How to Assess Your Market with Search

By Jeff Cobb.  Last Updated on September 20, 2021

Assess Market - Photo of Sherlock Holmes-type Detective Assess market – it’s one of the top checklist items for business success, but many subject matter entrepreneurs think it is too complicated and/or expensive to do.

In this episode of the Learning Revolution podcast, I take a look at an assessment tool you most likely have right at your finger tips but may not fully appreciate: good ol’ search.

You’ll learn the three things to look for when running basic searches, get a high-level look at Google’s powerful (and free!) Keyword Planner, and also get some ideas for places to search besides just the standard search engines. All in all, this is a great starting point for better understanding the market for your educational content and experiences.

Listen to the Podcast

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Podcast: Play in new window | Download | iTunes

Get the Show Notes

00:38 – Brief discussion of the future if the podcast: continuing with expert interviews, but also doing some deeper dive solo shows. Also continuing to work on the audio quality and structure of the show.

01:52 – Beginning of discussion of search as a market assessment tool – a way to find evidence that there is a market for your education and training content.

02:32 – Search is a record of customer/market behavior in the aggregate. You can leverage the visibility that the search engines are gaining through day to day activity.

03:20 – Think like your customers and prospects. What would that customer actually do when searching? Be a detective – a Sherlock Holmes – and build upon the clues that the search engines offer.

03:50 – I start walking through searching on an actual term from my business so that look over my shoulder.

04:28 – Be sure to turn off personal results in Google first. You don’t want searches to reflect your personal searching.

05:25 – I use “choose learning management system” as an initial search. (A slice of my work is in helping client select learning technologies like learning management systems. I’m trying to think like a customer who may be looking for help with choosing a learning management system.)

Assess Market: Search Factor 1

06:35 – Look for three major things. The first is the general nature of the results. I’m actual able to tell quite a bit from this. Here’s an excerpt from Leading the Learning Revolution where I discuss looking at the general results of a search:

What is the nature of the results?

For general searching in Google, I find this to be by far the most helpful piece of information. Take a look at the types of results that come up in the first few pages, and particularly page one. How do they align with what you propose to offer? How well do they seem to align with the assumptions you have made about your market and the profiles you have established for your learners? Do they suggest needs that are similar to those you propose to serve? Do you see anything that might be direct competition or a substitute for what you want to offer? As you view the types of results that are coming up— including the ads that appear—you may want to adjust your search by removing words that don’t really relate to the topic you have in mind. In the case of “small business cash flow,” [Note: this is the search example I use in the book] for example, a lot of results that have to do with getting loans or using specialized software come up. Assuming that I don’t feel these are relevant to my product, I could remove at least some of these results by telling Google to ignore certain words. Just add any word to your search terms, but put a hyphen (“-”) (which serves as a minus sign) in front of it. In this case, based on words that appear in some of the results I don’t consider relevant, I might add the following: -loan -software -factoring -financing. As I do this, my results update in real time, and even the ads over at the right side of the page change.

Assess Market: Search Factor 2

09:00 – Next thing to look for is the presence of ads. Are there ads over to the right of the page? At the top of the page? The fact that people are bidding to advertise on the search results pages can actually be a good thing – it provides evidence that there is enough demand in the broader market for to be worth investing in promotional efforts.

Assess Market: Search Factor 3

10:40 – Finally, look for video results. With educational and training content, in particular, video – which can also include recorded Webinars uploaded to the Web – is a very popular medium. Click the “More” option at the top of the Google search results page and then select “Videos.”

12:15 – Summing up: just based on this initial search, I can tell quite a lot about what might be of value in this market. And this starts to give me some theories to test out in my additional efforts.

13:05 – Try variations on the initial phrase. Look for clues about other potential searches at the bottom of the search results page. To run through a variety of phrases typically only takes 15-20 minutes.

13:55 – Consider adding format-specific phrases – like “workshop,” or “course” – as well as words that suggest the searcher may want to learn something – like “how to,” “learn to,” or “101.”

Assess Market: Google Keyword Planner

15:05 – Take a look at the Google Keyword Planner. This will also give you insight into the phrases people might be search on as well as search volume and the level of competition. You can access through your AdWords account under Tools. If you don’t have an AdWords account, go set one up through:

Note: I refer to the “External” version the Google Keyword tool in the podcast. This no longer exists – you have to have an AdWords account to access Keyword Planner.

19:15 – Some other places to search include and (Listen in for other places to search!)

23:08 – Search in social networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) and forums (like Quora). I will cover this one in more detail in the future when I discuss the concept of “listening.”

24:38 – Sum up of what’s possible with a browser, standard search tools, a customer mind set, and a dose of Sherlock Holmes – assess market, it’s elementary!

As always, if you like the Learning Revolution podcast, I’d be forever grateful if you would do a brief review on iTunes and tell others about the podcast. Thanks!

Podcast: Play in new window | Download | iTunes

The theme music for Learning Revolution is The Information Age by Anthony Fiumano, available on the Podsafe Music Network.

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