How to Start an Online Store: Doing Your Research

You’re not a scientist, so the thought of doing extensive research before opening your online store might not sound appealing. Even if you are a scientist, you probably don’t see the value in researching keywords like “beaker sales” or “cheap online beakers” or whatever it is scientists actually care about. You probably just want to jump right into selling your products, whether they’re glass beakers, or metal beakers, or something weird like clothing.

But the truth of the matter is, a poorly researched ecommerce enterprise is often doomed before the first sale is made (if it’s ever made at all). You may start your online store in a hyper-competitive market, unprepared to face the competition on equal footing. By the time you realize you’re being outspent or undercut, you will have already wasted huge amounts of time and resources. And your garage will still be full of beakers.

Research will hopefully, in the long run, fill your garage with a much more satisfying [insert favorite car here]. That’s because keyword research provides answers to important questions that will guide the direction of your online business:

  • How many people are searching for my product?
  • What kind of search terminology do customers use?
  • How much will it cost me to buy search ad spots?
  • How competitive is the advertising for this product?

With this information, you will be better able to select products, budget for promotion, and find ways to outsell your competitors. But where should you begin?

Get started with free keyword research tools

You might imagine the resources necessary for uncovering multimillion-dollar information would be rather expensive. But it turns out some of the most powerful keyword research apps are completely free. Here are our recommendations:

Google External Keyword Tool: Created by Google (you may have heard of them), this online utility offers a stunning array of information. With a few key strokes and a little understanding of the tool’s syntax (more on that later), you’ll be able to quickly learn:

  • The local and global volume (number) of searches for your keywords
  • Commonly searched variations on your keywords
  • The approximate cost of advertising using your keywords
  • The level of advertising competition for your keywords

It’s easy to instantly spot obstacles, allowing you to either plan around them or rethink your product line. If your intended ecommerce inventory consists of something nobody is looking for, you may be out of luck. Conversely, a large search volume may be a problem if it’s a highly competitive market, where other virtual beaker stores are outbidding you to get their ads in front of the world’s beaker enthusiasts.

Google Insights for Search: While the External Keyword Tool primarily provides marketing information, Google Insights for Search delivers a broader view of what the world is looking for and when they’re looking for it. After entering your keywords of interest, a location, and a date range (going all the way back to the beginning of Google), you’ll discover:

  • How search queries for the given keywords fluctuate over time
  • How your keywords compare to one another (by relative volume)
  • News and world events related to large search volume fluctuations

SEO for Chrome: While there are a lot of sites that let you look up the Pagerank, estimated traffic, and backlinks to any given page, it’s usually a pain to navigate away from where you are just to do so. This extension for the Google Chrome browser lets you view stats from several reputable analytics sources at once, giving you a quick idea of how well your site (or a competitor’s) is doing.

You may be surprised to learn that some of your supposed competitors are struggling, while other seemingly bad beaker brokers are actually raking in online traffic and search relevance. You’ll also learn a lot about your own site once it is live.

Further studies

Of course, once you’ve bookmarked and toyed with these tools, you still have a few steps to go before your ecommerce site is ready to launch. Take a minute to learn basic and advanced keyword analysis, or jump over to our guides on competitive research and product research.

Check out part two of our guide here.

Ripen Services:

Whether you’re selling beakers or dog costumes, knowing your customer base is essential to the relevance and success of your ecommerce site. The Ripen team covers all aspects of your search engine marketing research to help you reach your ideal customer base.


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