Audience Optimization: Giving Your Audience What It Wants

Audi­ence opti­miza­tion helps you under­stand what dig­i­tal con­sumers want, in the lan­guage they use, so you can reach them at the moments they need you.

Christopher Hart By Christopher Hart from Linkdex. Join the discussion » 1 comment

Audi­ence opti­miza­tion – the art of opti­miz­ing for your audi­ence’s needs – isn’t just about key­word intent. It’s about cus­tomer intent, and try­ing to pin­point what users are try­ing to do online when and where they per­form a spe­cif­ic query. Cus­tomers have all the pow­er. You must under­stand your audi­ence and the lan­guage they use.

Under­stand­ing your cus­tomers, where they are, and how to engage them is the back­bone of mar­ket­ing. This isn’t a new con­cept. It’s how mar­keters have been tack­ling things for years.

In the dig­i­tal age, how­ev­er, the chan­nels are com­plex. This makes your mar­ket­ing more com­pli­cat­ed than it’s ever been, but also more tar­get­ed.

Through dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, you can find out how your cus­tomers search for your prod­ucts or ser­vices online, what their expec­ta­tions are from your brand, and where the oppor­tu­ni­ties are to engage, earn their trust, and pro­vide solu­tions to them at every stage in the buy­ing cycle.

This takes one impor­tant char­ac­ter­is­tic: the abil­i­ty to embrace chaos and give in to the flu­id nature of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing. You must be respon­sive to meet your audi­ence’s needs.

It also forces you to look at opti­miza­tion in a new and dif­fer­ent way. No longer are you just opti­miz­ing for search engines. You are opti­miz­ing for the end user.

Why You Need An Audience Optimization Strategy

Every online mar­ket­ing tac­tic you hear of should have a well-thought-out strat­e­gy behind it. A tac­ti­cal approach to dig­i­tal busi­ness is lit­tle help in cre­at­ing solu­tions. This is because rely­ing sole­ly on tac­tics treats the symp­toms and not the cause.

Just as we must take a step back to look at who we’re opti­miz­ing for, we also must take a step back and know why we are approach­ing dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing the way we do. This helps us become strate­gic mar­keters.

It’s not about what you think you are or how you think it should be said. It’s your audi­ence and their lan­guage. Lan­guage and audi­ence are the things that trans­verse chan­nels, not opti­miza­tion tech­niques for those chan­nels.

The Age of the Customer’

Whether the cus­tomer knows it or not, they are buy­ing through all sorts of con­nect­ed chan­nels. The fol­low­ing illus­tra­tion by For­rester helps us under­stand the evo­lu­tion to the “age of the cus­tomer” and the impor­tance of audi­ence:

Age of Customer - Forrester

What do you get out of the abil­i­ty to pro­duce some­thing, dis­trib­ute some­thing, and under­stand some­thing using data? You gain the abil­i­ty to tru­ly know your cus­tomers

Any com­pa­ny that shows up and says, “I have the pow­er,” fails from the begin­ning.

or exam­ple: Com­pa­nies that use a com­bi­na­tion of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, mar­ket­ing automa­tion and prop­er lead scor­ing are more effec­tive­ly under­stand­ing their audi­ence and how they speak and com­mu­ni­cate in cer­tain chan­nels, mak­ing them smarter mar­keters.

This, in turn, is help­ing these com­pa­nies align their edi­to­r­i­al and pub­lish­ing exer­cis­es to be more focused on the use and val­ue their prod­uct and ser­vice it brings to the audi­ence. More recent­ly this top­ic has been labeled “native adver­tis­ing.” In real­i­ty, though, it’s just great con­tent about a prod­uct or ser­vice that is rel­e­vant to the audi­ence – and not just mar­ket­ing speak.

Understanding Audience Intent

Tra­di­tion­al search engine opti­miza­tion (SEO) has taught us that we need to iden­ti­fy queries in a search engine so we can choose key­words to insert into the con­tent we cre­ate for that query.

Audi­ence opti­miza­tion is a way of plan­ning and doing busi­ness online, across many chan­nels, dis­ci­plines and tech­nolo­gies – all meant to reach your audi­ence at the moment they need you.

  • Are they ready to buy?
  • Are they mere­ly doing research?
  • Are they look­ing for reviews of your com­pa­ny?
  • Is it from a com­put­er, or mobile device such as a smart­phone or tablet?
  • Did an ad on TV or in print trig­ger the search, or did word of mouth or a social net­work pique their curios­i­ty?

The truth is, the buy­ing cycle almost always has more than one of these ele­ments.

You might think the research and shop­ping that occurs on your site is the result of one sin­gu­lar action by the user. They wake up one day and decide they need your prod­uct or ser­vice, type a query into Google, find your site, research your com­pa­ny, and either buy your prod­uct or inquire into your ser­vices right then and there.

Research and shop­ping occurs way beyond the bound­aries of your busi­ness’s walled-in gar­den, before your poten­tial cus­tomer even lands on your web­site.

Leav­ing the choice to make that pur­chase or inquire about a ser­vice is typ­i­cal­ly the tail-end result of a process that began long ago.

The Purchase Cycle: A Story About Shoes

Jane is look­ing for dress shoes for an upcom­ing wed­ding in which she is a brides­maid. She already has the intent to buy, but she’s not sure where yet, or what type of shoe is best for her dress.

She’s on Face­book one after­noon, and sees that one of her friends “Liked” Shoe Com­pa­ny A’s Face­book page. She checks out the page and then signs off.

