3 Steps to Define Your Target Audience for Your SEO Program
In this article, I’ll explain why defining your target audience is important, and how to figure out who they are and what they want.
Why Understanding Your Target Audience Is Important to SEO
Of late there has been talk that persona identification is a waste of time. I think that persona identification has been in marketing for decades, long before digital. It is an integral part of marketing even if it is not properly labeled.
Let’s use an example: fishing. If you want to catch fish, you need two things: you need the bait your fish are eating, and you need to fish where the fish are. A proper persona identification gives you both. You may think it is unimportant, but then you are not having fish for dinner.
When your target audience searches for what you offer using a search engine, you want your website to show up in the search results. You need the right bait and to put it where your fish can see it. To me this is obvious.
Without knowing what your target audience is searching for, you have less of a chance of doing so. And, when they get to your website, if you don’t have the right content that resonates with them, it can negatively impact your conversions.
Who Is My Audience and What Do They Want?
Here are three steps you can take to get to the heart of the question: Who is my audience and what do they want?
Build a profile of your target audience (and you may have more than one) by exploring the following data points and more.
If you’re targeting a consumer:
- Gender can impact buying patterns.
- Age can impact buying decisions.
- Location of where they are informs your marketing strategy.
- Marital status can impact your audience’s priorities.
- Education level can help you communicate better with them.
- Occupation information helps you with more targeted marketing.
- Income helps you understand what level of investment they may be willing to make.
- Beliefs help you better understand what matters to them.
- Lifestyle is another way you can understand and target your audience with relevant messaging.
If you’re targeting a business:
- Products or services
- Annual revenue
- Company age
- Number of employees
- Key decision-makers within the company (roles)
Even when a business is your target audience, there are certain roles within that company you will be targeting (like a consumer). So getting to the heart of what those decision-makers want will be important. (More on that later.)
There are several ways you can gather market research like this. There are companies out there that exist that only do this type of thing.
There is also your Google Analytics account, which can give you key data about the audience that is already coming to your website.
If you’re using the Universal Analytics version of Google Analytics, the audience reports can show you everything from demographics and interests to location, devices used and more.
Search engines are usually the starting point for people to discover products, brands or services and for the consideration phase as well. According to Forrester Consulting research:
- Seventy-one percent use search engines as the starting point for discovery.
- Seventy-four percent use search engines for consideration/purchase.
Keywords are the search queries that your target audience uses in search engines to find what they are looking for.
You need to know what those search queries are so that you can create content for your website around them. This helps the search engines determine that your website is a relevant match for what your target audience is looking for.
Without this critical step in knowing what your audience wants, your website may never have a chance to be found.
For more information, check out:
One of the best ways to get to know your target audience is to take a sample of it and interview them. This could be by web survey or phone.
Make sure to get a sample that represents all your target customers, and so it may vary by product or service. Then, craft the questions that can help you get into their minds.
The Buyer Persona Institute recommends asking questions like:
- Why do they decide to buy or sign up for your product, service or other solution?
- How do they evaluate their options before they decide to buy or sign up?
- What prevents them from buying or signing up?
- What results do they expect from buying or signing up for your product, service or other solution?
You can also glean insights by better understanding their behavior online, such as:
- Which publications do they read?
- What websites do they frequent?
- Who do they follow on social media?
- What are their active social media profiles like?
Other qualitative research you might want to consider: use a sample of your target audience to give feedback on your website experience. There are companies out there that can help you conduct this type of research.
For example, you could find out if:
- Your website is easily navigable (Can people find what they need with ease?)
- The information is helpful on your website
- The site is easy to use from any device
- They are pleased with the customer service options
Next, Create Your Personas
Once you have gathered the necessary data on your target audience using some or all the research steps outlined in this article, it’s time to create the persona profiles. You will have one of these for each of the types of people you are targeting.
A persona is an archetype of your target audience. You will reference it again and again as you create content and other SEO campaigns to ensure that what you are doing is relevant to that archetype.
There are a variety of different ways to create the actual persona profile, but it is usually a document that can be one page (or more) and sums up the data you discovered in research.
Google “persona profile examples” and you’ll get a bunch of ideas on how to put one together visually.
For more, see: Web Personas: Creating Jane
Your Target Audience and Their Journey Matters in SEO
SEO is very much a part of the customer journey.
A customer journey, also known as a buyer journey or consumer decision journey, is the steps that a person takes on their way to making a decision to buy a product, sign up for service, or convert in some other way.
Of course, behavioral intent can shift as people go through the customer journey. Most people start out with an informational intent, then move through their research and investigation phases before reaching the point when they’re ready to buy (the transactional intent phase).
Behavioral intent categories should supplement, not replace, understanding your personas. Knowing your audience is the first step in making sure your SEO efforts are on target, so that you can bring in the right organic search traffic and convert your visitors.
If you’d like to discuss your particular marketing challenges and how the team at Bruce Clay can help you, contact us for a free quote and start the conversation today.