The Age of Free Data: 10 Great Tools for PPC Research & Benchmarking
When I first started in Paid Media at Nebo, the digital industry was as fresh as I was out of college. The opportunity and potential was thrilling, but came with a set of challenges that many undefined industries face: lack of historical user data.
Many times I’d feverishly sort through dozens of market research previews and summaries from huge research firms, hoping that the one I eventually picked (and convinced Nebo to pay for) would offer some insight into online behaviors.
More often than not, I’d reach the end of a report with a solid understanding of how affluent males ages 24-45 make offline decisions about buying a luxury car, for example, but nothing of how these users engage with online mediums throughout their buyer journey.
Today, however, the data we need to help guide our digital strategies is more widely available than ever. We still have the option of buying comprehensive data packages from mega researchers, but are also dozens of amazing free tools available that help us get insight into how people are searching online, how they’re interacting with brands, and what the modern buyer journey looks like.
Below are a few of my favorite free research and benchmarking tools, along with my take on how they’re best used:
My take: Google’s Real-Time Insights Finder is perfect for small business owners trying to understand how their audience behaves online, but who aren't yet familiar with all of the tools available. Think of it as a digital compass that directs you toward the most relevant tools for your needs.
My take: My favorite thing about this tool is that it gives you the ability to mix and match stats to create your own infographic. I love using this tool to create one-sheeters to help educate a client on a subject that might be difficult to grasp, or to convince them of the importance of mobile-friendly landing pages.
My take: Mobile, it's so hot right now! This one is a no brainer. Mobile in the Purchase Journey is a great tool for determining how to align your messaging and landing page content strategy to the devices users are engaging with at each stage of the buyer journey.
My take: This tool is great for so many reasons. We like to use this to identify where our internal teams (SEO, Social, Paid) can sync to create a cohesive strategy that reaches users at each stage of the buyer journey. It's also great for educating clients on how each of these digital marketing branches can make an impact.
My take: This infographic is a great resource to reference for some quick information on Finance, Travel, Shopping, and other industries as they perform across Google's Search and Display Networks. Taken with a grain of salt, it helps our Paid Media team to establish benchmarks to measure a client's campaign efforts.
My take: Display offers so much opportunity, yet advertisers still seem hesitant to invest too many marketing dollars in a medium where value is sometimes difficult to communicate. I like to use the Display Benchmarks Tool to identify where I should focus display efforts based on client goals.
My take: While this is great for tracking paid brand awareness efforts, it's also extremely valuable for Social and Digital PR teams interested gauging conversations around a given brand or campaign.
My take: With 2013 being the first year that mobile searches outpaced desktop, understanding the value of your mobile audience is critical. The great thing about this tool is that it allows you enter data manually or upload data from AdWords, which makes my life a little easier!
My take: I'm all about working smarter, not harder, so I love any tools that allow me to create a custom chart within a few clicks. Not only that, but the level of granularity available is pretty great. This is a tool you can really get lost in for hours.
My take: Consumer Barometer is a great tool for anyone looking to learn more about the role of digital and how users are engaging with online media. Not only can you delve into specific user behaviors across verticals and countries, but there are a multitude of visual representations of the data to explore, from data trees to hexagon clouds to donut graphs.
These are just a few of my favorite tools, but there are tons more worth talking about. What tools do you like to use for research?