Lat­er that week, she queries [dress shoes, brides­maids] in Google. The search engine returns a help­ful arti­cle on how to choose a brides­maid shoe. It hap­pens to be authored by that very same com­pa­ny she saw on Face­book ear­li­er that week.

Rec­og­niz­ing the com­pa­ny name, she book­marks the post and reads it a few days lat­er. The arti­cle is so help­ful to her that she decides to fol­low the com­pa­ny’s link to its Twit­ter account, embed­ded in the arti­cle.

But she’s not ready to buy just yet. She con­tin­ues to do her research over the peri­od of a cou­ple weeks, and finds sev­er­al dis­count stores that match and some­times even beat Shoe Com­pa­ny A’s prices.

But Jane is con­cerned with the qual­i­ty of the shoe, not just the price. So she goes back on Twit­ter and asks the com­pa­ny about the qual­i­ty of their shoes, and to her sur­prise, she actu­al­ly gets a response from Shoe Com­pa­ny A.

The com­pa­ny sends her to a page on their site that talks about the hand­made qual­i­ty of their dress shoes. And because they want her busi­ness, they remind her of the spe­cial dis­count for fol­low­ers of the com­pa­ny’s Twit­ter pro­file.

Jane is almost con­vinced, but she wants to make sure they prac­tice what they preach, so she turns to her friend on Face­book whom she saw Liked the shoe com­pa­ny’s page weeks pri­or.

Now Jane is look­ing for a rec­om­men­da­tion, as many often do in the pur­chase cycle. Turns out, her friend bought shoes from the com­pa­ny in ques­tion, and could speak to the qual­i­ty.

The next morn­ing, “Jane the shop­per” turns into “Jane the cus­tomer.”

A sales cycle like this is not uncom­mon, and is the rea­son why under­stand­ing the path that leads to a query and a sale requires that brands be in the right place at the right time – where the con­ver­sa­tions that mat­ter to your brand are hap­pen­ing.

What Is Successful Audience Optimization?

One impor­tant stat to look at is audi­ence engage­ment. It’s not just about pageviews or traf­fic. What’s the life­time val­ue of your audi­ence?

It takes you so long to earn a cus­tomer. The last thing you want to do is lose them.

Would you rather have a con­sis­tent cou­ple of $100 pur­chas­es every month or so across 5, 10, 15 years, or a one-and-done pur­chase? Imag­ine what you’d get in return for con­cen­trat­ing your efforts on get­ting 10, 20, or 30 loy­al cus­tomers.

Anoth­er key to suc­cess­ful audi­ence opti­miza­tion: lis­ten more, talk less. Active lis­ten­ing, to where a per­son tru­ly under­stands your brand or busi­ness is hear­ing them, is tru­ly endear­ing.

Under­stand where a per­son is com­ing from, and let them be heard. Don’t hide or sti­fle or try to con­trol the con­ver­sa­tion. Allow the voic­es to be heard. Mag­i­cal things hap­pen.

For inspi­ra­tion, look at a brand like Red Bull. They spon­sor var­i­ous sports. Also, they launched a mag­a­zine called The Red Bul­letin, which cov­ers lifestyle top­ics that are asso­ci­at­ed with what their audi­ence does.

Red Bulletin

They don’t write about ener­gy drinks; they write about cloth­ing, con­certs, and extreme sports. While that has noth­ing to do with ener­gy drinks, it has every­thing to do with talk­ing to an audi­ence, in many dif­fer­ent ways, that may drink ener­gy drinks.

GoPro YouTube Video

Also, look at Go Pro. They cre­at­ed an envi­ron­ment where users cre­ate video con­tent that helps the brand mar­ket their prod­uct. How many videos on YouTube can you find that peo­ple have filmed using a hel­met-mount­ed GoPro cam­era? Tons.

Key Takeaways

  • With­in the flu­id nature of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, you need to embrace chaos, and be respon­sive enough to shift focus at a momen­t’s notice to reach your audi­ence.
  • Audi­ence opti­miza­tion is about deci­pher­ing cus­tomer intent, and try­ing to pin­point exact­ly what your users are try­ing to do online when they per­form a query.
  • Under­stand­ing the path that leads to a query – and even­tu­al­ly, a sale – allows you to cre­ate a strat­e­gy where your brand can be in the right place at the right time.

Author’s Note: This is the first in a series of posts on Linkdex that will offer vis­i­bil­i­ty into the real­i­ty of a dig­i­tal busi­ness that’s dri­ven by strat­e­gy. One con­cept you must wrap your head around in order to have a suc­cess­ful strat­e­gy is giv­ing your audi­ence what it wants. Future install­ments will look at the big pic­ture behind some of the most-talked-about tac­tics and issues in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing. We will explore what you need to know to bring some much-need­ed strat­e­gy to the dig­i­tal busi­ness cul­ture you want to cre­ate.

Christopher Hart

Written by Christopher Hart

Head of Client Development, US, Linkdex

Heading up the Linkdex office in LA, Christopher has been key in building an expert account management team that has both a thorough knowledge of the platform and a genuine understanding of client needs. Christopher brings a mix of in-house experience and agency expertise to the company, which he applies to ensure clients get what they need from the platform and from the Linkdex team. At Linkdex, Christopher is excited about the opportunity to work with a platform that is both effectively aligned with the needs of the latest SEO challenges, and modern digital marketing teams.

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