Using SEO for market research
In the world of marketing, it is essential to always stay one step ahead. As the CMO or marketing manager of an organization, you are probably familiar with the power of SEO. But have you ever considered how SEO can serve as a market research tool ? In this article, I explain how I use SEO to conduct market research.
The evolution of SEO as a market research tool
In the early years, SEO focused mainly on technical optimization and using the right keywords. But with time and the ever smarter algorithms of search engines, SEO has evolved. Now it offers insights into what people really want, their behaviors, needs and challenges. By analyzing this data, I can identify trends, understand market needs and even predict what the next big demand will be.
Forecasting trends within particular industries has become particularly stronger within SEO. The tooling for this is more accurate than ever. Consider content gaps from Ahrefs, volumes in the keyword planner or data from the GSC (both technical and performance).
The importance of market research for larger organizations
Market research is the backbone of any successful marketing strategy. For larger organizations, with more complex markets and greater competition, it is even more crucial. It allows you to better understand your target audience, identify opportunities in the market and adjust your strategies.
Traditional market research methods versus SEO
Traditional market research methods, such as surveys, focus groups and field research, have their value. They offer in-depth insights and qualitative data. However, they can be time-consuming and expensive. SEO, on the other hand, provides real-time data, is scalable and can deliver a continuous stream of insights. While traditional methods tell you what people say they want, SEO shows you what they are actually looking for.
I would personally say, in the area of quantitative market research, you can put SEO to good use. To confirm the hypotheses coming from this data, I do still recommend testing this the “old-fashioned” way.
How market research contributes to business growth
By knowing who your customers are, what they want and how they behave, you can better tailor your products, services and marketing strategies. This leads to more satisfied customers, higher retention rates and ultimately more sales. Market research, supported by SEO insights, gives you the tools to optimize your offering and stay ahead of your competition.
Conducting market research through SEO can also lead to innovations within products/services. From the searches within Google, you can see what your customer is really looking for. Based on the volumes in these searches, you can also see how many of your customers are searching for something.
How SEO provides insights into market trends
In today’s digital world, the ability to react quickly to changing market trends is essential. SEO is a powerful tool that helps me identify and anticipate these trends.
To determine this, I like to use Google Trends. Google Trends allows you to see trends for certain search terms. These are not absolute volumes, but relative interest in certain things.
Analyzing search answer trends and volumes
By regularly analyzing keyword trends and volumes, I get a clear picture of what is trending among my target audience. A sudden increase in search volume for a particular keyword may indicate a growing interest or need. Tools like Google Trends and various SEO platforms help me track these changes in real time.
Of course, some search terms are annually sensitive to seasons, but with other search terms you will see a sudden increase/decrease in volumes. From this data, you can check what the root cause is and base choices on it.
Understanding seasonality and regional differences
Not all searches are consistent throughout the year. Some keywords have seasonal peaks, such as “summer vacation” or “Christmas gifts.” By understanding this seasonality, I can adjust my marketing efforts accordingly. In addition, it is important to recognize regional differences in search behavior. What is popular in Amsterdam may not be the same as in Maastricht.
Competitive analysis through SEO
In the digital arena, it is crucial to know who your competitors are and what their strategies are. SEO offers me a window to understand this.
Identifying key competitors in search results
When I run searches relevant to my business, I pay attention to who consistently appears in the top results. These companies are my direct competitors in the SEO space. By analyzing their content and strategies, I can gain insight into what is working and where there are opportunities.
Using a content gap, I can easily see which search terms my competitor is coming up for and I am not yet. With a link gap analysis, I can see which link entries my competitor has and I don’t yet. This allows me to look for both input for my own SEO campaign, as well as input from competitors to learn more about the market/target audience.
Backlinks are still one of the strongest ranking factors in SEO. By analyzing my competitors’ backlink profile, I can see which websites link to them and how valuable these links are. This gives me an idea of their online reputation and authority. Tools such as Ahrefs or SEMrush are indispensable in this regard. They not only help me understand my competitors’ backlink profiles, but also identify opportunities for my own link building strategy.
