“The most meaningful way to differentiate your company from your competitors, the best way to put distance between you and the crowd is to do an outstanding job with information. How you gather, manage and use information will determine whether you win or lose.” – Bill Gates
When it comes to staying ahead of the competition, there are a lot of factors to consider, a lot of tactics you can perform and a lot of techniques you can utilize to stay fresh, modern and on top of the curve. But there is none more underappreciated than consumer, competitor and search engine keyword research.
Knowledge is power — you learned this in your high school English class after a long semester on dystopian literature. Knowledge is key. It can transform the way we think, act and operate. It can provide insights we never knew before and illuminate avenues of thought we never thought possible.
You can do a lot with knowledge and information. And when it comes to stepping up your business game, information is vital to the decision-making process.
You need information about your customers to better understand what they want and how they want it. You need information about your competition to understand what they’re doing right, what they’re doing wrong and how you can learn from their actions to better perform yourself.
You can draw many a conclusion from the information collected through consumer and competitor research. Through surveys, public data collection, social listening and other techniques, you can collect a vast array of numbers and figures that can better help you understand your competitive landscape and your target audience.
And in much the same vein, search engine keyword research is a powerful tool for not only understanding your audience but understanding how your audience is engaging with your content and where they are first interacting with it.
61 percentof marketers name improving SEO as their main inbound marketing goal.
That means that keyword research is a must, and learning what it is and how to perform it can put your brand that much closer to a more cohesive and comprehensive marketing strategy.
Almost everything starts with a Google search these days, and performing this keyword research can help you go from ranking on page 12 to page one -- because seriously, when was the last time you made it past page two of the search results?
But before we dive into how you can conduct this research and the amazing benefits it has for your business, it’s important to first understand what this market research is. What exactly does it mean to perform consumer, competitor and search engine keyword research?
What Are Consumer And Competitor Research?
Consumer research is one aspect of market research where brands and organizations set out to learn more about the buying behavior of their consumers. The goal of this research is to understand audience preferences — what motivates them to buy, when and where they’re most likely to make a purchase and who their audience is as a whole.
This consumer-focused research delves into demographics, preferences, likes, dislikes and behaviors of your audience both on a grand scale, and on a specific scale.
Research can be conducted in a variety of ways including through surveys, cold calls, interviews and demographic data that is already available.
Competitor research is the process of tracking the professional and competitive landscape to give businesses an understanding of how their competition is doing, and what they can do to continue seeing success moving forward.
This research helps businesses to develop a set of best practices, allows them to better understand and target their audiences and teaches them what to avoid by learning from the competition and the market itself.
This research can be conducted through surveys, by checking public records, through social media analysis, with sales calls and through checking in with community resources and by using their products.
This research can help you put together a SWOT analysis for your business, identifying your strengths and weaknesses as well as identifying opportunities and threats to your brand.
The Benefits Of Conducting Consumer And Competitor Research
1. Facilitates Smoother Communication With Potential Audiences
When you conduct market research on your consumers and the competition, you’re gathering valuable data and analytics that can aid you in the delivery of not only your marketing materials but your written content, social media and products themselves.
By taking the time to research your competitive environment and the demographics of your audience, you’re learning what makes your niche tick. You’re understanding and better evaluating the needs of your audience. You might create an amazing product, but if you don’t know how to approach consumers with it then it doesn’t really matter.
Market research can help you better reach your audience by telling you where exactly they’re located, what music they’re listening to, what social media accounts their following, and what their past brand history has been.
When you do this extensive, cross-channel market research, you're identifying a variety of things -- one of them being future opportunities and trends in your industry.
You can analyze consumer behaviors and track the trajectory of your competition to see where their goals and initiatives are shifting towards. This then gives you a better understanding of what opportunities you should take advantage of next.
If you're working on improving or creating a product, this research can allow you to see if it is something the current market actually wants or needs. This allows you to make adjustments and modifications before the product hits the public.
You want to be able to take advantage of all opportunities -- both the easy-to-identify opportunities and the larger, vague yet auspicious ones. This will align you as an industry leader in your field and drive consumers to you instead of the other guy.
3. Helps To Avoid Risky Moves
Maybe you were planning to roll out a new product line, or maybe you were thinking of opening up an office or storefront in a specific location -- doing thorough research of your consumers and the competition can shed some light on whether these moves would be beneficial or detrimental to your business.
You don't want to make a decision and have it fail. Market research can minimize these risks to a degree to ensure that you're only moving forward and not back.
