A blog without an audience isn't worth reading. Do you know who your target audience is?
Most people don't. In fact, if you talk to many business owners, they'll tell you that their target audience is anyone who wants what they offer. Hmmm, not really zeroing in on your audience there, Junior.
The problem is, not everyone is interested in what you offer, and trying to go after everyone is like throwing $#!^ against the wall and hoping to keep whatever sticks. What you end up with is a big pile of crap and a whole lot of wasted dollars, not to mention wasted time. To reach the audience that is actually interested in what you offer, you have to first identify those who are most likely to want what you offer.
Determine who the people are who will find the most value in what you offer, both in terms of blogging content and products or services that you are selling. By zeroing in on a specific audience, you will be better equipped to write the content that will resonate. It's true that the general audience is a "bigger" pool, but you usually find that you'll reach more people when you narrow down your focus. Why? Because when it comes to content, fewer people like the bigger pool. People congregate to content that is specific for their needs, wants and desires. One-size-fits-all content usually fits none at all.
When going after a specific group as your target, the "who" is usually less about the people themselves and more about their needs. Anyone can target business owners or DIYers. But that still may be too broad of a category to make any difference. After all, one DIYer may be looking to build a patio and the other may be looking to build a gift basket--two very different projects. Similarly, one business owner might want to know the best way to manage their receivables, while another is looking at how to blog effectively. As bloggers, you have to narrow down your "who" by looking at specific things these business owners or DIYers need that relate to what you offer.
Everyone has different priorities, and over time those priorities shift and change based on what is pertinent today. My business focuses primarily on business owners and decision makers who's priorities are marketing effectively online. We don't do offline marketing so those people are out, at least until they realize how much potential they are neglecting by focusing their efforts online.
Of course, those priorities can be segmented even further allowing us to get into narrower focuses of online marketing. To reach these segments, each of our strategists blog about their particular area of expertise within online marketing. For one that's content strategy, for another social strategy, for another it's SEO strategy and yet another, PPC and so on. This allows our blog to cover just about all areas of online marketing, offering something for anyone who has web marketing as one of their priorities. But at the same time they can follow one of our writers specifically for content that is more in line with their interests.
What are the priorities for your target audience?
Look at other blogs in your space and see which ones get the most engagement. This will give you an idea of what your audience expects to get from blogs such as yours. If they expect engaging, be engaging. If they expect highly resourced, do that. If they expect step-by-step, then give that to them. If you're providing good content but it's not in line with what your target audience expects to read then you're really not helping out much.
Find out what excites the readers, and brings them to comment, link, or contribute to the post. You can also read comments to find what might be missing from a blog and use that as a means to fill the expectation gap on your own blog. The point is, to give people what they want and more. And the only way to do that is to know what they expect to begin with.
Everyone has challenges and they are looking for ways to overcome them. Set out to be a source that helps people overcome whatever challenges they face in your industry. The worst blogger is one that blogs about the challenges they think people have but completely miss their actual challenges.
Use keyword research tools and scan through blogs, forums and other communities to see what problems people are having that you know how to overcome. Use that as an opportunity to build your authority by answering those questions and again by writing about the solutions on your own blog. The best blogs are those that help people overcome obstacles... even ones they don't know they have.
There are a lot of steps in the decision making processes, especially for business owners and managers. Getting a handle on those processes gives you a wealth of opportunity to create content that reaches decision makers at every level. Lacking this understanding you may find yourself writing great content for all the wrong people, which, in the end, does you a whole lot of no good.
The best way to truly know your audience is to learn more about them. Of course you can learn all kinds of neat facts about your (desired) readers but not every bit of information will be valuable to your blogging efforts. So what kind of information is valuable?
The next step to really getting to know your audience--and going that extra mile--is to perform interviews with those that you want to go after. Not only do interviews help raise awareness of your blog, but it also shows that you are doing more than writing at an audience, but that you are writing for them.
Even a short three-question interview sent via email (with their permission) can give you a wealth of knowledge about your target audience. Interview as many people possible to gain as much information about the type of content that will best resonate with your intended audience.
So far, you've learned a lot about your audience and even how to translate that into blog content. But wants sometimes go beyond content and goes into how they want that content delivered.
There are many different content delivery mechanisms and some will resonate with your audience better than others. Sometimes the same content can be repurposed into multiple formats, each providing unique and exceptional value but providing a different impact on the consumer. A good example of this is this post, which originated from a section of a presentation, which originated from a much larger presentation. I recently saw a slide deck that started out as an infographic. Thats great use (and re-use) of valuable content.
No blog is complete without some sort of call to action. Think about two things: 1) What action does your audience wish to accomplish and 2) What action do you want to accomplish. The best call to action is one that fulfills both.
But there can be many different calls to action on any single piece of content. Work in thoughts and ideas that lead people to specific actions that will help them feel they got the value they came for. This post, for example, outlines four broad actions readers can take to identify and speak to their target audience. If I write my title correctly that's exactly what they expected to find!
Very few people or businesses build successful blogs simply by blogging randomly. The blogs that stand through time are those that have successfully identified their audience and went after them with great content that resonates. But you can't resonate until you know who your audience is and what they want. You don't have to spend months researching your audience, but never stop learning about them so you can continue to create content that is perfect match for what they want.
Editor's note: This post is a portion of a larger slide presentation. See full slide deck here:
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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