It often felt like building audience personas for clients was another box-ticking exercise. A single fancy graphic revealing little more insight than what you’d get on a Cluedo card. Say hello to Professor Plum.
The last year, though, we’ve been taking things many steps further to develop and refine our audience persona development process for SEO as well as content marketing.
Why? Because awesome audience personas give you two key things:
- A shared language for marketing teams to use, giving everyone a greater understanding of who they should be marketing to.
- Greater resonance. Personas reveal what information to highlight, include and exclude, as well as the best tone of voice and any specialised jargon we need to understand.
Previously, we’d have to rely on our own preconceptions, random titbits of knowledge and blur this with the client’s often woeful understanding of who their customers are. You don’t need me to tell you that this did not work well.
Instead, we’ve taken a data-backed approach. Once completed, the resulting personas should be fully fleshed out, data-backed insights into a person who the team, the client and I can all relate to. Not some two-dimensional card revealing it was Mrs. Peacock with the Candlestick in the Library.
The Tools of the Trade:
So, to upgrade your marketing, here are five tools we use to make more effective personas:
- YouGov Profiler – The caption “Search for any brand, person or thing” pretty well sums up YouGov’s power in revealing data-backed insights into target customers. Available for British, American and German markets, YouGov will give you a complete picture of who the average customer is for that given thing — including, but not limited to, their politics and favourite foods, brands and apps.
- Display Planner – Searching by keyword in Google Display Planner offers up even more information. Perusing the options under “keyword”, “interests” and “topics” gives you broader insight, showing personas that are not just into one hobby. Plus, examining the options hidden in “Placements” gives you a perfect way to locate other related websites you can mine for information. (Check out #5).
- GA Audience Interests – Under Audience > Interests you’ll find “Affinity Categories” in Google Analytics, showing you what other topics beside your website that visitors like — Travel Buffs, Movie Lovers and the like. Click into any of these options and you’ll see the age breakdown to split out your personas even further. It helps to see that people have hobbies beyond what you might at first expect.
- Answer the Public – The grumpy bearded man of Answer the Public provides some fascinating insights into what people are actually searching for on Google away from the limited data offered up by Keyword Planner. Can the questions be collated into common themes? What are people’s problems? And the bigger question – can you provide the answers with optimised content?
- Reading – It sounds horrifically obvious, but many marketers just don’t do it. When I take on a new client, I try to consume anything and everything I can that its customers use. Order the free magazines, like its social profiles, sit on YouTube – all in the name of research. You soon start to see the patterns, the imagery and the specialised language that’ll need to be used if you want your marketing to resonate.
Personas & SEO
Personas really come into play with keyword research.
The tools above help to build up an accurate picture of what people, topics, questions and trends consumers are already talking about. But the added gem is picking up and understanding industry-specific specialised language — words, acronyms and jargon you’d have never heard of previously.
Random things I’ve learned during my time include:
- HIE – The abbreviation for Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy, which we were able to optimise for when doing keyword research for the medical negligence industry.
- Onboarding – An HR term for introducing new employees to your business. Used when we worked on an SEO-focussed recruitment campaign.
- Geofencing – A term used in the fleet industry for use in telematics devices.
All of these – either on their own or as part of long-tailed phrases — have search volume. Plus, all are keywords, which Google Keyword Planner wouldn’t regularly reveal if you didn’t know of them in the first place — all in all, making keyword research a far more effective activity for structuring future SEO work.
Personas & Content Marketing: Dogs & Agency Owners
But when it comes to content marketing personas, take things one step further. Why? Well, have you ever noticed how many digital agency owners have dogs?
Imagine you’re a SAAS provider trying to get in front of digital agency directors.
Old-style personas would identify agency owner A. Let’s call him John. Now what would John be interested in?
Traditionally, you might say a whitepaper on how your software can generate leads. Or how about a blog post on recruiting digital talent? Not bad.
But, once you do the research, you find that agency owners all seem to have dogs. John’s dog is called Harley. In fact, that’s all John’s Instagram account includes. Harley visits the office. They head to the moors for weekend walks. John and Harley are inseparable.
Now that we know that, we’ll ask the same question. What would John be interested in?
We have an edge here. Taking a canine-centric approach, why not a competition to find the top dog in marketing? It has emotional impact. It’s competitive. It’s exactly what The Drum did with their Dogerati. A little better than your old school whitepaper, eh?
So, there you have it. Our persona development approach. So pull out the information, merge it together and spot the patterns. You’ll be able to carry out more effective keyword research as well as content marketing campaigns. The ideal is to still end up with a single fancy graphic for each of your personas, but this time you’ll have a deeper, data-backed understanding of who to focus your marketing around. Now I’m off to play Cluedo.