Content Marketing Personas Done Correctly

Pull out the infor­ma­tion, merge it togeth­er and spot the pat­terns.

Dan White By Dan White from Optix Solutions. Join the discussion » 1 comment

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. 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.

Dan White

Written by Dan White

Digital Marketing Manager, Optix Solutions

Dan is a digital marketer with seven years of experience in content marketing, SEO and social media. He has worked on a variety of campaigns, including the likes of Clarks Village, Reed Global and Michelmores solicitors. He currently heads up content marketing at Optix Solutions in Exeter.

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