I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but your website is basically invisible. No, don’t worry your server isn’t down—I can see it just fine when I type in the URL.
However, in the grand scheme of things, your WordPress website is a tiny spec on the vast canvas of the Internet.
WordPress and other technologies make it easy for anyone, anywhere to start a blog or website. That means that there is now more competition than ever.
In fact, estimates suggest that there are currently almost one billion websites in existence. In 2014, that number grew by about 800,000 sites per day! Granted, not all of these are active sites, but you get the gist.
Drowned out by the Noise
As a consequence it gets really hard for website owners and bloggers to be noticed. The sheer volume of sites makes it almost impossible for anyone to cut through; with that in mind, it is more important than ever to be specific in your marketing efforts.
One of the main mistakes that many website owners and bloggers make is trying to appeal to everyone. They put out content that is targeted at nobody in particular and meant for the masses—and it ends up being ignored by everyone.
To grow your website successfully, however, you need to know exactly who you are talking to and what it is they want. The better you know your audience, the better you can create content they are happy to read, share, and recommend to others.
For that reason, doing market research is an essential step for website owners and bloggers. It is the process of figuring out who your audience is and what they want. In this article we will go over how you can become your audience’s best friend.
How to Know Your Audience Better Than Yourself
On the most basic level, doing market research for websites and bloggers comes down to making a couple of educated guesses and collecting relevant data. Combined, they help you develop a better idea of who your visitors are.
1. Develop a Marketing Persona
If you were to get a present for one of your friends, how would you go about it?
You would probably think about what that person likes and doesn’t like, what he or she does all day long, their work and life situation, and other characteristics that gives you insight into their tastes and preferences.
Developing a customer persona is kind of like that. Only in this case, the present you are trying to prepare is your content or product. And the person you are getting it for is your audience.
A “persona” is a behavioral, demographic, and psychological profile of your audience members. They are example characters that stand for your ideal visitor.
Why should you concentrate on individual visitors? Well, although you are speaking to a group of people, you goal is to figure out how to connect with them on a personal level.
Understanding your audience members and what makes them tick then makes it easier to create content and products directly aimed at them.
Marketing Persona Template
Here is a short template for creating a customer persona:
- Name – In order to distinguish your different personas
- Size and type of company as well as industry they work in
- Job description and details about their role
- Responsibilities and people they answer to
- Age – Are your ideal visitors teenagers, twenty-somethings or silver surfers?
- Gender – Does your topic or product appeal more to a male or female demographic?
- Salary – Think of this also in terms of buying power.
- Location – City dwellers or country folk?
- Education – Also think about this in terms of computer literacy.
- Family – What other roles do they fulfill, such as parents, grandparents etc?
- Hobbies – How do they like to spend their free time?
- Interests – Blogs they read, where they get their news and so on.
- Goals and Challenges
- What are their life goals?
- What challenges are they facing on the way?
- How can you help?
- Values and Fears
- What is important to them?
- What keeps them up at night?
Develop three to five of these to get a better understanding of who you are dealing with. Don’t worry if you can’t fill in everything from the top of your head. Just keep them at hand while and add to them with the data we are collecting next.
I also recommend that you check out Buffer’s Complete Beginner’s Guide to Marketing Personas for more details.
2. Do Keyword Research
When it comes to SEO, many people think of keywords merely in a technical manner—something that is needed on your page in order to make it rank well.
However, what they forget is that keywords are a direct glimpse into the life and mind of your visitors. They exist because people type them into Google because they want to achieve a goal or solve a problem.
Consequently, by doing keyword research for your niche you also get a better understanding into what your audience is interested in.
The process of doing keyword research is enough material for an entire article, however, here are a few tools to get you started:
- General Research
- Free Keyword Tools
- Search Suggest Scrapers
- Advanced Keyword Tools
3. Use Your Website’s Analytics
If you already have an existing website, your analytics software will be able to provide you with further insight into your audience. Much of the information you are looking for to give life to your marketing persona can be found within there.
