As we enter a new decade, one might argue that we’re entering a new age of marketing. The Internet has reached maturity and companies need to become increasingly sophisticated to differentiate their message and make an impact with their target audience amid all the clamour. How do you do that? The new buzzwords are audience insight and audience-led SEO – so here’s our beginner’s guide to this brave new world.
What is audience-led SEO?
As the internet has become more sophisticated, so too have its users. Individuals know what they want from it and are becoming more adept at searching it out – these days they want to be inspired and entertained, rather than spoon-fed your marketing message. It’s not so much about you reaching the right people – it’s about the right people reaching you, which means your need to understand what your target audience is searching for, and then provide it for them, in the way they want it.
This requires a comprehensive understanding of your audience – what they search for, their online habits and behaviour, their demographics. Once you’ve done the hard work collating all this information, you’ll be able to use this understanding to inform all of your content across multiple channels.
It’s time to get onboard with an audience-led strategy. This means combining first-party data harvested from your website with third-party data about your wider potential audience to create a clear image of who you’re selling to. This type of target audience analysis is rapidly growing in importance for successful marketing outcomes. It enables you to identify who your audience is and how you can use audience-optimized content to reach out to them.
Audience insight is critical
By tracking the interests, preferences, location, demographics and online behaviour of your audience, you’ll gain valuable insight that will allow you to create the best content to fulfil their needs. Audience analysis will create composite buyer personas which will make it clearer to your marketing team who they need to be talking to.
Sure, the use of fictional buyer profiles isn’t new, but the speed and accuracy with which they can be created is. Gathering information using social media analytics is instantaneous and analytical tools have been developed that can easily interpret the vast amounts of data you can collect.
So now you have access to all this information, how can it help your SEO and marketing strategies? Audience analysis is invaluable for creating a coherent strategy for guiding your target customer through your marketing funnel. Not only will you be able to target content more accurately at your buyer profile, but you’ll be able to tailor it more precisely for each stage of the purchasing journey. In turn, you’re now able to analyse how well each element of your strategy is playing its part and which type of content works best for which individual buyer profile.
The take-home you’ll find is that consumers now increasingly filter out the noise they don’t want to hear in favour of content that satisfies what they’re looking for and adds value. With the introduction of Google’s latest update, BERT, the search engine will better understand search queries as it considers the entire context of the search rather than individual keywords. It means that on-page SEO will become more about creating contextual meaning and using words in precise ways. Word clouds won’t cut it with BERT.
Make search intent your new focus
It’s no longer good enough to focus on keywords – the new approach has to be audience-led, and this means understanding search intent. Search intent is the reason why people are using specific search terms – are they looking for a website, a business address, a product or a piece of information? Google focuses on understanding people’s search intent and ranks pages that fulfil search intent more highly.
Analysing search intent allows for a deeper understanding of what your customer is looking for – and how you can provide it. By digging deeper into related search terms and intents, you can create content, campaigns and SEO strategies that more accurately fulfil searchers’ needs. This in turn will build better engagement with potential clients and draw them further into your sale funnel.
In other words, an audience-led approach improves your ability to deliver successful digital marketing campaigns and to reach the core audience for your brand. Understanding what your customers need and how they engage online will pay dividends for every campaign you run.
Putting audience-led SEO into action
To move forward in 2020, audience-led SEO needs to become a key element in your marketing strategy. Google is now ranking sites on the basis of context – how useful the content will be in terms of information and location – so optimising your site means understanding exactly what your target audience is looking for.
So what should you be doing? Here are a number of actionable strategies that really work:
- Combine first-, second- and third-party data – this will create an enriched knowledge of your audience and you’ll gain a better understanding of how they behave online.
- Start using programmatic advertising – this can spread your impressions across multiple sites and publishers targeting a particular audience segment. It will make your advertising far more effective.
- Leverage paid-for audience data across all your digital marketing channels to get the most out of your investment and to create consistency across platforms.
- Integrate search engine intent information into your audience-led SEO strategy. This involves identifying different points in the sales funnel from long tail searches and then aligning strong buy-intention searches with enriched audience data to fully understand the route-to-purchase and the purchasing decision.
- There is a wide range of tools that will allow you to analyse your audience more closely. Some, such as YouGovProfiles and social platform analytics can be accessed for free or very cheaply. For more sophisticated analysis there are tools such as Nuvi Audience, that will provide you with information about industry audiences beyond your own subscribers, or Crimson Hexagon, which is able to analyse online conversations and help you become a part of them. Other tools, such as Socialbakers Suite, will allow you to consolidate your audience data and use it to create customer personas.
- Use Google Analytics to drill down into the online behaviour of visitors to your own website. You’ll discover who’s interacting with you and how they interact, allowing you to optimise your site to suit their needs.
- Once you have your enriched audience data, you can use it to create media content that is more accurately aligned with your target audience’s requirements. Aligning your campaign content with the findings of your analysis will result in heightened engagement and more successful marketing. In other words, get the story right and your audience will absorb the marketing message.
- The pay-off with audience-led content creation is that you’ll be able to offer content that connects to your target customer at a personal level, and that has been devised to empathise with and solve their problem. Give them information that they find valuable and useful, or create content which has a positive emotional focus, as this is more likely to be shared.
- Use your enriched audience data to find areas in which you can build authority – create an information hub that will bring searchers to your site and increase your visibility in areas of parallel audience interest.
- Use your enriched audience data to make your top-of-the-funnel marketing more targeted. To attract an unknown audience, the conventional wisdom is to cast a wide net. However, this is expensive. Now, by using audience analytics and tools such as programmatic, you’ll be able to build a new audience in a more cost-effective way. You can focus your budget on building awareness among people who exhibit the same online behaviour and intent as your existing customers.
The benefits of audience analysis and targeting:
- Audience analysis is the new frontier in digital marketing – so is it worth it? We think it is as it comes with a range of benefits:
- Audience analysis allows for more targeted advertising, which is naturally more cost effective
- Targeted advertising results in faster and easier conversions
- By better aligning with your audiences requirements, you’ll improve your Facebook relevance scores
- Audience analysis will allow you to identify the influences most relevant to your brand
- You’ll be able to produce content that’s more valuable to the people you want to reach
- You’ll be able to target specific content to each stage of the sales funnel
- By knowing who your target customer is, you’ll be able to build a more sympathetic and personal relationship with them, engendering brand loyalty and customer retention
- You’ll be able to target niche segments of your audience with bespoke content
- You’ll be able to position yourself more advantageously in a crowded market
Digital marketing is more sophisticated and competitive than ever before. As search engines concern themselves with context and intent, you need to provide a more relevant offering – which you’ll only be able to do if you understand your audiences wants, needs, demographic and online behaviour. This information now needs to be the bedrock of all your SEO activities – and it will open the door to a new era of successful online marketing.