In order to test interest in a product, I've been told that it's useful to use AdWords. What's the best way to maximize the usefulness of AdWords. How do I measure whether or not an idea is useful? What should I be looking for? What do I compare against?
Depending on how far along your product is developed, basic landing pages with the purpose of gathering interest may prove to be a pretty fruitless, even unwise endeavor. Consumers are always motivated by what’s in it for them – so unless you have a pretty persuasive landing page (with good graphics and solid marketing/descriptions on what you offer), you’re probably going to get unhelpful data.
Imagine you are reselling a great new type of carpet that doesn’t allow dirt to embed in it, and it doesn’t get matted down. You are basically providing a better mousetrap – it may be a genuinely great product or idea, but consumers aren’t going to give you their feedback unless you can get them to care. That’s possible with an interest gathering page, but very difficult. And if you don’t get feedback, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t market the idea! Rather, you should check to see if people are reading the page (visitors!).
Google AdWords are great because you don’t need a domain or landing page – you can even link to a competitor’s page! (Google does require you to link to something relative). All you are trying to figure out is if your ad is interesting enough to click. If your descriptive text below the ad describes your product adequately and people are clicking it, then you know you have some potential interest.
In the example of the carpet, you could run a few ads:
Never stain your carpet! CarpetX: Revolutionary carpet design prevents dirt and stains from embedding in your carpet. 100 year old carpet? With CarpetY, your carpet won’t keep stains, and stays looking fresh for years! You could then link the ads to your competitors, all without having to pay a dime for a domain and web development. Then you can discover useful metrics such as:
Once you know you may have an interested market, then you can further develop the product, and spend time and resources on web pages that further realize the full potential of the market.
P.S make sure you gear your ads toward applicable keywords for your product too. Do your homework!
Set up a single web page that describes the product you would build. Briefly! Something you could read and know if you're interested in 30 seconds.
Then put a form there where people can sign up to be notified when the beta is available. And maybe a field for notes/questions.
Then put out AdWords and put out the word on your social network to get people to the site.
If not a good response, ditch the idea. If a lot of interest, you not only know what to start building, you even have a list of alpha testers!
I know that you asked specifically about using AdWords, but there is another great Google tool that you can use to help gauge interest. It's called Google Insights for Search. In fact, I had just started writing a blog post about this a couple of days ago for my blog.
Here are the highlights. First, go to Google Insights. Type in a search term that you might use if you were searching for your product. The results basically give you statistics on searches for this term. They can be broken down into category (by industry or market), timeframe or geographical location. You can also use the tool to view related search terms.
For example, plug in the term "child's guitar" and you will see that the graph shows huge spikes in November and December for the last five years in a row. It's a good bet that this is a popular Christmas gift.
Contrast this with the results for the phrase "guitar lessons" which shows a bumpy, but steady decline over the last five years along with flags from events in the news that contain the same phrase (for example, Lindsay Lohan apparently wanted to take guitar lessons from Slash this August).
If you assume that much of the time when people are interested in a certain type of product, they will "google it", then you can use this tool as a gauge of interest in your product.
I agree with Jason, with the caveat that under his suggestion ("put a form there where people can sign up to be notified when the beta is available") you are testing for something other than "will x% of traffic decide to sign up / buy / convert in whatever fashion you care about."
Venture Hacks had a great post a while back about this. It's a very smart strategy, although in my opinion probably not enough data to fully judge many opportunities.
You can use an analyzer tool in Mozilla to find out what your competition is doing.
Find out which companies are doing the kind of sales you want and have the kind of products that you have, and analyze them, replicate them.
Use the three-page mini-site recommended by Tim Ferriss: