Gurl, I Wanna Know You (A Story of Personas)

partyyy SEO folks have an incredible ability to pivot. It's one of the reasons I am so fascinated and passionate about SEO. It's a giant game of Simon Says. Google says build links. We build links. Google says don't build bad links. We stop building bad links. Google says create content. We create content. Every time Google says something we do it. Of course, there are people playing the game that get knocked out, but, it's the SEO person's ability to pivot that makes the job so fascinating.

It's also fascinating how SEOs are able to take disciplines from other industries and make them their own. One minute replacing link building and moving into media and blogger outreach. Then next minute taking an age old practice of creating suggestive messaging and turning into a buzzword called content marketing.

Now it's time for personas to take center stage.

Are personas new? Hardly. The batter still rages on who exactly came up with personas between Angus Jenkinson of OgilvyOne and Alan Cooper, the super software developer who wrote the book The Inmates are Running the Asylum on personas. But, despite being around for some time, you're now hearing about personas quite a bit around SEO folks. Hell, marketers have been using personas to target TV, print and display ads as I can remember. We just didn't call them personas. Nonetheless, SEOs have arrived and personas are alive and well.

Now that Google Analytics has given us more information into who our user's are, we can create and target to personas much easier than ever before. Now you don't have to sit outside your store and take notes on every person that walks in and out of it. Well, maybe you still do, if your store has a much different online personality and shopper than it does in store. (Sidebar: I had a client dispute their Google Analytics demographics recently. Citing that it's not a true representative of who their customer is and the data must be lying. My argument was that perhaps the client either didn't understand who their customer is, or their online customer is ashamed to walk into their brick and mortar.)

Here's a quick rundown of what we get with the Google Analytics demographics reports for the uninitiated: Age, Gender, Affinities, Categories and In-Market Segments

I'm amazed how many Google Analytics accounts I gain access to that haven't implemented the demographic and affinity capabilities. Here's a quick how to on implementing it located in my Dallas Digital Presentation.

Chances are you're logged into your Google+ account (chances are unknowingly) while you're surfing around the Internet. Meanwhile Google is collecting data on you based on your search queries, the websites you visit and the things you're thinking about buying. This data is now delivered to us in Google Analytics.

We can start creating data-driven personas, which is better than anything we've been able to do before. Don't believe this data is real? Check out your own, here: https://www.google.com/settings/ads

Crazy, huh?

Now that we have it, what should we do with it?

This is the most exciting part for SEOs (or integrated marketers, or holistic marketers, or content marketers, or inbound marketers, or what ever we're calling ourselves today). Based on the information available, we can start crafting our tones to appeal directly to our audiences.

Now, how do you begin?

As always with Analytics, Advanced Segments are your friends. First off, map out your genders plus age combinations as much as you can. This helps make the information more digestible.

google analytics advanced segment

Now that you have your segment created, you can layer in their interests into the gender - age map you've created to start learning about them, their behaviors, how they navigate your website, what devices they use, where they live, etc.

For this client, I'm looking at the Female 55-64 segment's Affinity Categories. I can add a secondary dimension here to understand not only what types of websites my customer's are visiting, but also what sort of items they're interested in buying.

In this example, I'm looking at a pretty high ticket item, so the affinities and segments are lining up with the type of product the client is selling. Here I've figured out the people who are visiting the website most and are achieving the highest conversion rate are Females 55-64, who are Avid Investors willing to buy Real Estate, Home Decor Enthusiasts willing to buy Home & Garden Decor and Movie Lovers who are just about willing to buy just about anything.

google analytics advanced segment 2

This allows me to create a more robust persona map, and I can start filling more advanced Google Analytics segments. I'll save you example, but just go back to your advanced segments and start creating more detailed segments (hint: label things exactly!).

With this information, I can start diving into how each segment digests my content. I can look at my site content to distinguish what appeals to the most on my website. What blogs do they tend to read most, what products are most appealing and what pages on my site do they respond to the best. I can drill down and add in a secondary dimension to now see what sources and what medium they're in that drives them to my content.

And now that I know this, I can start crafting my content and targeting to appeal directly to my audience. I can find the differences in how my visitors respond to my content from each social network, paid and organic, email and referrals. (Don't forget, this is also a way to better understand your referral's audiences, too. You can provide your referrals with better content that appeals to their audience better!)

As an SEO (or any of those other buzzword titles we're calling ourselves) to get a deep understanding of who I'm creating content for is priceless. Not to mention having the ability to measure how my audience interacts with it in real-time so I can make tweaks and improves with each piece of content I create. Now start using the data till your fingers fall off!