At its core, SEO is about creating connections. Personal connections are what fuel growth – without them, there can be no traffic, leads, brand exposure, or sales. But before you can make connections with your audience, you have to define them. Persona profiling has been around for a long time, and helps map your audience to give you deeper insight into how to most effectively reach them.
Without a clearly defined audience, you can’t create user-focused SEO strategies. In order to reach real results, you must determine the audience and create a strategy based on them.
According to HubSpot, a persona is “a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.” In short, it’s a summary of the person(s) you are trying to target.
Ask yourself who your product is for. If you say “everyone,” you’ve got some work to do. Because your product isn’t for everyone, but it is for someone. So the first step is determining who that someone is.
To truly understand your audience, you have to break down every aspect of their lives and try to find common connections. These commonalities are key to not only discovering what they do, but why they do it. There are three core areas to research for discovering your audience persona.
Most of the demographic information is going to be found via marketing research and data. You need to make sure that this info is accurate and up-to-date, so avoid basing your entire strategy on old data. Read multiple reports, and check the dates on your research findings.
When defining persona demographics, you want to be sure that you have a good understanding of the following:
- How would they describe themselves? Mom, Dad, Student, Athlete, Entrepreneur?
- Where do they live? Rural, Suburban, Urban?
- What’s their age range? Baby Boomers, GenX-ers, Millennials?
- What industry are they in? Healthcare, Finance, Education?
- What is their level of employment? Management, Upper-Level Executive, Sales Associate, Consultant?
A site that is directed toward the needs of college students will need a much different approach from one directed at banking executives. Understanding these basics about your audience will help you create better content.
Humans are naturally social creatures who fear being seen as the outsider in our social groups. Because of this, we the people and groups we associate with have a lot of influence on how we think and act.
When exploring the social dynamic of your persona, here are a few good questions to ask:
- Who are the peers, subordinates, superiors, and outsiders with whom they frequently interact?
- What are some brands that influence them?
- What groups/organizations are they a part of?
- What types of media are they attracted to? (Social, TV, internet, magazines)
- What do they do for fun?
These social dynamics help narrow down the persona and contextualize our approach. This data can also help with link building, because you can find out where your personas “hang out.” This can create new linking opportunities you may have never thought about, and provide ways to cross-promote and build a network with businesses targeting a similar audience.
The only way you can influence someone to interact with your business is to connect and share your message in a way that resonates with their world view. A great tool to do this is called the Empathy Map by Xplane.
The goal of empathy mapping is to quickly capture the perspective of your audience. The Empathy Map addresses the following key points:
- What do they SEE? What’s happening around them?
- What do they SAY? To colleagues, friends, their boss?
- What do they DO? What’s their attitude and behavior?
- What do they FEEL? What are common emotions they experience?
- What do they HEAR? What do their friends, boss, family and others say?
- What do they THINK? What really counts? What are they worried about? What do they want to achieve?
Understanding the emotional lives of your personas help you create the right content. By truly connecting with your audience through content that speaks to their deepest needs, you’ll increase engagement, shares and more — all of which, in return, impacts traffic, leads, brand identity and so on.
By defining your audience, you can focus your business and marketing efforts and create a strategy that more effectively draws them into a connection.