sharing. And don’t forget to be a good social media citizen by commenting on and liking others’ updates and sharing their content.

Seek Guest Blogging Opportunities

Write original engaging and informative content. Then approach sites in your industry and request to publish it. This exposes your business to a new audience. Tip: Approach guest blog posts as an opportunity to provide information to readers, not as a free ad. You’ll have more credibility.

Publish an Email Newsletter

Regular newsletters can be a great way to drive traffic. Include blog post snippets in your newsletter along with links back to full content on your site. Tip: Put a “subscribe” box on just about every page of your website. Also, when your newsletter comes out each month, alert your social media followers to encourage them to subscribe.

Participate in Social Groups

Become an active member of groups on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. Regularly comment  or answer questions. Tip: Know the rules before you post links back to your site or blog.  Some groups do not allow links.

Use a Call-To-Action on Posts

A call-to-action can be used at the end of blog posts to encourage people to click on other content in your site. The more relevant content a visitor sees, the more likely he or she will visit again. Tip: A blog post is a great way to promote longer form content such as ebooks and whitepapers.

Make Optimum Use of Headlines

Half the battle today in getting visitors is the headline. You have to grab a reader’s attention to get the click through.  Tip:  Don’t let the headline of your content be an afterthought. Titles of blog posts, videos and social updates are so important that I actually created my own title generator tool.

Pump up Your Local Listings

If you operate a business with a brick and mortar location, then being listed in local directories is crucial. Bing Places for Business, Google My Business, Apple Maps, yellow pages sites, and Facebook Places / local are just some of the places to make sure your business appears. Tip: Check to see if you’re listed using free checkers at places like AdviceLocal, Synup or Moz Local.

Finally, remember that getting web traffic is a marathon, not a sprint. Be in it for the long haul.