Not only can it help keep you from making bad business decisions by providing feedback on possible saturated markets and dwindling consumer interest, but it can also shed light on the moves your competition has made in the past.
You can learn from the mistakes of others, too, and you should. Pay attention to campaigns they run, product features they add and events that they put together. If they're not working, you can get a better sense of how to effectively run them in the future, or avoid them altogether.
4. Assists In Formulating A Concrete Business Plan
In business, just like in most things, compromise is essential. Everyone is going to have differing views on how to go forward, what features will be the next big thing and what trends to follow.
This research gives you and your colleagues cold hard data to back your decisions off of -- whether it's nailing down an advertising budget, choosing where to host a launch party, how high to price a product and more.
Therefore, it'll be much easier to reach compromises and get to your end goals business-wise and marketing-wise with ease. This research -- based on past sales from you and your competition, future projected trends, and buyer behaviors can help you achieve maximum profits with the least amount of fuss.
5. Details The Competitive Landscape
By doing competitor research, in particular, you can get a better understanding of who your competition is if you don't know that already. Research done through surveys, emails and through public data searches can shed light on how your audience interacts with other brands and what that means for you.
If you're trying to find your footing in your industry or trying to find your voice on social media, looking to the competition is a great place to start to understand what audiences are already interacting with.
From this information, you can get a baseline for what your customers want, and how to distinguish yourself from your competition.
This data can also tell you where you are in the market in comparison to others. It can shed light on your reputation, the reputation of the competition down the street, and the competition on the other side of the world.
How To Conduct Consumer And Competitor Research
1. Search Public Records And Public Databases
Public databases and public records are a great, free source of information on your audience. Research studies, case studies and company records are an exciting place to start considering the sheer amount of information you can unearth from them.
Using these avenues of research is often less time consuming than performing primary research through interviews and one-on-one outreach, but it also means that the data collected isn't necessarily catered to you as a brand or business.
It is still vital information, however. It can give you demographic information to better understand where your consumers are and what they are looking for. It can tell you what the history or other companies has been and how people have engaged with them. It can illuminate marketing initiatives or product launch plans or tools that helped or hurt companies in the past.
This data is plentiful, and it's a good place to start for understanding where you stand.
2. Social Listening
Social listening has become an increasingly popular technique for analyzing and understanding audiences and the competition.
Social listening is essentially listening and staying on top of conversations that are happening on social media around certain topics, ideas and brands. If you want to know what people are saying about you, checking out these communities on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms can shed some light on what you're doing right and what you're doing wrong.
So it's important that your monitoring your audience, the hashtags they're using, the information they are providing and what they are looking for.
You have to do a little snooping to ensure you're giving your audience what they want.
Similarly, doing some competitive social media analysis can tell how the social voice of your competition stacks up against yours. Do you provide similar content? Do you have similar speaking tones? Do you post the same amount? This research and marketing analysis can help uncover new ways for you to better reach your audience on social media.
3. Interviews And Cold Calling
One of the most effective ways to get data from your customers is by picking up the phone and making a call.
This might take you some time, and you might become frustrated by it, but it's one of the best ways to get data and feedback right from the source.
When preparing for an interview or cold call, you should have key questions in mind. You want to have an outlined vision of what you want to know, what you want clarity on and what you can improve. Keep the following questions in mind when you set about calling customers for direct feedback.
Who are they and where are they from?
What are their frustrations with your product or the market itself?
What do they want from you as a brand?
How do they see you stacked up against the competition?
What do they like about you and your brand?
These open-ended questions are a great springboard for opening the conversation and gaining new insights into how you can grow and adapt going forward. They also leave a lot of room to take the conversation into a variety of different directions, allowing you to collect valuable, organic data.
4. Surveys And Questionnaires
Surveys and questionnaires are another really interesting way to get feedback from your audience. There are some drawbacks to this method, of which being that people may not be inclined to answer the questions themselves. In these situations, offering incentives like gift cards are a great way to get a response.
These avenues of data collection are ideal for getting specific answers to specific questions about what your customers think about you, what they think about the competition, who they are, where they're from and how invested they are in your business.
It's important to mix up the types of questions you ask -- asking both open-ended questions and yes/no questions. Open-ended questions give you greater insights and provide more of a personal connection between you and your clients. Yes/no questions get you specific and direct answers to hard-hitting questions that don't have room for interpretation.
With surveys, you can unearth problems users are having with your goods and services, as well as your digital presence. These types of quick, powerful and impactful information gathering tools smooth out the process of finding where you brands stand in the competitive environment and where you should go from here.
What Is Search Engine Keyword Research?
