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How Can You Use SEO to Inform Your Audience Personas

When developing an inbound marketing strategy, think of building a house. You need a solid foundation before building the house itself.

Before developing content to attract leads and nurture customers, you need a solid understanding of who your typical customer is. With that understanding, you can build customer personas to act as the foundation for your inbound marketing strategy.

To begin building your personas, take a deep dive into your data. This step will give you a good understanding of who your current customers are and bring to light more information about who you should be targeting.

Map out their characteristics and behavior traits. Analyze the types of content your audience is engaging with, the keywords they use to find solutions, the pain points they experience, along with their behavior on your website.

The only way to accurately target audiences and speak in a language they can connect with is to use multiple, targeted content touch points. Add value to these content touch points by using SEO to inform your audience personas.

In this article, we’ll be exploring why businesses need to back up audience research with SEO.

Traditional Methods of Audience Research

Traditionally, when marketers wanted to understand their customer's background and personalities, they’d use surveys and focus groups. This combined demographic, psychographic and geographic research, to understand more about a brand’s audience.

As time progressed, we began to use tools like Google Insights and Trends. But, this still only provides us with qualitative data. Quantitative data needs to be used as well to back-up these findings.

Why? Because we can create a strategy based on both statistical analysis and behavior attributions.

Personalized targeting is just one of the major trends in content we’ve seen a rise in over the last few years. Audiences want to feel a human connection with their content, and for marketers to deliver a human-centric approach to an otherwise digital, and emotionally voided platform.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself here.

First, you need to understand how to analyze your audience so you can create personalized, useful content. And the only way to do that is to know what they really want!

Below, I’ve included a short step-by-step guide to understanding how to link your SEO strategy and audience personas, by backing them up with statistical data.

1) Gather your website’s analytical data to inform your findings

First, set the date range you want to analyze and download the data from this timeline.

Note: aim to gather evidence from the last few years, if this is applicable for your business. From there, uncover all keywords, phrases and search-terms your brand has been ranked for to see how your audiences found your website.

Create a list from these keywords. Then, lay these out in chronological order — not just for your SEO strategy but to also see whether your brand’s perception has changed over time. For example, if you own a music agency — the roster of musicians you have may differ over time, which means fans of certain artists may stop engaging with your brand once their favorite band has left your agency.

For example, The Flash Pack, a visual innovation studio has multiple variations of their brand's name, but the products they use, ‘freezus curve’ and ‘360 photo booth’ also rank too.

Once you’ve gathered all of your audience’s search-terms, place these out in front of you and read through carefully. See if there are any patterns and modifiers emerging in your data.

For example, if you’re a design agency, you could group themes by skills and capabilities, geographic or project work. Similar phrases could have selected modifiers like cities that could help to define these themes even further. For example, “B2B design agency in the Bay Area”.

You need to understand your business and the many needs audiences have before you can actually group your findings into themes. This way you’ll know which themes and modifiers are relevant to your brand. Understanding what’s relevant depends on whether your keywords and phrases are ‘actionable,' i.e., do, or will, people make an action based on their keyword.

Above, you can see how each phrase or group of words has been assigned to an overarching theme. Keep ahold of this list because it’ll come in handy when you’re planning out content.

2) Link your keyword themes with audience personas

From this stage, you’ll be able to pinpoint exactly which themes link with which personas. But, that doesn’t mean to say each persona can only relate to a single subject. Themes can be relevant to many audience segments — such as time of year, geographic location, household income, etc.

Ask yourself, what keywords are associated with your brand? If you were a creative agency, would people search for “design inspiration” before contacting you with a proposal request? If the individual hadn’t worked with you before, would they search for your previous work — to make sure you’re the right brand to work with?

Don’t forget certain themes can apply to multiple personas. Again, it’s all dependent on their situation, and what their needs are at that time.

Now add your keyword phrases to your personas.

3) Identify how your audiences search

This is the stage I like to think of as “uncovering the search journey.” It’s fun because you’re learning how to understand people’s behaviors. It’s like getting a psychology degree on a shoestring budget!

Now think, how would you individually search for something? Generally, people use the most generic description of their query to search first. Then they will drill this down until they get their desired answer.

Note: People tend to use more words, and then phrases (long-tail keywords) as part of their initial search.

In this stage, it’s best to double check that you’ve set up Google Analytics with both Google Search Console and Google’s Webmaster Tools. You can do this by using Google Tag Manager. Set these up, and you’ll have the tools to support your inbound strategy, by backing it up with statistical data.

4) Identify the SEO opportunity

Now, this is where it starts getting technical. Jey Pandian, an author from the Content Marketing Institute, devised a system for “calculating the potential opportunity for each key phrase in search engines.”

You can do this by creating a simple spreadsheet.

With the following steps, Pandian created a system to help inform your SEO tactics by giving you insight into your ideal customer’s search behavior.

  • Select the given month you’ve decided to focus on. Use Google’s Keyword Tool to find the Exact Match Volume for each key phrase, and then add this to your findings.

  • Based on Google’s market share, you need to normalize the search traffic. To do this, divide a key phrase’s Exact Match Volume by 0.66, and the result will be the Normalized Volume.

  • To give you an estimate of the search traffic for a position 1 result — multiply the normalized volume by 0.4.

  • Then, from your brand’s analytics results, add in the Actual Search Volume for each phrase.

  • You can then calculate the potential SEO opportunity by subtracting the Actual Search Volume from the Normalised Volume you’ve just found. If you get a negative number as an answer, just fill the space in with N/A.

From here you will see the potential SEO opportunity for each key phrase, and determine which are the most beneficial for your brand.

Note: don’t discard your N/A phrases but keep these in mind to monitor their activity.

5) See how your website’s content compares with your competitors

Once you’ve calculated your rankings, potential search opportunity and assigned key phrases to personas; it’s time to assess your competitors.

Now you need to understand how your site’s content compares with your competitors. It’s time to focus on qualitative over quantitative data.

You need to categorize each website's content and list out each category type they have - About Us pages, Videos, How-To Guides, etc.

You can see above that this chart simply compares you to your competitors and assesses the similarity between content. This way you’ll see where you’re ahead and where you need to up-the-ante.

6) Perform a website content audit

Now you want to carry out an inventory of your current website content.

It’s important to do this to back up your SEO findings. To successfully combine and analyze your SEO and content data, you’ll want an audit of your website’s content. This audit will become an essential foundation for your content marketing strategy, and help to give insight to any future changes.

Here you want to list each category of content (including website, blog and landing pages), including content type, an assigned ID and URL, and what’s called a ROT Score, (redundant, outdated or tired) — for each piece of content you’ve listed.

7) Merge your data with your competitors’ data

Finally, you can begin to merge all of the data you’ve collected from your competitors, as well as your own website. By combining all the statistics, you can then identify any weakness in your or your competitor's content.

Take your Content Comparison, along with your Website Content Audit graphs and merge these, so they are categorized by type of content.

Even if you or your competitors don’t have a certain type of content, add this information to the spreadsheet for you to see any gaps in the content strategy. Now you’ll be able to assess.

Happy lead generating!

Looking for more marketing tips? Read our blog.

As originally seen on Hearst Bay Area

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