Tools for Getting to Know Your Audience (Part 1)
This post is part one of Getting to Know Your Audience, where we focus on three free Google tools to kickstart your research. See part two for tips on using social tools to go deeper into your research
No really, its a serious question. Who are the people you’re making your product for? What do they talk about? Where do they hang out? What matters to them?
Luckily we have a plethora of tools at our disposal these days to uncover this information and test our assumptions with real data.
When and where do you use this information?
Knowing your audience helps you validate your idea and determine if you’ll be able to achieve your goals before you even create your product. Do you want to write the definitive how-to guide to making ukuleles out of cardboard? While a super cool idea, this might not be the best move if your goal is to actually make some cash. Sadly, there are just not enough people who care about making their own ukulele for this to be a hugely profitable business idea. Also, good luck getting people who want to make instruments out of cardboard to pay for your book.
Knowing your audience also keeps you in check throughout the creation process. With each decision you should refer back to your research and ask if this is something that people want, need, and are going to get excited about. Say you’re creating a fitness course for pregnant women. Each segment should be informed by the most pressing concerns expecting mothers have - is it safety, nutrition, weight management, relieving joint pain, or none of the above?
Finally, knowing your audience will help you - big time - with marketing and selling your product. The vocabulary you unearth during your research should get recycled back into your sales copy for your landing page and emails to potential buyers. Knowledge of where your target market hangs out online should guide your outreach strategy and help you decide how to target ads.
Basically, knowing your customers is the foundation of everything else that you do.
So now, let’s get creepin…er…researching!
1. Google AdWords Keyword Planner
Questions to ask:
Which keywords are more relevant to my content? What is the popularity and competition score for each of my potential keywords? What would be the cost of running an ad campaign for these terms? What websites already rank for my keywords? What related keywords might be a better fit for me?
How to use it:
To access the Google AdWords Keyword Planner, you’ll have to have a Google account and sign up for AdWords, but its a completely free tool.
From the Keyword Planner home page, click “Search for new keyword and ad group ideas.”
Enter your product or service idea into the top box. You can also adjust the targeting filters for location, language, etc., in the fields below.
Click “Get Ideas”. Once on the results page, click on the “Keyword ideas” tab. You’ll see results for average monthly searches, relative competition for ad placement (low, medium, or high), and suggested bids for your exact search team as well as related keywords.
As you can see, things aren’t looking too good for “make a ukulele,” with only 50 average monthly searches. Some similar keywords are more relevant, such as “how to make a ukulele”, and “how to build a ukulele”, but these are still quite low.
“Cigar box ukulele” is a surprising search term, but unfortunately ad placement is highly competitive.
I ran another few searches about ukuleles, and came across one that seemed a lot more promising:
“How to play the ukulele” has 3,600 average monthly searches, and relatively low competition. This might be a better topic to write about than building a ukulele from scratch.
A quick Google search for this same phrase reveals the major competition in this area.
- Making a ukulele from scratch is not a common thing people are looking for. :(
- A much more popular interest (with 3,600 monthly searches), is in learning to play the ukulele - might this be better entry point for a product?
- There is still relatively low competition in all the keywords pertaining to learning the ukulele, which bodes well for this type of content.
- With the top search result being from Wikihow and the second from YouTube, no one website is really dominating the search for learning to play the ukulele.
2. Google Trends
Questions to ask:
Is my topic increasing or decreasing in popularity over time? How does interest in my topic compare to related topics? What key news pieces have come up over the last few years? Where in the world are the people that are most interested in my topic? What are some related search terms that are trending upwards?
How to use it:
Google Trends allows you to see stats for your keywords over time. Below is the interest over time for the search term “ukulele.” The letters indicate large press pieces on this topic. Here we see that interest in ukuleles spiked due to stories about Warren Buffet giving ukulele lessons, a world-record attempt for most ukuleles playing simultaneously in Oregon, and musical prodigy Jake Shimabukuro playing a show in San Francisco.
The interest in ukuleles is rising over time, which bodes well for our product idea. We can also compare the popularity of ukuleles to other small stringed instruments, such as the mandolin and the banjo.
Interest in both the mandolin and the banjo is declining, so it definitely looks like ukuleles are the place to be when it comes to small stringed instruments.
In the Regional Interest section we can see which cities have the highest search volume for ukuleles. The place with the highest search volume is always 100, and the other cities are ranked relative to that.
This map clearly shows Hawaii’s dominance in terms of ukulele popularity. In the contiguous US, west coast cities show more interest than other areas.
The third category displays related searches, which is interesting in validating our idea. By clicking on “Rising” in the Queries column, I get a few terms that are rapidly increasing in popularity, such as the musical instrument brand “Kala”, “uke”, the short hand for ukulele, and “youtube”, hinting that many people are searching for ukulele videos on YouTube. Perhaps these YouTube searches are for lessons, or perhaps they’re to watch prolific players.
- Ukuleles have been gaining in popularity since 2009 - yay!
- A key person on this topic is Jake Shimabukoru, whose been described as a “ukulele pioneer/prodigy.”
- Searches for ukulele songs on YouTube in particular are rising fast.
- Ukuleles are very popular internationally, especially in Southeast Asia.
- In the US, Hawaii is by far the most popular area, with west coast cities such as San Diego and Portland showing the most interest in the contiguous US.
- Ukuleles are also called “ukes” for short.
- "Over the Rainbow" is one of the most popular ukulele songs.
3. Google Alerts
Questions to ask:
What are the most current things people are talking about on my topic? How can I use this news as part of my content strategy? What types of publications contribute to my topic? What patterns are there in the words used to describe my topic?
How to use it:
Google Alerts couldn’t be easier. Simply type in your topic and click Create Alert to get emails sent to you with trending new content. You can adjust the frequency of results, and tweak other filters by clicking “Show options.”
I quickly set up an alert for “ukulele”, and got the following results:
- Local news outlets come a up a few times in the results, announcing performances featuring a ukulele.
- When the ukulele appears in serious news publications, it tends to be in a playful piece, such as this one in the Washington Post about baseball player Bryce Harper surprising high school students with a renovated locker room, or this one from Air & Space Magazineabout a pilot who entertains passengers by playing the ukulele.
There you have three quick and easy tools for getting you started with your audience research. Check out the next guide for a look at how to use some social networks and other free services to do an even deeper dive into your audience’s psyche.
Disclaimer: If you really, really, really just want to write a book about making a ukulele out of cardboard, then you should absolutely do that. Don’t give up on your dream just because some Google tools told you not to. But be realistic about the potential demand (and thus potential returns) you can expect for your project.