Content marketing personas are not new, however, tightly integrating these personas with SEO strategy and tactics is relatively new to most companies and organizations. In today’s post we’re going to explore what a content marketing persona is and how you can align this to your SEO efforts to drive and convert more website traffic.

What is a Content Marketing Persona?

Successful website design and development is about more than colors, fonts, and content. Quality digital marketing means asking the right questions and making sure those questions apply to your website visitors. A key step in this is remembering that your website is not about you. Instead, it’s really about your customers or patients.

The term content marketing persona is a fictional person who has the main traits of your site visitors. Content marketing personas can be used interchangeably with buyer persona, website persona, visitor persona, customer persona, user persona, and/or digital marketing persona.

Regardless of the actual name you use, the goal remains the same. We are trying to better understand our visitors and how we can help service their unique needs.

We identify a marketing persona, or in many cases, multiple personas to confirm that our content meets the needs of our audience and is speaking to them most effectively. Identifying personas also helps new customers or patients find us in web searches.

As marketers, our job is to find solutions to our website visitors’ challenges and problems. Essentially, good website design is mapping your visitors’ journey and creating clear paths for them to follow.

Your website’s purpose is to help your visitors find the right information and encourage them to take action (e.g., make an appointment, buy a product, download information, etc.). They can only truly do this when the website is designed to answer their questions, solve their problems, and resolve their challenges.

To develop a website that solves problems, we need a clear understanding of our personas.

The Importance of Personas

Identifying personas for your website is important because different groups of people have different problems and, ultimately, different needs that will require different answers or solutions. Thus, we need to provide different answers or solutions for each persona group.

What does this mean for SEO? By varying answers, you’ll derive different terms and phrases the group or persona would use to search for their solutions. By viewing different groups and creating keyword lists for each group, you exponentially expand your keyword universe and opportunities to rank in search.

You’ll also bring in highly targeted traffic that will be more adapt to connect with your offering and convert into leads, customers, and revenue. And, which is probably even more important, you’ll immediately make stronger emotional connections with website visitors because you’ll be speaking their language and presenting content that truly matters to their unique needs. In other words, personas equate to empathy and empathy leads to conversions.

Note: While we specifically focus on SEO in today’s article, the same thought process would apply to SEM activities like PPC and social media advertising.

Five Steps to Defining Your Personas

Step 1: Ask Questions About You

Even though your customer or website visitors are the most important people to keep in mind when designing a website, you still need to define who you are.

Before delving into personas, ask these three questions about your business:

  • How would you describe your business to a potential client?
  • How would you describe your product or service offering?
  • What sets you apart from your competition?

Step 2: Ask Questions About Who You Serve

The next step in creating content marketing personas is to identify who you serve. It’s important to document relevant characteristics. These will vary by industry and niche, so just use what applies to your organization.

Here are some example questions you can ask yourself about your customers or patients:

  • Are they men or women?
  • Are they kids, teens, adults, or baby boomers?
  • Are they consumers or businesses?
  • Are they patients, healthcare providers, or payers?
  • Are they universities, enterprise-level companies, or small business?
  • Are they tech-savvy or new to an industry-based topic?
  • Do they exist in certain departments like IT, accounting, or manufacturing?
  • Do they have different positions like entry level, manager, or c-level executive?
  • Do they speak different languages?
  • Do they live in different regions?
  • Do they have clusters of problems, challenges, ailments, etc?
  • Do they have different budgets and desired price points for goods and services?

Note: Write down the information about your website visitors that is pertinent to what you do and what type of solution or content you’d like to offer them. 

Persona questions and characteristics will differ by whether you’re a B2C or B2B, as well as, customer or patient. For example:

  • A B2C focus will have personas that include characteristics like gender, age, education level, or geography.
  • A B2B focus company will have personas that include attributes like industry, management level, and organizational department.

Regardless of B2B or B2C segmentation, defining a website’s visitor personas will help place prospective users in a box, which will then help you speak to them in their language and solve their particular problems. This is especially important for SEO.

Step 3: Define Your Persona Groups

Some websites, but not all, have persona groups. Ask yourself if there is a way to segment your personas into groups? We do this because different groups will need different content and are at different stages of the Customer Journey. Look at your persona groups and hone in on what makes them unique and how you can help them.

