Want to Help Design Gumroad?

Travis Nichols on September 22nd, 2014

We’re thrilled to announce our participation in Designer Fund’s Bridge program. Bridge is a professional development program that connects experienced designers with top, design-forward startups in San Francisco. We’re excited to join our friends at Pinterest, Dropbox, Remind, and Asana in this extraordinary partnership.

Design is foundational to everything we do at Gumroad. Our CEO and founder, Sahil Lavingia, is first and foremost a designer. Our mission is to empower people to make a living selling what they make, and we’re building the future of commerce for these creators. We need more great designers to help us get there.

In addition to working on a product that could impact millions of filmmakers, musicians, authors, artists, designers, and other creators around the world, as a Bridge designer at Gumroad you’ll have access to our creative team for mentorship and Bridge’s weekly workshops. Oh yeah, plus great compensation and benefits, relocation expenses, and all the tools you need to get the job done.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Gumroad design team and Bridge, check out http://designerfund.com/bridge. Apply early by October 5th or before applications close on October 26th at http://app.designerfund.com/bridge/.

Feel free to contact bridge@designerfund.com with any questions.


7 Ways to Engage Your Audience on Instagram

Emmiliese von Clemm on September 18th, 2014

Did you know that entrepreneurs in Kuwait use Instagram to sell sheep? Or that a vintage clothing store in Vancouver sells out of items on Instagram before they even hit the shelves?

Since its release in 2010, Instagram has been growing and evolving in wonderful (and sometimes strange) ways. Today, with more than 200 million monthly active users, Instagram has become a viable business tool for many creative entrepreneurs.

We talked to Dan Luvisi and Victoria Ying, artists who have both used Instagram to promote their painting tutorials to their audiences. Here’s what they had to say about Instagram:

“The response [to my efforts to promote my painting tutorials on Instagram] has been very positive and I feel Instagram is a fantastic platform to advertise off of… It’s a wonderful way to connect and share, let alone build your identity.” 

Dan Luvisi

“I think that a lot of my followers wouldn’t have seen my process painting available on Gumroad if I hadn’t posted it on Instagram…Instagram is such a fast and visual medium that putting links to Gumroad tutorials is only natural and welcome.”

- Victoria Ying

To help you make the most of Instagram, we’ve compiled 7 best practices for engaging your customers on the platform. These strategies and tips range from building your Instagram audience to promoting your work in the platform. Read on to learn how Dan, Victoria, and five other Gumroad creators use Instagram to connect with their audiences and to promote their work.

1) Post often 

Post photos regularly to grab the attention of new and existing followers. Posting a photo daily is a good place to start. Just remember that Instagram is built around beautiful and creative photos. When in doubt, “quality over quantity” is a good guideline to keep in mind.

If you’re in need of inspiration for what to post, try having fun with a project based series of photos. For example, Victoria Ying started 7 Days of Color. Every day for four weeks, she posted a painting that was a different color of the rainbow. The project was a great way for Victoria to stay motivated and it gave her audience a story to follow.

“Project based posts are always a great way to get attention and build participation amongst your community! With #7daysofcolor I was shocked at how many other people started to participate in the project with me! It was so much fun and I felt like it was a great way to get connected to other artists.” 

Victoria Ying

2) Post consistent content 

Develop defining elements of your account. If you’re consistent with the content of your photos, the filters you use, and how you caption your photos, you’ll start to be seen as a leader in a particular area. Use hashtags to help users interested in your content focus discover your Instagram feed.

The Instagram feed of professional wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas consists entirely of breathtaking photos of wild animals, making it a great account to follow for anyone interested in wildlife or photography. To help users discover his photos, Will uses popular hashtags such as #nature and #safariphotos in his captions.

How to Sell on Instagram

3) Deliver value to your followers through your posts

This value can be delivered in the form of inspiration or education. If you’re an athlete, post photos of your progress towards a fitness goal or post a video showing proper push-up form. If you’re an artist, give followers a glimpse of your artistic process or post a short how-to video.

