Having a good grasp of your target audience for SEO is crucial. If you understand your target audience you:
- Know what they’re looking for
- You know what common problems they have
- Know how they speak
- And know where they hang out
Armed with those key bits of information you can transform everything within your SEO strategy from the type of content you create, landing pages, to where you promote your site.
But how do you define your target audience for SEO?
What Is a Target Audience?
Firstly, you need to know what a target audience is.
“Your target audience are individuals you intend to attract to your website.”
In terms of SEO that means your target audience are current or potential customers who are using search engines to find businesses like yours.
These are the people you want to visit the site. The exact person who has a problem that your product can solve. The more engagement you have with this audience the more benefits down the line in terms of brand affinity and lifetime value.
How To Define Your Target Audience
To define your target audience and direct them to your website, you will need to know who specifically is searching for your product or service and the types of searches they are using.
This might sound like basic keyword research for SEO, but understanding your target audience goes beyond that.
As we get to know the audience better, this will inform your entire SEO strategy from the way that you structure landing pages, to the way that content is presented on the site.
The strongest SEO strategies are the ones that are rooted in understanding the target audience, so they can use them to guide every action they take as SEO is about marketing to people, not search engines.
The Difference Between A Target Audience & A Buyer Persona
It’s easy to confuse your target audience with buyer personas. They may have some crossover and can certainly be used to inform each other, but there is a distinct difference that we need to understand.
Your target audience is a top-level identification of a group of people who may be interested in your goods or services. They are classified as your ideal or purchasing audience.
To paint a good picture of your target audience, here are the most common variables to consider:
- Social class
- Highest level of education
- Purchasing power
- Consumption habits
For example, let’s say you have a Scottish menswear fashion brand that sells clothing, shoes and accessories for outdoor sports.
So the example target audience could be; Male, 25-35 years old, living in Edinburgh, with a Master’s degree, a monthly income of £2000.00-2500.00 and passionate about outdoor sports, hiking and travel.
Remember to be as specific as possible when defining your target audience.
You may be thinking – why not try targeting everyone in the market?
The simple answer is that this approach won’t work.
You cannot appeal to everyone. The website and messaging should be narrow and targeted. This means that it has a better chance at differentiating with the competition and being more relevant and visible in the SERPs.
A buyer persona is an abstract depiction of your ideal customer, based on quantitative and qualitative data from existing customer profiles, competitor and market research.
The aim of creating a buyer persona is to generate insights which can inform sales, marketing and product departments.
Buyer personas are deeper than target audiences, as they delve into the specifics of who individuals are, in terms of their buying habits, interests and demographics.
Here are the main variables to consider:
- Personal characteristics
- Purchasing power
- Lifestyle & Interests
- Social media engagement
For example, Hannah, 30, lives in Wimbledon, works and performs the violin in the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Has a Masters degree in Music & Literature. A monthly income of 1800.00 to 2000.00. She has a YouTube channel following music events in the area and interviews others within the classical music niche. As a part-time influencer, she takes a great deal of care curating her social media content to fit with her niche and social network. She enjoys dance lessons and cycling outdoors in the summer in her free time.
So as you can see, a buyer persona is deeper and more specific than a target audience.
Buyer Personas can certainly be used to inform the target audience but the main differentiating factor is that the target audience is more broad and simplistic, this means that it is a lot more manageable to use in an SEO strategy.
Why You Need To Understand Your Target Audience
Understanding your target audience will drive your SEO success. A concise definition of your target audience will allow you to:
- Carry out accurate keyword research to find the hyper-relevant search terms that need to be optimised for.
- Increase and drive relevant traffic from potential customers and clients.
- Generate relevant content for your target audience to consume. Which will improve their user experience.
- Convert a higher fraction of your organic traffic into leads or sales.
Tools To Help You Identify Your Target Audience
When trying to identify your target audience there are a number of tools that can make the process a lot easier, as well as saving you a lot of time. Every one of these tools will help you effectively understand who your customers are, as well as their potential buying habits & the types of purchases they make.
When looking to identify your target audience a tool that often goes overlooked despite its popularity is Google Analytics.
When you are looking to identify audience insights, GA can help you discover:
- User behaviour (frequency of visits, New v Returning, engagement)
- Demographics (Age, Gender)
- Geo (Language, Location)
- Device (Mobile, Desktop, Tablet)
- Acquisitions (Google organic, direct, Google PPC, Google CPC etc.)
- User flow
- Lifetime value
SEMrush is an all in one suite that offers solutions for SEO, PPC, content, keyword research, social media as well as competitive research. In terms of gaining insights on your target audience, the SEMrush Market Explorer Tool allows you to analyse your market & where you fit in it compared to your competitors.
