There’s only one key behind producing great content, day after day…
You don’t need to be the best writer.
You don’t need to be a top expert (although it can help).
You don’t need any fancy tools (although they can also help).
What you do need to do is understand your reader.
Most marketers would rather spend time learning about a new traffic tactic than spend time learning about their readers, and it’s the reason why they struggle.
Let us illustrate the importance of this with a simple example:
Imagine: You’re writing for an audience that consists of one person – yourself.
Do you think you could come up with something that you’d love to read?
I’d be worried if you said no.
You know what you want to learn about and how you want to consume that information.
If you can’t write something great for yourself, there’s no way you can write something great for any other audience.
There’s no tactic or strategy that will make up for a fundamental lack of understanding of your reader.
Hopefully, you’re nodding your head at this point.
The question you should be asking is:
How can you understand your readers better if you don’t happen to fall into that audience?
And that is a great question.
The answer is that you can create reader personas—avatars of your typical readers through research.
The more fleshed out these are, the more effective they will be.
Personas aren’t created out of thin air.
Although your experience may help you create them, you need to follow a system, which we’ll detail for you today.
If you’re considering using digital marketing services, read our comparison article.
Step #1 – Start with stats—demographics
Certain characteristics of a persona are easier to research than others.
We’re going to start with the easiest one: demographics.
The reason why demographics are the easiest to research is because they are statistics. A demographic is any statistic or value describing a group of people.
Here’s a list of common demographics, but there are more:
- educational level
- marital status
- number of children
Determining demographics is much easier if you already have a blog and some readership.
However, you can nail down some important attributes of any audience with a few free tools.
In our first version of this blog (we update frequently for accuracy), we were able to run tests via Alexa Marketing Stack and Google Ads.
Unfortunately, the former no longer exists, and Google Ads has removed its similar audience function.
Fortunately, you can use the same data with Google Analytics.
First, let’s see what the first screen in Analytics shows us:
The part we’re interested in is the Demographics tab. Click on it to see:
Now you’ll see some overview analytics of the age range of your site visitors:
You can find out what percentage of men and women visit your website:
Finally, you can learn more about your audience’s interests:
In a nutshell — that’s your audience demographic information.
Admittedly, we did leave out the part where you have to set up Google Analytics, but we’ll allow you to experiment with it. Also, remember to activate Google Console for your website.
This is the most accurate data, so use this as a primary source and the others as supplementary.
You should have 4-5 core demographics about your readers by now.
Some demographics, such as income, are tough to research. However, based on other demographic stats, you can make educated guesses about them.
That’s a very good start, but if you want to get even more detailed demographics, you can use some of the tools we compiled here.
Step #2 – What is your reader thinking?—Psychographics
Next up is psychographics, which informs you about a group’s values, attitudes, preferences, and thoughts. In this case, it’s your readers.
Here’s a basic list of questions you’ll eventually need to answer:
- Why do they want to learn about (your niche)?
- How important is (your niche) to them, i.e., is it a hobby or part of their job?
- What common questions do they have about (your niche)?
- How knowledgeable are they about (your niche)?
Unfortunately, we can’t just look these up on Alexa or GA.
You need to observe your readers and learn about them before answering these questions.
To do this, first, you need to find your audience.
Option #1 – Start with Reddit: You’re looking for any specific forum or group where your potential audience is active. You need to be able to see discussion among the people whom you’re trying to understand.
We suggest starting with Reddit unless you already have a specific group in mind.
You can find most audiences on Reddit. You can use the Category Search function or the Search Reddit bar and type in your niche.
For a nutrition site, I’d search for nutrition:
Subreddits are essentially small forums within the site.
In this case, r/nutrition is the subreddit where people discuss nutrition, while r/bodybuilding is where people discuss bodybuilding.
Pick the most relevant subreddit that has at least a few thousand subscribers.
If you’ve never used Reddit before, check out our guide to marketing on Reddit, which will walk you through the basics of how the site works.
Start by clicking the top filter, and set it to show links from all-time:
This will show you the most popular (upvoted) posts in the subreddit of all time.
It tells you what the readers of the subreddit care about the most.
In this case, nutrition enthusiasts care about:
- Basic nutrition education in school to tackle obesity levels.
- Discussing the levels of hidden sugar in foods.
- Soil depletion and lower nutrients in our fruit.