Lina Saber, the creator behind bysaber (an Instagram account dedicated to all things health, skin, and nutrition), has gained a massive following by using photo captions and videos to share delicious recipes with her audience. Plus, because Lina’s followers see her account as a place to learn, she was able to very successfully launch a product, The 40-Day Skin Clearing Detox, on Instagram.

4) Post relevant content leading up to launch

Let your followers know about what you’re working on before it launches. Use Instagram posts to get your audience excited about what you’re working on. The goal is to convince your followers they want to buy your work ahead of time.

Blogger Abby Lewis used Instagram to periodically updated her followers on the status of her book Building a Framework: Everything I Learned My First Year of Blogging. A month before launch, Abby started by announcing a “secret project”. Throughout the following weeks, Abby shared additional information and posted progress photos. By launch day, Abby’s followers were excited to finally be able to purchase her book — and knew exactly when and how to do so.

5) Use descriptive photos and captions

Use pictures that highlight exactly what followers will get from your product. If you’re an author, show your book’s cover or use a photo of someone reading your book. If you’re a chef, post a photo of the cake that follower’s can bake if they buy your recipes. If you’re a filmmaker, use a still from a scene in your film. In your photo’s caption, be sure to include the essential details: product name, product price, and where to buy the product.

When sharing his painting tutorials on Instagram, Dan Luvisi uses Gumroad product page cover images. Dan’s photo captions include each tutorial’s name and price, as well as the URL of the product page.

6) Link directly to your work in your Instagram bio

Because the majority of Instagram traffic occurs on mobile devices, it’s especially important to make it as easy as possible for your followers to get from the Instagram post promoting your work to a page where they can actually buy your product. A great way to do this is by linking directly to your product page in your Instagram bio (since your bio is the only place where hyperlinks are allowed). If you choose to link to your website instead of directly to a product page, keep in mind that minimizing clicks is the best way to maximize conversion rates.

Krista Stryker, creator of the 12 Minute Athlete, added a direct link in her bio to make it really easy for her followers to access her new training program, Pull Up Mastery.

How to Sell on Instagram

7) Use limited-time offers

Setting up offer codes can be a great way to thank your Instagram followers for their support of your work. They can also serve to encourage your followers to go through with a purchase on launch day, or be used to market your work and boost sales post launch.

Brandan Schieppati, founder of Rise Above Fitness, periodically sets up offer codes to give his followers discounts on particular training programs. Rather than promoting offers on launch day, Brandan uses offers to drive sales months after releasing his training programs.

That’s it for today. We hope to see you putting these strategies into practice on Instagram soon! 

Looking for more advice on how to make the most of Instagram? Stay posted for an upcoming interview with creator Lina Saber, who has grown her Instagram audience to more than 220 thousand followers.

Thinking about promoting your work on Instagram? Already using Instagram in ways we didn’t mention here? We’d love to hear from you.

Gumroad Picks: Films

Emmiliese von Clemm on September 11th, 2014

gumroad for films

This month, we’re back with another round of Gumroad Picks, aimed at showcasing a few of the many wonderful creators and projects on Gumroad. This time, we’re highlighting five awesome films worth a watch.

Film-specific features like subtitle support and streaming on any device make Gumroad a powerful tool for filmmakers. In addition to filmmakers using these features, here are some of the trends we’ve noticed:

  • Pre-orders: Filmmakers Muris Media and Emily Diana Ruth offered their audience the opportunity to pre-order their films. Pre-orders of The Water’s Fine helped Emily Diana Ruth finish the production of her film and fund entry into film festivals. Muris Media is currently using a discount to incentivize pre-orders of their new film, Maker.
  • Screeners: Viewers who want to host a screening of Design and Thinking or The Hooping Life can purchase the right to do so. Design and Thinking offers both educational and corporate screening products. The public screening version of The Hooping Life gives buyers the right to charge admission when screening the film.
  • Bonus Content Bundles: Along with their film, the team behind The Hooping Life offers viewers merchandise and bonus content. Bundling items together can be a great way of reaching super-fans. For example, in the case of The Hooping Life, aspiring hula-hoopers can choose The Hooping Life Bundle Special, which includes a “How To Hoop” DVD and a collapsible hula hoop.

