I’m going to show you how understanding, finding and engaging your target audience online sent me 6,643 unique visitors and $5,826.80 in less than 2 months without spending a penny.
If you rely on SEO and rankings to drive traffic and earn money online from affiliate clicks your leaving a lot of money on the table.
Not only that but purely relying on SEO to provide an income and pay the bills carries its own risks as many webmasters have learnt the hard way in recent times.
I find that a lot of people are so focused and obsessed with SEO and link building they forget about all of the other ways you can generate traffic online at no cost with less stress.
As you can see in the graph on the right, search engines sent just 10% of the total traffic to my site and that was with no effort on my part.
How You Can Do It
It really is quite easy to do regardless of your target market or niche.
It can be broken down step by step as-
- Defining your target audience
- Understanding your target audience
- Finding out where they ‘live’ online
- Engaging them
Defining Your Target Audience
The first thing you need to do is define who your target audience actually are.
Do you know what makes them tick? What type of questions might they be asking when they arrive on your site and does it answer them?
For example I recently did some work with an Optician’s website. The design of the site placed white text on a big picture back drop, it was very difficult to read.
As an Optician you would have expected them to realise the site needed to be accessible and easy to read.
But that wasn’t the case and is a great example of someone that didn’t fully understand their target audience.
How I Identified My Audience
When I was thinking about setting up this blog I wondered what type of people may benefit from the content I create. Obviously it’s pretty much anyone with a website but you can dig deeper than that-
- Hobbyist SEO’s
- Full time SEO’s
- Affiliate marketers
- Local businesses
- Larger organisations
- SEO agencys
Each one of those types of audience has different priority’s. The hobbyist SEO has a full time job and a stable income with limited time where as the full time SEO rely’s on the performance of their SEO campaigns to bring home the bacon.
Then you may have affiliate marketers and local businesses who know nothing about SEO but want to integrate it into their strategy.
Understanding your audience and different types of people in your audience is essential.
I realised that my audience needed content that was easy to understand regardless of experience but without compromising on how much meat was on the bone.
If you run a health website you may have people that are just seeking out information or looking for immediate treatment. Defining those different audiences is important.
Understanding Your Target Audience
Once you have defined your target audience you need to understand them. Really find out what makes them tick. Why are they looking for information online in the first place? What questions or concerns might that person have associated with a specific keyword as they look at your site?
Does your site address all of those concerns? If you compare your site against the top 10 results in Google does it really offer the best value, can you honestly say your page is the ultimate page on the subject period?
Continuing with the Optician story – they also hadn’t fully thought about what types of questions a potential customer might have such as-
- Do eye tests hurt?
- Will this be covered by the NHS? (UK health service)
- Are there any risks with contact lenses?
So when a potential customer landed on the site they didn’t really find the answers they were looking for. Granted they were looking for an Optician, which they found. But it didn’t address key questions of the target audience and even if it did there was a good chance they couldn’t read it anyway.
How I Understood My Audience
Luckily as a successful online marketer at a number of levels throughout my career and ultimately working as an affiliate marketer for myself, I have a good understanding of my audience.
But all you have to do is browse around relevant blogs & forums for an afternoon and you will see the same types of things over and over-
- People asking questions and getting the wrong answer
- People asking questions and getting generic answers that don’t really help
- A lot of ‘blanket’ advice that doesn’t get into any real details
- Rehashed / out dated information
I took the time to understand my audience before I created any content. As I went through I made a list of key concerns / problems / worry’s that peoples had with SEO and online marketing.
Over time they became a list of post ideas that directly address the key questions & issues my target audience face – issues that I knew how to solve and did so on a daily basis in my own SEO activity’s.
Every piece of content I produce has to address all of those questions and concerns to ensure I engage the audience correctly.
If it doesn’t – you might lose them forever.
Finding Your Target Audience Online
So how do you go about finding your target audience online? Where do they hang out?
Finding out where they live online is pretty easy and there are a number of tools at our disposal for this.
Since I first wrote this post I have started to use BuzzBundle to find and engage my audience online.
