This is a guest post by James Johnson. He is the chief content marketer over at Share As Image where he aims to make readers more productive, creative and likeable.
How well do you know your audience?
While you may think you know, there’s a pretty good chance you’re way off the mark.
Without knowing your audience, the content you create is always going to be a little…off.
It won’t get the right amount of traffic, shares or comments. Which means you’re always going to be leaving traffic (and customers) on the table.
But, when you know what your audience is looking for:
And more importantly, your audience starts to care.
When they start to care, your blog begins to grow.
In this article you’re going to learn how to get inside your audience's head and create a bulletproof content strategy that will boost your traffic 70% in 4 months.
So, What About That 70%?
I’m fortunate enough to create content for some of the best start-ups on the Internet like Canva, Buffer and Niche Hacks. I help these sites get inside the mind of their audience and produce content that drives serious traffic.
Back in April, I got the opportunity to take over the Share As Image blog.
I was told I could do whatever I wanted as long as it increased blog traffic.
And that’s what I did...
In four short months I managed to:
All at one post a week (without spending a penny).
And I'm about to show you the EXACT strategy I used to do it.
Let's get started.
The Short Version
This isn’t a super-long post. But, it’s in depth.
If you just want a quick overview of what to do, here’s the skinny on how to get inside the mind of your audience:
Step #1 - Get Your Background: Use BuzzSumo’s view-sharers feature to find out who you're writing for. Then, create a persona.
Step #2 – Find Out What Your Persona Is Reading: Look at the topics they are sharing, and how those topics fit your blog.
Step #3 – Steal What They Do Well: From post length, writing technique, calls to action and, well...everything else you can get your hands on.
Step #4 – Write Epic Content: Because that’s what your audience wants, right?
Make it longer, more it more in-depth and immediately actionable. Check out how Robbie used a similar approach to increase traffic 272% in 30 days.
Now, stick around for the slightly-less-abrupt version 🙂
Step #1: Getting Dave's Background
Dave is the name of the persona I created for the Share As Image blog. He’s the personification of my target audience.
He’s their likes and dislikes.
And, the person I write for each week.
If Dave wouldn’t like the post then neither would the rest of my audience.
It’s important as a content creator – whether for your own blog or someone else's – that you have a clearly defined persona in place.
If nothing else, it allows you to keep your ego in check.
Because it doesn’t matter if you like the post, it matters if your audience does.
So, how do you create your own Dave?
It doesn't have to be complicated...
You just need to get social.
Creating Your Persona
To create a persona you’re going to be using BuzzSumo, a pen and paper.
If you don’t know what BuzzSumo is, it’s a content marketing tool that allows you to quickly identify niche influencers, uncover proven content ideas and look at the number of social shares (and sharers) of your posts.
In this step, you’re going to be looking at who has been sharing your posts and the characteristics tying them all together.
Then take notes on pen and paper.
Take one of your most successful posts and paste the URL into BuzzSumo:
Hit the ‘Go!’ button and select ‘View Sharers’.
This page will appear:
You'll see a bunch of metrics including follower count, reply ratio, domain authority and retweet ratio.
Select a random person's name and you'll be taken to their Twitter profile:
Twitter provides a treasure trove of information that will teach you a lot about your target audience.
Like it did with my guy, Mike Street:
Rinse and repeat this process 20 times until you have a clear picture of who you’re writing for.
A Little Bit About My Dave...
Now, I can’t get specific with you about your audience because there are a million different Daves out there. And, contrary to what my ex girlfriend believes, I’m not psychic.
Instead I’ll tell you a bit about my persona.
Dave looks a little bit like this.
- Life Coach or Small Biz owner, interested in Social Media Marketing
- He’s gender neutral (we have a damn near 50/50 split)
- And, he’s busy. Like, manic.
That might not sound like a lot to go on.
But it is.
Having this background gives you a starting point to build the rest of your content strategy.
Plus, you'll know miles more than just, ‘People who like the same shit as me’ which might have been your approach up to this point.
Step #2: Find Out What Your Persona Is Reading
Okay, you’ve got the background information on your audience. Now it’s time to look at their reading habits.
Because what they’re reading is a direct indicator of what you should be writing.
The best place to start?
They are a great resource for what you should be doing.
After all, there's not a lot that is "new" on the Internet these days. Every topic seems to have been covered before in some way.
So you might as well put your stamp on it too, right?
For this next stage you’re going to look at the topics your audience is sharing and identify your top competitors.
This way, you'll know exactly what you should be writing about.
What Makes A Competitor?
In this context, a competitor is someone fighting for the attention of the same target audience as you.
Product-wise, Share As Image and Canva would be viewed by many as direct competitors.
From a blog standpoint, the two blogs actually compete for different audiences.
Canva is looking to inspire graphic designers to be more creative and produce better visual content.
Share As Image wants to help people tackle the issues of productivity, social media, and ... inspire a little creativity.
So, while Canva is a product competitor...
They aren’t actually fighting for the same blog traffic because we position our products differently.
This is a key distinction to make for any blogger.
You need to understand EXACTLY who your target audience is...
Otherwise you'll waste a lot of time and money writing content for the wrong people.