Now grab some popcorn, make yourself comfortable, and enjoy these five awesome films, all available on Gumroad.

Design and Thinking

Design and Thinking, produced by Muris Media, is a documentary that explores how people are changing the world with their own creative minds. The film explores the meaning and power of design thinking, as told by social change makers, businessmen, designers, and other influencers. Featured individuals include David Kelley, founder of Stanford d.school and IDEO, Zachary Rosen and Matthew Cheney, founders of Mission Bicycle Company, and Jennifer Pahlka, founder of Code for America.

The folks at Muris Media are about the release a second film, Maker, which looks at the new wave of “Do-It-Yourself” and “Do-It-Together” culture. Viewers who loved Design and Thinking can pre-order Maker on Gumroad today.

The Big Picture: Reframing Dyslexia 

The Big Picture, directed by James Redford, is a documentary about the dyslexic experience. Through interviews with dyslexic children and their parents, iconic leaders with dyslexia, and medical experts, the film clears up common misconceptions about dyslexia, painting the condition as an obstacle that can be overcome.

Digital downloads of The Big Picture are sold through Gumroad. Viewers inspired by the The Big Picture can visit the film’s website to learn more about taking action and helping to reframe dyslexia.

The Water’s Fine

Written and directed by Emily Diana Ruth, The Water’s Fine is a short film about a young woman’s return to the family cottage where she spent her childhood. After years of family estrangement, Josie expects a big family reunion at the cottage but instead gets a series of disappointments.

Production of The Water’s Fine was initially funded through an Indiegogo campaign, with pre-orders of the film sold on Gumroad after crowdfunding ended. While making the film, Emily built and engaged with her audience through a video blog series. All 14 episodes of The Making of the Water’s Fine can now be watched on YouTube.

The Hooping Life

Hula-hooping is back, according to The Hooping Life, a documentary about the rise of modern hula hooping subculture. Filmed over six years and introduced by Shaquille O’Neill, the film documents the early days of the hula hooping movement and how individuals are transformed through commitment to the hoop.

In addition to selling a DVD of the film on their website, The Hooping Life team offers premium content and merchandise for super-fans.

The Boy Who Flies

The Boy Who Flies, a documentary by Canadian paraglider Benjamin Jordan, tells the story of Benjamin’s trip to Malawi, where he meets Godfrey, a young man who has always dreamt of flying. Together, the two set off for Malawi’s highest peak to attempt a flight that will make Godfrey Malawi’s first paragliding pilot.

The Boy Who Flies was featured at numerous mountain and adventure film festivals, including the Banff Mountain Film Festival. Digital downloads of the film (in both English and French) are now sold via Gumroad. Today, Benjamin and Godfrey are channeling the success of The Boy Who Flies into raising funds to build The School of Dreams, Malawi’s first paragliding school.

Want help selling your film directly to your viewers? Email us and tell us more about what you’re working on. You can also check out Gumroad for Films to learn more about the features we’ve added specifically for filmmakers like you. 

When compiling the Gumroad Picks lists, we look for creators who have had recent launches, lots of sales, or success using Gumroad in an exciting way. From there, we hand-pick creators whose work is especially innovative or creative. We hope to see you on this list in the future!

Discover Meteor Case Study: Making $300,000 From a Single Programming Book

Jessica Jalsevac on September 10th, 2014

Discover Meteor Case Study

In May, 2013, authors/developers Sacha Grief and Tom Coleman released their book, Discover Meteor.

Like many products, they had a pretty big launch day, but we’ve been keeping an eye on them and noticed something pretty cool. They’ve figured out a way to sustain high sales for more than a year and a half.

Discover Meteor Sales Chart

We wanted to know how they did it, and luckily they were willing to share their strategies. We’ve put their exact methods in an in-depth case study, which we’re excited to share with you. 

Download the Case Study

We hope you gain some insights into creating your own sustainable sales strategy. Let us know what you think, and enjoy!

