Qualitative Internet Marketing Research -
9 Techniques You Can Use

The web offers new ways to conduct qualitative internet marketing research.

Internet marketing research is primary research. You can ask questions and get opinions, attitudes, perceptions, and reports of behavior. And it’s fast. And you don’t have travel. It runs 24/7. It’s usually cost-effective.

Used properly, the Internet supports traditional qualitative research – live focus groups, depth interviews, and ethnography.

Social Media Networks

Social media networks allow users to create online content and interact with other users. Facebook,MySpace, and LinkedIn are examples of popular social media, in which you can setup mini polls and ask open-ended questions. Plus you can see pictures. On Facebook, you can control access to the group. On Twitter, you can ask a question in 140 characters or less and get micro-responses. You can carry out a series of questions on Twitter about your topic of interest. Twitter is fast, convenient, and mobile. Social media are free and easy to set up. It’s social media Internet marketing research.


A blog is journal. You can use a group blog to research several respondents. You invite respondents, ask questions and give directives, and they write, and upload pictures, or videos to the blog. And you can password protect the group, controlling access. You can study a group for days, weeks, or months if needed. And setting up a group blog is easy, fast, and doesn’t cost a cent for the service. Private group blogs are powerful tools to gain rich and deep insight. It’s Internet marketing research.

Instant Messaging

Instant messaging is real-time, “chat” with two or more people. It includes text, voice and video. Using web-cams, you get see faces and hear voice. It’s real time. You’ll need an IM client on your computer to get started. Make sure you set chat to record, so you can analyze later. You can use IM for quick questions and responses, or for lengthy chats.

Forums and Discussion Groups

Join a forum or discussion group about your topic of interest. Follow the discussions. And ask a question. Follow up with another question. But follow the rules and etiquette of the forum or discussion group. Don’t abuse with too many questions. Use your favorite search engine to find your forum of interest. Here’s how to do it: type in your “topic of interest + forums.” Example: cell phone + forums. Your search engine will display the results of the forums. Or, check out Yahoo! Groups to find discussion groups. Forums or groups get answers to couple of questions, with out spending much time and money.

Online Focus Groups

Online focus groups are convenient, efficient, and fast way to collect qualitative research. The method is growing rapidly. This type of internet marketing research is specifically designed for focus groups and depth interviews. There are two types of online focus groups: real-time and bulletin board. You can use them for concept testing. And you can get insights about product awareness, purchase and use. For more details, please see the article How to Use Online Focus Groups.

Online Surveys

Online survey software mainly offers closed questions for quantitative surveys, but also provides open-ended question features. Question Pro, Zoomerang and Survey Monkey are examples of popular online surveys. There are many other vendors. But, limited respondent interactivity limits 'discussion' with a moderator. Probing beyond on top of mind becomes difficult. But if you combine online surveys with private blogs or instant messaging, you can probe respondents’ first answers, and gain deeper understanding.

Product Reviews and Opinions

If you are looking for consumer product reviews and opinions, several website exist to help you. Epinons.com and Yelp.com are examples. Login and follow the consumers’ ratings. Also, read editors and experts’ product reviews. CNET is an example of a website, which reviews electronic products. In your search engine, type in “your product + reviews,” and follow the links. This is secondary Internet marketing research, rather than primary, but provides useful data points and direction. It’s useful early stage research.

Word Cloud Analysis

Word cloud analysis, also known as tag clouds, counts the frequency of words and displays the size of a word based on frequency. You can analyze transcripts of focus group or depth interviews, using word clouds. There are several websites offering word cloud display. Wordle.net and TagCrowd.com are examples. You copy and paste text and get a word cloud. The displays give you a visual perspective about words respondents talk about often. A visual word cloud adds color to reports or presentations.

Also, Zoomerang offers word cloud analysis in their online survey software. It counts the frequency of specific words and displays word counts in measurable data. Here's an explanation about Zoommerang word cloud analysis.

Keyword Web Analytics

Keyword searches are an excellent way to figure out what keywords or phrases web surfers use to find information or products on websites. It gives you specific words they use, revealing thinking and search purpose, and a sense of their awareness, interest, and want. Are surfers in an early stage information search, or are they trying to buy something? You want to look the specific keywords people use to find your website. Ask your webmaster to give you keywords used to find your site. You get keywords by month. Look at an entire year of keywords. Then check and see how surfers search outside your website. Google AdWord Tools, WordTracker, and Keyword Discovery are online tools that can help figure out keyword behavior for a given topic. Keyword analysis delivers another set of data points, which provide added perspectives.


Qualitative Internet marketing research offers new ways to gain information and insight. It’s a matter of creatively using the technology. And understanding its strengths and weaknesses. Use it to support traditional qualitative research methods.

How have you used the Internet for primary qualitative marketing research? What did you like? What did you dislike?

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