Some bloggers might be a bit disillusioned when it comes to what sort of content they should be writing. When comparing themselves to some of the larger names out there who sometimes don’t appear to blog about anything in particular (thebloggess.com comes to mind), some bloggers believe it’s a simple case of mimicry that will lift them into the limelight. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case.
A big part of running a successful blog, especially for those who aren’t already table-names, is the strategy behind getting up to speed. It can go far beyond merely picking a topic and rolling with it, and the better prepared a blogger is, the more likely he or she is to get results. Apart from delivering fantastic content, a blogger must also understand who exactly it is that they are writing to.
Assuming you are planning to run a successful blog and achieve sensational results, this thorough guide to defining your blog’s target audience is sure to send you in the right direction.
Who is your target audience?
Perhaps the most critical question to ask yourself before beginning your blogging journey (or perhaps even well into it) is who exactly are you writing to? Be as specific as possible.
Let’s examine The Next Web’s audience for a moment.
Our audience here is oriented to quality, accurate, speedy and original news. Our readers come to The Next Web to find the sort of content that they won’t see regurgitated across any other digital publication because they know we are striving to bring them something of value — something unique that they won’t be able to dig up in quite the same entertaining or readable format anywhere else. Our audience has come to expect that our editorial team is comprised of a knowledgeable and hard working set of writers who regularly engage with our readers and are polite and courteous with our exchanges.
The description above is sort of our “Dear Diary”, where rather than writing to some unknown entity online, we always have our audience in mind. Not only does it set the tone for how we approach our work, it also helps us separate what is bloggable from what is not. In that sense, we are constantly evaluating our work to speak to the right readers.
Having readers outside of your target audience is not always a bad thing.
When defining your own audience, understanding who it is that you want to write to as opposed to who it is that you are actually writing to will help establish your preferred connections. By that I mean, you have the power to draw in the types of readers you want by simply reaching out to them as if they are already there. Of course, not every visitor to your blog will be of the same mindset as your target audience. With that in mind, it’s always wise to write as if you are including those who may not be familiar with your work online as well.
For example, say you want to run a blog about comic books but written in a more cynical tone. Yes, you might pick up a few readers who don’t understand your “voice” and may even be offended by your style, but by creating that conflict, word of mouth will draw in readers who actually do agree with what you have to say.
In some cases, readers who may not have agreed with you before might be more inclined to agree with you now — especially after they’ve seen that your audience has grown, or realize the influence you have over your more dedicated readers. In this sense, you are shaping your audience to fit your specific niche by constantly writing to the appropriate readers.
Reach beyond your target audience.
Again looking at The Next Web as an example, we definitely strive to cover the sort of content that our readers have come to expect us to dish out. However, we also keep in mind that not everyone understands the sort of tech jargon that we might casually throw around by the water cooler, and in that sense, we like to keep things simple.
For example, terms that might be casual for us, like UI or SEO, end up being written long form first (User Interface and Search Engine Optimization) to give the reader a better understanding of what they are digesting. This is because we understand that not every reader who stumbles onto TNW is well-versed in the same tech slang that we are, so again, we write with them in mind.
In this way, every reader who comes along should be able to feel like they “belong” to the writing. Instead of feeling left out or not “cool enough” to be a part of our readership, they will instead feel included in our very niche community because we’ve taken the time to include them as well.
What is your target demographic?
It’s not only important to write in the proper tone to address your target audience, but also to understand the specifics of who exactly your audience is. That is:
- How old are they?
- Where do they live?
- Are they primarily male or female?
- How educated is your audience?
- What does your audience do for a living?
Asking yourself these questions will help give you a better understanding of how to approach certain subjects with your readers. In many cases, the category of your blog will affect the demographic of your audience.
For example, a blog about the current state of the White House and possible conspiracy theories within the political system is more likely to draw an educated and primarily older audience. On the other side, a blog about beauty products and how to apply makeup might be geared more towards a female audience.
Defining the key demographics of your readers based on what your specific “niche” is will help set the tone for your future pieces.
What is your niche?
In most cases, having a focused niche for your blogging content is what will best define who your target audience is. Most readers who stumble onto your blog will find it either through SEO or word of mouth. In many cases, the search for a specific type of content is what may have attracted your readers in the first place.
It could be a photography blog, for example, in which case the most popular blogs in the photography niche will come up first in search engines like Google or Bing. Gearing all of your content towards that niche or category will give your readers a sense of familiarity. If they are looking for a specific type of content that they know you will provide, they know to come to your blog.
Of course, your blog doesn’t necessarily have to be all about photography or shoes or whatever other bloggable niches there are. In many cases, the tone of your writing is also what defines your niche. For example, there are humor writers and there are news writers, and in some cases, there are humorous news writers. But whatever your decided focus is, it’s simply wise just to understand what type of content it is that you want your readers to become accustomed to seeing.
Understand who else your audience is reading.
Assuming your goal is to be the “best blog out there” (or something along those lines), it’s obviously important that you understand who else your audience might be reading. In the case of fashion blogging, for example, there are a few table names that most bloggers compare themselves against. The Sartorialist and Fashion Toast are two blogs that most in the same category tend to look up to when crafting their own personal fashion blogs.
From simply glancing at the two blogs mentioned, we notice a very basic and common theme. Both blogs have large, high quality images for their audience to dissect the various pieces in the photo and derive style inspiration from.
As a new fashion blogger, this is the bar that sets the level of quality your fashion blog should take. This doesn’t mean that the look and feel of your blog should be identical to the formats of your more popular counterparts, but it’s important to understand why these blogs are successful in order to keep these points in mind when creating your own entries.
Some bloggers are successful simply because they’ve taken a popular category and, while also still keeping that same sense of familiarity in terms of what base elements they should include in their blog, have also provided their own spin on it. Kenza, for example, is a European fashion model who still uses high quality photos to show off her stylish life like Fashion Toast does, but does so with a more personal spin by offering deeper insight into her process behind styling and the lifestyle she lives while being a well-known fashion figure in Sweden.
Your blog’s audience and niche might change.
While consistency is definitely key when it comes to deciding who it is that will be reading your blog, there is also the huge possibility that your blog audience might change. For example, a “lifestyle” blogger might at first be writing with no audience in mind, simply discussing his or her life and what it is that he or she does in it that might be interesting to potential readers. Then over time, the blogger might realize that his or her readers are more attracted to a specific topic in their blog, or that a certain subject might gather the most comments and reactions.
In that case, it might even be wise to begin gearing your posts towards those readers. Yes, your originally defined audience might vary completely from who you hoped it would be, but in this case, writing with this new audience in mind will be more rewarding. If it reaches a point where you feel you’ve peaked in terms of who your audience is, you may even be able to write about whatever you want without any repercussions. By this point, your audience should already be familiar with your blogging style and voice, and will simply see your off-topic writing as a nice change of pace from what they normally find.
The goal is ultimately to provide a place where your audience knows they will be getting quality and consistent content. Your readers strive to find familiarity with your work and by delivering this to them on a regular and constant basis, your audience is likely to define itself. As for knowing how to actually capture your target audience and drive traffic to your blog, well, that’s a guide meant for another post.