How to Use Webinars to Build Your Audience

Jessica Jalsevac on September 5th, 2014

You have a lot of options when it comes to producing content: blog posts, videos, infographics, podcasts, newsletters…the list goes on. Sometimes it can be difficult to decide which ones to focus on.

We’ve noticed an interesting trend among several successful creators lately: they’ve been prioritizing live webinars as one of the cornerstones of their content marketing strategy.

Why webinars? We asked Brennan Dunn, author of Double Your Freelancing Rate to help us get to the bottom of it.

Brennan has hosted several successful webinars recently with partners such as WooThemes and Clients from Hell. On average, 20-30% of the people who attend one of Brennan’s webinars end up buying a product from him - not bad!

In this video, Brennan walks us through:

  • Why hosting a webinar is a great way to engage with your audience.
  • How to structure the webinar.
  • What tools to use to put it all together.
  • How to follow up after the event.
  • How to work with partners to widen your audience.
  • What goals you should focus on.
  • How to get started if this is your first product and/or you don’t have a large audience.


Episode Resources:

Renaming and Reordering Files

Travis Nichols on September 2nd, 2014

You run a tight ship. Your condiments are arranged alphabetically. Your books are ordered by dominant spine color in the ROYGBIV spectrum. You eat out of sectional plates. Everything is in its right place, and there is peace in your world. But then you upload your novella and accompanying music tracks into what was intended to be a tidy multi-file product, and your life is turned upside down.

Thankfully, Gumroad has just launched two features to put your life back together again.


What’s your favorite song on the new EP? Is it 06_DCoSA? 02 In_Hammocks?

That’s not going to work at all. To change the name of an uploaded file, simply click on the name. Make your changes and click the checkbox.

Nonononono. You accidentally uploaded your chapters out of order.

You can remove all of the files and get them back up properly, or you can take a deep breath and simply drag and reorder your files.

Save your changes and you’re all set. Your buyers will see a perfectly organized array of files, and you’ll be able to sleep soundly.


And there you have it. A two-in-one feature update that will save you time and bring things back into balance. You are a beacon of tranquility. You are a glowing, symmetrical starfish, unfazed by the swirling sea of chaos around you.

Let us know what you think of these new features here.

Tools for Getting to Know Your Audience (Part 2 - Social)

Jessica Jalsevac on August 29th, 2014

This post is part two in the “Tools for Getting to Know Your Audience” series, where we look at how to access and interpret data on your customers (and potential customers).  In part one we dove into keywords and search trends, and today we turn towards the information gold mine that is social media. 

market research tools

1. Facebook

Questions to ask:

What is the approximate overall market size for my area? What is the demographic makeup of my target market? What other things do they like? Who are the predominant groups, brands, and individuals in the space?

How to use it:

Facebook’s graph search is a powerful tool that lives right within your Facebook search bar. A quick search for “ukulele” on Facebook validates that its a good niche interest, with 283,122 likes and growing.

facebook research

Facebook also shows related pages and groups as part of its graph search. Joining and participating in these groups is a great way to continue getting to know your audience. For brands, Ukulele Underground has one of the most popular ukulele pages, with 21,759 likes. With 12,833 members, the public Ukulele Tabs group is one of the largest communities of ukulele players, and so is a must-join. 


Looking at the content of posts reveals a lot about what people are interested in and what types of content do well. In addition to this guy playing death metal (below), I saw pictures of ukuleles decorated in weird and wonderful ways, individuals posting videos of their journey to learn the tiny instrument, kids playing the ukulele (aww), people playing cats like ukuleles (wha?), and tough punk bands showing their soft side with uke songs.  

You can go deeper with Facebook Graph Search to see related interests of people in your target market. For instance, by searching “Pages liked by people who like Ukulele”, I can see that they’re also fans of Humans of New York, Photography, and NPR.


Get even more specific by searching for movies or music liked by people who like the ukulele. These two searches generate some great ideas for potential tabs/songs to teach!

