Top 5 tips for marketers to research their target audience
Stevie Keen is The Drum's audience development manager. For The Drum's Content Marketing in Focus, she shares her top tips on how marketers can research their target audience so that their content effectively reaches and resonates with them.
Before building a successful content strategy, it's crucial to understand your audience with well thought-out research
It can be daunting to know where to begin when researching your target audience. If you give it a quick Google, you will see a multitude of tools vying for your interest and offering insight after insight. But where to start?
Well, I’d recommend avoiding tools, at the very beginning. Think instead about the whys of your research and what you want the result to be. Otherwise, it’s all too easy to fall into a rabbit hole of data research without really knowing how to use it to drive your goals forward.
Your target audience should be the specific group, or groups, of users that are likely to want your product, services or content. Some may know they want it and are ready to buy, while others may have a problem they didn’t know your product exists to solve. Understanding these different audiences can help you craft content. For example, if they’re ready to buy they might need to know why they should buy from you, but if they are at the problem-solving stage they may need content that explains how to solve their problem, with mentions of your product/service thrown in.
What’s the difference between personas and target audience?
Personas are useful for understanding your users, what they want, what their pain points are and really digging into the specifics. But for your target audience, it’s good to be less concerned with that level of detail. Sure, you still want to be thinking niches, interests, and intent, but use broader strokes.
What are 5 things you must consider for your target audience?
Understanding your target audience can seem a daunting task, but with these five action points, you can start to form a fuller picture of who they are and how to reach them.
1. Think about what you want to do with the research
Audience research itself is a broad topic that can be used to many different ends. The first thing to do is figure out why you are doing it.
The purpose of your target audience research will affect the way you do it. If it’s going to be the basis of an SEO content plan, you want to have keywords in mind. Think about what words come up often in these interest areas and collect them to use as seed keywords for further research.
If you want to use it to supe up your social media, look at the broad range of interests that apply to the users and how these different markets engage them. Your niche might not be gaming, but if there’s a big overlap in interest then it’s worth looking at how gaming accounts best engage their users.
You might even have a different target audience for each platform.
For example, Target's Twitter and Instagram accounts target young individuals and families respectively. If they targeted the same users across both accounts their content would be less engaging overall. Instead of spreading their content thinly across audiences, they've chosen the best audience for each platform.
2. Don’t just aim for quantity
It’s tempting to go after a bigger audience, but niches are much easier to target and to entice back. From an SEO point of view, these niche or ‘longtail’ keywords are usually much easier to rank for and more likely to bring in relevant users. They have a lower search volume, but you can combine closely related keywords together within content.
A study by Think With Google also found that users are more interested in advertising or branded content that is relevant to them and their interests, something that’s harder to do with broader, more generalized topics.
Niches can also form the basis of target market segmentation. This involves dividing your audience into smaller groups, allowing you to adjust your marketing message for each group.
3. Look at adjacent interests
The people you want to target will have a whole range of interests and needs, if you only research the one or two that applies to your business you could be missing out on a relevant group. Find My Audience is a good place to start researching overlapping interests. You might find that your audience has a strong liking for good coffee, which could allow you to create engaging content with that niche in mind.
4. Use a range of tools
All the premium tools have great guides for getting the most out of their products. Both SEMRush and AHrefs have great research capabilities and guidance to help with audience targeting. I particularly like the depth to which you can dive into content research on AHrefs, especially on competitor sites. YouGov is a great tool too, and it has a free Lite plan.
While you may have to drop some cash for the best options, there are plenty of great free audience research tools ready to offer up their insights:
5. User intent
This is key for SEO research. Some users may be looking for information, with little to no intention of buying anything. Others are ready to spend, but they may not be sure exactly where they want to purchase. Who are you more interested in reaching? When doing target audience research, take a look at intent. SEMRush will log the user intent beside keywords so you can gather keywords that your target audience are using and avoid those that may have great volume, but aren't the users relevant to you.
Finally, it’s important to undertake target audience research regularly. Trends change and the ways users engage with content is constantly changing.
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