Internet marketers and webmasters have always had a love/ hate relationship with Google. Whatever you think of them they do provide website owners with some great market research tools.
No matter what market you are in or plan to be in, you will find these free tools provided by Google very useful when researching your market. You should be researching your market constantly, NOT just when setting up your site. The internet is ever changing and, if you're not keeping up with those changes, you will be left behind.
Market Research Tool 1 - Related Searches And Wonder Wheel
When you start typing in the main Google search box you should see a drop down box appear giving you some alternative search terms related to the word you typed. Note these phrases down in a notepad file or write them on a piece of paper. They will be useful as part of your keyword list used in the next tool. You will also see more related search phrases after you click search. Scroll to the bottom of the results page and you will see "searches related to:" Note down any new phrases shown there.
Recently Google has released Wonder Wheel which is also a related keywords tool but is shown in a mind map format. You can also click on the related phrases to find more useful search terms. To access wonder wheel: enter your keyword in the standard search screen, then at the top of the results on the left you should see a show options link. Select that and it will reveal a menu. Near the bottom of the menu you should see wonder wheel.
Market Research Tool 2 - Adwords Keyword Tool
We all know how important keywords and search phrases are. Let's face it, it's what drives the internet. Google has provided us with a tool that tells you what keywords and phrases people are using to find what they are looking for. You are able to search an individual country, more than one if you hold down the ctrl key on your keyboard as you select, or all countries.
The adwords tool is now more valuable due to the fact it shows actual search numbers. Previously you only had a green bar to indicate how much traffic the search term receíved. You can also see how competitive each keyword is amongst adword advertisers, showing us which keywords are commercially viable.
Market Research Tool 3 - Google Trends
Now that you have an idea what keywords your market is using you can use the trends tool to check the history of that keyword / phrase. Google Trends supplies data for the last 5 years, giving you an idea if the search term is consistent. You can also see if the search term is popular at certain times of the year, also known as a seasonal keywords.
Another important function of Trends is the section that tells you the popularity of a keyword by country, city and language - very useful if you are targeting particular countries or even cities.
Market Research Tool 4 - Google Alerts
Alerts is underused by webmasters. If you want to stay in touch with what's hot in your market, you can by using Google Alerts. All you have to do is enter the most popular phrases in your market. Google will then send you links via email depending on what type you select.
The types are news, web, blogs, video and groups. If you would like a mix of all, you can select comprehensive. You can decide how often you want to be updated by selecting either: as it happens, once a day or once a week. I hope you can see how powerful this is if you want to be seen as an authority in your market.
Market Research Tool 5 - Google Web Search
Finally, we have Google's standard web search which is not standard in my eyes. It provides a lot of information if you know what to look for. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an important part of running a website. By performing a search of your market keywords, Google will tell you what type of content it sees as important.
If you see videos, blogs or images this gives you another way to reach the top 10 of Google. If you see Web 2.0 style sites such as Digg, that could be another avenue. If there are adword ads on the right side of the screen, that tells you the market is commercially viable and more importantly that the keyword you entered is good enough to pay for, especially if there are 10 ads or more.
As you can see, even if you don't have money to buy the latest tools, I have shown you there is a way to get some very important information using free tools from Google. Are you starting to love them now?