The more you know and understand about your market and what motivates your audience, the better equipped you are to develop content and campaigns that get results. This goes for all digital projects — email, search, social, content — you name it. A little planning and research goes a long way toward telling you what your potential customers are actually doing online.
Photo by flickr member velacreations
This is what we mean by planning. And yes, planning is a profession and a discipline. It should be an essential step in your campaign or content development process.
Planning looks at the five w’s: who, what, where, when and why. By exploring data that reflects user behaviour before you start developing your campaign, you can learn things such as annual market cycles, what keywords your customers are using, and which products and trends are driving consumer behaviour.
Here are three Google tools that will cost you absolutely nothing in exchange for a wealth of information about your market niche and customers.
Google’s free trend mapping tool lets you watch the ebb and flow of popular topics and trends over months, or even years. Google Trends’ data is based on user search queries; a pretty accurate indication of a topic or product’s popularity. It is particularly useful if you are allocating an annual ad budget, or if you are developing a content calendar. What’s more, Google Trends is a lot of fun to play with; get ready to go down the data rabbit hole.
Here’s how it works: enter a search term and the tool will map out interest in this term over time. You can choose a specific time frame — covering years, months, or weeks. You can compare data on multiple search terms, or you can drill down to see interest in a search term based on geography.
Google Trends is an essential tool for presentations. It will generate the perfect graph to explain to that guy in a suit why you want to allocate a third of your digital advertising budget to something he’s never heard of. Rather than showing search volume, Google Trends rates the popularity of each search term against its highest point in the chart. For example, a search term with a value of 100 means that it has hit its pinnacle of popularity.
Google Trends tracks the popularity of keywords over time, in this example “US election”.
Google Keyword Planner
One of the web’s most beloved free research tools can be found buried deep in the Google AdWords interface. AdWords’ Keyword Planner enables you to enter a URL or keyword and find hundreds of relevant synonyms and keyword variations. By entering one or more keywords, you can drum up a huge list of related keywords, complete with search volume, competition and average cost per click. Next, you can filter this list based on geography, language and timeframe.
If you do search engine advertising or organic search engine optimization (and if you’re in business online, you should be doing both), Google’s Keyword Planner can tell you a lot about how people are looking for the products or services you sell. A few simple queries in this tool will show you the keywords and synonyms that are generating the most activity on Google. Armed with this knowledge, you can add popular and relevant keywords to your Google AdWords campaign, and integrate these keywords and topics into your website content.
Google’s Keyword Planner is also an essential tool for building your content plan. A deep dive with this tool will tell you the keywords, products and services that are gaining traction in your market. The next step: start developing a content plan, blog posts and web copy that addresses these hot topics.
Enter a keyword to find the search volumes of popular variations on this keyword.
We’ll let you in on a secret: Keyword Planner is also an amazing tool for researching market interest in potential new products and services. It’s more granular than Google Trends — you can get very specific geographical data on long tail keywords. Enter your competitors’ URLs into the box and Keyword Planner will pull up keywords it thinks are relevant to them too.
Google Keyword Planner used to be available to anyone and everyone. Now you need to have an AdWords account to use it. If you don’t currently have an AdWords account, don’t sweat it. Just create one, set up a campaign using dummy data and pause it. Once you’ve done this, go to Tools in the top navigation and choose Keyword Planner.
Find Keyword Planner under Tools in your Google AdWords account.
Think with Google
You can imagine that Google has access to some pretty rich insights about consumer activity. A couple years ago Google rolled out Think with Google with an eye to sharing its data and research with advertisers. We’ve found their insights to be incredibly useful for anyone working in digital, regardless of whether you’re working in paid or earned media.
We love Think with Google because it delivers consumer insights that are grounded in solid research, and because it frames these insights in ways that are actionable for us. Get ready to dive into a library of fresh, well researched content focused on consumer behaviour, new technologies and market verticals.
A little planning goes a long way
Simply taking a couple hours to look at data and gather some insights can inform your content marketing in a big way. Going macro (reading consumer insights) and going micro (into the minutiae of keyword research) will ground your projects with strategic thinking. By integrating this key step into your process, you will be better positioned to understand your audience, what its looking for, and how to deliver content and ad creative that resonates.