What Is Your Audience Reading?
In this step you’ll find out what type(s) of content your audience is actively sharing.
Following the same process as last time, enter the URL of one of your popular posts.
Next, head to the 'view sharers' screen...
And hit the ‘View links shared’ button:
Which brings up this screen:
From here you can see all the other juicy content your readers are sharing.
With this information you can create two lists:
1. Hot content: These topics are trending in your niche right now. You should find an angle to write about them too.
2. Competitor sites: These are sites writing about similar topics, receving a lot of social engagement and fighting for the attention of your audience.
Another way to easily identify your top competitors in Buzzsumo is to simply enter a keyword related to your niche or the topics you're writing about:
By default, you'll be shown a list of content receiving the most social engagement around that topic. Take note of the top performing sites.
Next, paste each domain back into Buzzsumo to get a list of all the top performing posts for each site.
They might not be direct competitors, but they're killing it when it comes to the topics you want to be covering in your blog content strategy.
Want to take it further? Here's another 22 competitor research tactics.
Ok, here’s what you should do with each list…
As you've seen, hot content may not come from a competitor. It could come from a neutral third party.
Build up a list of content you could (or should) be writing.
This is the most important list because it's where you'll find proven content ideas.
In the next stages you’re going to use the competitor list to discover what makes great content in your niche.
Step #3: Steal What Works
I just told you to steal.
But not in the traditional way.
After all, you’re not here to rip anybody off.
Instead, you’re going to look at what your competitors do well in their posts, and apply it to your own content.
But, only better.
Creating A Personal Checklist
Before you look at the competition perform a quick audit of your existing content assets.
Analyze only your top performing posts:
- Word count
- Paragraph length
- Images used (if any)
- Most shared platform
- Content type (list, how-to, infographic etc.)
- On-page optimization
This is going to become your (brutal) benchmark to compare against the competition.
The Competitor Checklist
If you take nothing away from this article other than this checklist, I’ll be happy.
Ok, it’s time to figure out what's working for your competitors...
And where you can improve.
This time take 20 of your competitor’s posts and analyze them using the checklist above.
I’d recommend running this analysis with evergreen content. This content has stood the test of time and will provide the best benchmark data.
Create a graph like this:
'SHARE AS IMAGE' CHECKLIST
What does our audience want?
How long should content be?
What type of content performs best?
What channels do we need to nurture?
Do post with or without data perform best?
What topics should we explore?
How should headlines be structured?
Social media, design and holistic
1,500 - 2,000 words
List posts and tutorials
Depends on the topic - design is subjective - but data is important for social med articles
Case studies - what we've done to grow and the tools we use
Descriptive with a knowledge gap. Preferable to include numbers.
This, my friends, is your new holy grail.
The actionable data you need to build a bulletproof content strategy.
Take a couple minutes to mark this checklist against your own content, and cross reference your competition.
You'll likely identify big gaps (and opportunities) to leverage in your next post.
This exercise is meant to highlight where you've been going wrong, how to improve and what’s going to turn your blog into a traffic generation machine.
What To Do With The Information...
If your post doesn’t meet the criteria on your competitor checklist...
Don't publish it.
If your competitors are crushing it with expert roundups and you're posting how-to articles, you might struggle to reach a large audience.
Maybe your competitors are ranking 2,000+ word long form content while you're gaining little SERP real estate with shorter 700 word articles.
Content production should always be informed by data. Guess work is not a strategy.
Find what works and do more of it!
Find out what works and do more of it!
Now, it's time to put it all together...
Step #4: Write Epic Content
I want to get real with you for a second…
Most of the content out there is utter garbage.
It belongs in the trash.
Many bloggers have stopped caring about what they write.
They care more about vanity metrics.
Here’s the thing:
Average content isn’t good enough any more.
Make your content:
Steal what works from other sites. In a lot of cases, there is no need to reinvent the wheel.
And, base your entire blog strategy on this process.
All that said, you shouldn't go out and copy your competitors verbatim.
Instead, improve on a proven idea. Add value and make your article stand above and beyond anything else that already exists.
When Ralph Bear invented the video game, people didn’t go:
“Oh, well, that’s the best they’re going to get. After all, he invented it!”
Instead they went out and made it better.
They told better stories.
They made better graphics and connected more people.
If you’re just making the same old stuff, you’re not going to be remarkable.
And if you’re not remarkable, you’re easy to forget.
You don't want people to forget you, do you?
With this strategy you can uncover a proven foundation for creating epic content you know your target audience will care about and enjoy.
And that's powerful!
Now, it’s down to you to put pen to paper.
Improve your writing.
Do better research.
Ask more questions and add a hundred layers of awesomeness onto what's already out there.
Become more than just another blogger.
It's Your Time To Shine...
Okay, I’m done.
That’s enough from me. It’s time for you to go out there and start growing your own blog.
A quick recap:
- Understand your audience: Find out who your Dave is and what makes him tick.
- Find out what he wants to read: Who are your competitors? Why? What are your readers looking for?
- Steal what works from your competitors and use it to inform your own content strategy.
- Create epic content: Because you’re more than just another blogger.
My only question to you is – where are you going to start?
Answers in the comments…