Writing for the web has its fair share of challenges. We've already addressed a few in our blogging lessons but what about learning more about your audience? There are some enormous advantages to spending time discovering what makes your readers tick, above all, holding their interest in the long term! The difficulty is that when you’re writing it’s all too easy to get so wrapped up in conveying your own amazing insights that you forget the very reason you’re writing a blog post in the first place – to connect with your audience.
So how can you learn more about your audience, and then use that to your advantage to write killer blog posts?
Know your target audience
The better you know your target audience, the more effective your writing will be. Try talking to a stranger hiding behind a curtain and then compare that with speaking face to face. It’s much easier when you can actually see the person and learn more about them.
You'll notice too that you can adapt your speech more easily to suit the audience you can now see! But more on this later. For now, what are some ways you can pick up some vital clues about exactly who your online audience is?
- Review your website analytics – Reports from your analytics program (such as Google Analytics) can tell you a lot of information about visitors to your blog. Find out which country they're visiting from, whether they are new or returning visitors, how long they spend on your site and what content seems to attract the most visitors.
- Learn about your existing members – If your site runs a membership program, it's likely that these people make up a large proportion of your readers. Review your member details to see what you can learn about them. Are they mostly long-time members? Men or women? Age?
- Read similar blogs – Get familiar with blogs in the same niche. What topics do they write about? What sort of writing style do they use? You can benefit from their market research, but beware – they may not have done any.
- Niche forums – If you write about a specific niche, how much do you really know about it? Make a daily habit of browsing related forums to ensure you keep up with issues and problems you expect your audience may face.
- Read their comments – Questions and comments that come through are a great way to learn about your avid readers. Readers who are just passing through generally won't bother to add a comment.
- Ask them – Why not embed a small poll (surveys are so last century!) at the bottom of each blog post that asks a question about the reader. For example, if you run a dog training site, you could ask how many readers struggle with walking their dog regularly, or if digging is a problem.
Researching your reader demographics is a key element of any successful blog, and it's ongoing. You can never know enough about your audience. Just resist the urge to become a cyber-stalker. Your readers will appreciate your interest but don't overdo it and get too personal.
Know them, then write for them
A classic mistake of corporate management is ignoring reports. They trust their gut instinct, their years of 'experience' in the business and feel they know better…only to crash and burn (no doubt blaming some nameless intern) because they failed to heed real data.
Don't make the same mistake. Now that you've collected information about your audience and tried to learn as much as you can about them, put it to work in your writing.
Here are a few examples of what you can do with the information you've gathered.
- Long-time returning visitors – If most of your readers have been reading your blog for some time, make sure you're keeping up with them. They've no doubt moved on from the basics and are looking for more advanced topics. Keep them interested.
- Where are they from? - Looking at your analytics you might discover that most of the visitors to your blog come from Greenland, so why not start writing more posts on igloo building? This might be an extreme example, but the principle holds true. If your audience is from a particular country, adjust your writing style to suit them, pick up on local points of interest and keep it relevant.
- Short time on the page – If your stats tell you that most of your visitors spend only a minute or two on the page, then perhaps you can conclude that they're busy readers. Do you keep that in mind when you write? Do you make it easy to scan your content, separating main points with headings and listing actionable bullet points?
Changing your writing style can be difficult, particularly if you've been writing for a long time, but making the effort to please your readers is worthwhile when they will reward you with loyal attention to your every word. Remember these changes won't happen overnight. Give yourself time to implement them, working on one thing at a time.
Hit a nerve!
Technically accurate writing is a joy for English teachers but that's about it. Sure we appreciate a blog post with no spelling mistakes but if there's no life in it we're not likely to return in a hurry. When you know your audience it makes it a lot easier to whip up their enthusiasm, and evoke some emotion.
For example, are a lot of your readers parents? If you write a popular mommy blog, then you can be sure a post about examples of bad parenting will get a big reaction. What about affiliate marketing? Getting tagged as a spammer is a big concern and an ongoing topic of debate. Know what buttons to push and don't be afraid to push them!
You don't have to be Perez Hilton to evoke emotion in your readers but it does pay to tease and tantalize with your blog posts. Kick off with a snappy heading and follow it through with edgy content that plays on everything you know, or suspect you know, about your audience.
Writing a blog post is a lot like having a real conversation. The better you know your audience the easier it will be and the more naturally it will flow. You'll connect with your audience and they'll stick around for your next 'fireside chat'.
So step out from behind the curtain and really start talking to your audience!
Do you blog? If you do, how do you learn about your audience? Do you feel it's made a difference?