To first understand how to conduct these keyword searches, you need to first understand what these keywords are.
Search engine keywords are words or phrases search engines use to evaluate, rank and display content. SEO keywords make it possible for people to find your website and your content. And a good website, blog post and article should be optimized with special search engine keywords to ensure that it gets picked up by these search engines.
So search engine keyword research is the process of finding these keywords and evaluating your content to ensure that it contains the keywords and phrases people are actually searching for. Otherwise, what’s the point?
You want your content to be noticed. You want it to rank well and you want people to click on it and read it. And the best place to be to get this exposure is Google.
In 2017, Google accounted for 79 percent of all desktop search traffic.
Need more proof about the importance of SEO keywords for Google rankings?
Those are some important numbers to take into consideration. And keyword research can help you make sure your content gets those views and gets that traffic.
Without it, you’re practically giving away leads and potentially even sales. Competitors are constantly researching keywords, re-evaluating website copy and content and optimizing their materials to better rank and stay relevant.
And in order for your brand to succeed, you need to do the same.
You need to understand the keywords that your consumers are searching for and make sure that they are included everywhere in your website — from landing pages to metadata to image alt tags and more.
When it comes to crafting a stellar website, SEO matters. And conducting keyword research is a vital process that is neverending. Keywords shift, interests change and topic fade away. That’s why your brand needs to stay on top of trends and movements in the market. This will give you insights into all of the new and emerging keywords to optimize for.
And here are a few ways you can perform this specific type of research.
1. Create A List Of Relevant Topics
Before you dive into the extensive tools and services out there, it’s important that you first understand your industry, your niche and your audience. If you’re a cosmetics brand, for instance, what you should do is start brainstorming relevant topics, words and phrases.
Then, start breaking down these words and phrases into other, similar and related words and phrases.
These might not be the most structured topics to optimize for, but they give you an idea as to what people could be searching for and how you can relate that to your own brand.
This is good because you need to really understand your brand, your products and how consumers use them.
Ask questions. Provide answers. And start infusing these topics into blocks of content on your site — whether it’s a new blog, a lengthy product description or the “About Us” section of your website.
This will put you one step closer to connecting more organically with your audience and ranking higher on Google.
2. Start Googling
The next step is to take these words and phrases and start plugging them into search engines. The results will surprise you, giving you an idea as to what these searches come up with and how your content can fit in with the results ranking highest on the page.
This is a lengthy process. It takes time. But it’s important to see with your own eyes what the effects of your searching can lead to.
Googling can also help you come up with additional words and phrases to infuse into your own content.
3. Check Out The Competition
Looking at the competition is a great step in finding the right words to optimize your content for. It’s likely that your competition has a similar audience and strategy, so give their language a look and see what phrases keep popping up.
This might give you an idea as to what consumers are searching for and what is making their content possibly rank higher than yours.
4. Use Google Tools
But the most efficient way to conduct search engine keyword research is by using dedicated tools provided by Google to ensure that what you’re coming up with matches with what is actually being searched.
Tools like Google AdWords Keyword Planner, Google News and Google Trends are a great place to start — and the best part is they’re free! These tools can show you what topics and phrases people are searching for and how high content ranks because of it. We will get more into these tools later, but when it comes to doing this SEO keyword research, using tools is a vital step.
What Tools Can You Use To Perform Market Research?
Market research doesn't have to be a one-man job. It doesn't have to fall on one person to do competitive analysis, cold call clients, create surveys, and hit the digital library for information. There are tools available to make the process easier and smoother. And these below tools are some of the best.
Google Adwords Keyword Planner is a great tool both for SEO and for market research. With this tool, you can analyze what people are searching for and what the biggest trends are in the market. Get a better understanding of what your consumers want, their behaviors and what they're searching for with this simple and easy-to-use tool. And best of all, it's free!
BizStats is an online database for free information on business statistics and financial information. Get a sneak peek into how the market has fluctuated over the years, what products are currently in high demand, and which ones aren't. This site is great because it's free, easy to navigate and it provides a wealth of knowledge about your competitors and the competitive landscape in a few searches.
This free tool gives you free and immediate access to thousands of highly-searched keywords and phrases to give your SEO strategy a boost. Whether you're looking for targeted keywords, keyword frequency or specific ad-related data, this tool can help you perform your research and come up with an optimized and efficient strategy.
SocialMention makes staying on top of social media conversations a breeze. Track keywords or phrases, brand mentions and more with ease. A positive social media presence is vital for a successful business, and this tool allows you to see what people are talking about all in one place.
