At our core, everyone in the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) field is a marketer. We are working with brands by helping them sell and promote their products and services on their website. We are working to help the right customers find the right content. We are working to make the Internet a better, more usable space for everyone (at least, this is what I hope we are all trying to do). And as a marketer, research is the cornerstone of everything we do.
I love research. I have a master’s degree in Library and Information Science, and am thrilled at how research and data-driven SEO has become in the past five years, since I last worked in the industry. How could I not find my way back?
In SEO, our foundational data is often based off analytics. In marketing, the foundational data is based off market research, which we easily forget, is so valuable for us as well. The more research the better. Market research often captures data on demographics, customer values, market trends, competitive landscape, and effective mediums.
By digging into market research related to a site, it provides us with a broader view of the landscape and trends. In this new world of secure search, we are moving in that direction anyway. Understanding a website’s market landscape and its customers can provide you with all sorts of insights. It can guide areas of opportunity for content development or provide insight on which social media sites are more successful for a particular customer base. Market research can help you build a stronger case for integrating paid and/or social media efforts with organic efforts, or any of these combined with offline marketing efforts. The possibilities are endless.
Recently, I provided a B2B client in mid-redesign with market research data on:
- The types of content their audience finds most useful
- How essential unified branding and a blog is for their market
- How SEO has one of the highest returns on investment for this industry
This research backed up the recommendations we had provided up to that point, with hard, third-party data. We had been pushing for more content, pushing to keep the blog, and pushing for branding. This data was a home run.
I’ve also provided clients with research around the growth expected in the market they hope to expand on, and the value propositions customers are looking for before purchasing. And right now I’m developing a research-based conversion optimization document to push an e-Commerce site to optimize their shopping cart.
So where are we to find all this great research? A great place to start is to simply go to your search engine of choice and search, for example, “smartphone industry research” or “millennial smartphone research.” Any industry or customer-research related query will get you started with articles summarizing recent findings from studies. From those studies you can see what other studies they reference and so on and so forth.
A lot of big market research firms have subscription costs or costs per articles that aren’t feasible for many. But, they also often have summaries of their research, which provide a lot of great insights, or there are news articles out there with these summaries. You do not necessarily need to pay $399 for an article if one key finding is exactly what you need (though if you can, it’s always better to see the full data!)
All kinds of companies and organizations perform research and publish it, and there are a large number of firms performing research like comScore, eMarketer, Forrester, Frost & Sullivan, Gartner, Hoovers, and Nielsen, just to name a handful (notice I put them in alphabetical order because there are no favorites here).
No matter what tactics you use to find this research, ultimately market research can help you understand not only what potential customers might be looking for depending on where they fall within the purchasing funnel, but a website’s purchase funnel itself, and the future of the industry a website operates in.
And that’s more than enough incentive for me. So, what market research tactics have you been using?