While many site owners like to believe that their products and services apply to the general public - the truth is that there is a defined audience that the site should appeal to. When preparing a site for various methods of search engine marketing, an understanding of a target audience is critical to increasing the value of the campaign.

Web sites that push products or services are established because they need to set an image for the brand. In order to deliver any sort of message regarding that image, you will need to know whom that image is best suited for.

How to Define the Target Audience

For offline marketing purposes, target audiences are usually established based upon demographic information. Demographics are the statistics that characterize human populations, and usually within marketing, even the segments of human populations broken down by age, job, sex, income etc.

Some examples of this would be:

  • Teens and young adults, Ages 18-35, Involved in Information Technology
  • Parents with children living at home AND Moms with children ages 2-9.

Another way that demographics can be established is to focus on psychographic terms, such as:

  • National Football League fans
  • Coin collectors
  • Mazda Miata enthusiasts

Regardless of how you acquire and define the demographic targets - you should reserve the largest group to become your targeted audience. From there, you will need to use what you know about that demographic and general keyword selection to make matters work most efficiently.

Ignore Secondary Demographics

Secondary demographics are known as areas of the population that you can identify and target, but do not hold the same significance (in size) when compared to your primary ("core") demographic.

If you focus on secondary demographics, you will do nothing more than dilute your complete online marketing potential. Of course, there are secondary demographics in every industry. Ignore them for the purpose of defining your target audience. The goal here is to define the core group in which your site and consequential marketing efforts will revolve around. Bear in mind, the only way to develop effective consumer communications is to become knowledgeable about your core target.

While this may seem like a strong statement to make, successful search engine marketing requires intensified efforts with each new level of market research. The days of pushing for a bit than letting up - and expecting results - are long gone.

Applying Demographic Knowledge to Your Search Engine Marketing Campaign

While there is no conclusive evidence that will detail for you what type of people search on various search portals, use your knowledge to your advantage.

For example, America Online and MSN are both very large Internet Service Providers. Both companies state that their goal is to become the world's largest independent service provider, and will provide informative and entertaining content to their users. Their current search solutions are saturated with commercialized content appealing to those that use their services most often - Teens and young adults.

Therefore, if you are behind a site that sells various forms of music-based entertainment like CDs, DVDs, and Videos - AOL & MSN are both very large targets.

Google on the other hand, is not used by many of that same demographic (think young children and adults, 13 to 24, with interests in trends and pop-culture). Google rather, is reserved for those seeking more comprehensive content and truly informative resources. From my own independent view - Google is used by those who spend most of their day near a PC.

Regardless of the market, engine, and view on users - use what you know about your core demographic and forecast where they will spend most of their time. From there, marketing to their needs will become much more effective.

Conclusive Advice

Experimentation is key, but only if you alter the right variables. Coca-Cola does not market Diet Coke to male construction workers, but to women aged 18 to 35. Why? Because women 18 to 35 simply consume the most diet soft drinks. Sure, construction workers may consume the product from time to time - but when it comes to marketing it is all about numbers and results.

The point here is this: Establish your core audience and work with that core continuously. The best results are had when creative solutions are paired with absolute facts with an established target. Guessing will lead nowhere quickly.
June 11, 2002

Eric Lander is currently working as an executive manager at The First Listings Marketing Group, an SEO firm located in Taunton Massachusetts. With over 8 years of professional optimization experience, Eric continues to focus his work on client based optimization and educating them on search related marketing. For more information on Eric, please see his professional blog at www.ericlander.com.

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