When examining a website’s audience, what are we really looking at?
Site owners may believe their audience consists of every person who visits their website.
They’re not wrong, but there’s more to it than that.
When promoting your site and growing your brand, you’ll be focusing on your target audience. That simple, one-word modifier immediately loops in all the people in the world who haven’t visited your site yet but should.
As we’ll discuss in this article, knowing everything there is to know about your current audience will help you define a target audience profile, one you can use to drive content improvements and ultimately reach a larger group of people.
The steps involve research into your visitors’ demographics, figuring out that demographic group’s preferences, and then tailoring your content for that group.
When you publish content that perfectly satisfies the needs and interests of your visitors, you can create an authentic response that leads to audience growth and vastly improved brand recognition.
This approach has been proven effective in growing the audience of any type of website. Whether you’re publishing content to promote products or services, showcasing your creative output with a blog, or trying to attract visitors to an online store, knowing who you’re creating content for is of utmost importance.
After you’ve refined your content to match the tastes of your audience, you’ll need to actively promote your brand using social media and other channels. That’s when you can see your content improvements translate to explosive audience growth. We’ll also cover that towards the end of this article, but first, let’s drill down on how you can learn all you need to about your audience!
Know Who Your Audience Is
The best way to learn about your audience is through research. You can begin with high-level demographic details like age and gender, then consider other factors to build a more detailed picture. In-depth audience analysis, called segmentation, can be extremely effective, factoring in users’ behavior, beliefs, and other elements.
Initially, when defining a profile of your target audience, start with general characteristics. A great option for gathering basic demographic data is Google Analytics, but there are many tools available. Here are a few popular examples:
- Tableau provides mapping tools to help you visualize your site data.
- Quantcast Measure gives site owners real-time insight into the demographic and behavioral makeup of their audience.
- LinkedIn’s Website Demographics helps site owners explore basic demographics and segmentation categories like job titles, company names, and industries.
In addition, plugins that provide demographic reporting are available for all popular content management systems.
In Google Analytics, the Demographics and Interest Reports provide a broad demographic breakdown of the people who visit your website, including their ages and genders. Those two pieces of demographics data, alone, can tell you a lot about the changes that might be needed to attract a larger audience.
Let’s say you run a real estate business and you’ve tried to target first-time homebuyers of any gender. If you find that a huge percentage of your visitors are men, you’ll know that the site’s content needs to be modified to appeal to women too. You may have inadvertently loaded your blog with DIY topics and reviews of area golf courses, for example. In this case, a post or two about gardening and home décor could effectively double your audience.
Carefully analyzing the age and gender of your visitors can tell you a lot about what you’re doing right, and what needs improvement.
It’s best to think about what age and gender you’d like your audience to be before you begin your analysis. That will allow you to make an objective assessment of your content and decide on changes that will get you the audience you want.
Here’s an exercise that may help.
Write down the age range of your ideal audience member. To capture the gender profile of your target audience, note whether you’re interested in attracting mostly male visitors, female visitors, or everyone.
With a target established, you’ll be able to take an honest look at who your site attracts now and compare that group to your ideal target audience. It’s very common to find that an important segment is missing from your current audience, and that’s a crucial piece of the puzzle when determining exactly what needs to change about your content.
Many demographics tools let you delve deeper into the profile of your typical site visitor, providing access to categories that factor in user lifestyle, the content they consume, and the products they shop for online. We’ll explore how that information can be useful in the next section.
Know What Your Audience Likes
Noting key metrics like Average Session Duration and Bounce Rate is another important part of audience analysis. It will help you figure out which type of content your visitors find most valuable. Google Analytics provides access to that kind of information, enabling you to find out which pages get the most traffic and which ones are rarely viewed.
Google Analytics (and a wide range of similar tools) can also be used to pinpoint your audience’s interests and behavior. You can find out the keywords they search with, and many tools report on categories involving user lifestyle, the content that users consume, etc.
For example, Interest Reports in Google Analytics will give you information about your visitor’s interests elsewhere on the internet. With that information, you can refine your content to better resonate with people who have those interests. The report includes Affinity Categories, which breaks down users based on high-level areas of interest like Health and Fitness or Technology. The In-Market Segments reports on what your visitors are interested in purchasing, with categories like Travel and Consumer Electronics. A third level of reporting reveals visitor’s general interest, with groupings like Sports and Arts & Entertainment.
Once you’ve drilled down on your audience profile to this level, you’ll have all the information you need to begin creating content that will speak directly to the visitors you want to attract.
Fine-tune Your Content
If your website audience isn’t as big as you’d like, the remedy is better content. When you give visitors what they want (i.e., relevant, engaging content), in return, they’ll fully embrace your site and become part of your audience. They’ll also share your content with others.
It’s really that simple. If your site’s content is valuable to visitors, they’ll appreciate it and reciprocate by recommending your site to friends and family.
