As a business librarian I am regularly asked what my favourite free market research tool is and the answer can be surprising, but yet it always remains the same - good old Google. Yes, it is more than just a search engine! Firstly you'll need to familiarize yourself with the Google "Advanced Features".
Did you know that you can coose to search only government website by limiting your search to the .ca domain only? This is an excellent way to focus your search efforts on reliable sources of information.
"Google Groups" search
This is great for product or market research, as you can search for your keywords within the thousands of Google Groups online and find forums relevant to your site. By checking these forums regularly, you'll get to know what's important to the people in your target market.
I use this all the time. This feature lets you find news stories relevant to your website or blog within news pages indexed by Google. It's great for sparking content ideas or just keeping up with the latest developments in your market or industry.
"Web Directory" search:
This option lets you search Google's directory for sites that match your search terms. It's ideal for finding out how many competitors you may have for a new product and for seeking out potential linking partners.
This option allows you to compare worldwide Google search results, searchable by various timeframes and regions. For example, I searched pet food and discovered that searches went up significantly in 2007, not surprising this was right when FDA testing revealed chemicals found in pet food. If you are creative this can be a powerful tool for market research.
Note: some of this content was inspired from an article in Entrepreneur magazine. You can read the full article here.
PHOTO CREDIT: Photo Marketing Leaders Research created by renaissancechambara on June 25, 2009, available under a Creative Commons Attribution license. Last viewed on Nov 10, 2010.