Finding your target audience. A simple guide to driving more traffic to your blog.

First, define your purpose

It may seem like a silly question to ask oneself—but its often a question that’s overlooked when folks get a website or blog online (or before). But the answer to “why” can often shift the tactics in which to have a successful website or blog.

What’s the goal of your site, blog, or blog post—why are you doing what you’re doing?

    • Are you a running business and simply trying to make money?
    • Are you trying to gain popularity and a following?
    • Are you simply trying to teach and share your passions with the world?

If you find yourself nodding along to any of the above, I’m happy to report that consistently blogging on your website can assist with driving the necessary traffic to accomplish whatever your goals are. Bonus good news: there are many different ways to get people to your site and keep them interacting with your content. So moving forward we’ll be talking about strictly marketing blog posts to gain more traffic.

Welcome to the internet

It’s inevitable—regardless of the “why”—when a person or small business starts a website or blog they’re automatically thrust into playing the game of marketing on the internet whether they like it or not.

Many focus on trying to tweak or tailor their posts or content to appease Google or other search engines in order to get more traffic. You know what I’m talking about—an exuberant amount of keywords stuffed into every single sentence that makes the writing hard to follow.

Forget all that shenanigans. Focus on writing or creating quality content that people want to engage with—your site will propel itself.

  • What’s unique about your site or blog that holds value for visitors?
  • Do you sell unique products?
  • If you’re just blogging to teach or share your passions, what’s the unique perspective that you bring to the table?

These are the strengths you need to play off of to gain traffic.

An example of a niche topic and how to drive traffic

A friend of mine and colleague at Automattic, Mike Shelton, is a very experienced, talented, and insightful designer (I work with many of them!). For the past few years, we’ve worked on different projects that sometimes have a different target demographic and user base. Because of which, he tends to have a unique perspective of product design that differs from mine in some respects.

When Mike publishes writings on his findings and experiments I read them because I’m always curious to learn new tactics and thought processes I can apply to my work and general design philosophy.

Screenshot of Mike Sheltons post on design sprints as written for Virginia Foundation for the humanities.
Screenshot of Mike Sheltons post on design sprints as written for Virginia Foundation for the humanities.

Recently, Mike wrote a piece on design sprints and how utilizing this process in projects can get more people on board with a project earlier and facilitate smoother sailing throughout a project lifecycle.

So how would we go about driving more traffic to this particular post?

Let’s ask ourselves the “Why” again. For Mike, he’s accumulated knowledge and experience with design sprint successes and wants to share that with the design community. By sharing this, he’s doing service to the design industry as a whole—which can only lead to better experiences for customers. So it’s best he get the word out to other designers.

Define the Target Audience

Defining a target audience doesn’t only differ from website to website, but from blog post to blog post. If Mike is writing a post on his blog that revolves around his experiments with landscaping in his backyard, it’s certainly going to have a different target audience than this Design Sprint post .

In terms of this particular post, his target audience is other Designers—more specifically designers who work in an organization with multiple people involved in a project.

Methods to gain more viewers

This is it, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! How do you go about gaining more views on your website, blog, or a particular blog post? Here, we’ll continue to delve into the example of getting traffic to: Balance the Scales of Influence with Design Sprints.

Start with the quickest methods

All traffic has to come from somewhere—you may as well harness the larger traffic depots like social media like Twitter and Facebook as I’m sure is already obvious to you. Chances are you’ve got a small network of folks on each site and by posting on these sites, you’ve got some easy free marketing at your service.

However, keep in mind that your target audience can be missed on these channels so it’s success isn’t guaranteed. Be mindful of how you use each network before you blast out links. If you utilize Facebook for friends and family only, yet use Twitter to follow and network with people in your industry, you may want to omit your marketing from Facebook because it’ll probably prove ineffective (depending on the topic of your blog post). If you still want to use facebook, consider creating a “page” that revolves around sharing consistent content.

We’ll talk more about paid targeted marketing on social media shortly.

Also, never make assumptions that your target audience isn’t on certain social media outlets. Channels like Pinterest and Instagram are incredibly diverse and it’s easy to target your audience with things like hashtags (#design, #designthinking, #ux) and location-based posts that other users may follow.

