Google AdWords as a Research Tool and Focus Group

  |  July 27, 2004   |  Comments

If someone offered you $20,000 worth of research on your customers for virtually nothing, wouldn't you accept?

If someone offered you $20,000 worth of research on your customers for virtually nothing, would you accept? Why pay $20,000 for a focus group when a large one is waiting for you (almost) free of charge?

You have tried Google AdWords, haven't you?

If you're in marketing or sales, you should investigate AdWords. Used properly, it's like having a huge focus waiting outside your door (or in your computer). And this focus group is ready to work for you 24 hours a day with very little pay. No bathroom breaks or one-way mirrors required.

AdWords is a fantastic source of data about your customers and for helping you to analyze that data. It's a tool that can be used to acquire and research customers simultaneously.

Over 100,000 people have tried AdWords, and that number is rising very quickly. In fact, demand is starting to overrun keyword supply. That's leading to prices too high for some marketers.

(Note: It's very easy to burn through $100 or $200 in a simple AdWords test. So if 100,000 people use the service and each spent $100, does that mean Google's already pulled in over $10 million dollars? I suspect the numbers may be even higher than that.)

As a tool to acquire customers, AdWords works for almost any business. An e-commerce business can obviously benefit from the service, but so can consultants and other service providers. Used correctly, the AdWords service makes it easy to see which ads are bringing you the best customers, an important part of customer data analysis.

In addition to helping you acquire customers, AdWords excels as a research tool. It will help you understand what's on your customer's mind and help uncover ways to improve your marketing you never thought of.

What's on Your Customer's Mind? Keywords.

After initiating an AdWords campaign, you'll soon receive feedback on the popularity of the search terms, or keywords, you selected. You know almost immediately which words are most popular and entered most frequently Google's search box.

Once those counts are high enough and your ad has acquired enough exposure, you begin to get a read on which terms have the highest CTRs. That's the first indication of which keywords are most appropriate for your customers.

In addition to the number of searches on your words and the CTR, you can tie data from a Web-related event on your site to the ad data to get an even better measurement on what keywords work best for you.

For example, you can measure how many people who viewed your ad ended up on the "Thank you for ordering" page. This, of course, is a measure of what percentage of people from each keyword (or group of keywords) purchased from your site.

What Else Is on Your Customer's Mind? Other Keywords

AdWords can provide more than a simple analysis of your keywords. It offers a tool that suggests other words Google searchers have entered in combination with the keywords you already thought of.

At a minimum, this information is like focus group members telling you what phrases are on their minds when they thinking about your product or service. In the best possible scenario, this is your focus group telling you about other possible applications of your product or service -- ones you might not have even thought of yet!

Testing Offers and Creative

With the recent addition of serving graphics ads, AdWords entered the world of traditional ad serving. This is an opportunity to test different creative approaches and offers in a manner similar to how one would test these elements in a traditional online campaign. (Who would've thought we'd use the term "traditional" to refer to an online ad campaign?)

If you were a large telecommunications company, this provides an opportunity to quickly test whether a "Free Camera Phone" offer might outperform a "Free Blackberry Device" offer. If you're a consultant or professional service provider, you might test a "Free Analysis of Your Business" offer against a "Free White Paper Report" offer. The possibilities are endless and will vary depending on your business.


For businesses working to develop new markets or products, AdWords offers a chance to obtain a sample of people who are seeking your type of products or services and to have them investigate your offering. You can even advertise a new service or offering prior to completing development. AdWord's response will give you an idea of its viability.

Also, if visitors are willing, you can request they take a short survey to help you develop your products and services in accordance with their suggestions. This way, your prospects tell you what they like, or don't like, about your offering.

Sounds like a focus group to me.

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Brian Teasley Brian Teasley is the leader of Teasley, a consultancy that helpsadvertisers, marketers and advertising agencies use data and analysis toimprove their marketing campaigns. Brian has over 14 years experience inengineering and marketing, and has worked for numerous Fortune 100companies. Brian also teaches a marketing course at New York University. Heholds a M.S. degree in Applied Statistics from Iowa State University and aBA in Mathematics and a BA in Mathematics and Statistics from St. OlafCollege.

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