Who, What, How: Marketing Research in Search Engines

We use the major search engines for personal research, but how about using them for market research for our businesses? Heather Conary shows you how to mine the engines for a wealth of information to help you market your products and services–and the best part is, it’s all free!

Google. Yahoo. There’s no denying it, search engines – and Web surfing in general – have truly pervaded our culture and daily language. So many people are familiar with these tools for doing “personal research” that people in a business environment forget what a powerful tool we often have right at our fingertips.

Marketing professionals often rely on a broad base of information to come up with a comprehensive profile of who they are planning on marketing to, and where, when and how they will market to them. For a small business owner just starting out, this can seem daunting, but fortunately, all of this information can be easily obtained using a simple search engine.

To demonstrate how marketers can maximize the power of search engines, I’m going to define my own (very broad) market. Say I own my own computer gaming company, and we’ve developed a new fantasy RPG (role-playing game).

My first step is to determine the “who” of my marketing plan. Who am I going to sell my product to? I want to determine who is currently playing computer games to decide if they are the demographic I want to go for. To find some statistics on this, I go to Google (http://www.google.com), and type in computer gaming marketing. One of the first resources that comes up is Ziff Davis Media Game Group Marketing (http://gamegroup.ziffdavis.com/about/cgw.html), so I visit that site. It turns out to be a media kit for a leading computer gaming magazine, Computer Gaming Monthly.

A media kit is basically a sales sheet for printed publications. It typically offers prices for advertising, and the demographics of their magazines. Media kits are a goldmine for demographics; many major publications pay marketing firms thousands of dollars for brand and market research, and then the information is all offered for free online.

In the third paragraph down on the page, I’ve unearthed my first diamond from the dirt:

“The CGW reader is older (late twenties), educated, technologically-oriented, affluent and sophisticated.”

This gives me a broad stroke of a demographic that is approximately 25 to 33 years old. To dig a little deeper, I decide to go to the bottom of the page and click on their PDF media kit. Sifting through this information, I find a goldmine on page 3 of the PDF.

Mean Income: $81,000
Average Age: 33 yrs
Male: 96%
Married: 48%
Average Games Owned: 60

I’ve just broadened my demographic to males between the ages of 25 to 33 years old who are already game players.

To truly verify my demographic, I’m going to look a little bit more. This time, I’m going to go to Yahoo (http://www.yahoo.com), and type in PC gaming. One of the first results I find is IGN.com (http://pc.ign.com). In the bottom navigation bar, there’s an Advertise link. That takes you to IGN’s Media Kit. On the first page, there’s a link to Audience Overview.

This page takes me to another wealth of potential marketing information. This tells me that the average age of IGN.com’s visitor is 22 years old, with 37% of their visitors falling into the 18-24 years, and 29% in the 25+ year category. It also states that 91% of their visitors are male.

Between these two resources, I’ve decided to use the following as my key demographic for my marketing plan:

Males, age 20-33, who are current game players.

My next step is to determine the “how” of my marketing plan. In this step, I want to find out what media my demographic (PC game playing males between the ages of 20 to 33 years old) consumes on a regular basis.

To determine what media my demographic is consuming on a regular basis, I head back to Google and type in male media consumption 18-34. One of the first couple results that pops up is from MediaDailyNews (http://www.mediapost.com/dtls_dsp_news.cfm?newsID=245176). In this article, it breaks down the average media consumption of an 18-34 year old male in a handy table:

TV – 42%
Radio – 28%
Internet – 19%
Video Games – 6%
Newspapers – 3%
Magazines – 2%

This indicates that my top medium will be TV. However, in the paragraph before that, there’s another useful little nugget:

“During evening hours (6PM to midnight), 5% of men 18 to 34 play videogames while watching little or no television, according to the study.”

This is a good item to keep in mind while I do a little more digging.

Next, I’m going to try typing in Internet usage male 18-34. One of the results a little way down, a press release from BIGresearch (http://www.bigresearch.com/news/big121703.htm), offers an interesting overview of the male media habit:

Of the 18-34 year old men surveyed, 57.5 percent play video games while 72 percent surf the Internet. 67 percent watch movies and 71 percent listen to the radio. Simultaneous use of online and radio media among 25 to 34 year old males has increased while simultaneous TV and online usage has decreased. Simultaneous usage of TV and magazines is also on the decline in this group.

With all these statistics floating around, it looks like my “big three” are TV, radio and Internet. Since I’m running a small business, my marketing budget is going to be small, and I’m going to want to maximize my advertising dollars. So for the time being, my prime focus is going to be the Internet.

Now that I’ve determined my “how,” I want to determine my “where.” I’ve determined that my primary media focus will be the Internet. I want to go a little bit farther than this to determine where specifically on the Internet I’ll want to advertise.

For this part of my research, I’m going to put myself into my audience’s shoes. I’m going to assume that I am a male between the ages of 20-33 who is interested in computer games. If I was looking for a computer gaming site, I’d start with the obvious. I head to a search engine and type in PC gaming.

One of the first sites that shows up in my search results, GameSpot (http://www.gamespot.com), has an Advertise link right at the bottom. This indicates that they do sell advertising to third-party companies, such as mine. The Advertise link takes me to a form where I can submit an advertising query. I also have the option to go to the CNET Networks’ Media Kit.

Going back to my search results, VideoGameReview (http://www.videogamereview.com) also offers an Advertise With Us link. Under this link, you can find information on the demographics of VGR’s visitors, along with their rates and other programs.

I would continue working through sites like these until I had a base of about 5-10 to choose from (depending on my budget), then I’d consider how to apportion my marketing dollars between these sites. My demographic compared to the demographic of the sites I consider will tell me what my best choices will be.

Some other websites I frequent offer lots of data in one collective spot. These include:

Summary

With the basic tips and techniques I’ve employed here, you can take them and apply them to any industry for your own market research. Media research can be as expensive or as inexpensive as you need it to be. The most powerful tool to help you get the information you need is any one of the major search engines available online. Good luck!

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