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Why Keyword Research is NOT Market Research For Online Businesses?

January 30, 2012 · 26 comments

in SEO

What is The Difference of Keyword and Market ResearchThe web has blurred lines of geography and concepts. Blogs are often termed as articles and keyword research is akin to market research. Ask any SEO expert, and it causes a splitting headache when they need to explain to a client that there is a thin line dividing keyword search and market research.

Of course, clients are not the experts, but given the attitude of know it all that they carry; one would expect them to at least get their research right! (No offense meant).

In this blog (yes this is not an article!) let’s focus on the thin line that divides market research from keyword research, in context with online businesses.

Get the Basics Right:

A Market Research is carried out with the aim to find out the type of market that exists for a specific product/service. It is a systematic method of gathering information about people and companies and then interpreting it, using analytical and statistical techniques/methods to gain insight about the individual/companies or to support a decision making process. The same is true for online market research except the methods and tools used for research will be adapted to suit the format of the media (read internet).

For instance tools for research differ in both: market research uses tools like online surveys, interviews, emails, questionnaires, cloud marketing tools, while for keyword research the tools could be: Google Adwords keyword tool, Adsense, WordTracker etc.

Market Research is concerned with the human aspect of the research that provides a definite picture of peoples or companies habits, behaviour, preferences etc. It can be a part of social science. Keyword Research, though dealing with the human aspect of words, cannot be exact as the research work is restricted to the algorithm patterns that the search engines detects in the written vocabulary of the online users.

The major difference lies in the way people behave in the real world and virtual world. Conversational words differ a lot from the words that are used while searching. Obviously one does not converse the way one writes! Users tend to use precise terminologies while conducting research and hence their search words might throw up trends that may not reflect in the market scene.

The Story is in the Tools:

Keyword Research is a part of an Online Market Research exercise. Of course it does contribute to the online market research, but it is not THE contributor to its kitty as there are other aspects involved. For instance tools for research differ in both: market research uses tools like online surveys, interviews, emails, questionnaires, while for keyword research the tools could be Google Adwords keyword tool, Adsense, WordTracker etc.

Size Matters:

While conducting a research, researchers determine the size or number of respondents. It is easier to determine a reliable sample size for market research as sources to gather information are many. However, keyword research has a restricted sample size and that to a very volatile one, as the sources of information are very few i.e. only a couple of search engines.

So here’s the deal:

Keyword research can be a part of online market research, but it is not the sole indicator of the trends that exist. They simply reflect what people are SEARCHING for and not what people are actually BUYING.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

LavaLand January 30, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Excellent point. This is another example of people using the wrong jargon to describe what they actually mean. Thanks for clearing it up.
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Divya Rawat February 2, 2012 at 6:23 am

Thanks Lavaland 🙂


Stevie @ eHarmony Profile January 30, 2012 at 8:33 pm

Very true. Another way to explain the difference between market research and keyword research is that market research existed long before the advent of the internet when we didn’t even know about keywords etc…

Of course, as you rightly say, the two concepts are blurred but they shouldn’t be. Market research should determine whether a product or service has any prospect of being successful in attracting interest. No amount of carefully selected keywords will amount to anything if nobody wants to buy what we offer.
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Divya Rawat February 2, 2012 at 6:23 am

Rightly said Stevie. Market Research has been around for eons. Internet is one of the sources of information for market research. And keywords form a part of that research!


Theuns January 30, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Hi Kostas

I really like your blog and i will come back to learn more from you.

Key word is so important and we need to know how to use them and
how to search for the right ones to get into the right market.

Thx for the info

Best Regards
Theuns recently posted..The Law of Giving — Giving with GratitudeMy Profile


Rick Salas January 31, 2012 at 2:00 am

Thanks for the info on the difference on market research vs keyword research Kostas. I knew nothing about it until now, thanks! I our case I think that keyword research goes hand in hand with market research.

In our case it’s target market research though. I don’t really know how the big companies do it but we as entrepreneurs have to find something we’re good at and could do everyday and want more.

Then we have to find the best target market for our products. No sense in doing something we wont want to do long term. That’s where we as entrepreneurs use surveys. We have to test whether a target market is even going to be profitable and if people even want our products. I think market research is very effective ( I know more about how it works now) but I think they go after a very competitive market because they have the money to compete.

We, especially when starting out, can work smarter and make more money when we do keyword and target research on a much less competitive target market. Something that will generate fast income for us and long term success doing what we love. If we do online surveys to a profitable niche that have been underserved we’ll be able to get some great surveys that are honest and truthful, helping us with getting over the hardest part of figuring all this stuff out.

I tell you one thing, I’ll never go after just network marketers. Too many biggies sucking the life out of that market. But we can serve a special group of people that appreciate us being there especially for them and be just effective as the gurus and help them save money get what they want.

Rick Salas
Rick Salas recently posted..How To Choose Your Article Titles Fast to Master Article WritingMy Profile


Divya Rawat February 2, 2012 at 6:25 am

Rick, Thanks for reading the post and taking time out to comment.

Yes, for start ups and small business enterprises, planning an out and out market research is too much to take on. As you said, they can begin by doing online surveys with people who ‘really matter’.


