When a blog was just a “weblog,” bloggers generally wrote for themselves. It was just an online journal and you wrote about your opinions and personal experiences, and if people read your content, it was a bonus. Today, blogging is much more sophisticated and focused on the reader.
The foundation of a blog today is to know who your readers are, what they need, and what they expect from you. Whether you are an experienced or a new blogger, the number one thing you can do to improve your blog is to research your audience so that you have a clear picture of who you’re writing for.
Your Reader Persona
The best way to understand your reader is to create a persona or profile. This is a detailed description of your ideal reader, as if they were an individual person. Treating your audience as one individual helps you to identify their most common characteristics. You can then tailor your content to this single person, making it sound more authentic and relevant.
If you have segments of your audience that are wildly divergent, you may want to create separate profiles. But the main idea is to look for trends among your readership and not try to nail down everything.
Step 1 – Demographics
The first step is to define your reader’s demographics. Demographics include things like:
- Geographic location
- Income level
- Education level
- Marital status
- Family composition (married or unmarried, and number of children)
You can discover some of this demographic data by looking at Facebook Insights and other metrics on social media. If you’re already getting some traffic to your blog, you can also get data from Google Analytics. For example, if you browse through “Geography,” it will give you language and location results.
Step 2 – Explore Psychographics
Demographics are the hard facts about your reader. Psychographics are their psychological aspects. These include:
- Image of self
- Pain points (areas where they’re struggling)
- Needs and desires
Psychographics are harder to discover than demographics. The only way to understand these aspects of your reader is to observe your readers and interact with them. You need to see how they behave and listen to what they say.
In addition to understanding your audience’s values, attitudes, and other psychological aspects, you also need to understand how they buy and use products, services, or topics like yours. Pay especially close attention to how they interact with products.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to reveal this information:
- Why would the reader want to know about your product, service, or topic area?
- How knowledgeable is the reader about what you have to offer?
- What common questions does your reader have about your product, service, or topic area?
You may be able to glean some psychographic data from metrics, but a better way to get it is by looking at forums or groups. An easy trick to do this is to search for your topic as a keyword plus “forum” in Google or Reddit.
In addition to reading what your audience members say on these sites, look at what topics or subjects are popular. Which are voted up, voted down, liked, commented on, not commented on, and so on. This will give you a good idea of what your audience likes and doesn’t like, which will allow you to create that content for them.
For demographics and psychographics, you can also conduct a survey with your existing subscribers or readers. Create a short survey using a tool like Google Forms or Survey Monkey. Response rates tend to be low, so you may want to offer an incentive such as a gift or discount for completing the survey. Send your survey out to your subscribers or use an ad network like Facebook Ads to target your ideal reader.
Step 3 – Learn about Your Reader’s Behaviors and Preferences
Since you’re going to be creating content for your audience’s consumption, you should also learn about how they read and engage with the content they like. A few things to consider here are:
- How do they search for and find content to consume?
- What content formats do they like (video, text, etc.)?
- How do they consume content and what do they do with it (share, comment, etc.)?
- What is your audience’s taste in terms of length and depth of content? (*Although the trend is toward longer content, keep in mind that this depends on the audience and yours may not necessarily prefer long content)
A good way to discover this information is to go back to the forums and look at the content that is most popular. Which content gets the most comments or votes? See which topics get the most engagement.
You can also look at social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and SlideShare to see which videos, posted links, or other types of content are getting the most engagement.
Your current analytics can give you some ideas as well. Analytics allow you to see views (which content is viewed most) and bounce rate, which tells you how long readers are staying on a particular piece of content.
Google’s Keyword Planner can tell you what types of questions your audience is asking about your topic. This tool is part of Google AdWords and you have to have a Google account, but it’s free to use. From the Keyword Planner homepage, select “Search for new keywords and ad group ideas.” Here, enter keywords related to your topics or products and it will show you which questions are being asked.
Lastly, follow industry influencers and watch how they interact with their audience. You can gain tremendous insights and get ideas this way.
Step 4 – Create Your Target Reader Profile
Now, take all of the information you’ve gathered through the first three steps and put it together as a profile of your target reader. You can give each target reader a fictitious name and treat them as individuals. Add a picture or create an avatar to make the image clearer.
Paragraph 1 should be for demographics. Paragraph 2 can focus on psychographics. For the third paragraph, describe the reader’s behavior.
Mary is 45 years old. She is married and has two children. She lives in an urban setting, has a college education, and makes about $75,000 per year.
Mary’s main concerns are personal health, family health, and maintaining a work-life balance. She reads quite a bit about work-life balance and is particularly interested in tips and strategies that real families use to stay healthy. She finds it a challenge to manage her time with her kids’ activities.
Mary reads medium to long form content (1,000 to 2,000 words) that’s mostly text. She also likes personal stories and video interviews with other mothers. She’s active on Facebook and does a great deal of commenting on other people’s posts. She often asks questions and gets a great deal of engagement.
Now it’s your turn. Start creating your own ideal blog reader profile.
Be sure to read the other posts in this series:
The Blog Novice: Modern trends in blogging