Between Google and Bing, the Big 2 search engines are determining search relevance using a very similar set of criteria. That is fortunate for us marketers because we can, to a large extent, standardize our marketing strategies for the Web and not have to spend an enormous amount of energy managing multiple approaches for different search engines... at least for now.
The key to achieving high rankings in search and creating buzz in social media is solid content. Period. So as a producer of content, you are now a publisher. You need to start seeing yourself that way.
Free Marketing Data
Publishers need to make engaging content happen. If they don't—if you don't—you won't succeed. As the saying goes, publish or perish. That means you need to create engagement. You need to create relevance. In a sense, you need to learn to read the minds of the searchers in your market.
The good news, the really good news, is that the Web gives you free marketing data that can guide you toward creating relevant subject matter, giving you a sneak peek into the minds of your customers.
Market research is about identifying the needs and desires of the population—and, especially, what that population is willing to buy to fulfill those needs and desires.
To get information about what consumers were doing, market researchers had to find ways to understand what would appeal to consumers. Before the explosion of the Internet, the way to conduct that kind of research was to survey consumers and create focus groups. It would have been impossible to ask every person whether he or she was interested in a particular kind of product, so information was gathered via demographic research and samples within demographics.
The Internet has changed the game. Information about your customers is now at your fingertips.
Consumers Making It Quite Clear
The bulk of the population is online, which means that sampling, albeit still useful, isn't quite as necessary as before. If you know where to look, you can see that consumers are actually making it quite clear what they need and that they are willing to buy.
Chances are your target demographic is interacting with the Internet in ways that will enable you to understand its interests and needs. You can use marketing data gathered online to see how consumers are behaving in your market. That research is valuable to all kinds of businesses, whether they are completely online or they have a brick-and-mortar storefront. Conducting market research online will enable you to spot trends on local, national, and even global levels.
Here are four great ways to conduct market research using data available online:
- Check trending topics at Google, Twitter, Yahoo, and Bing
- Look at answer sites such as Yahoo Answers, Quora, and LinkedIn
- Check social news sites and discovery engines such as Digg, StumbleUpon, and Reddit
- Find out what's working for your competitors by using tools such as Strongest pages on Open Site Explorer, or try these search operators
Social media, answer sites, social news sites, and discovery engines reveal in real time what interests your potential customers. On top of that, you can check on your competitors to see how they meet those demands and what they're missing. All of that can be enormously valuable to your business as you develop content ideas— and, even, products.
Research via social media is an effective way to get down to the "street level" to better understand how your potential customers think. You'll get a great sense of both the language they use to describe your product and their perceptions of your market.
Answering in Terms That Make Sense to Them
As you pay attention to the buzz around the topics and concepts relating to your business, you'll be able to identify trends in what customers are saying. You'll also become aware of how they might phrase a search request, what content they respond to, or what content generates user comments.
People outside of your industry probably aren't attuned to the jargon that industry insiders use. If you want to reach those customers, you have to understand how they perceive your product. You could miss opportunities to market to them via search if you optimize for more technical or insider language.
By understanding the dynamics of your potential customers' conversations, you can develop rich answers to their most pressing questions and deliver those answers in terms that make sense to them.
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To remain competitive, keep abreast of trends. That means keeping a close watch on key websites that your consumers are using, and returning often to monitor them. As you create content, continue to do market research online to keep current with trends so that you can engage potential customers right where they are.