If you’re thinking of holding live events as part of your marketing strategy, Facebook can help you with its location filter. For example, you could search for:

  • “Posts about “Ukulele” from San Francisco, California”

  • “People who like “Ukulele” and live in San Francisco, California”

You can also see which of your friends are already interested in your topic. They would be great people to give you feedback on your project and help you spread the word. Search for things like:

  • “Posts about “Ukulele” by my friends”

  • “Pages about “Ukulele” that are liked by my friends.”

Finally, if you want to get even more fancy you can dive into Facebook ads. Select “Clicks to Website” and enter any URL (we’re not going to actually create an ad). Under the Audience section, play around with different demographic filters to see how that affects the potential reach of your audience.


You’ll notice that if you just search for “ukulele” as an interest, the potential reach is much greater than the number of people who have ukulele as an interest in their profiles. This is because it also includes people who like related pages.

After conducting a few different searches, I noticed some interesting facts about the American ukulele target market on Facebook:

  • Potential reach for various age ranges:

  • 13-20 years old: 72,000

  • 20-30 years old: 100,000

  • 30-40 years old: 50,000

  • 40-50 years old: 46,000

  • 50-60 years old: 44,000

  • 60+: 34,000

Interest in Ukulele by gender:

  • Female: 150,000

  • Male: 160,000

20-30 year olds are the biggest age group interested in the uke, and there seems to be about equal interest between men and women.


  • Pages and groups related to your area are great places to start listening to and engaging with your target market.

  • Most posts about ukuleles are fun and lighthearted, and many contain videos. An extremely popular post features a musician playing death metal on a Ukulele.

  • Related interests/music/movies include NPR, photography, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Radiohead.

  • Location filters are a big help if you’re looking to host live events or meetups.

  • Your friends who have similar interests to you are good first people to tell about your project.

  • Key demographics for ukulele-lovers is 20-30 years old, both male and female.

2. Twitter (+ Followerwonk)

Questions to ask:

Who are the most influential people/brands in my field? What are they talking about? What vocabulary do they use to describe themselves and what they’re interested in? Who are your competitors?

How to use it:

Twitter contains a wealth of information, but because its not as pervasive as Facebook, it can better for some niches rather than others.

Following hashtags is probably the easiest way to see what people are talking about right now. By searching for #ukulele in Twitter’s search, I can see all the latest posts about the instrument, from people learning how to play, to people attending ukulele festivals, to people sharing cool music. I found out that the Grammy Museum was hosting a ukulele event the night I wrote this! 

I can also do a search for Twitter bios containing ukulele. A quick glance at these bios gives me a ton of great insight into the ukulele audience. I see words like…

  • whimsical

  • play

  • geeky

  • pop

  • lover

And jobs like…

  • editor in chief at Cosmopolitan Greece

  • marathon runner

  • youtube musician

  • actor, director

  • serial entrepreneur

  • journalist

  • singer/songwriter

  • brand strategy

Because Twitter can be such a barrage of information, there are several tools out there that try to help you make sense of it. One of my favorites is Followerwonk, which lets you easily analyze your own followers or those of your competitors. Just click on the Analyze Followers tab, type in a handle, and select “analyze their followers.” Followerwork gives you a beautiful report with a map displaying where the followers are located, their most active hours, and much more.


One of the coolest features of this report is the word cloud of the most common terms in their followers’ bios. This can be extremely useful in figuring out marketing copy down the line. Here’s a word cloud from analyzing a competitor’s followers.


It can also be very helpful to create a private Twitter list of key influencers to follow so that your content is more curated. Followerwonk can help find those influencers by using the Search Twitter Bios tab. Plug in a competitor, similar brand, or keyword and you’ll get a list of Twitter users. Sort by social authority (which is based off their number of retweets), and simply add some of the top folks to your influencers list!



  • Follow hashtags to stay on top of current posts, trends, and events.

  • Look at Twitter bios to understand your customers vocabulary, jobs, interests, etc. For example, many Ukulele lovers on Twitter work in creative industries.

  • A follower analysis (your own or your competitor’s) on Followerwonk can reveal location, active hours, common vocabulary, and more.

  • Creating private Twitter lists can be extremely useful for listening to and engaging with influencers.

