We’ve said it often – and others have also – to be a successful blogger you need to start by having a great understanding of your readers. And you probably agree because all businesses need to understand their customers to be successful.
But what does it mean to “understand your readers”?
- You can’t see them.
- You don’t have any concrete data on their demographics.
- You really don’t have the ability to anticipate their needs and their wants.
But what if you did?
- What if you could “see” your readers?
- What if you did have some data on their demographics?
- What if you did have insight into their needs and wants?
- What if you could paint a picture of your reader that you could put right in-front of you each time you wrote content for your blog?
Would that help you do a better job of creating some great content that attracts more readers with the same profile?
The answer undoubtedly is “yes” – and for most bloggers, this information would give them a significant advantage helping to craft a great blog that helps them achieve their financial and lifestyle objectives.
We’re going to focus on creating a reader profile that helps you get the understanding you need about your current and potential readers. Developing this profile will prove to be one of the most valuable exercises you can go through as a blog owner.
First, what is a reader profile?
Your readers are more than Google Analytics “Unique Visitors” and “Page Views.” They are people with unique backgrounds, needs, and wants. They have problems for which they come to your blog to get solutions. Many of your readers are like-minded individuals having similar needs and desires. However, the key word here is “individuals”. Each reader will view your content within their own context. To be successful you need to be very aware not just of needs and wants but of context so you provide the right solutions for your readers.
To understand a reader profile, think about a family member or a best friend.
If you were asked the following you likely would have the answer:
- How old are they?
- Where do they live?
- How much money do they make?
- Where do they work?
- Do they have children?
- Are they in good health?
- What is their biggest current challenge?
A reader profile covers some of the same questions because to be relevant to your readers you have to establish a relationship with them. This relationship is based on trust – and trust is based on your reader’s perception that you understand their situation, needs, and wants.
How do you develop a reader profile?
Think about the things you learn about people when first becoming friends. You’ll probably first share common interests and then remove more and more barriers as your comfort levels with each other increases. This comfort level is built on trust as is any longer term relationship.
Building trust requires an emotional investment on the part of you and your reader. Understanding is the basis for this emotional investment. Let’s take a look at some of the things marketers use to gain an understanding of their customers – in this case – your readers.
A. Demographics – Are your readers young or old? Do they own their own home or rent an apartment? Do they have a family? How old are their children? These are all known as the “demographics” of your readers and they are a key part of your reader profile. The simple reason is that your reader’s demographics will give you an indication of their needs and wants.
The question you probably have after reading this description is “great – but where do I get demographics?”.
One source we use is quantcast.com.
Quantcast is a research company that works with different web sites to gather data and develop demographic profiles of people visiting these sites. It’s a good starting point for research. Keep in mind that while there are many sites that use the quantcast service, most of them are large sites and some do not share their demographic data. That said, the service is useful since it can be directional for you when developing your reader profile.
Step 1 is to take a look at sites you believe are a match for readers who visit your site. For example, if you have a fitness blog then “health.com” might be a match. If you run a small business blog then “fastcompany.com” could be a useful match.
Step 2 is to visit quantcase.com and enter the matching sites into their search box and take a look at the demographic information they provide.
Here’s an example – going to health.com shows the following home page:
Now if we go to quantcast.com and enter “health.com” into the search box we get the following demographics:
Notice the demographics in BOLD – they show where the visitors / readers for health.com index high.
Caucasian females, 35 and older with no kids and have a college or grad school eduction They are broken into two income groups – $30 to $60k per year and $100k+ per year.
Take a look at health.com and you’ll see the site and content reflects this profile.
If you are writing a health blog and after taking a look at health.com you believe your readers would find the content of this site interesting then you might target a similar demographic. If not, then try the process with another similar site.
The idea is rather than writing your health blog for everyone – target a specific range of readers. This will help you better understand their needs and wants.
B. Lifestyle / Lifestage – Are your readers single with no children living in an apartment in a large urban area and saving for their first house? Or, are your readers married, living in an affluent suburb whose children are just entering college? Could your readers be families with young children in a small starter home with aspirations for a larger home in an area with a better school system for their children? All of these are Lifestyle / Lifestage characteristics you should know so that you can more easily target your reader’s specific needs and wants.
This element of your reader profile is not as “straightforward” to get as demographics – it will require more research on your part. The good news is that lifestyle and lifestage are an extension of demographics – and you can use your demographics research as a good starting point.
Let’s go back and review health.com for some ideas on the lifestyle / lifestages of their readers. Again – we are using the example where you are writing a healthy living blog and believe that health.com is a resource that would appeal to your readers.
First let’s look at the home page – note their key headings – Health A-Z, Eating, Healthy Living, and Weight Loss. Let’s dig in deeper and see if we can get an idea of whether or not their readers are single or married. “Family” is not mentioned in the key topic areas – if we dig down into the “Health Living” section we find there is a link on the left side for “Family”. Going to this link we find information and articles that deal with pregnancy and young families. Clicking through the site further we find a number or articles on dating and other relationship advice focused around singles.
So we expect that the site’s primary focus is women who are single – but also women who are newly married and either pregnant or who have young children at home.
Next let’s take a look at where they might live. Clicking on their “Home and Travel” link we find that most of the advice relates to single-owner, larger homes. There was not an emphasis on “getting the most from your small apartment.” One article started with the words “in the age of McMansions . . . ”
So we can expect that the lifestyle / lifestage of health.com’s readers is single or newly married with young children who live in a larger, single-owner home. However there is not a heavy emphasis on “family” so the expectation is that the site is focused more on single women or women whose children have grown and left the home.
Bringing It Together -
Now you’ve done some basic research to help you build your reader profile for your healthy living blog. So far you’ve:
1. Researched some sites that you believe would be attractive to your readers.
2. Settled on health.com.
3. Obtained demographic information on health.com from quantcast.com
4. Reviewed the high-indexing demographics – Age, Income, Education, Families.
5. Developed a demographic profile.
6. Reviewed health.com to get an idea of their readers lifestyle / lifestage.
7. Developed an idea about where they live, their relationships, and their family status.
Now you can put together your reader profile.
My reader is . . .
A single woman with no children at home who is highly educated. She owns her own home and has a fairly high income. Her health-related interests include eating, weight loss, and healthy living including exercise.
You can take this even further:
My reader is Catherine.
Catherine is a single woman who lives outside of San Antonio, Texas. She has a graduate degree in business from the University of Texas and is working for a large company in San Antonio earning more than $100k per year. Catherine is in a committed relationship and may get married soon – children? Open for discussion. Right now she has a busy schedule and is interested in maintaining her fitness. Fitting-in exercise and preparing healthy meals are her big concerns since she is pressed for time. Catherine does spend some time reading fitness magazines and scanning web sites and blogs. She’s interested in quick tips that provide valuable information on exercise and healthy eating. She will pass along interesting things she reads to her friends on Twitter and post them to Facebook.
So rather than writing for a “faceless” reader, you are now writing for Catherine. With her profile you have a better understanding of your reader, and you can better determine her needs and wants.
One question you might ask is whether you can have multiple reader profiles? The answer is yes. Catherine, for example, might feel comfortable about her level of fitness but concerned about maintaining it due to time constraints. Another reader might not have a similar demographic profile but may not be at Catherine’s fitness level and wants to get there.
How many is too many profiles? Obviously you can segment your readers into so many small groups that it will make balancing content creation difficult. Start with the top one to three reader profiles and work with those. If you find you need to segment more you can – but establish a firm base of content with your top readers.
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