Congratulations! You’ve secured your new business name, formed your company, and launched your new website. Now what?

Naturally, your first instinct is to drive traffic to your website in hopes of converting them into paying customers. After all, that’s how we scale. Right?

You sign up for one, or all of these – Google AdWords, Facebook, LinkedIn (great platforms to advertise on) – but realize the ad costs to drive traffic from these advertising platforms is more than you have budgeted for.

This is a typical scenario we run into with startups. Between the excitement of launching a new business and launching ad campaigns, new business owners frequently forget the most important part of digital advertising – the research.

Where Do You Start?

Startups scramble to find the best source for new customers. Instead of jumping into the first tutorial you see on how to launch AdWords campaign, build audience segment in Facebook or start a lead gen campaign on LinkedIn – do this first – spend time learning how to use research tools.

Well organized campaigns require these basic steps. We like to represent them with the acronym DATA (pun intended):

  • Dive: Research, research, research. Invest in this part of the process to help prepare and cement a mindset of “measure twice (or three times), slice once” in every campaign you launch. Here, you collect the raw data from the research tools (more on that below) in an excel spreadsheet. Your job is to find as many phrases and queries as you can on what people are searching for pertaining to your business.
  • Analyze: Look at the data, then look again to see if there are any opportunities you may have missed. Think about what problem you are solving for your customers. Important questions to ask: Are people searching for a solution? Are people searching for what you are offering? What is the volume of these searches? What do my competitors ads look like?
  • Test: It takes time to build out a great ad campaign that does not waste your limited and precious ad dollars. So before you launch it live, test every component from your landing page, lead capture form, shopping cart, contact us form, etc. The last thing you want is to send relevant traffic (because you have done your research), but have a broken page that fails to capture the sale.
  • Action: Armed with data, it’s time to fire things up!

Five Great Marketing Tools

Now that we have discussed the process above, let’s talk tools. Get ready to:

  • Uncover search queries that are used to find your product or service
  • Identify, build and target your audience
  • Craft the most relevant ad copy and value proposition
  • Discover the appropriate advertising channel to reach them

At the crux of things, these tools provide insights into search volume, new opportunities, and competitor trends. Take this wealth of information to help you decide where you are going to best reach, engage, and serve your customers.

With that said, dive in.

1. SEMrush

SEMrush is an excellent tool for keyword and competitor research. You can deep dive into your competitor keywords or you can brainstorm and research from scratch. Simply start typing your keyword and it will auto-suggest phrases that relate to your input.

Let’s say Bob, is a health insurance broker focusing on “family health insurance.” He might type in “family health insurance.” SEMrush will return a wealth of information like related phrases, the average cost per click, potential search volume and much more.

Bob may realize that “family health insurance” is a hich CPC (cost per click) phrase to bid on. But luckily the tool provides recommendations like “affordable family insurance,” “low-cost family health insurance,” and more – along with their average costs. With a few clicks, Bob is able to start considering an ad campaign with a more reasonable budget as he builds his business.

Additionally, you can also enter your competitor’s website into the search box – if you are doing recon work. 


Similar to SEMrush, is very focused on keyword research. In my opinion, it is slightly easier to use and may be a great starting research tool.

Let’s say my new business is a state-of-the-art fitness facility and I am offering personal fitness training. I am interested in signing up new customers who are looking for fitness coaches in my area.

I want to know how many people search for “fitness coach.” I type in fitness coach into the tool and within seconds I am presented with a  collection of phrases that could be relevant to my business.

It returns over 300+ unique keywords that pertain to my search phrase. It returns phrases like “fitness coach salary,” “fitness coaches near me,” “fitness coach jobs,” and more. Now, searches for “salary” and “jobs” will not be relevant. So in your campaign set up, you will need to add negative keywords to avoid showing up for those searches.

Another really cool feature is the “Questions.” Clicking on “Questions” will return queries where people are asking specific questions like “how much are fitness coaches,” “what is fitness coaching,” and more.

Not only does this inform you what other keywords you can bid on, it also provides ideas for immediate FAQ section. Now that’s amazing!

As you can see, there are countless ways potential customers can conduct their search online. But armed with this knowledge, you can prepare your ad messaging and website’s content to answer those questions and become more relevant to your visitor, ultimately driving the sale.

3. Ahrefs

Ahrefs can help you discover great keywords for SEO (search engine optimization) or to bid on in PPC (pay per click). In addition, it analyzes difficulty levels and traffic potential.

Here’s where research will supercharge the way you buy ads. Your marketing budget may not allow you to bid on every keyword in Google or target every audience in Facebook and LinkedIn. And that’s ok.

You can optimize your website for organic search by prioritizing your keyword targets. Bid on what you can afford. Optimize for what you can’t.

What does that mean? Figure out which keywords you can afford to bid on that will drive immediate sales with an acceptable return on your ad spend. Then focus your SEO strategy on developing content to rank for the topics and themes around keywords you are not bidding on.

This complementary approach will create synergy between immediate, short, and long-term objectives across your campaigns.

4. BuzzSumo

You can use BuzzSumo’s power to discover, analyze, and monitor content and topics of interest. Just type in your topic to research and you will see a list of topics along with social shares and actions.

A great way to use BuzzSumo is to look at the title that is getting shared the most, view the content, identify gaps and opportunities, then brainstorm ideas around your topic to craft complementary article, provide a new angle, or augment an existing piece of content.

Combine topic ideas from BuzzSumo with keyword insights from Ahrefs and you will open up a whole new realm of possibility to create great content without having to pay for it through ads.

Final Thoughts

Keywords reveal opportunities and intent. If you were selling corporate health insurance, Facebook may not be where you want to start. Google AdWords, however, very well might be. The important point to take away is to research your audience and your options so you can spend your time and money on the right marketing channels.

As you start generating more sales and business is booming, you can and should expand your campaigns across other channels.