When looking to gain insights on your target audience specifically, the market explorer tool can help you gain insights on:
- Growth in market
- Share of visits
- Traffic trends
- Domain vs Market: Growth by sources
- Traffic generation strategy
- Domain vs Market: Audience
- Geo Distribution
- Market Traffic
Facebook Audience Manager
It is widely known that Facebook has a tonne of information on their users & with more than a billion users every day – there is definitely a large amount of information that can be learnt from their insights.
Most businesses will have a Facebook business page, and if you don’t then you should definitely set one up! Your Facebook Business page will not have the exact same traffic as your site, but it can give you an insight into the types of people who interact with your business.
Facebook Audience Insights (FAI) will allow you to gain information on 3 key groups:
- People who like your business/page
- People within a custom audience you have setup
- People on Facebook as a whole
Once you have selected the key group that you are looking to target Facebook will then give you information such as:
- Demographics (Age, gender, lifestyle, education, relationship status, job role etc.)
- Other liked pages
- Location and language
- Facebook usage
- Any Purchases Behaviour (What have they bought previously & which method i.e. buys makeup, online)
How To Define Your Target Audience
1. Understanding Your Current Customers
When you are looking to identify who you should be targeting for your SEO strategy the first point of reference should always be your current customers.
The most common way of doing this is by taking a look at the data within your CRM, this data will often include details such as demographics, customer journey, purchases and preferences and can be an easy win when determining the types of people, you should be targeting.
Another great way to tap into your current customers is to speak to your sales team, often they will have a huge amount of insight into your customers including, conversion rates, demographics and order details.
By combining the insights gained from your sales team and the data from your CRM it should give you a starting point to determine the right personas and keywords to target.
Who Is Visiting Your Site
Another way to determine the types of customers you should be targeting is to look at the traffic that is currently visiting your site, this can be done by using Google Analytics.
By looking into the information gathered within the ‘Audience’ tab you can gain insights such as demographics, interests, geo data and much more.
This data can give you insights into your target audience and can help when determining the types of content to focus on as well as any geographical locations you should be looking to target.
This user data might also suggest that your content strategy and your audience are not currently aligned. If this is the case then you may want to change your current content strategy to match the insights gained from your site.
This is the time to be using tools such as Facebook insights to provide data to back up your decision making.
2. Keyword Research
This might sound like a simple and obvious step – but it is often overlooked. Spending time searching for your target keywords gives you a real flavour for what type of content is working well in the SERPs.
Here, it is important to take different types of keywords that you want to rank for. For example, transactional keywords that lead to product pages, mid-level keywords that might lead to category pages and longtail searches that are serviced with blog content.
Take note of the types of pages that are ranking, the amount of copy on them and what that copy is saying. Pay attention to softer aspects such as the tone of voice, this will play a significant role in aligning with your audience.
3. Narrowing Your Focus
To truly understand your audience, you need to understand what makes them tick.
There are a few ways you can achieve this.
The first port of call is online forums such as Reddit. These sites can be a treasure trove of people asking and answering questions about a wide range of topics. You are guaranteed to find conversations surrounding your industry or even your product in particular.
Pay attention to the type of language which is being used, there might even be a big difference between the language which is being used between those who are asking the question and those who are answering the question. This can be really useful in identifying a mismatch in technical terms which can be used to refine your on-page optimisation or be used as a basis for an educational piece on your blog.
A simple, and direct approach to finding out what your customers are like, is to phone them. This might sound a little strange at first but having rich 20 or 30-minute conversations with your customers can really help understand their personality and what makes them tick.
Make sure that your questions are more customer focussed rather than company focussed.
As you carry out 10 or 20 of these calls, patterns will begin to emerge where we can really start getting a better understanding of our target audience. We can then start making generalisations about the target audience, this leads to a specific view of the audience to which we can more accurately align our messaging to.
4. Know Your Competitors
The better you can understand what is working for your competitors, the better you can understand your target audience.
This is the time to use tools that analyse the market, such as SEMrush. This is a great tool to find what is working for your competitors.
You can start by entering your domain into the organic research tool. From here you can look at the position mapping of your site against the competition. This allows you to see whose strategy is working well and gaining the most organic traffic.
Be mindful of;
- Top ranking keywords
- Top pages
- Top competitors
Here you can see the type of pages that are working well and engaging with the target audience.
Similar to the SERP analysis, pay attention to the connection between the target keyword and the type of page which is ranking. This is really useful information in informing your strategy and how to best approach targeting these keywords.
Having a clear grasp of your target audience is fundamental to a good SEO strategy. It has benefits and implications across all of your marketing communications. If you get it right, you can rank your main landing pages better, utilise the blog to drive more organic traffic and drive long term customer value. If you truly align yourself with your audience, these users can become spokespeople for your business as they engage and share content through their own social media. Use this guide to understand your audience and start reaping the rewards.