Without demand, it doesn’t matter if your niche fits 100% of the attributes listed above. If nobody wants your product, you’ll have a hard time making any money! As the old saying goes, it’s much easier to fill existing demand than to try to create it.
Fortunately, a number of online tools allow you to measure demand for a product or market. The most well-known and popular is the Google Keyword Tool.
GOOGLE KEYWORD TOOL
The best way to measure demand for an item online is to see how many people are searching for it using a search engine like Google. Fortunately, Google makes this search volume publicly available via its keyword tool. Simply type in a word or phrase, and the tool tells you how many people are searching for it every month.
There are entire training modules dedicated to using the keyword tool, and we’re not able to cover the tool exhaustively in this resource. But keep the following three tips in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to getting the most out of the tool:
Match Type – The tool will let you select broad, phrase or exact match types when it reports search volumes. Unless you have a good reason to do otherwise, you should use the exact match option. This will give you a much more accurate picture of the applicable search volume for the keyword. For a more detailed explanation, see this article on understanding match types.
Search Location – Make sure you look at the difference between local search volume (in your country or a user-defined region) and global search volumes. If you’ll be selling primarily in the U.S., you should focus on the local search volumes and ignore the global results, as that’s where most of your customers will be.
Long-Tail Variations – It’s easy to fixate on the broad, one- or two-word search terms that get massive amounts of search volume. In reality, it’s the longer, more specific and lower volume search queries that will make up most of your traffic from the search engines. These longer, more detailed search terms are commonly referred to as “long-tail” searches.
Keep this in mind when you’re looking at potential markets and niches to enter. If a search term has many variations that are actively searched for, that’s a good sign that the market is fairly deep with lots of variety and interest. But if search queries and related volume drop off precipitously after the first few high-level words, there’s probably less related long-tail traffic.
To learn more about estimating traffic, see these guides to estimating long-tail traffic and spotting niches with significant long-tail potential.
The keyword tool is great for raw search figures, but for more detailed insights you’ll want to use Google Trends. The tool offers you information that the Keyword Tool just doesn’t provide, including:
Search Volume Over Time: Ideally, you want the niche you’re entering to be growing and Trends can let you know if this is the case. For any given search query, you can see the growth or decline in search volume over time. Below is a chart of search volume for the term “smartphone”. As expected, search volume has risen sharply in the last few years:
Top and Rising Terms: You’ll also be able to get a snapshot at the most popular related searches, and which queries have been growing in popularity the fastest. Focusing on these popular and quickly growing terms can be helpful when planning your marketing and SEO efforts. According to the charts below, search queries related to AT&T, Verizon and Samsung seem to be experiencing the most growth in the smart phone market – data which shows up when we analyze the term “smartphone”:
Geographical Concentration: Another useful feature is the ability to see where people are searching for a term geographically. This can help you identify where your customer base for a niche is most heavily concentrated. For example, if you’re selling canoes the charts below can help you determine that the majority of your customers will likely come from the Northern U.S., Alaska and Hawaii. If you were trying to decide between multiple suppliers, this knowledge could help you partner with one closest to the majority of your customers:
Seasonality: Understanding the seasonality of a market – that is, if the demand for a product changes dramatically at different points in the year – is crucially important. Because the keyword tool provides data on a monthly basis, you can draw some misleading conclusions if you measure search volumes during the wrong time of year.
Revisiting our previous example, we can see below that “canoes” are a very seasons search term with demand peaking in the summer months. If you measured demand in the summer expecting that it would be constant throughout the year, you’d grossly overestimate the size of demand:
For any product you’re seriously considering, you’ll want to spend time understanding the intricacies of the niche’s search volume. Using the Google Trend tool to understand search volumes, geographic concentration, high-level search trends and seasonality will offer insights that can help you avoid costly mistakes and optimize your marketing efforts.