American FactFinder gives you access to U.S. census data. It might be difficult and time-consuming to go through the lengthy reports released on their website, which is why this free-to-use tool is such a lifesaver. It takes all of the data and puts it in one place for quick and easy access. Filter to find your target audience by age, race, location and income.
These Google tools are free to use and offer a variety of insights into how your business is performing, what the competition is doing and what your audience is saying. They are vital tools for growth and success. Stay on top of trends, track brand mentions, find topics that your audience is searching for and engaging with, and get insights into how you perform on your website and social media accounts compared to the competition.
Companies That Used Market Research To Grow Their Business And Expand Their Offerings
Barclays is a banking institution that used market research to better target their student audience by offering them the accounts they were looking for.
The Barclays student account proposition shows how it is crucial for a business to listen to its market. To do this effectively means targeting specific market segments to discover their needs. Barclays' new student account proposition was an 'insight-led' approach. Using carefully constructed and phased market research, the bank was able to gain an overall insight into the thinking of students. In the early stages of the research, it was discovered that the student segment provided an opportunity to develop a long-term relationship. It was found that students were not necessarily 'here today, gone tomorrow'. If the bank made a valuable and relevant offer, students were likely to remain lifelong customers.
The Kellogg Company is a world-renowned cereal producer that used market research to change packaging design while still keeping its core audience.
Changing the appearance of a well-known range of products can be a risky strategy, particularly in the highly competitive environment of the supermarket, where purchase decisions are made very quickly and competitors often try to imitate the packaging of a market leader. However, with extremely careful preparation and attention to detail and some state of the art design techniques, Kellogg’s has been able to clearly differentiate its product range from the competition. Extensive market research helped to reduce the risk, and communication with consumers warning them of the new changes, eased the period of changeover.
JD Sports is a leading sports retail company in the UK that used market research to better inform them of their market share and provide insights in how to expand.
JD has managed to maintain growth through a thorough understanding of market opportunities. Market research is not a one-off process. Markets change and a business like JD needs to evaluate customer trends and monitor competitors on a regular basis in order to remain competitive. JD has therefore established research mechanisms to provide ongoing feedback. These provide a mix of qualitative and quantitative market data obtained directly from consumers and from published research.
Sleepers in Seattle is a furniture company based in Seattle, Washington. The brand was searching for a wider online audience and presence, so they teamed up with a dedicated SEO agency to help conduct this research and create an online presence that was properly optimized with the right keywords and phrases.
In 2007, Sleepers in Seattle was started by independent owners Carlos and Meryl Alcabes after they saw a demand for the expanded availability of customizable and highly functional furniture piece, like sleeper sofas, for mass consumers. In Fall of 2013, the Alcabes’ son, Max, wanted to continue evolving the company and knew there was a growing need to have a larger presence in the online marketplace so they launched a few additional microsites under the brand’s umbrella to expand on the customized sleeper sofa model and offer customized sofas, furniture, mattresses and more. The Alcabes engaged Adapt Partners in May 2014 and their needs were two-fold: The first was to help get the new microsites off the ground since they were newly launched and did not have much equity, trust or authority with search engines. The second was to get Sleepers in Seattle on course for a natural and sustainable growth pattern as the site had over-manipulated links which could result in a penalization by Google. By conducting a technical and content audit for Sleeper in Seattle’s portfolio of brand sites, Adapt Partners was able to gather in-depth insights to develop integrated SEO solutions to help increase traffic, conversion and content breadth.
Using Consumer, Competitor And Search Engine Keyword Research To Stay Ahead Of The Competition
Utilizing market research — from internal information collected through interviews, surveys and social media analysis, to secondary research collected from databases, U.S. census information and other groups — is a vital way to stay on top of trends, learn from the mistakes of your competition and get a better understanding of how to connect with your audience.
And infusing proper SEO protocols through dedicated and targeted search engine keyword research can help ensure that this content hits the right audiences.
Consumer and competitor analysis can help you grow, adapt and become the business you want to be. It can shed light on areas where you may be weaker and can illuminate paths that you can take to get the results you’ve been working for.
And with SEO becoming such an important part of content and marketing strategies, understanding this emerging arena is vital for business success as a whole.
It might seem like a lengthy and lofty responsibility to take on, but the benefits far outweigh the alternative costs of not conducting this investigating. You want a competitive advantage, and by conducting this consumer and competitor analysis, followed by a comprehensive SEO keyword search, you're closer to getting there.
Life is all about learning, and business is no different. You don’t have to make mistakes in order to learn — learn from others and stay one step ahead of business B down the street.