With a crosslink check, it is possible to analyze multiple competitors at once. This saves time and at the same time you can gain insight into the websites that send a link to multiple competitors (low-hanging fruit within link building).
Gaining audience insights through SEO
At the heart of any effective marketing strategy lies a deep understanding of the target audience. SEO has emerged as a powerful tool that helps me deepen and refine this understanding.
Understanding search intent and user behavior
When someone enters a search query, it reveals not only what they want to find, but often why. By diving into the keywords and phrases people use, I can decipher their intentions. Are they looking for information, want to buy something, or looking for a specific website? By understanding these intentions, I can create content that directly addresses their needs and questions.
From this data, it is possible to partially create personas that fall within the CPI. From these personas, connecting content can be written / appropriate products can be developed.
Segmentation of target audiences based on search behavior
Not everyone in my target audience has the same needs or interests. By analyzing their search behavior, I can identify and understand subgroups. For example, some people may search for “sustainable business strategies,” while others specifically search for “eco-friendly packaging solutions.” This segmentation allows me to create more targeted and relevant marketing campaigns.
Content strategy based on market research
Content is the bridge that connects my brand to my target audience. By integrating market research into my content strategy, I ensure that this bridge is strong and effective.
The digital world is constantly changing, and new opportunities are constantly emerging. By doing regular market research and looking at emerging search answer trends, I can identify new topics or questions that are not yet adequately covered. This provides an opportunity to create valuable content that attracts visitors to my website.
I try to do a fairly thorough market research for my own business at least quarterly, that way I can see trends from quarter to quarter within the market. For my market, I identified specific metrics that are most relevant. By the way, this goes not only on metrics around SEO, metrics that determine the target audience / customer journey are also relevant here.
Optimizing content for specific audiences and search intentions
Every piece of content I produce must have a purpose. By tailoring my content to specific audience segments and their search intentions, I make sure my message arrives. This sometimes means I create different versions of an article or blog post, each optimized for a different search intent or audience segment. The result? Higher engagement, more satisfied visitors and a stronger brand relationship.
In doing so, it is important (also for Google), not to write every article with the goal of getting a lot of organic traffic to that article. I like to write about things I find interesting (so does my target audience), but otherwise don’t have that much volume in Google.
Integration of SEO data with other market research tools
In the digital age, the ability to integrate various data sources and merge them into a coherent picture of the market is a game-changer. SEO data is powerful on its own, but when I combine it with other tools, its potential is magnified.
Linking SEO data to CRM systems and analytics
My CRM system is the backbone of my customer relationships. By connecting SEO data to this, I can gain a deeper understanding of how potential customers interact with my brand before they actually contact or make a purchase. For example, what keywords did they use? What content did they consume? These insights help me further refine my sales and marketing strategies. Moreover, by integrating SEO data with analytics, I get a holistic view of user behavior, from first click to conversion.
So really think both ways in this regard. Ultimately, you can hang the conversion rate for each keyword on this. This even allows you to determine the quality of a conversion per keyword (especially important in B2B).
Combining quantitative and qualitative insights
SEO offers a wealth of quantitative data: search volumes, click-through rates, bounce rates and much more. But to really understand what drives my target audience, I combine these hard numbers with qualitative insights. This can come from customer interviews, feedback forms or even social media monitoring. By merging quantitative data and qualitative feedback, I can get a complete picture of my target audience’s needs, challenges and desires, allowing me to develop more effective and empathetic marketing strategies.
In the ever-changing world of digital marketing, it is essential to be flexible and adapt to new trends and technologies. SEO is no longer just a website optimization tool; it’s a powerful market research tool that, when properly integrated, can reveal a wealth of insights about your target audience and market. By combining SEO data with other market research tools, such as CRM systems and analytics, and embracing both quantitative and qualitative data, you as CMO or marketing manager can get a holistic view of your customers. Good luck!