- Google Analytics – Go to the Audience tab. If you have “Advertising Features” enabled, Google’s analytics suite will provide you with data on your visitors’ age, gender, location and interests. Under Acquisition > Overview > Organic Search you can see which keywords lead them to your website. That is important information to understand your audience.
- Google Webmaster Tools – The Webmaster Tools offer an even better way of finding out which search queries are bringing in your traffic. Under Search Traffic > Search Queries you will find a list of exactly the things people are typing into Google where your pages and posts pop up in the results. A great way to figure out what related topics your audience might be into.
4. Analyze the Competition
Wanna know more about who would be interested in your site? Look at what others in your niche are doing. You probably already know the big names in your industry and if not, now would be a good time to do some research!
Once you have identified the heavy lifters, you can then gain more insights into your audience by checking what is already working for them:
- Which content works best? – Look at the articles that receive the most comments and shares. For the latter, you can also use tools like Buzzsumo or Feedly.
- What topics do they cover? – If there are some topical areas that you haven’t thought of and that do surprisingly well, they are worth noting.
- What type of content are they producing? – Pay attention to content length and type. Is your audience interested in in-depth articles or does short-form content also perform well? Do they like other content such as videos and infographics?
- What are people saying in the comments? – Blog comments are a treasure trove of information. Try to identify common themes and frequently asked questions.
- Who is linking to them? – By finding out who is linking to the competition, you can gage the network behind the site, related blogs, forums and other places where your audience gathers. Try inputting “link:www.[competitor website].com” or use a tool like SEMrush for backlink analysis.
5. Get Direct Feedback
A simple way to find out more about your audience and visitors is simply asking them. That’s right, talk to another human being. Have a conversation with people who are already on your site, using your service or reading your blog to find out what they like, don’t like and what they might be missing.
There are different ways of doing so:
- Polls and Questionaires – Create a short poll (for example via Survey Monkey or Google Forms) and kindly ask your audience to fill it out. Send it to your email list or advertise it on your site. There are also WordPress plugins for integrating polls on your website.
- Customer Feedback – Pay attention to unsolicited feedback. If you are running a website, people will often write you messages with questions or comments. This is a direct view into the inner world of your audience and a great way to start a conversation and learn more about them.
- Ask Questions on Social Media – Another way of getting your audience to talk back to you is by using social media. If you have enough followers, asking what they are struggling with or what excites them will often yield a response. Some people even put these types of question in their auto-responders for new email signups.
6. Listen to the Social Conversation
Since we are talking about the social web: Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are another great resource for insights into your audience.
- Use Social Analytics – Most of the platforms come with their own set of Analytics tools. Facebook Insights (part of Facebook pages) and Twitter Analytics (go to the Followers tab) will tell you a lot about your demographics and what they are interested in. For Twitter pros, there is also Followerwonk.
- Follow Hashtags – In our day and age, people share their feelings, pain points and needs freely – all you need to do is listen. Software solutions like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite let you subscribe to a number of hashtags relevant to your website or industry. That way you can see all tweets that are published with these hashtags attached and should quickly show you what people are thinking.
- Join Groups and Communities – Birds of a feather flock together. It is only natural for your audience to congregate in interest groups. Whether on LinkedIn, Google+ or elsewhere, try to point out the top three or four groups that your ideal customer engages with. Then observe and join the conversation to find out more about them.
Market Research for Websites and Bloggers in a Nutshell
Understanding your audience is essential for running a successful website or blog. It enables you to produce helpful content for people visiting your site, target your marketing strategy, and relate to your readers’ problems and challenges.
In order to know what makes your visitors tick, it is helpful to break your demographic down to the level of the individual. By developing a number of marketing personas, you can give a face to your typical audience member.
Making educated guesses about your customers and supplementing them with verifiable data will let you understand your audience better. This will help you serve them in a more meaningful way. Though it may feel like stalking at times, they will thank you in the end.
What steps do you take to gain a better understanding of your audience? Any tools or sources of information others should know about? Tell us about it in the comments.