But improving your content can present challenges. It can be hard to stay objective when assessing the value of your content. That’s where all the work described above comes into play.
With a target audience in mind and a firm understanding of who your current audience is, you’ll be able to make changes to your content that drastically improve your site’s appeal, and not in a general way. Your changes will be precisely aimed at attracting the specific group you want to add to your audience.
Let’s say you run a snow skiing shop that recently started carrying snowboards. You expected a younger group of site visitors to appear, but a month later, they have yet to come.
Your research into visitor demographics confirms that your content is not landing with younger people and that most of your visitors are buying skis, not snowboards. This prompts an honest, unflinching assessment of your content and a realization that the site is still very heavy on snow skiing, with only a few posts about snowboarding.
It can take situations like that to make a site owner wake up to the fact that stale or poorly targeted content is limiting audience growth. While it can be disappointing when time-tested content is no longer getting the job done, having a clear picture of any content gaps is the first step in resolving the problem.
In some cases, your content gaps won’t be as easy to figure out as in the example above. You may need to use keyword analysis to find topics that you’re not currently covering but would have a great deal of drawing power.
To identify topics that your audience will find engaging, a Google Ads account is a good place to start, (even if you don’t run Google ads). Using the Keyword Planner tool, start with keywords that you’ve already determined are valuable for your website—the tool will present you with a list of related keywords. After filtering the results based on search volume and competition, you’ll be able to identify keywords that will broaden your exposure while staying focused on your core audience.
For example, let’s say that you provide home repairs and, due to your SEO efforts, your site’s most popular page ranks high for the search term “basement leak.” When you enter that term into the Keyword Planner, you may find that the related term “sealant failure” has high volume and low competition. By adding that term to your Services page and publishing a blog post about the kind of damage that “sealant failure” can do to a basement, you’ll have taken a step toward attracting a larger audience for your site.
When identifying keywords for audience growth purposes, give special consideration to search phrases that align with your primary target audience, but don’t be too rigid about that. In some cases, you’ll be targeting an adjacent group or one that overlaps with your main audience. That’s OK—audience growth means attracting new people, so casting a slightly wider net can be part of the plan.
After you’ve enhanced your site’s content to further engage your target audience, there’s still more work to be done. You’ll need to actively market your content using social media and other channels. Rapid audience growth is a common result when audience members begin to share a site’s content, and we’ll discuss how to make that happen in the next section.
Get the Word Out
After you’ve defined your target audience and optimized your content for that group, you shouldn’t sit back and wait for them to come to your site. To get the increased traffic that will lead to audience growth, you’ll need a proactive approach. It’s time to engage in some serious website promotion, like hyper-focused ad campaigns and social media outreach.
Your top priority should be to get your content (or links to it) where your target audience will see it.
Take to your most effective marketing channels, whether that’s Twitter and Facebook or LinkedIn and YouTube, and get the word out to prospective site visitors. Consider the new content you’ve created that’s specifically designed to attract a new set of people, as your posts should highlight that content.
There are numerous digital marketing channels available, and many allow for precise audience targeting. For example, YouTube offers the Find My Audience tool, which can give you a profile of your most valuable users on YouTube and help you discover new audiences.
You should also take advantage of paid ads. If you tailor them for the group you’re targeting and place them on sites that will extend your exposure to new users, you’ll pull in new audience members.
Also, try to get backlinks on sites that your target audience frequents. One of the easiest ways to grow your audience is to find a site that’s popular among the people you’re targeting and get that site to publish a link to your site. If your content and the other site’s content are related, even loosely, there’s a good chance that new visitors will find you because of a well-placed backlink.
Don’t rely on just one or two marketing channels to promote your site. Instead, go for an all-out marketing blitz, at least right after you’ve made significant content changes geared toward audience growth. Get your social media, ads, and backlinks all working at the same time, driving consistent traffic to your site.
Getting visitors to share your content with others is another effective audience growth tactic.
When a website’s audience members share the site’s content with friends and family, it’s a numbers game. Not everyone will follow the link, but some will and a percentage of those people will become permanent members of your audience.
To get those prized “shares,” publishing content that’s worth sharing is rule number one. The information on your site must be relevant and compelling enough that visitors want to forward it. Also, it’s easy to encourage people to share your content by prominently displaying links to your Twitter and Facebook, for example.
There’s no better ambassador for your site than a user who is already a loyal member of your audience. If you can activate those people to share your content, you’ll see your audience numbers skyrocket.
Improving Targeted Content Is the Key to a Larger Audience
Conducting demographic research and exploring your users’ interests will play a big part in growing your audience, but ultimately, it’s your site’s content that will draw in new people and make them become new members of your audience.
We hope this high-level look at expanding your audience helps jump start your efforts. By knowing who they are and what they’re interested in, you can create a content strategy that will help grow your audience.