- The rigged US food system.
Look through at least 50-100 threads.
Then, go back to the default subreddit filters, and go through another few hundred threads.
Look for things they don’t like (get zero votes) or don’t care much about (get a few votes).
Doing this lets you start answering the questions we identified earlier and understand your audience’s big problems and what helps them the most.
Option #2 – There’s always a forum: Any audience that uses the Internet participates in at least one forum or a similar forum-style community (Discord, Telegram, etc.)
Who said that forums are dead? Not us.
Google (your niche) forum, and you’ll find at least two or three, if not several. Some articles and searches will group together relevant forums for your keyword, and we’ll continue with nutrition.
Employ the same process as you did with Reddit. Go through at least a few hundred threads, observe, and note down what the readers like and dislike.
Step #3 – Base your decisions on behavior
People don’t always act how they should.
People on a diet shouldn’t eat that piece of cake, but sometimes they do.
That’s because behavior doesn’t always follow intent, which means that psychographics alone isn’t enough.
When it comes to content, there are a few main questions about your audience that you should be able to answer.
Question #1 – How do they like to consume content? Every audience likes to consume content differently.
There are 3 main aspects of content that you need to determine:
- What format do they prefer (e.g., video, text, audio)?
- How often? (An hour a week? An hour a day?)
- What length of content do they prefer?
There are many ways in which the answers to these questions can be combined to produce different optimal types of content.
You find these answers by going back to those forums.
Note down the three aspects for all the content that gets voted up or gets a lot of replies.
You might find that your potential audience likes to consume long, in-depth (>2,000 words) written articles once every few days.
Or you might find that they prefer to watch quick videos multiple times per week.
Regardless, this will tell you how they connect their problems to their behavior.
Question #2 – What are they most convinced by? The first question is the most important, but it’s also important to understand what your readers trust.
If someone has a problem they want to solve, they need to trust you and your content before your content can help them.
Again, go back to a forum or two, and read through the most popular threads.
Take note of the credibility of each post.
For example, a post from r/nutrition was highly upvoted. It links to official sources and studies:
After browsing more threads, we saw that this was common.
The readers in that nutrition audience trust only research, so all posts written for them should be well-cited and data-driven.
Alternatively, you might find that your audience prefers quotes and advice from experts in the field.
Or you might find that people are open to learning from hobbyists.
Once you find out this information, add it to your sheet, which should be getting pretty detailed by now.
Step 4: Put your reader persona together, and use it
The goal here is to take all that information and apply it to a specific avatar. Give him or her a name.
Then, turn all those bullet points into sentences that describe your avatar. Essentially, you’re describing his or her life situation (as it pertains to your content).
Here’s an example: Reader name: Sneil Patel
Sneil is a 30-year-old man living in New York, USA. After going to community college, he was able to find a job as a data entry clerk, making approximately $60,000 a year.
Sneil has developed an interest in getting healthier through nutrition, and he spends time actively learning about this subject online.
He particularly likes to read about nutrition myths and ways to create a diet that works for him and his professional lifestyle, which sometimes requires him to work long hours. In addition to reading, he tries to take at least one in-depth course or tutorial a month.
Since Sneil likes to investigate the truth behind claims, he appreciates content that cites credible research studies. He prefers medium-long content (1,000-2,000 words) that is mostly text. He has time to read a few of these articles a day.
Do you see how that story combines all the collected data?
Paragraph 1 is all about demographics.
Paragraphs 2 and 3 both contain psychographic information.
Finally, paragraph 4 addresses your avatar’s behavior.
Using your reader persona: At this point, you should have a persona that you can use. We recommend printing it out and putting it close to where you write.
Every piece of content should be written with this person in mind.
Now that you understand your persona almost as well as you understand yourself, what would Sneil want to read here if you keep asking yourself? You’ll be able to create content that resonates with a large part of your audience.
One final note: an avatar can evolve. This first version is your best guess at what your readers are like, but you can revise it as you get their feedback through comments and emails.
Nothing is more important than understanding your reader if you want to create content that truly makes an impact.
Simply put, a reader persona is the best way to understand your reader.
That’s why we’ve given you this simple four-step process to create your own reader persona.
We encourage you to use it immediately and integrate your reader persona into your content creation processes.
Finally, I’d love it if you shared the reader persona(s) you’ve created in a comment below.