Cynthia @Insanity Workout January 31, 2012 at 4:35 am

Great info! So I know how to do keyword research.. actually I use Market Samurai (which has been having a lot of problems lately and it’s about to go to a paid structure…ugg). Is there a tool or something like that which we can use to do Market Research?


Rick Salas January 31, 2012 at 10:40 am

Hi Cynthia, I like Traffic Travis. There’s a lot of people finding it more user friendly and you get a lot from the free version. It has some pretty good tutorials too.
Rick Salas recently posted..How To Choose Your Article Titles Fast to Master Article WritingMy Profile


Srinivas Reddy | Ask Sage January 31, 2012 at 7:32 am

Hello Divya!
You do a great job of explaining the differences between market research and keyword research in this post. Though it shouldn’t be, SEO has become quite complicated for a lot of folks. Few bloggers do keyword research for what they’re blogging about, let alone market research.

The way I see it, keyword research provides a small window into your market and tells you little, if anything, about how your market actually behaves in real life. Thanks for clarifying the differences between the two.
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Divya Rawat February 2, 2012 at 6:26 am

You hit the nail right on the head! As writers, we are always careful in using the right word, or else you know for sure the ed is going to have your head for breakfast, lunch and dinner!


Cherrie Bautista February 1, 2012 at 5:16 am

I was using Google Keyword tool before but found out about Market Samurai so I signed up for a free trial. Seems like a very cool tool in that it provides you more information about how the keywords from Google’s Keyword tool are converting, which should be a good indicator of a potential market? Since Market Samurai is having issues currently, what similar tool would you suggest?
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Divya Rawat February 2, 2012 at 6:31 am

Yes I came across that info (MarketSamurai having some issues and they don’t have their OWN data). WordTracker and KeywordDiscovery are commonly used keyword research tools for the obvious reason that they are here since years. KeywordSpy, SpyFU and SEMRush are few which if you are interested can offer info about what your competition is up to! However, the best bet is to use different tools rather than bank on one single tool.


Jupiter Jim February 1, 2012 at 6:49 am

Yes, there is a huge difference between marketing research and keyword research. Thanks for clarifying. I’m glad you add the link to the Google Adwords Keyword Search tool. I’m sure many people will find that helpful! Do you recommend any premium keyword search tools? Also, I believe that what you are referring to as a “blog” is really called a “blog post.” I believe that a blog is a collection of blog posts in the blog loop.

Thanks for sharing!

— Jupiter Jim
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Divya Rawat February 3, 2012 at 11:31 am


Yes i am referring to “blog post”

I have used a few premium keyword tools, it depends on what kind of research/analysis you want. Wordtracker/KeywordSpy are still my favorite.

— Divya


market research February 1, 2012 at 9:34 am

Keyword research and market research both are different concept. Market research provide reliable and actionable information to aid your decision-making. The research could cover your external customers, your internal customers or a specific market study. And Keyword research is indicates how much importance have that keyword in local and global searches. It shows that most of people search this keyword in search engines.


Nile February 1, 2012 at 12:19 pm

I do agree that keyword research for businesses is not exactly market research. However, for any business online… keyword research should be included to put together a marketing plan to optimize that site over competitors. I optimized a swim suit estore over 8 different keywords to appear on the first page between the 1st and 5th listing. It was not easy and it took about 5 months, especially with all 8 keywords and content generation involved, but I was really happy to conclude that 1st part of the project and walked away with not only the promised pay for the project, but I got a bonus because their sales increased 400%. Now I did other marketing, but including SEO and keyword research into the marketing plan was a definite win.
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Divya Rawat February 3, 2012 at 11:36 am

Nile, Congrats first of all for achieving your SEO goal in this cut-throat competition and boosting sales by 400%! Keyword research is equally important in both SEO and PPC. Longtail keywords targeted to deeplinks is another great way to boost sales without facing much competition!


Trevor Barrett@Money Advice February 1, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Divya, you are right. I am sure that there are far too many internet marketers who use keyword and market as synonyms.

You have made an excellent job of clarifying the difference.
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Dan Lew February 4, 2012 at 4:49 am

Keyword research is purely a different approach than market research. Basically when it comes to keywords, your goal is to find out which one of them has low competition and lots of monthly searches from different people. As for the tools I’m using right now, Keyword Winner is one of the best and it takes your keyword research and blogging into the next level.
Dan Lew recently posted..3 Key Steps to Using Social Media as a Market Research ToolMy Profile


ורדה שלום February 9, 2012 at 9:43 am

Market research concerns with S.W.O.T analysis and analyzing the competitors
A great tool for analyzing competitors links with I use and warmly recommend of is – Majestic SEO


Ademola Oladoja March 10, 2012 at 6:09 pm

This is a great eye opener for me! The fact that people are searching for something online does not mean they are ready to buy that thing. I suggest there should be a tool that will help me find what people are already buying (Something like Google Keyword Tool) Does anything like that exist?
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John Ernest May 5, 2012 at 4:41 am

Yes keyword research is just a marketing tactic that you can employ to raise your visibility. But once these people go into your site, that is when you can monitor what they buy using what keyword. Once you know the keyword that brings people to your site to make a sale, you’ll know what keyword you have to optimize in your site. Thanks for posting this!


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