3. Buzzsumo

Questions to ask:

What is the most shared content for your industry? What content is working really well for my competitors? What networks have the most traction? What format is most successful - infographics, how-to posts, videos, etc.? Who are the influencers in my industry?

How to use it:

Buzzsumo is incredibly straightforward platform that manages to deliver a ton of insight about social content and influencers.

Type a term or website into the search box, and take a look at the type of content. Let’s start with “ukulele.”


Of the 10 most shared things about ukuleles, 8 were videos. This isn’t surprising, as music lends itself well to video content. As you can see, Facebook gets the most shares by far, with Google+ a close second. You can also filter out certain types of content. Its interesting to note that if we remove videos, Google+ gets nearly no shares at all.

Again, we see a lot of lighthearted content (such as “Ukuleles make everything awesome”), and people playing unexpected songs (like Slayer).

You can also use Buzzsumo to analyze competitors by plugging in their domain or the search parameter “author:name”. This is a great way to see at a glance what type of content your competitor is putting out there and which posts are getting the most shares.

Now lets head over to the “Influencers” tab to see who the big players in this space are. The results are based off of Twitter, and including rankings for Page Authority (taken from MOZ), Followers, Retweet Ratio, etc.

Buzzsumo conveniently tags your results as companies, bloggers, influencers journalists, or regular people. You can filter by any of these tags as well.


From this dashboard you can follow or add influencers to a list, so that you can stat engaging with them more regularly.

To get an idea of the common themes and sources of links shared by these influencers, click on “View Links Shared”. Buzzsumo gives you a nice list of common words, and a pie chart displaying the percentage of shares from different domains.



  • Video is the most popular medium for content about ukuleles

  • The top videos are people playing unique, novel songs.

  • Around 20% of the top content were tutorials.

  • Facebook gets by far the most shares for ukulele content. Google+ is also quite popular, but only for video. If you’re going to be sharing a lot of video tutorials, you might want to consider Google+ as one of your main channels.

  • Don’t waste your time on Pinterest or LinkedIn for this particular niche.

  • Use a search of your competitor to see their most shared social content.

A couple concluding points on the tools and tactics mentioned here.

  • The purpose of these exercises is to get you out of your own head and into your audience’s, and to challenge your assumptions about who your customers are. However, these are only strategies for conducting secondary research. You should also take some time to actually chat, first hand, with your potential customers.
  • There is a lot of information to be found using each of these tools, and its easy to get lost in a black hole of online research. I encourage you to give yourself a time limit of a couple hours for doing this work. Take a look at a few of the tools mentioned here, write down your key takeaways, and move on to actually building your thing.

  • Its important to actually implement what you’ve learned with this research. Use it to keep on track with creating a product that there’s demonstrated interest in, use the vocabulary in your marketing copy, engage with the influencers you discovered, and focus your content on the channels and formats that you’ve seen work best.

Thanks for reading! Let us know what you thought of this article, and request more tips and tricks at support@gumroad.com.

Trigger Email Sequences After Your Sale With Drip + Gumroad

Jessica Jalsevac on August 26th, 2014

This week we’re dropping not just one, but two new integrations for your selling pleasure. The newest collaboration on the block is email marketing automation tool Drip, which allows you to keep track of your leads and customers and craft every email interaction like an artisan.

drip logo

Want to sell a course that’s delivered over a 4 week period? Use Gumroad to accept payment and have the content automatically triggered in Drip.

deliver a course

How about checking in with the people who bought your book? Create a follow up sequence in Drip to automatically send an email receipt, a thank you note, and offer a discount on future products.

trigger actions

With a few mouse clicks, trigger any of the following actions in Drip based on a Gumroad purchase (you can even filter by your Gumroad product ID):

  • Subscribe someone to a Drip campaign

  • Remove someone from a campaign

  • Apply or remove a tag

  • Send a one-off email

  • Set a custom field

  • Record an event

  • Record a goal conversion

  • And more…

This makes it dead simple to instantly access, tag, and provide relevant emails to your Gumroad customers.

Full setup instructions for this integration (3 quick steps) are described in Drip’s knowledge base video.