It is an amazing piece of software that I’m using exclusively to grow traffic to the blog.
All you do is enter a range of keywords/phrases to monitor and BuzzBundle will find all of the relevant forum posts, blog posts, tweets, yahoo answers and more!
To get involved in the conversation all you have to do is click reply and type your message. BuzzBundle automatically takes care of any account registration if necessary.
It really is a great tool and I highly recommend it!
I also use it to monitor related terms for previously published content and anytime BuzzBundle picks up a relevant match I can direct people to my content directly!
Forum Search Engines
One of the best places to engage your target audience is at popular forums and there are 3 different websites you can use to find them.
Boardreader makes it really easy to find your target audience and help you to understand them at the same time.
All you have to do is enter a keyword and click search, it will return a list of forum threads discussing your keyword. In the example below I did a search for link building-
This is just a snippet of the results but straight away I can see a few opportunity’s to understand and engage my target audience.
I can jump in to understands peoples views on using RSS for link building and then join in the conversation – perhaps I might engage everyone in that thread with a follow up post or tutorial on the subject?
There is also a challenge thread for really useful link building tips. The post states how they are fed up of seeing the same tips over and over (understanding) and want to see something new (engagement opportunity). I’m pretty sure I can engage that with any one of my tutorials.
So in just 2 threads I have learnt a lot about my target audience, what problems they face, what they want to see and can engage them directly on the subject at hand.
Its win, win, win, win from where I’m standing.
Omgili is like BoardReader but offers up a different set of results.
It also returns a list of related message boards & forums giving you even more opportunity’s to find, understand and engage your target audience.
Again you can see there are lots of opportunity’s for me to find out what makes my audience tick.
As well as forums you can look at other corners of the web to locate your audience.
Twitter is also a great way to find your audience online. Carrying on with the link building theme search-
Although no one is really asking a question there are lots of links to related articles where I can engage my audience. Perhaps leave a comment on the blog and put my side of the argument across.
I have covered Google Alerts in great detail so I wont bore you with the particulars.
But you can setup a number of alerts for your target audience and build up an inbox of alerts jam packed with places your target audience hang out online.
It takes about 10 seconds to setup an alert so you really have no excuse!
Engaging Your Target Audience
Engaging your target audience is easy and I’ve already mentioned a few ways to do it throughout this article but in summary you can-
- Reply to posts on forums
- Comment on related blogs
- Join in the conversation on social media
It might sound like the same old advice but many people don’t realise how powerful this is and fail to put in the work to directly engage their audience online.
Engage Them In The Right Way
If you are going to get involved with the conversion ensure that anything you post offers genuine value not only to the people reading it but the wider community as a whole.
Quick 2 sentence answers rarely offer any value to anyone and I’ve already learnt my target audience are fed up of seeing the same tips over and over.
It is the engagement in these communitys that will truly reflect on you and your brand – so take time to write posts that help.
Reap The Benefits
Engaging your audience like this has a huge number of benefits. First of all you break away from the mentality of getting people on and off your site via an affiliate link as quickly as possible.
Your site and brand starts to become something that offers key value to your target audience. This has a snowball effect overtime as people begin to relate and build trust with you.
It is important to build that level of trust with your target audience above anything else.
If you focus on creating something that is genuinely helpful and useful you won’t even have to try and sell anything to generate profit.
This blog is living proof of that and has over a 50% audience retention rate and 1 in 5 visitors shares an article via social media.
All I have done is identify & understand my target audience and given them what they want.
Where To Start?
First of all you must take the time to identify and understand your target audience. Take time to think about that properly before doing anything else.
Once you have done that (no cheating) you should compile a list of places they hang out.
For example I went and built a list of website & SEO related forums along with how many members, threads and post they each had.
Once you have that list you can go out and start directly engaging with your audience constantly refining your understanding of them.
The benefit of understanding your audience will shine through the next time you create a piece of content to address key problems your audience face. It really is a circle of bliss.
Remember to engage them in the right way and provide genuine help and advice to solve their problems.
It certainly beats leaving all of your eggs in Google’s basket!