07/08/2015 08:32 EDT | Updated 07/08/2016 05:59 EDT

Understand Your Online Target Audience in Three Steps

Understanding your target online audience is a key process in order to achieve objectives such as increasing sales and leads. To some, this can be a daunting process, but there are three simple ways to get to know your audience: testing, leveraging analytic platforms and doing competitor research.


Understanding your target online audience is a key process in order to achieve objectives such as increasing sales and leads. To some, this can be a daunting process, but there are three simple ways to get to know your audience -- testing, leveraging analytic platforms and doing competitor research. The data and information gathered can be turned into insights to suggest the best strategies to plan and execute a digital marketing campaign.

Even when you have identified and segmented your customers, there's always more data to mine and new information to learn. Audience perceptions, opinions and purchasing behaviour can change, so you may need to stay on top of changing trends. It's not just about collecting and reading measurements, but interpreting insights and turning those into actions.

1. Campaign Testing

Conducting A/B and/or multivariate testing are some of the first steps in optimizing digital campaigns to increase conversions. You manipulate as little as one variable to as many variables as you need and see which version performs better against the objectives. For instance, you can create several web pages with different headlines and compare the results from each version against each other. You can also manipulate multiple variables within each version and create as many different variations as you need. However, each additional variation will require considerably more time to determine statistically significant results.

It's important to remember that each version needs to be randomly split between different audiences to collect unbiased data. The idea is to implement the version that has displayed the best performance at the end of the experiment (and then to continually try to find an even better version). Depending on the campaign, you can apply these tests to emails, pay-per-click (PPC), social media ads, web pages and more. Here are some examples of variables to test:

  • Email subject lines
  • Blog post or white paper titles
  • PPC copy
  • Visuals including colours, images and font type and sizes
  • Calls to action

2. Analytics Platforms

There are several analytics platforms that have different functionalities for evaluating website performance, PPC campaigns, social media ads, email marketing and more. They will provide insight into how successful your marketing efforts are, how to improve your campaign and what it takes to achieve your goals. Here are some platforms to consider: Google AdWords, Google Analytics, Clickly, comScore, Adobe Analytics, Hootsuite, MailChimp and MOZ.

Sample information you can glean insights into:

  • Demographics such as age, gender, language and country
  • The number of visits, page views, unique visits, bounce rate and impressions
  • The number of clicks and total spend
  • The number of sales
  • Email open rate
  • Audience behaviour such as frequency, reach
  • Social media shares and engagement rate

Using many of these platforms and tools, companies can gain visibility into the different types of information that different demographics are interested in, how they like the message, ad, or website, and much more. Interpreting this information is actionable, because it can suggest what you've got to change, add or eliminate to better satisfy those groups of prospects that you wish to target.

3. Competitor Research

Like the old saying, "Keep your friends close, but keep your (competitors) closer," it is important to understand how your competitors are reaching their audience. This method can be a tremendous benefit if you use both as a campaign planner and a benchmarking tool. You will better understand how your company's online presence compares to other businesses in the industry. Your business can begin to capture more insight, for example, by using certain keywords that competitors are ranking for in search results pages.

Here is some information you should gather about your competitors:

  • Content strategy
  • Advertising platforms used
  • Social media presence

Understanding your audience's online behaviour is an ongoing, evolving process. Your business needs to be able to adapt to and implement any changes. That, for example, could be as simple as a drop in the volume of keyword searches, which may require selecting different keywords, bid amounts or ad content. Your business or marketing agency should always be testing strategies, analyzing results and monitoring competitors in order to decrease spending and increase profits. This will ultimately help improve the digital marketing plan with the key objectives of increasing lead generation, sales, social shares and the bottom line.


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