Designers at Automattic planning a design sprint. Photo by Luca Sartoni
Designers at Automattic planning a design sprint. Photo by Luca Sartoni

Have you heard of the term “Never judge a book by its cover?”  Yeah, well, a vast portion of humanity ignores that. Visuals are the first impression of the quality of what they’re about to read on your blog. Make sure you’ve got something intriguing to wrangle them in.  For Mike’s post, he’s included a photo of the planning of an actual design sprint by our colleague Luca Sartoni

Digging into niche sites to find your target audience

In order to help spread the word of Mike’s design sprint insights, I would personally pitch to major content hubs online.

Many popular sites online with millions of users thrive because they post content from a diverse set of authors and the content is always fresh.

In order to drive traffic to Mike’s post, I would invest time into reader driven sites where viewers are responsible for propelling the content. Sites like the Design sub Reddit (250k+ subscribers!) or Designer News.

The glory of sharing your posts on content hubs like these resides in the fact that users drive the popularity of the content. If you’ve created a unique and interesting piece, the amount of people who “upvote” your content will prove reinforce that. This is the part where the quality of the work sells itself.

Do you recall above where I talked a little about certain social channels allowing for things like hashtags and location based posting? Another added bonus to these are that particular instagram accounts follow these hashtags and may share work or content tagged with particular tags.

Hey Design, with over 16k followers, will sometimes feature work and content on instagram tagged with #HeyDesign

Give a little to get a little

It’s cliche to say in 2018, but the internet and marketing is not a one way street. In order to gain an audience you need to invest time in interacting with other folks, not just blasting them with your content over a megaphone. Talk to people in your target audience, make friends, become interested in their perspective and work and most importantly share their content as well. You’d be surprised at how often the sentiment is reciprocated.

Also, people crave finding new information and sharing that information with others—that’s what sites like Twitter and Reddit are based on.  By researching your target audience you can easily reach out to folks in your audience who may be podcasters or prolific tweeters and blogger themselves. By getting the attention of these folks you may get them to back your ideas and share your content.

As a sidenote, in order to keep traffic continously rolling into your site, you’ll want to consistently post about similar topics or topics that fall under the same umbrella. Chances are that you’re gaining followers because you often write on the same or similar topics. If Mike wants to gain a steady following of fellow designers, he should continuously write about design and not something off-topic like gardening—since not all designers (his target audience) might be into gardening (not to say that gardeners aren’t designers though!).

Don’t forget the physical world

You don’t just have to market your blog post online! Talk to people in real life—drive them to your site. As an example of driving traffic to Mike’s post I would bring up his ideas at local designer or tech meetups in my area and ask people to check out his site.

Empathize for a wider audience

Make sure your site is accessible to the widest possible range of humans in order to ensure your traffic funnel is large.

Allocate a small budget to extend your reach

There are also other methods via social channels that allow you to take full advantage of marketing your content to your target audience for a very reasonable amount of money. Some of the more effective that come to mind are Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Let’s say I had a $20 (USD) budget to help promote Mike’s blog post on Facebook. I could visit and begin creating a campaign to get more traffic using that budget.

Creating a targeted ad campaign to drive more traffic.
Creating a targeted ad campaign to drive more traffic.

Furthermore you can really dig deep to hit that target audience we’ve been talking about. Here, we can find folks that fall under the design umbrella—not just in terms of interests, but also official job titles.

Finally, we can easily set the budget and Facebook will do its thing throughout the date range set.

As mentioned above, Twitter and Instagram also offer similar promotional tools to help people with paid advertising to drive traffic.

People need to know you exist

Ultimately, what driving more traffic comes down to is being consistent with what you post, interacting with others, and providing generally insightful and useful information for others in a unique way. Once your discover your target audience, make sure you take time to explore multiple avenues in order to reach out to a wider range of people. People are waiting to see and hear what you have to say, they just need to know you exist.

Okay, now go read Mike’s post: Balance the Scales of Influence with Design Sprints

Featured photo courtesy of Štefan Štefančík

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