I just nipped out of the office to get a hair cut and noticed a new cafe has opened in Colchester. Not just any cafe – it is a vegan cafe.

This is an area that I cannot boast any knowledge / experience as I have neanderthal-esque carnivorous tendencies, but the sign outside the cafe got me thinking:

vegan cafe Colchester

The sign piqued the inner SEO geek within me as I found myself asking why it is the first vegan cafe in Colchester. Is this reflective of a non existent market or are the owners on to an absolute winner?

I instantly found myself walking a bit faster to get back to the office to do some keyword research.

I am a massive believer in keyword research and I am constantly amazed by how few people actually use it to research a market and understand more about the language that potential customers use. In my humble opinion, it should not be thought of exclusively in an SEO context – good kewyord research can tell you a lot about a business idea long before  you actually start thinking about optimising a website.

I really don’t want to sound pessimistic about the chances of success for The Den as it is fantastic to have variety and it looks really good, but initial keyword research does not fill me with confidence:

vegan cafe keyword research

If Google’s data is to be believed (which should not always be the case), then it would appear that the demand for a vegan cafe or vegan restaurant in Colchester is simply not there.

Even nationwide, there are just 140 searches per month for the phrase ‘vegan cafe’ so it is definitely not a highly sought after eating destination and I fear that the odds are stacked against them.

Judging by the evidence, a chinese takeaway restaurant would be a much safer bet, with a proven volume of searches each month and low competition:

chinese takeaway

It is, of course, absolutely possible that this data will be totally irrelevant and the new cafe will thrive simply by being in the right place and doing a great job of serving interesting food to people who had never considered vegan food.

I can’t, however, avoid a mild sense of dread and worry for the long term future of the cafe as the keyword data is not encouraging.

I genuinely hope that I am proven to be wrong and their (at time of writing) 1,861 likes on their Facebook page, which is curiously a lot higher than the Colchester Vegan community page’s 658 likes, would suggest that they have a loyal fanbase. Only time will tell and I wish them well.

My recommendation to anyone starting up a new business is to include keyword research in your planning phase. You have the absolute right to ignore the data and trust your instincts that your business will be a success, but going into something knowing that there is no search volume will at least allow you to launch the new venture with your eyes open and appreciate the challenge that you will face to create demand.

What do you think? Am I being too much of an SEO nerd, or should offline businesses use keyword research to help support business cases? Please feel free to share your thoughts below.