4 online market research tools for powerful small business intelligence

Look for opportunities

If you’re thinking of starting an online business, or growing an existing one, it pays to do a bit of online market research in order to understand the competition and spot opportunities for growth. But finding juicy data on the market, your competitors, their web traffic, their online sales, and overall popularity is not that easy.

Unless you know just where to look.

Over the years I’ve used tens (probably hundreds) of different tools to gather and analyse all sorts of different information, depending on what I’m trying to achieve. Out of all those tools there are a handful that I use all the time, and I think you’ll find them useful, too.

So whether you want to know which SEO keywords competing website are ranking for, or how many products a competitor is selling on Amazon, or even how many people are searching for your brand online, these three online market research tools can do it all.

1. SEMRush

Online Market Research SEMrush

SEMRush is essentially a search optimization tool that provides plenty of juicy search-related data and analysis that can help form a clear picture of who is dominating the market for specific search phrases, and who isn’t.

Why is it important?

Traffic originating from search engines like Google account for a huge portion of overall traffic. It is very valuable in the sense that it is relevant and often has a defined user intent.

For any modern business, capturing valuable search terms requires more than posting to a blog every now and then.

Competition for organic search rankings is fierce and the more knowledge and insight you can glean, the easier it is to focus your efforts to achieve desired outcomes.

Primary advantages of SEMrush

  • Monitor SEO keyword position changes
  • Explore organic search competitors
  • Backlink analysis
  • Direct domain comparisons (organic search competition)

2. RankTracer Enterprise

RankTracer Enterprise provides Amazon sales data and analysis that can help you to work out not only how competing products are selling, but also when and why. Its tools allow you to keep tabs on product sales in any niche in virtual real time. This means that you are never more than an hour behind the latest developments in sales and marketing.

Why is it important?

Amazon is a massive online marketplace that makes up a significant percentage of overall online sales in the U.S. and other countries. It’s therefore a good platform to monitor product sales in order to derive deep insights into a particular niche market.

Understanding which products are selling on Amazon, and what marketing and promotional campaigns were used to drive sales, helps to build up your own playbook of powerful marketing strategies to power growth.

Primary advantages of RankTracer

  • Spot new business opportunities
  • Discover new marketing strategies
  • Spy on competitors’ sales
  • Source better products
  • Gather better business intelligence data
  • Data-driven social media marketing

3. Google Trends

Online Market Research Google Trends

Google Trends is extremely valuable because it can provide incredible insight into the interest levels of any topic in any nation, state, region, city or town in the world. If you need to find out what people are searching for, and whether this interest is rising or waning, Google Trends can help you accomplish this.

Why is it important?

Because Google keeps track of the changes occurring in its trillions of monthly searches stretching back many years now, Trends can offer truly unique insight into how the search market evolves and changes over the long, medium and short term.

Using Google Trends for online market research can help guide you to better business decisions.

 

Spend a few hours playing with Trends and you’ll come up with some surprising insights that can change your mind about marketing, content and search strategies, and help guide you to better decisions.

Primary advantage of Google Trends

  • Demographic drill-down into organic search terms

4. Google Keyword Planner

Online Market Research Keyword Planner

Google’s Adwords Keyword Planner also gives insight into what keywords people are searching for. But, in addition, it provides information on the levels of advertising competition. This is vital for understanding what might be involved on getting content to compete for these keywords, or whether it is viable to advertise at the top of these search results instead.

Why is it important?

AdWords is a huge online ad marketplace where virtually anyone can bid to appear at the top of search results pages for any search imaginable. The Keyword planner helps advertisers plan their campaigns by showing competition levels and average bid prices.

This is highly useful information, even for those not intending to advertise on Google, because it shows what other companies are prepared to pay in order to attract specific, targeted audiences.

Primary advantages of Google Keyword Planner

  • SEO keyword research
  • Gauging ad competition levels for specific terms

Online market research samples

The data and analysis you can gather from each of the tools listed here depends on what your particular business does, and what specific information you are after. Here are a few screenshots showing some insightful information I have derived from the tools listed above:

SEMrush Sample Results
SEMrush organic position changes report for SME Pals, showing 16 new keywords appearing for May 25, 2016
RankTracer Sample Results
Sales rank graph (courtesy of RankTracer Enterprise) showing sales in Donald Trump’s ‘Crippled America’ over May 2016 (Note: lower rank means higher sales)
Google Trends Sample Results
Google Trends showing relative interest in the three presidential candidates in the U.S. over the course of 2016
Keyword Planner Sample Results
AdWords Keyword Planner showing search volumes and ad competition levels for ‘build a website’ search phrase

All in all, these tools can give pretty amazing insights into:

  • How well your site is competing in search
  • Who it is competing with
  • How bigger sites have grown to dominate search results
  • Which products are selling better
  • How competitors are marketing and promoting their products effectively
  • How to source better products
  • How to use data driven social media marketing
  • What large scale trends are occurring in search
  • What smaller, localized trends are occurring
  • What competition levels are like for valuable organic search terms
  • How much the market is willing to fork out to win that traffic

That’s a pretty impressive list of things worth knowing in order to be as competitive as possible in the world of online business. What online market research tools do you use, if any? Share your tips and advice in the comments.

Image by: littlefishworm1 via Compfight cc

David Mercer
David Mercer contributes to SME Pals a blog dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and small business owners thrive online. He is a tech entrepreneur and published author with books translated into over 13 languages worldwide and used as recommended reading at places like MIT.