The first thing that has to be considered, when planning your website content, is target audience. You have to think about who will want to visit your site, what they want to see, and why they want to visit. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking “My target audience is everyone.”
When you first get a website, you’re promised the wonder of being able to reach millions of people all over the world. Although this is technically true, more than likely, a teenager in Taiwan isn’t going to be interested in your textiles shop in Tottenhill. So; who, what, and why?
Who am I?
Firstly, let me introduce myself; I’m Robert Shippey. While working for Lingo as developer, for an internship during my summer break from studying Computer Systems (Networks) at Nottingham Trent University, I have been privy to Liz’s trade secrets regarding Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). To help me to gain practical experience with the techniques that I’ve learnt, I’m attempting to optimise my personal website; robertshippey.net. Below are some tips, based on my research, to get you started on identifying your target audience.
Some of the techniques that you will need to use may depend on your business, but some apply to everyone.
If you’re an existing business, you can learn a lot from your current customer base. If you have a shop you probably have a good idea of your target audience because you and your customer service team will be meeting and talking to them everyday. Otherwise, you could learn more about your customers by asking them to fill out a survey.
Hint: surveys should be kept short; no one likes to have their time wasted, questions should be open-ended to get people talking, and personal information should be asked last so that if they don’t want to answer at least you already have the important information.
If you’re a new business then you’re going to have a harder job finding who your target audience is, you’ll have to make assumptions (educated guesses).
Whether you’re talking to or surveying existing customers, or making assumptions, the main areas that you need to pin down are:
This is information such as age, gender, religion, location, employment status, and financial background. These may sound very specific, but depending on your business you can often learn a lot about your customers by considering these factors.
- What solutions to people’s problems do you offer?
If you offer a service, you’re saving people time, providing your own expertise, making their life easier. If you sell products then your products do this for you, and your solutions are connecting the right products to the right person’s problem. So who has the problems that you fix? If you’re a builder, then homeowners, or potential homeowners. If you’re a makeup artist, then models or actresses. If you sell mobility scooters, you’re solving the problems that the elderly have with getting around. Starting to get the idea?
- What do people like about you? What is your unique selling point (USP)?
Your business might have excellent customer service, you might get hold of the specialist equipment that your competitors can’t, or you might just be the cheapest around. Whatever makes your business stand out is important; it means you care about something very specific. Most likely, your target audience care about it too, so figure out what it is and play to that strength!
- Sources of friction
Unfortunately, not everyone is going to think you’re great. Those people aren’t in your target audience. Knowing who you’re not targeting is just as important as knowing who you are targeting so make sure to listen to customer feedback. A source of friction is something that might stop a potential customer choosing you. Even if you can’t fix the source of friction, you can try to minimise the amount of friction that your target audience experiences.
This may seem like a big job, but it’s the foundation for all your efforts to get noticed among the millions of other websites on the Internet. Search Engine Optimisation is about making sure Google knows exactly what you’re talking about and why you’re the authority on that topic, so that they can show your website at the top of relevant search result pages. If you haven’t figured out who should be seeing your content, how can Google even begin to work it out?