What do you think of the Gumroad + Drip integration? Drop us a line and let us know.

360 Degrees of Sketchfab Integration

Travis Nichols on August 24th, 2014


Or is it 360^? Or 64,800? Or 41,253 square degrees? Or maybe the question itself is conceptually flawed. Let’s move on before someone gets a nosebleed.

Depending on your source, the 3D printing market is predicted to grow to anywhere between $1.8 and $16.2 billion by 2018. That’s a lot of spatulas and toy drones.

With 3D printers getting cheaper and the costs of filament dropping all the time, it’s not unreasonable to imagine a $49 printer on every kitchen counter next to the toaster and coffee pot. Who wants waffles? I’ll start printing some plates and utensils. And waffles.

We’re excited to integrate with Sketchfab and further tap in to the amazing potential of 3D printing. If you’re selling printer files, you can now enter the URL of your design on Sketchfab as the cover for your product.


It’s as simple as that. Potential buyers can then look at your file from every angle and make a purchase from the same page.

Do you design 3D-printable tools, toys, machines, or other useful things? Let us know. We’re logging reasons to get a 3D printer for Gumroad HQ.

Tools for Getting to Know Your Audience (Part 1)

Jessica Jalsevac on August 21st, 2014

This post is part one of Getting to Know Your Audience, where we focus on three free Google tools to kickstart your research. Stay tuned for more tools and tactics!

 market research toolbox

Who cares?

No really, its a serious question. Who are the people you’re making your product for? What do they talk about? Where do they hang out? What matters to them?

Luckily we have a plethora of tools at our disposal these days to uncover this information and test our assumptions with real data.

When and where do you use this information?

Knowing your audience helps you validate your idea and determine if you’ll be able to achieve your goals before you even create your product. Do you want to write the definitive how-to guide to making ukuleles out of cardboard? While a super cool idea, this might not be the best move if your goal is to actually make some cash. Sadly, there are just not enough people who care about making their own ukulele for this to be a hugely profitable business idea. Also, good luck getting people who want to make instruments out of cardboard to pay for your book.

Knowing your audience also keeps you in check throughout the creation process. With each decision you should refer back to your research and ask if this is something that people want, need, and are going to get excited about. Say you’re creating a fitness course for pregnant women. Each segment should be informed by the most pressing concerns expecting mothers have - is it safety, nutrition, weight management, relieving joint pain, or none of the above?

Finally, knowing your audience will help you - big time - with marketing and selling your product. The vocabulary you unearth during your research should get recycled back into your sales copy for your landing page and emails to potential buyers. Knowledge of where your target market hangs out online should guide your outreach strategy and help you decide how to target ads.

Basically, knowing your customers is the foundation of everything else that you do.

So now, let’s get creepin…er…researching!


1. Google AdWords Keyword Planner

Questions to ask:

Which keywords are more relevant to my content? What is the popularity and competition score for each of my potential keywords? What would be the cost of running an ad campaign for these terms? What websites already rank for my keywords? What related keywords might be a better fit for me?

How to use it:

To access the Google AdWords Keyword Planner, you’ll have to have a Google account and sign up for AdWords, but its a completely free tool.

From the Keyword Planner home page, click “Search for new keyword and ad group ideas.”

 search for new keyword

Enter your product or service idea into the top box. You can also adjust the targeting filters for location, language, etc., in the fields below.

enter product keywords

Click “Get Ideas”. Once on the results page, click on the “Keyword ideas” tab. You’ll see results for average monthly searches, relative competition for ad placement (low, medium, or high), and suggested bids for your exact search team as well as related keywords.

As you can see, things aren’t looking too good for “make a ukulele,” with only 50 average monthly searches. Some similar keywords are more relevant, such as “how to make a ukulele”, and “how to build a ukulele”, but these are still quite low.

“Cigar box ukulele” is a surprising search term, but unfortunately ad placement is highly competitive.


keyword ideas

I ran another few searches about ukuleles, and came across one that seemed a lot more promising: 

keyword ideas

“How to play the ukulele” has 3,600 average monthly searches, and relatively low competition. This might be a better topic to write about than building a ukulele from scratch.

