Do You Know What I Know? How to Conduct Audience Research

Ever feel like the little drummer boy’s older brother, Steve? Even though he had the same message, nobody wrote a song about him.

Marketing your business can be like that. You’ve got a great message, and you’re beating your drum, but nobody can hear you! Maybe it’s because you are spending all of your efforts in the wrong places.

Successful digital marketing relies on knowledge. If you cannot pinpoint with precise accuracy, what people are typing in to Google when they are looking for services like yours, you lose before you have ever spent a dime.

That’s why audience research is a critical first step to digital marketing success.

You Are Not Your Audience

Before we even get into any of the actual audience research stuff, we have to talk about an ugly truth. You are not your audience.

Every business owner thinks that they know their audience best. You may even think you know your audience better than they do. And that may be true when it comes to solving their problems, after all, that’s what your business is for. But not when it comes to their behavior.

After all, if you could accurately predict everything they type into a search engine, you wouldn’t be here reading this article and looking for a better way to reach your audience, right?

So trying to do ‘audience research’ by picking your own brain (or the brains of your employees) is NOT effective. You need to hear from your prospects, the exact words they would use when seeking a solution to their problem.

3 Ways to Conduct Audience Research

1. Interview Your Customers

The biggest source of the right words are your own customers. They may be acclimated to the industry terms now that they know them, but that wasn’t always the case. Get them on the phone and interview them to ask questions like, ‘What prompted you to go looking for businesses like ours’, and ‘What did you type into the search engine that led you to us?’

You may decide to do this research in an ongoing survey or questionnaire, but in my experience, you will get much more accurate results listening to someone talk on the phone or in person than you will when they type in the answers. (People tend to type much more formally in a survey or other long-form format than they do in a search box.)

You need to hear their natural language to figure out what word choices they use to describe the types of issues they had or the solutions they were looking for. This type of research interview is best conducted early in your relationship. As the customer gets indoctrinated into the language of your product, they will naturally adapt the words they use to match your product or service.

2. Check Google Analytics

Another easy way to find out what terms lead people to you is to see what has worked in the past. What did people who have visited your site type into the search box that led them to you? Google Analytics can tell you.

In Google Analytics, set your time frame to the last year or more, then go to Acquisition, All Traffic, Source/Medium. At the top of the grid, switch to Keyword view. This will give you a list of every keyword someone has typed into Google that has led them to your website.

Filter out your branded keywords (anything with your company’s name in it) and you have a usable list of keyword phrases.

How to show search phrases used by your website visitors in Google Analytics

3. Conduct Keyword Research

Your third option is to conduct keyword research. This looks externally at the actual searches being performed in the search engine, that are not currently directing people to your site.

If you’re prepared to pay, there are a number of tools like SEM Rush or Moz SEO that are designed for this. Not only can you find keyword phrase suggestions from your own site content, they can also tell you what your competitors are doing that’s working for them. These paid tools will even give you information like how much traffic each phrase has generated in the past, and a difficulty rating on how easy/hard it would be for you to reach page one on the search results for that phrase.

If you haven’t got the budget, Google has an easy (and free) method to show you phrases people have searched for in the past. To access it, simply go to google.com and type the phrases you got from your customer interviews and search history into the search box (but don’t hit enter!) Google will show you a list of suggested searches related to what you typed in a dropdown below the search box. It can take some time following rabbit holes to get some new insights into useful terms, but it does work.

Google offers suggestions of related searches others have types using your keywords.

Because when people are looking for a solution to a problem, they are much more likely to ask a question, words like why and how and where are good indicators that they are in a seeking behavior. If you could somehow parse out all those questions, you would have a great start on the keywords you need.

An option that I particularly like for this purpose is Answer The Public. Here, you type your keywords, and the the site will display related questions, prepositions and comparisons that match. It can take some getting used to, but it can yield some interesting keyword phrases you never would have thought of otherwise.

Your audience research strategy should include a combination of the 3 methods referenced, and it should be something that you are routinely adding to and updating. Audiences change, big data gets bigger, and there are always new opportunities to bang your drum in a place where you can be heard.


Audience research is one part of creating a digital marketing strategy that is founded in real data and tied to the customer journey for your potential clients. Contact Frontage Marketing today to see how we can help you develop a strong digital marketing strategy that will elevate your business to the next level.