Last Updated on by Karl
“How do I create content that doesn’t suck?”
That’s the question I ask myself whenever I start a new content marketing campaign.
I always circle back to the fact that content can only be good if the readers themselves think it’s good.
Yes, you need to have basic writing skills. But above all else, the key to great content is understanding your reader.
For some content you create, this is easy because you’re already part of the audience.
But what if you’re not?
This is where I see most content marketers fail. They write the same type of things for different audiences. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t always go well.
The best ones? They’re different; they take the time to really understand their audience before creating content.
In a perfect world, you’d sit down with several people in real life (or on Skype) and interview them. You’d really get to know them.
I understand that’s not usually realistic. Especially if you write for a wide variety of audiences.
What you can do, however, is create quick, relatively accurate reader personas.
A reader persona is simply a brief summary of your average reader. When you write, you write to that persona, which makes your writing more targeted and powerful.
In this post, I’m going to show you how to create a quick, but still useful reader personas.
Doing this alone will put you above 90% of writers out there.
So do yourself (and your readers) a favor and give this process some real effort.
Stats are an easy starting point
Statistics provide nice, concrete findings, so that’s where we’ll start.
As Neil Patel has advised before – start with demographics.
Yes, the more statistics you have (e.g. gender, weight, activity level, education, etc.) is better, but not all statistics are equal.
We’re looking for demographics that:
- we can find quickly
- are important to our writing
- can be found for most audiences
One source for that is Alexa.
To use Alexa, you’ll need to get a URL of a competitor’s blog. If you don’t know one off the top of your head, just do a quick search for “(niche) blog” in Google. Take one of the top results.
Next, plug this into Alexa, and scroll down to the bottom section labelled “demographics”:
You’ll get information about gender, education, and browsing location.
It takes 30 seconds to do and gives you some pretty good information.
For example, let's say that you find that most of your audience has higher education.
Then, you can use a wider vocabulary and link to lots of studies and statistics.
The best source for information about your audience
There’s 2 real parts of a reader persona:
- Who they are (demographics)
- What they care about (psychographics)
The second part is the most difficult, because you need to find and study your audience.
If your audience isn’t online in 2016, there’s just no quick way to do this.
However, for 99% of topics, we have a secret weapon. It’s the biggest group of communities on the Internet – Reddit.
I love Reddit as a user, and I love it just as much as a marketer.
There’s no other site that has large niche-specific communities for almost every topic imaginable. They have in-depth, public discussions that you can analyze.
If you’re not familiar with Reddit, read this quick guide.
For now, I'll assume that you know what Reddit is and how it works on a basic level.
Say I’m writing for an audience that consists of SEOs. Naturally, I identify /r/SEO as a subreddit that contains people from my audience.
From here, I’d typically sort the subreddit to get the top posts of all time:
Then I’d go through them manually and look at all the posts and comments and pick out potential keywords.
From that image, I’d pick out keywords like:
- “Steps to building a website”
- “Selecting a niche”
- “Keyword research”
You’d also want to give extra emphasis to topics that keep coming up again and again.
Finally, you might run them through a keyword volume tool to see if anyone actually searches for them.
This process works really well. You get a list of keywords and topics that your audience cares about and discusses.
But do you see the issue?
That process takes anywhere from 1-3 hours usually, depending on how in-depth you want to go.
Didn’t I promise you 10 minutes?
Luckily, I have a way to speed up this process.
A shortcut to extracting Reddit data
I’ve been using Reddit for marketing purposes for years now.
At some point, I realized that this was a bit crazy. I was spending several hours per month researching on Reddit.
Naturally, the developer in me said, “let’s build a tool to automate this.”
And so the first ever Reddit keyword research tool – Keyworddit – was born.
It’s simple to use, and will save you many hours of scouring Reddit threads.
There’s only one thing you need to enter, which is a subreddit. In our example case, it’s “seo” (because that’s the part that trails the “/r/” in the URL).
On top of that, there are a few other options:
- Search type – You’ll typically just want to get the comments from the top posts in the subreddit.
- Timeframe – I recommend starting with the top threads of “all time”, but you can certainly test out more recent ones.
- Relevance – Picking “Normal” will give you up to 500 keywords (but many irrelevant). Picking high will return just the highly related keywords.
- Frequency – Shows you how often a keyword was mentioned overall in the threads scraped. Can be useful for seeing popularity of keywords.
Once you choose your settings, press the shiny orange button and give the tool some time to work (1-4 minutes depending on the settings).
At some point, the loading circle will disappear and keywords will show up below:
Feel free to export the results (downloads a csv file) and open in Excel or Google Docs for convenience.
So that took a few minutes compared to a few hours – not bad.
A great persona consists of 2 things…
The work is almost done!
We have all the data that we need, but there’s one thing missing…
It’s important to get a clear picture of the topics that your reader is interested in. As well as how much they care about each topic.
Going back to the keyword results that we got above, I took a quick scan and found:
- 8 mentions of “links” and link building
- 14 mentions of Google
- 4 about analytics, 2 about algorithm updates
- 9 mentions of keywords, mostly about research
You’ll quickly see these patterns, which you can then form into topics.
Bringing it all together – Creating your persona
I encourage you to at least write down your key findings about your readers. If you want to go further, you can use a tool like Make my Persona.
So at this point, open a piece of paper or word document and make 2 sections for “demographics” and “psychographics.”
For the demographics, list the information that we got from Alexa.
In the psychographics, you want to list those topics that we just found above. Make a note of how important those topics are (how often they appeared in keywords).
That’s really all there is to it.
It seems like a lot of work the first time you do it, but once you’re used to this process, you’ll get much quicker.
Putting your persona to good use
Once you have your persona, please remember to use it.
You should look at it every time before you write or plan any content. It’s a good idea to look at it again before editing as well.
Always use it to remind yourself of what your readers value the most, what they want to see, and how they want to see it presented.
If you have any questions about this process, or tips for others, please leave a comment below.
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