Understanding Your Site’s Audience

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Running a successful website is about more than just good design and well-written content. While these elements are important, they only represent one side of the equation in the relationship between you and your readers.

In addition to doing your best to provide good content and a pleasant site experience, it’s important to ensure that your audiences’ needs are being taken care of. People visit websites for specific purposes, and if your readers don’t feel that you’re meeting their expectations, they’ll leave – no matter how good your writing technically is or how pretty your site looks.

But how can you study your audience in order to uncover their hidden needs and motivations in order to better tailor your site to them? Don’t worry – you don’t need to be a mind reader to figure out what your audience is looking for and how you can help them find it. Instead, just follow the steps outlined in this article to ensure your site’s content is a good fit.

Write Based on Keywords

Not only is keyword research a great way to be sure your site receives the maximum possible SEO benefit, it’s also good for uncovering the topics your audience is eager to hear about. Let’s look at two ways to do this…

Standard Keyword Research

Conducting traditional keyword research (in which you use a tool to brainstorm related keyword ideas and evaluate their potential in terms of search volume and competition) can be a great way to learn more about the mindset of your audience and understand what topics they’re most interested in.

In this example of keyword research generated by Market Samurai for the keyword phrase “dog training”, we can see that the terms “dog problems”, “obedience training” and “crate training” all receive a good volume of monthly search traffic. If you have a website on dog training that doesn’t cover one of these areas, this type of keyword research can help you uncover new topics that your audience might want to learn about.

Keyword Questions Tool

Another fun way to figure out what your audience wants to learn about is with Wordtracker’s free “Keyword Questions Tool”. To access this tool, navigate to https://freekeywords.wordtracker.com/keyword-questions and enter your target keyword into the search box.

In the above example, we can see several questions that are related to the target keyword phrase “dog training”, as well as the number of times these questions are asked on the top search engines each day.

Imagine, in the case above, that you had a site focused on dog training tips. Although you might have assumed that your audience was primarily pet owners, people could be coming to your site for information to use in their own dog training businesses! Not only does this search uncover a whole new set of long tail keyword phrases, it could potentially identify aspects of your niche that your audience is anxious to hear about!

Survey Your Existing Content

Another way to determine what type of content your audience responds best to is to simply look at how they’ve behaved in the past. To do this, log in to your Google Analytics account (or whatever other web data program you’re using) and identify your top content pages. In Google Analytics, this information can be found by logging in, clicking on “Content” in the left-hand navigation pane and then clicking on “Top Content” from the expanded list:

Once you’ve pulled the information on your top content pages, you’ll want to start doing some detective work…

Take the example above. In this case, one article on the site is receiving substantially more views than any other page. This could indicate that readers are looking for a particular type of information, making it worthwhile to invest time in writing similar articles in order to appeal to the audiences’ interests.

However, as we can see from the extended stats in this example, the average time on page for this article is very low and the bounce rate is very high – meaning that it might not be a good fit for all audience members. Indeed, looking down to the content pages in positions 5-10, we see much better on-page stats. Looking at the topics covered in these articles might provide more useful data about what our audience members are interested in.

Ask Your Readers

Of course, analyzing existing web page statistics is only half the battle. By studying this information, we can make assumptions about what our audience members will be interested in based on their past preferences, but it’s important to understand that these preferences are inherently limited.

Here’s why… Suppose you’ve covered topic X and topic Y on your site and your web analytics show that your audience was more engaged when you discussed topic Y. You could conclude that you should add more content on topic Y, but what if they’d really prefer to hear about topic Z? Since you’ve never covered it on your website, you have no idea that they’ll respond well to this type of information.

So how do you figure out what topics your audience would really like to hear about that you haven’t covered yet? The easiest way to do it is to simply ask them!

To do this, set up an account on SurveyMonkey, Zoomerang or one of the many other free survey providers out there. Limit your survey to as few questions as possible (as this will increase the number of readers who finish your poll), while still getting the information you need. Consider the following sample questions that you could include in your survey:

  • What is your favorite topic to read about on my site?
  • Are there any topics you feel I haven’t covered well enough?
  • Of the following options, which topic would you like me to cover next? (Generate potential article topics based on the content on related sites in your niche and your keyword research.)
  • How would you describe your level of expertise in this niche?
  • What similar sites do you visit frequently?
  • How can I improve the reader experience on my site?

To encourage as many people to respond as possible, it’s a good idea to offer a bonus to every reader who finishes your survey. The premium versions of some of the survey programs listed above can do this automatically, but if you don’t want to pay for it, require participants to include their email addresses and send out your bonuses – whether you decide to offer a coupon code, free product or other incentive – manually.

When you invest time in getting to know your audience and their particular interests and desires – instead of just assuming that you know what it is they’re looking for – you increase the likelihood that they’ll form a connection with your site, leading to repeat visits and (potentially) repeat sales. Yes, it takes a little extra time compared to simply writing about whatever’s on your mind, but in the end, you’ll find that it’s well worth the effort to build a thriving, engaged audience.

Image: breathwick

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