Here are some ways of how you can segment your personas:

  • Age or gender (B2C)
  • Income level (B2C)
  • Geography (B2C)
  • Professional position, occupation, or department (B2B)
  • Industry (B2B)
  • Business size (B2B)
  • Stage in the buying cycle or customer journey (B2C/B2B)
  • Product or service type (B2C/B2B)
  • Customer status – suspect, prospect, new customer, repeat customer (B2C/B2B)

Step 4: Document Persona Data

Now that you’ve established your personas and persona groups, it’s time to define your personas by documenting what makes each one unique.

Consider using these data points when documenting your content marketing personas:

  • Name: This is how you identify the persona (i.e., freelancer or small business, men or women, executive or support staff, etc.).
  • Description: Write a description for your personas, so you know exactly who they are.
  • Drivers, goals, and/or objectives: Document what drives your personas and their objectives and how they might relate to what you do and what you offer.
  • Frustrations, challenges and paint points: Your website visitors are searching the web for answers and solutions to their problems and challenges.
  • Needs: These are closely tied to what frustrations your personas have and the challenges they need to solve.
  • Decision process and criteria: Describe the decision process when selecting to use your product or service.
  • Purchase obstacles: Write down what some purchase obstacles might be for your website visitors.
  • Marketing channels: Each persona will get their information in different ways. Some may use LinkedIn or Facebook. Others may prefer a newsletter or another marketing channel. Identify the ways you can reach your personas.

Step 5: Keep Asking Questions

Often when we’re creating content for our websites, we talk about our products, our services, or our treatments and what we can do or offer. We forget to relay this back to the actual visitor – that human that is trying to solve some sort of problem.

By documenting the answers to the questions below, you can identify existing content that may help your website visitors and identify content gaps that will need to be filled with new content generation efforts.

Your next step is to start writing down answers to these questions:

  • Who do you help?
  • What are their individual objectives and goals?
  • What problems do your visitors have?
  • What specific issues do they struggle with?
  • What questions do they want to ask?
  • How can your products, services, or content help resolve these issues?
  • How can your products, services, or content help them reach their goals?
  • What content do you have to help answer these questions?

That last item is critical! If you’ve reached this point, you’ll probably see that you are lacking customer-focused content and a clearly defined strategy for successfully creating and using content marketing personas.

And that’s okay. You now know what you’re missing, so you can now address it and make improvements.

Examples of Merging Personas and Search Terms

Here are some examples of the personas for an app provider, an online shoe store, and a hospital. All examples serve very different personas, however, trends will emerge.

Example 1: App Provider Personas

  • Mom – A mom is going to look for apps that help her protect her children or monitor her teen’s internet usage.
  • Teen – A teen is going to look for apps that help avoid a parent monitoring them. They’ll seek out new apps, cheat codes, or extensions to keep their parents away.
  • Dad – A dad is going to look for something to keep both mom and teenager happy, so he’ll need to find some middle ground between strong controls and teen-friendly activity.

Example 2: Online Shoe Store Personas

  • 10-year-old boy – searches for “cool sneakers”
  • 16-year-old girl – searches for “kim kardashians shoes” or maybe “trendy shoes for 2019”
  • 45-year-old woman – searches for “comfortable dress shoes” because she goes straight from work to her kid’s football practice
  • 55-year-old man – searches for “size 13 extra wide shoes”

Example 3: Hospital Personas

  • Possible type 1 diabetic patient
    • Type 1 diabetes causes
    • Type 1 diabetes treatment
    • Type 1 diabetes vs type 2
    • Type 1 diabetes diagnosis
    • Type 1 diabetes facts
    • Type 1 diabetes symptoms
  • Possible breast cancer patient –
    • Lump in breast
    • Pain in breast
    • Nipple discharge
    • Breast rash
    • Changes in breasts
    • Breast cancer symptoms
    • Early signs of breast cancer
    • Breast cancer risk factors
    • Breast cancer screening
    • How is breast cancer diagnosed?
    • Breast exams

You’ll see that even though the websites are completely different, the individual personas are all still searching for help and solutions to their ailments, problems, and/or challenges.

The process of persona definition and documentation does not change, however, the details of each persona shifts for each industry and niche.

A key to successfully using personas is to write them down and document everything. It’s not enough to keep the information in your head. If you document them, they’re more likely to make it to your website. Then after you capture your website personas, you map their needs and challenges to your products and services. Ultimately, we document each persona because individual people use different search terms and content to find solutions to their problems and challenges.

Note: Sometimes what you think a person would search isn’t actually what they’re searching in reality. We like to use KW Finder, a keyword research tool, to analyze keyword phrases and brainstorm new ones.

The Customer Journey and Search Intent

Mapping the Customer Journey

When establishing keywords, its important to remember the customer journey. A person changes their search terms depending on where they are in their journey. Let’s use our breast cancer patient above as an example.

