Before I started my own business, my mentor taught me one of the most important lessons in business: all businesses exist because of problems. If you aren’t solving problems and you’re in business, you have a big one hanging over your head. Which brings me to search; search is one of the most ubiquitous ways people look to solve their problems. Think about it – the last time your toilet leaked, “Hey Google my toilet is leaking, what do I do?” Call a plumber, am I right?

Or if you run an website, you probably type “how do I get more traffic to my site.” From there, you find answer or at least parts of an answer. Then you move further and further along in solving your problem. In any case, search is fundamentally aligned with running a business because search is a tool people use to solve problems. So if you’re starting a business, thinking about it, or looking to expand with new products and services, start with search.

Fundamentally, search is different from all other forms of advertising. While billboards, print, social, and display is catching users in a passive state, search is active, engaged, motivation-driven. Search is laden with pain and the desire to feel none. It’s full people looking for stuff. For this reason, search is a much more powerful tool than any other form of advertising, and with it you can find out first if there is a problem, then measure the criticalness of that problem. In economics, they call this discovering the demand.

Use search to find out if there’s a real need or pain point.

Years ago, we briefly had a client that thought rich parents wanted their kids to look uber cool at fancy restaurants. So he started a bib company, a stylish, expensive bib company. Long story short, he spent his life saving on manufacturing and was trucking along at 1-2 sales a month. This happens more than you know, I’ve seen it in fashion, technology, service, and beauty. It’s very common.

The problem was, for the bib guy, that there’s no pain point or problem to start with; it’s backwards. The company created a product where there was no demand, no problem with the current offerings that were out there. Lucky for him, we solved his problem, or better yet, we found that his business solved no problem (in economic terms, there was no demand that wasn’t being met), and that was the end of it.

What do you think? Nobody search for smartphones before iPhone came along? What examples are there that fly in the face of this?

How can you know for certain the waters are safe before setting your business to sail? Everybody who’s ever had a business idea would love to know whether a product or service is viable right away. It’s literally the million dollar question, am I right? Well, you might not ever truly know until the end of the road. That said, two incredibly valuable tools to help you measure if there’s a problem or demand are the Google Keyword Tool and Google Trends.

The easiest thing to do is use the Google’s keyword planner to find out how many searches per month one specific keywords and keywords related to your product or service. For example, if you fix iPhones, you might look at iPhone repair related terms. So go to the keyword planner and check it out:

That’s quite a bit of search volume, therefore you know at least 5,400 people are searching for “iphone repair” repair every month and many more people are using related searches. This tells you that you have a clear problem that people are trying to solve. You’re only job now is to answer create a service repairing iPhone and address why you’re the best option to help solve the problem.

In some cases, especially if your product is very niche, you might only find keywords that cover the problem in broad strokes. Let’s look at a few examples.

Ex. 1

Let’s start with jewelry. I once had a prospect come to us that sold these special bracelets made out of brac stone, which you can only find one place in the world. I’d never heard of it, so in order to find our own viability of working with this person, we did some research to find out if other people had. Well come to find out neither had many other people. Using the Google Keyword Planner, we found that there were only 0 searches a month for this type of rock.

For brac stone bracelets, we couldn’t justify taking this client on, let alone recommending that anyone continue pursuing that business at this point.

Ex. 2

Childrens’ sunglasses.

Not a whole lot of searches, but some. If there are a lot of people competing for those searches already it might be hard to compete. It would be like trying to feel comfortable being in a Volkswagon Beetle with 10 people already in it. So then, the question is can you be one of the only sellers in an uncrowded market or is it a crowded market? Turning over to Google (another very valuable tool is to just use the search engine itself.

I count a lot of ads there. This indicates 1 or 2 things are happening. The first is that there is a thriving market. The second is that that people currently advertising are making money off doing so.So it’s possible to make money in children’s sunglasses if you can come up with a solid model and key differentiator.

Ex. 3

In the case of where you might find keywords that cover the problem or concept in broad strokes, let’s look at Uber or Lyft as an example. Before Uber or Lyft there were taxis. Remember that? Crazy. Anyway, check out the relationship in web searches over the last 5 years for “taxi” and “uber.”

This is a great case of where some had to gamble on the model, but the concept was already familiar with mainstream consumers, and the gamble paid off. Moreover, it’s not as if “taxi” related terms have are going down or have an inverse relationship with “uber.” It’s just that “Uber” had to have that seed where taxis were solving a transportation problem, but smartphones made it so Uber could solve that problem better.

Ex. 4

In other cases, you might find keywords that are extremely specific to a product or service. If it’s an untapped market, you might be walking into a goldmine. For example, when Google Shopping was still in relative infancy, there was a major problem advertisers were faced with – Getting the product feed on Google Shopping, so “Google Shopping Feed” is common search term to solve that problem.

You can see that it’s stayed relatively stable in terms of search volume since 2014. But prior to 2015, there were only a handful of players in the space – GoDataFeed, Merchant Advantage, and one or two others, so when I left a big agency to work at a smaller one, that eventually evolved into a full blown data feed service, it was a hit! They found an existing market that was being underserved.

Search to measure motivation and/or the appeal of your value offer

Once you’ve validate that there is an actual problem that needs to be solved and that there’s a market, the next steps is to create paid search campaigns using keyword that specifically relate to your solution. Using paid search campaigns, you will find out what motivates your audience (people with the problem) and how motivated they are. While you could attempt to gain traction on organic, paid search ads are going to give you data much faster and provide far more thorough data points to measure motivation, and to keep things simple, we’re just going to discuss tactics and KPIs around measuring motivation.

So gather up your keywords, organize them into campaigns and ad groups, and create ads.

With your keywords, you’ll basically be asking the question: “what do people search for that leads to the highest number of clicks and conversions.” For example, “iPhone repair” might have a higher click-through rate (CTR) but a low conversion rate vs. “iPhone 5 screen repair” might have a high CTR but a low conversion rate. This would indicate that people searching with a higher level of specificity are going to click on the ad and are much more motivated to purchase. So one thing we always tell our clients is that the more specific the keyword is, the hotter the click or more likely to convert. That said, you will probably get more volume out of “iPhone repair” than iPhone 5 screen repair.” Then it becomes a question of how can I convert those people to increase my top and bottom lines with volume if that makes sense.

In the ads, you’ll want to create 2-3 ads with different value propositions. While you could measure a few different metrics – click-through rate (CTR), conversion rate, and conversion/impressions, we’ll keep it simple. The ads with the highest CTR indicate the winning ad, meaning it has the strongest value proposition. So for example, going back to iPhone repairs, you could split test price vs. lifetime warranty. If the ad with the price has the higest CTR, it indicates that people are more motivated by price than warranty.

Conclusion

Essentially, you can use search to figure out if your business is just an echo chamber, or if it’s a viable business. It’s a form of product validation. The biggest fear that I think a lot of entrepreneurs and businesses have is — will my product or service work? And if so, how will it work? Starting with search could help you mitigate that fear and potentially help you improve your product, service, and messaging.

But to be honest, not everyone has the guts to face their business challenges head on to figure out if their business actually works or not. And sadly these people are really just afraid of admitting defeat. But it is not about defeat. The true entrepreneur embraces truth above ego, because the true entrepreneur is sincerely after success and understands it as a process rather than merely its never-ending shadow as a goal. If you are ready to put your business to the test and hone in on what really makes your business shine, try search, but try it with us. We don’t just run search campaigns and manage accounts, we are expert business developers, strategists that deliver business insights. Insights that businesses pay big bucks for because these are the kind of insights that turn businesses around. So don’t hesitate. Take the next step.