Craft persuasive targeted content through the creation of well-researched personas.

Before creating effective targeted content for your site, it’s important to understand your site’s audiences – meaning both the current audience and the desired audience – and what they need and want. First steps in determining this can include:

  • Intake: collect team knowledge about client/customer/prospect needs and wants, including hot topics that your audiences need to know about
  • Current traffic analysis: look in Webmaster Tools or Google Analytics to see what you can learn about people who are finding your site by the way they search
  • Keyphrase research: uncover the words and phrases your prospects use to describe the products and/or services you sell; don’t assume that everyone uses the correct terminology – or that everyone searches on the same terms

To more effectively reach your target audiences through content, it’s helpful to also create personas.

Persona definition

A government site, Usability.gov, provides this persona definition (ital. ours):

The purpose of personas is to create reliable and realistic representations of your key audience segments for reference. These representations should be based on qualitative and some quantitative user research and web analytics. Remember, your personas are only as good as the research behind them. Effective personas:

  • Represent a major user group for your website
  • Express and focus on the major needs and expectations of the most important user groups
  • Give a clear picture of the user’s expectations and how they’re likely to use the site
  • Aid in uncovering universal features and functionality
  • Describe real people with backgrounds, goals, and values

Data collection

One of the most crucial parts of the persona definition/creation process is making sure that you have enough data about your target audiences and that the data is of sufficient quality. This data can be gathered from:

  • Staff impressions: What do people in your company know about clients, customers and prospects through their interactions with them? Be sure to include front-line staff (sales team members, customer service departments and the like) when deciding which people should provide input.
    • Note: information gathered from staff impressions alone is not recommended. Instead, a mixture of information-gathering methods is more effective.
  • Surveys that you send to your email lists (leads/prospects, customers, clients/former clients) to discover more about their demographics and needs, wants and goals
  • Surveys embedded on your site to capture the demographics and the needs, wants and goals of site visitors.
    • Note: information gathered from surveys alone is not recommended. Instead, a mixture of information-gathering methods is more effective.
  • Personal interviews: What can you learn about wants and needs of clients/customers when you ask them directly? What patterns have emerged? Are follow up calls necessary to gather more data, this time to assist in persona creation? We’re not talking about collecting personal details here; rather what demographics do they share? What concerns and pain points do they have in common?
    • Note: information gathered from personal interviews alone is not recommended. Instead, a mixture of information-gathering methods is more effective.

When gathering data about clients/customers and prospects to create personas, it is important to not use the surveys and interviews to determine levels of satisfaction. You are not, in this endeavor, trying to find out what people like or don’t like about your products, your services or your site. While that is a worthy quest, that is something separate from what we’re talking about here.

Usability expert Jeff Sauro describes what you want to include in a persona, with the quote in italics below:

Personas concentrate on what a user does, what frustrates the user, and what gives the user satisfaction. A good persona is a narrative that describes a person’s typical day and experiences, as well as skills, attitude, background, environment, and goals. Personas identify the person’s motivations, expectations, aspirations and behaviors. Personas bring the “user” to life, providing a specific target to aid developers in designing a final product.

After the data collection

Questions to ask yourself once you have gathered enough data include:

  • What patterns have emerged?
  • What do the emerging patterns tell you about your audiences? How many patterns of significance are there?
  • Does it make sense to create a persona for each of the main categories of people you serve? Persona categories could be based on:
    • Industries served (for B2B sites)
    • Job titles (for B2B sites)
    • Assistants to job titles (who may be unfamiliar with product specifics/industry jargon)
    • Needs/pain points (could be for B2B or B2C)
    • Types of desired products (could be for B2B or B2C)
    • Any other logical division that makes sense for your site and your company
  • Note: also consider creating a persona for the type of user who may not use your products and/or services but will be a good candidate for sharing your information with others who might. Whenever possible, you’ll want to motivate those who can become enthusiastic sharers of your information.

Naming personas

When you’re ready to actually create personas, it may be helpful to come up with names. Although it may sound and feel a bit silly at first, it’s often easier to write material of interest if you can “speak directly” to Frank Finance and Margory Marketing – or DIY Donna or Car Parts Paul – rather than simply trying to communicate to Persona 1, Persona 2 and Persona 3. By speaking directly, we don’t mean literally addressing these characters in your writing by their names; instead, you can envision the relevant persona’s problems, pain points, wants and needs when writing each post.

Some companies also create an image for each persona. If it works for you, then it does. If it doesn’t, that’s okay, too. You don’t want to go so overboard in creating these personas that you lose track of your goal – which is to create composite characters for each of your key audiences, based on real data, so that you write material that will connect with the people you are trying to reach. Personas, when accurately based upon qualitative and quantitative data, help you to target your audience with keen precision.

Additional note about targeted content

At the beginning of this document, we talked about understanding the needs of your current audience as well as your desired audience. Note that, whenever you are creating content for your desired audience, you need to get the content placed where these prospects are; in other words, it’s not enough to simply put the content on your site if you are not yet attracting this demographic. You need to get it placed on sites (through social media, guest blogging and the like) where this desired audience already exists.

Need help with your personas? Contact The Search Guru and ask about our content creation services today!