A quick Google search for this same phrase reveals the major competition in this area.

 google search


  • Making a ukulele from scratch is not a common thing people are looking for. :(

  • A much more popular interest (with 3,600 monthly searches), is in learning to play the ukulele - might this be better entry point for a product?

  • There is still relatively low competition in all the keywords pertaining to learning the ukulele, which bodes well for this type of content.

  • With the top search result being from Wikihow and the second from YouTube, no one website is really dominating the search for learning to play the ukulele.


2. Google Trends

Questions to ask:

Is my topic increasing or decreasing in popularity over time? How does interest in my topic compare to related topics? What key news pieces have come up over the last few years? Where in the world are the people that are most interested in my topic? What are some related search terms that are trending upwards?

How to use it:

Google Trends allows you to see stats for your keywords over time. Below is the interest over time for the search term “ukulele.” The letters indicate large press pieces on this topic. Here we see that interest in ukuleles spiked due to  stories about Warren Buffet giving ukulele lessons, a world-record attempt for most ukuleles playing simultaneously in Oregon, and musical prodigy Jake Shimabukuro playing a show in San Francisco.

google trends interest over time

The interest in ukuleles is rising over time, which bodes well for our product idea. We can also compare the popularity of ukuleles to other small stringed instruments, such as the mandolin and the banjo. 

google trends interest over time comparison

Interest in both the mandolin and the banjo is declining, so it definitely looks like ukuleles are the place to be when it comes to small stringed instruments.

In the Regional Interest section we can see which cities have the highest search volume for ukuleles. The place with the highest search volume is always 100, and the other cities are ranked relative to that.

google trends regional interest

This map clearly shows Hawaii’s dominance in terms of ukulele popularity. In the contiguous US, west coast cities show more interest than other areas.

The third category displays related searches, which is interesting in validating our idea. By clicking on “Rising” in the Queries column, I get a few terms that are rapidly increasing in popularity, such as the musical instrument brand “Kala”, “uke”, the short hand for ukulele, and “youtube”, hinting that many people are searching for ukulele videos on YouTube. Perhaps these YouTube searches are for lessons, or perhaps they’re to watch prolific players.

google trends related searches


  • Ukuleles have been gaining in popularity since 2009  - yay!

  • A key person on this topic is Jake Shimabukoru, whose been described as a “ukulele pioneer/prodigy.”

  • Searches for ukulele songs on YouTube in particular are rising fast.

  • Ukuleles are very popular internationally, especially in Southeast Asia.

  • In the US, Hawaii is by far the most popular area, with west coast cities such as San Diego and Portland showing the most interest in the contiguous US.

  • Ukuleles are also called “ukes” for short.

  • "Over the Rainbow" is one of the most popular ukulele songs.

3. Google Alerts

Questions to ask:

What are the most current things people are talking about on my topic? How can I use this news as part of my content strategy? What types of publications contribute to my topic? What patterns are there in the words used to describe my topic?

How to use it:

Google Alerts couldn’t be easier. Simply type in your topic and click Create Alert to get emails sent to you with trending new content. You can adjust the frequency of results, and tweak other filters by clicking “Show options.”

I quickly set up an alert for “ukulele”, and got the following results:

google alerts ukulele


  • Local news outlets come a up a few times in the results, announcing performances featuring a ukulele.

  • When the ukulele appears in serious news publications, it tends to be in a playful piece, such as this one in the Washington Post about baseball player Bryce Harper surprising high school students with a renovated locker room, or this one from Air & Space Magazine about a pilot who entertains passengers by playing the ukulele.

There you have three quick and easy tools for getting you started with your audience research. Next time we’ll look at how to use some social networks and other free services to do an even deeper dive into your audience’s psyche. See you then!

Disclaimer: If you really, really, really just want to write a book about making a ukulele out of cardboard, then you should absolutely do that. Don’t give up on your dream just because some Google tools told you not to. But be realistic about the potential demand (and thus potential returns) you can expect for your project.

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