Audience research and analysis might sound like a complex and daunting task, but don’t let the phrase scare you away. Once you understand the process, you’ll not only be able to tackle it yourself, but you’ll also be able to use the results to optimize your overall content marketing strategy.
Put simply, audience research and analysis is the process of figuring out who your ideal customer or client is and then understanding their likes and dislikes so you can connect with them in a real and authentic way via content.
Unless you’re a multi-billion dollar organization, like Google or Apple, your target audience is likely not most people. You have a specific niche that you need to understand now and tomorrow, no matter where they are in your funnel. As Robert Rose, founder of the Content Advisory, says: “Tomorrow’s content teams are the experts in delivering audience value at every stage of the customer’s journey.”
How can you deliver value to your audience, if you don’t understand them? You can’t.
Follow these steps to conduct audience research and analysis for your blog.
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Audit Your Current Audience
Established organizations should start with the existing audience. Who are your typical clients or customers? Who already follows your brand on social media? Identify the existing supporters of your products or services. To to do so, look to the following places:
- Social media insights: Your social platforms have demographic information for your current followers. For example, on Facebook, you’ll find this if you go to “Insights” then “People.” With Twitter, head to the “Analytics” page, and select “Audiences.”
- Google Analytics: Unlock demographics on your website visitors by using your Google Analytics account. Refer to this in-depth guide from CoSchedule for instructions on where to look.
- Customer data: if you have a customer relationship manager (CRM), you can mine your account for demographic data. Additionally, your sales team and sales data will provide a view of your typical customers.
Organize it: Compile the audience data you gathered into a spreadsheet to refer back to as you continue your audience research and analysis. This tab might be called, “Audience Data.”
Dive Into Competitive Research
The competitor research step of your content analysis has two purposes:
- To uncover the type of content that brands with a similar audience publish. This guides you to create similar (and better) content, as well as identifying gaps for new ideas.
- To assess your shared audience’s response to that content, which can help you judge which content they like, and further define your “reader persona.” (More on that later)
As you dive into competitive research, remember that understanding your current audience can help broaden your search. For instance, if you own a yoga studio, you don’t have to look exclusively at other yoga-related studios.
If your target audience is health-conscious individuals with a certain income level in your local area, you can also look at related businesses that target the same customers, such as organic food markets or juice bars.
Brainstorm potential expanded options like this and start researching with these two steps.
Download our FREE Content Marketing Competitor Analysis Guide
Step 1: Evaluate Their Audience
In addition to scanning through your competitors’ website and About Page, look to these resources, where you’ll be able to better understand what they offer and who their customers are.
- Product reviews: Look on the company’s website for reviews or testimonials. If they sell products on eCommerce platforms like Amazon, look there too.
- Third-party review sites: like Yelp or Angie’s List.
- Google My Business (GMB): Google the business name and look at their listing and read the GMB reviews.
Organize it: Compile the information about each company in a tab called “Competitor Data.” Include any information that you find in reviews, about their business, including what you can gather about customer interests, why they chose the company, etc.
Step 2: Read Your Competitor’s Content
This is where you get to learn about what’s already being published in your space. To get started, navigate to your competitors’ blogs. If you’ve done keyword research for PPC, social ads, or current content creation, you can search these as well to get a full picture of the content being created in your space. Take note of a few things as you read the content you find:
- Overarching topics and themes.
- Content with a lot of shares and comments.
- Misinformation or niched-down topics that you could cover on your blog.
Organize it: Add a tab called “Content Categories and Topics” and organize this information there.
Gauge Content Success
Now you need to figure out which content is performing well. Just because something is published on a blog, doesn’t mean the audience likes it. To do so, use two platforms as resources:
Social media: How does the audience react to the brand’s blog content when shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest? Does the post get a lot of comments or engagement? Make note of this.
Buzzsumo: Branded social media accounts don’t tell you the whole story—a brand might have successful content but a small and minimally active social audience. Head to Buzzsumo, enter the domain of your competitor in the search bar, and see which content performs the best. You do need to pay to get extensive results, so you may need to build this into your budget for one month. You can also explore Buzzsumo alternatives.
Organize it: In your “Content Categories and Topics” tab, add notes on which topics perform best with audiences.
Develop Reader Personas
Now it’s time to sum up the results of your audience research and analysis with “reader personas”—this is the person or people you’ll be writing for from here on out.
Remember: this is the fun part, so go beyond basic demographics, like age, financial background, profession, and dig into their psyche and personality. In their guide on personas, SEMRush suggests you create: “a story of a real person, with real motivations, desires, concerns, fears, and aspirations.”
SEMRush references an example from Trail Wallet, an expense tracker:
Use these common formulas as a foundation to get started:
- B2C: Our target reader is [gender], aged [age range], who lives in [area or type of place], likes to [activity], and cares about [personal passions or interests].
- B2B: [Your company/brand] creates content to inform and assist [demographic] in the [target industry], so they can [action] better.
Add as many details as you can, including aspirations, interests, and pain points. The more detailed your persona, the more targeted your blog content can be, and the more effective you are.
Organize it: Create a final tab, called “Audience Personas” and start building out your audience information.
Put Your Audience Research and Analysis to Use
Once you complete your audience research and analysis, and have one or a few clear personas, create a content strategy that focuses on targeted content that converts. This process includes:
Keyword research: Which keywords will help you reach this audience? Not sure what you’re doing? Download our free keyword research guide.
Content planning: Put those keywords into your content plan, where you’ll then formulate specific blog titles to execute on. Not sure how to create a content calendar? Download our free quarterly content calendar bundle.
Accountability and follow through: This is the hard part—doing what you’ve set out to accomplish. Struggling to get it all done yourself? Learn more about content marketing outsourcing.
Organize it: Put all of this in a new doc (see the template from the Content Calendar Bundle) that you’ll update each month or quarter.
Keep Your Audience Research Up-to-Date
Don’t forget that audience research and analysis is an on-going project. Your customers are always evolving, along with their content preferences. Set an annual appointment on your calendar to review the research and data for updates. When your content strategy is guided by data, you’ll always win, so don’t discount the value of this research.