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Audience Research

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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

Knowing your audience

Audience research is a huge part of what we do. We need to know who we want to talk to, but we also need to know what they’re interested in. We need to know the best way to approach them, and when we finally do make that connection, what we want to say.

Quantitative perspective

We can look at this from a quantitative perspective and we will do that particularly looking at paid search and display. What those quantitative elements can allow us to do is to target with increasing accuracy. That’s us reaching out to the audience, and it may be us responding to the audience in something like a paid search strategy. But if we look at this from a content marketing perspective it’s slightly more qualitative. We do know which demographics we’re looking to speak to but your audience research will be based on lot more around things like surveys and a lot of the data that your company will have to hand. So this is a good starting point. We can underlay all of this with the data that we get from the likes of Google and Facebook, but as a really good starting point, it’s worth having a roundtable discussion about who your audience is, where they hang out digitally, and what might be the right message to communicate to them.

Brand personas

A great way to do this, and something to help fix the minds of everyone in your company on what you’re trying to achieve, is to create some brand personas or brand profiles. So that every time that you go to create a piece of content you can map it against one of these people.

In this example we have Jessica, John, and Claire; the bullet points that are underneath their names are mainly things that we can target in a lot of detail when it comes to paid search. That’s a great benefit for us as paid search strategists, but what we depend on there is a stimulus. We’re depending on these people to search for something and then we can be there to respond, and although we can’t have a guaranteed ROI off the back of that we have a good idea that we’re reaching the audience that we want and we can generate more demand. Once that demand comes through in the form of a search query, we can retarget that same person. So again, all of these channels do work together, both the quantitative and the qualitative.

Choosing channels

By this stage, we have a clear idea of what our overarching strategy is, we know what our objectives are, we know what we need to get there. What we want to do next is decide which channels will help us deliver on each part of our activity. So within SEO it’s an old idea but it is a truism that ranking for the competitive keywords is a long-term strategy. Based on the search amount of queries relevant to you, try to assess how much improvement is realistically achievable within a three, six or 12-month timeframe. That will be based on the competition that’s out there but also the assets at your disposal. Do you have the budget to try and take on some of those bigger players?

Within paid search, the search volume for relevant queries will allow you to analyze the opportunity, but what will constrain that is the budget that you have available. So again be realistic about what you can do. And if you’re thinking of SEO and PPC together here – a nice way to do this is to use PPC to take the heavy load where SEO isn’t able to. Consider this example. You’re ranking in position 125 for credit cards and you want to get on page one. It won’t happen overnight within SEO. It’s a six to 12-month strategy. So you might want to use PPC in those six months because you know it’s a strong acquisition term for you. Once those SEO positions start to improve, you can lighten that load on paid search and have that traffic coming through via SEO.

It’s a fine balance to strike but it can be quite a profitable one. And you can reinvest our paid search budget, whether that’s in paid search or in display, the other area we have here. This is different in the sense that it allows you to prospect a lot more.

Now prospecting with display is difficult to define in ROI whether it’s going to be post-click or post-impression, attribution does become quite difficult. But there is a lot of value in display advertising. This channel can drive more demand, so if you use a brand awareness campaign what you can monitor is the branded search volume that you see both in paid search and SEO. And that can be a nice way of freeing the benefits of display. So whichever vertical your business operates in, it’s highly likely that your consumers use search engines for pretty much everything that they do online. That could be product research, it could be community-based forums, it could be to provide feedback, it could be to compare products before they purchase.

That means that you need to tailor your message. The stimulus again here is what the user puts into the search engine. We need to make sure that we understand that, we understand that intent is it informational? Is it navigational? Is it commercial? And we’ll look at those three in a little bit more detail later on.

Why your target audience uses search engines

An important consideration for the moment is if your audience is using search for informational purposes you may want to focus on increasing your site’s presence via quick answers. You’ll most likely have seen these. They’re in the positions zero as it’s come to be known within the industry, which appears above all of the other SEO rankings that we typically see the 10 blue links that we’ve always had. You can rank within that position zero if you’re anywhere between positions 1 and 10 and the content is fed programmatically by Google. So as long as you’re matching that intent on what Google deems to be that search intent you can rank in those positions. That’s a much more sensible strategy if your product or your company is based around informational searches. What you wouldn’t want to do is tie an ROI target to that. You may want to track that user and see if after four more interactions, they make a purchase. You may want to cookie that user after they come into your website and then re-market to them via paid search.

Changes to Google Keyword Planner

We’ve mentioned many times, and we’ll mention again I’m sure, that there are a lot of changes that happen within the industry, and sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re bad, often a mixture of both.

And one that has happened within the last 12 months is changes to Google Keyword Planner. So this has always been the go-to place, particularly for SEO, to understand how many people are searching for a particular query, and we base our strategy around that. The values have always been normalized and aggregated to some extent, so never exactly gospel truth.

But what we’re seeing now is that we don’t have access to that. The values are aggregated around keyword category. So to use the credit card example, the volume that we look at for credit card and credit cards will look to be identical. It doesn’t mean the 200,000 are searching for credit card and for credit cards. It means the 200,000 are searching for semantically related acquisition focus credit card terms. And I’ve said that can be a negative but there are always positives in this too.

So one is that we still have access to search console. As long as you’re saving that data on a monthly basis because you only get 90 days access is really important to make sure you do that or you will lose it. And there’s a two-day lag, so if you’re looking on a Wednesday, you’ll only be able to see up to the Monday of that week.

But it does give us something a lot closer to the real keyword level search volumes. We can use paid search data so again using the two channels together. And from an industry perspective, this could be a really healthy way to think about things. We’ve looked as keyword mapping and how we should move beyond simply putting one keyword per page and trying to hammer that because we know there are 200,000 searches. We no longer know that there are 200,000 searches which brings a healthier mindset. We’re thinking in terms of topics, in terms of content effectiveness, and content purpose. So even in a change like this that shook the industry briefly, there are still some rays of sunshine.

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Clark Boyd

Clark Boyd is CEO and founder of marketing simulations company Novela. He is also a digital strategy consultant, author, and trainer. Over the last 12 years, he has devised and implemented international marketing strategies for brands including American Express, Adidas, and General Motors.

Today, Clark works with business schools at the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, and Columbia University to design and deliver their executive-education courses on data analytics and digital marketing. 

Clark is a certified Google trainer and runs Google workshops across Europe and the Middle East. This year, he has delivered keynote speeches at leadership events in Latin America, Europe, and the US. You can find him on Twitter (X)LinkedIn, and Slideshare. He writes regularly on Medium and you can subscribe to his email newsletter, hi,tech.

Data protection regulations affect almost all aspects of digital marketing. Therefore, DMI has produced a short course on GDPR for all of our students. If you wish to learn more about GDPR, you can do so here:

DMI Short Course: GDPR

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