In part 1 of this series - Planning your Site - you learned how to identify your target audience, and what you are going to provide them, you will put yourself ahead of the majority of your competition. Also by creating a defined positioning and ways to differentiate, those competitors become potential partners, because you will be sure your offer clearly stands alone.
Follow the link and create your no-obligation free website for you to use during this course
Now we will look at how to really drill down into the mind of your market and find out everything you need to truly understand their needs and provide them exactly the content that will attract large numbers of visitors, solve their problems, get them to trust you and make them take action.
First, what does your audience really want? …
Focusing on your audience will mean you are always providing what people want and need, in a way that they find compelling. It’s so much easier to promote something that people actually want rather than create something then try to find a market for it!
- Challenges – If you can empathize with what your audience is struggling with then you can become their knight in shining armor!
- Purchases – What are your audience buying and why?
- Education Needs – Are there phases that your audience go through from newbie to black belt? Do they prefer text, video or a mix?
- FAQs – Which questions come up over and over?
Already you will be generating content ideas. Some ideas will be useful as articles, some ebooks, others for glossary and other reference type material. Next we need to find the exact phrases people use to describe issues, and how many people are looking for those phrases …
Take some time and note down some ideas about your audience needs.
If you have done any reading about search engine optimization in the past then you are no doubt familiar with keyword research. Keyword research is fundamental to getting free, bountiful traffic from the search engines like Google.
When someone enters a word or phrase into the search box of any search engine, that phrase is considered a keyword. If we can match those exact phrases with our content then we have a better chance of appearing in the search results for that phrase.
Essentially our content becomes more relevant to what our audience is looking for.
Another aspect is these keyword tools can tell us which phrases are in demand, another important aspect because we need to know which phrases are worth spending time on and which are seldom looked for. Of course a phrase can be in so much demand that there is a great deal of competition. If you are just starting out you might find there are easier phrases to target until your site builds enough strength to go for the big prizes!
The main places to find keyword phrases are:
- WordTracker – WordTracker is a commercial service with a comprehensive toolset, but they also offer a scaled down free tool that is very useful.
- Google – Google provides a keyword tool for Adwords customers that is valuable simply because it is by Google and based on the Google search engine data – the search engine the majority of us use!
- Analytics – Once your site is up and running you will be able to see which words and phrases people are using to find you.
Of course there is another key source of keyword research … real human beings in your target demographic. Just ask!
I mention the level of competition above, how can you tell who are your big competitors? You need to research your competition to see what they are doing, how and who for …
Using one of the tools described above, generate a list of some 10-20 keyword phrases that people might use to find your content.
The main tools in your competition analysis arsenal are:
- Alexa/Compete – While the exact numbers returned by these services are by no means accurate, they do give you an indication of growth or contraction of visitor numbers. When and why did your competitors search traffic spike or dip? Are there seasonal variations? What content brought the biggest influx of readers?
- Links – Where and who links? Links are the currency of the web, and if your competitors are doing a great job of attracting natural links you need to know why and how. Also, are they being naughty and buying links?
- Search Rankings – Which phrases do they try to rank for and which do they succeed? Any reason why?
- Subscribers – How many subscribers do they have? What incentives do they provide for people to sign up?
- Features and Positioning – What are they saying to attract people? Who do they compare against? Who do they link to and which site or opinion are they attacking? Which competitor is complementary and who has an offer that overlaps with yours?
You learn a great deal from the other sites in your niche, but also find potential partners who can turn out to be a win-win in terms of promotion and getting ahead. The main thing to understand is why your audience is drawn to some and not to others, and what you are missing from your own planning or why you can be seen as a better choice.
Using your keywords, search in Google and create a list of 10 competitors. Make a grid of the above factors for each one.
Lots of people will make the statement that content is king. While I would not go quite that far (I would say packaging and promotion are of equal necessity), there is no doubt that great content can make or break a site, and it is something we absolutely have to get right.
Before spending hours lovingly writing, honing and crafting our content, we need to know which content your audience absolutely laps up. Luckily there are sites out there especially set up to only provide the most popular content.
- Digg – Search on Digg and rank by votes. Which articles go popular and which get zero visibility?
- Reddit – Look around the sub categories of Reddit, observe which get the votes and comments and which get voted down and why.
- PopURLs – Observe the popurls site and see which types of content consistently get popular across the board.
- Google Results – Which content on which sites rank higher than the rest for your chosen keywords?
Notice we are talking about most popular, not necessarily the best. It’s important to not be too snobby about the content here, and underlines what I was saying earlier about content being important but not the only factor in your success!
Twitter is an interesting way to get inside the mind of your target audience, because people are basically talking about what is interesting to them.
- Search.twitter – It has been suggested that Search.Twitter.com has the potential to challenge Google. While I am not sure about that, it is potentially a new way to discover what is of interest to your audience right now.
- Trending topics – You can see which phrases are popular right now, and also check out the sites such as tweetmeme and the retweet trackers to see which links are being shared around virally in the twitter conversations.
- Conversations – Find people using directories like wefollow or searches as mentioned above. What are people saying about your topic? Discover the nature and content of their conversations. What do they link and retweet?
You can set up groups and searches to look at over time using Tweetdeck or by adding the search result feed to your feed reading software, so you can observe continually rather than look at snapshots.
While you are looking for people, try to work out who are the main influencers …
Do some research to try and establish some popular topics in your niche (these will make great "backbone" articles for your site).
Influencers are the people who your audience members look up to, listen to, and who inspire them to take action. They are also the people who you need to get links from if you are going to rank in the search engines.
- Gurus and Celebs – Each niche will have the guru, celebrity and expert types. These often overlap with the next two items, but can normally be identified by looking who are the regulars on the conference and seminar circuit.
- Big sites and forums – Who owns the sites that everyone reads? Who runs the biggest forums?
- Popular bloggers and Social users – These folks might not own the big communities but are stand out members of them. They might have their own influential but not massive blog, or have a big following in Twitter and Facebook for example.
You do not want to just approach these people and ask for favors. In fact the best way to get on their radar is to do them a favor. One guy I know got into the in-crowd by purchasing all the top gurus big-ticket products. Expensive but it worked!
See if you can identify 5 big names in your niche that could help you getting targeted traffic to your site.
As well as influencers you need to also gather a list of potential partners. These might be the same or different as those identified above, but your needs in a partner are different from identifying influencers – these people will have something you need and you need to identify what you have that they could use to make it a win-win.
- Big lists – List owners are going to be key in getting your own message out. What can you offer to the list owners and their lists? A free product or ebook? An audio interview?
- Product owners – You need to get third party products to promote as an affiliate, this means identifying the owners of these hot products.
- Experts without audiences – If you can grow your own audience then you have an asset to offer people who have expertise to share but no audience of their own.
Download the MindMap of part 2
Summary of Part 2
By analyzing your market, audience, potential partners and the movers and shakers, you can create a hit list of what you need to do and with whom you need to connect with. This can really accelerate your momentum and growth later on. Of course many people just want to get on and get building, so we will look at exactly how to do that in the next part.