Example of Content Marketing Personas and the Patient Journey

In the Awareness Stage, the patient realizes she has an issue with breast pain or has discovered a lump, but she doesn’t yet know what it is or what it means. She starts a search on Google (yes we all try to self-diagnosis ourselves prior to seeking help) for phrases like “lump in breast”, “pain in breast”, “nipple discharge”, or some other ailment or symptom.

As the patient learns more about what’s ailing her and enters the Consideration Stage, her searches get more specific. She starts to search for testing and diagnosis related phrases.

After she gains better information, the patient enters the Decision Stage. At this point, she searches for possible treatment options, insurance coverage, or surgeons.  Her searches get very detailed and she becomes very close to taking formal action.

People, regardless of their issues, do perform web searches this way. Their search terms get more specific as they learn more information about their problem or condition.

Understanding Search Intent

In today’s world of SEO, it is much more difficult to stretch for keywords and phrases that don’t directly relate to your content. The reason for this is Google is smart and Google understands what the user wants and will make sure the results match up closely to this want. Thus, we have to consider search intent and keep it in mind as we select keywords and write content.

Search intent simply refers to a human’s intentions when performing a search.

When considering how and what your website visitors are searching for, keep in mind their search intent:

  • Navigational – Navigational searches are performed with the intent of surfing directly to a specific website. These are direct searches for a brand, company, website, or a person.
  • Informational – This is the largest category and typically represents people looking for quick answers like recipes, sports scores, local weather, the cure to their current ailment or illness.
  • Commercial – Investigational searches leading up to a purchase that help a buyer find information.
  • Transactional – These searches are largely for purchases or completing a task such as signing up for a service.

You have to align search intent to your persona and content. If you fail to do so, you won’t excel in organic search and you won’t convert visitors, because they will fail to truly find the information they are seeking.

If you are not sure about the search intent for a specific search phrase, just pull it up on Google to see how Google uses it. Review the actual search results and content on page one. If it doesn’t align with your content, it’s not a great phrase for SEO.

Bringing it all Together With Site Mapping

Once you have your content marketing personas created and your possible keywords identified, you have to marry this up to the content on your website or blog. This equates to mapping your keywords to URLs. I refer to this as site mapping.

Site mapping is the process of assigning a specific keyword to an individual piece of content on your website or blog. It is the formulation of a content plan.

It is really that simple in theory, but very important to real life content marketing.

There a few reasons why this process is so important:

  • You are creating a roadmap for Google by showing Google which piece of content relates to a given search phrase.
  • The easier you make it on Google to find and identify your content, the greater chance you have at landing on page one.
  • You don’t want to make Google question what piece of content should appear for a given search phrase. Having a plan helps you make sure you keep things easy for Google.
  • Having a plan also keeps you focused on writing content that will produce page one results.

This is an area where most website owners and bloggers fail. They forget to research keywords and then they follow this failure by forgetting to create a plan based on their new found information and data.

Planning is very important to SEO success. It’s why we are spending so much time talking about keywords and maps before ever writing or optimizing content.

Below is a high-level list of steps for executing the site mapping process:

  • Group our keywords by like concepts and/or themes
  • Identify keyword phrases that you want to target moving forward
  • Identify any existing content that can be used for these keyword phrases
  • Match each keyword phrase to a specific URL on our website (if available)
  • Identify gaps in your keyword to URL map (where you have keywords selected but no content)
  • Assign a location for new content assignment based on the keyword phrase

That may seem like a lot, but you’ll get through it faster than you think. Keep in mind, the larger the keyword list and website, the longer these next few tasks are going to take.

Another point to make is one URL can have multiple keywords assigned, but one keyword phrase should only be assigned to one URL.

A Note on Keywords

When determining your keywords remember that long-tail keyword phrases are critical to today’s SEO. Over 50% of organic search is driven by phrases that are four words or more in length.

Additionally, people are using voice search more and more. Think about how they would verbally ask Google their questions when creating search terms.

A quality keyword universe will include a good mix of broad phrases, long-tail keyword phrases, and questions. It will also include all phases of the customer journey.

How Can We Help?

If you need some assistance in creating content marketing personas or establishing keywords for your organization, visit our SEO services page for information on how emagine can help. We offer full-service digital marketing strategy and support, as well as complete custom website design and development.

We’re here to help support you and your team. We’ll walk you through the entire process of persona development, keyword research, site mapping, and on-page optimization. We can also weave all this goodness into a fully integrated paid search campaign.