If I asked you what sits at the heart of great SEO, what would your answer be? Keywords? Backlinks? Fresh content? Fast page load speeds?
While all of these elements are important, I think the very core of great SEO is knowing your customer and building an online presence that’s designed to meet their needs. Get that right and your SEO strategy will instantly become clearer – and easier to implement.
This is where the concept of an ‘ideal’ customer comes in (you might also hear people refer to this as an ‘ideal client’, ‘customer profile’ or ‘marketing avatar’). Spend some time on identifying and getting to know your ideal customer and your SEO – and business – can only benefit.
What is an ideal customer and why are they so important to your business?
In an ideal world, who is the person that you would most like to do business with? And how would you feel if you could duplicate this person so that you were constantly selling to the same ‘type’?
This is what we mean by an ‘ideal’ customer.
There are many benefits to identifying your ideal customer. They will:
- Happily pay for your products or services without haggling about the price or making you feel bad about what you charge (and they won’t always be looking for discounts or ditch you the first time someone cheaper comes along)
- Value what you do and appreciate the quality of your products or services, especially because they make such a difference to the customer
- Be effortless to communicate with because they’re passionate about what you offer
- Keep coming back as a repeat customer
- Frequently recommend you to others and act as a brand ambassador, telling everyone they can about what a difference your products or services have made to them
Just imagine how much more enjoyable your business would be if you could predominantly work with these people.
Another major benefit of identifying your ideal customer is that you can then be more targeted in how you market your products or services, choosing the best platforms and the best wording, images, etc. for your ads, based on what you know will resonate.
This means that you can maximise your marketing budget by spending it on activities you know will work to bring in new customers.
Why is it that identifying your ideal customer can supercharge your SEO?
But what does your ideal customer have to do with SEO?
The answer is a surprising amount.
Easier keyword selection
Once you know who your ideal customers are, you can start to think like them.
What words would they use to search for your products and services? How would they describe what you offer? What would motivate them to make a Google search?
As you know, the more generic a keyword is, the harder it is to rank. However, the more specific you can be, the more you can start to pinpoint powerful but less competitive keywords or phrases.
Here’s an example:
The ahrefs Keyword Difficulty Checker tool tells us that to rank in the top 10 on Google for the keyword ‘SEO’ would be ‘super hard’ and that we would need an estimated 1,197 backlinks to achieve this. (Of course, we know that more factors than backlinks are involved in achieving high rankings but it’s an example measure.)
But imagine that your ideal customer is a small business owner who’s looking for SEO hints and tips at this stage with a view to outsourcing their SEO in the future. Change your key phrase to ‘small business SEO tips’ and suddenly the keyword difficult drops down to ‘hard’ and means you would need backlinks from approximately 43 websites to rank on page one of Google.
As we can see, even this small shift in the audience from everyone who might want to know anything about SEO to small business owners seeking SEO tips, means the effort required to rank highly drops significantly.
More targeted copy
It’s not just your keywords that you can make more targeted by knowing your ideal customer. This knowledge will benefit all of your marketing copy and content, from your website to your pay-per-click (PPC) ads or what you post on social media.
What matters to your target customers?
What does a day in their life look like?
In terms of your products or services, what problems do they solve or aspirations do they fulfil?
Once you know the answers to these questions, you can begin talking directly to your ideal customer about how you can help them.
Let’s take the example of a counsellor who works with teenagers. Really, the person the copy needs to talk to – i.e. the ideal customer – is the parent who’s looking for support for their child. They may be struggling to get an NHS referral or have been on the NHS waiting list for months. Perhaps their child finally saw a counsellor but was only offered six to eight sessions, leaving the child unsupported afterwards.
For the parent, every day is spent worrying about their teen’s mental health and feeling like they’re alone and not sure who to turn to for help. They may feel desperate, failing, scared, frustrated and need immediate support.
The counsellor could use their website copy to reassure the parents about professional counselling support in a non-clinical setting with no waiting lists or waiting rooms. Perhaps the counsellor offers a lovely, relaxing space in a garden office where teenagers can arrive for counselling without anyone knowing what they’re doing. Imagine the reassurance this counsellor could offer in terms of providing support when it’s needed for as long as it’s needed. For a parent, this would be a weight off their mind.
This is just one example of how knowing your ideal customer can make your website copy so much more compelling. It would also be much easier to rank for a phrase like ‘no waiting list counselling for teens’ rather than just ‘counselling’.
Being specific will also help your ideal customers to pick your business out of the crowd. They will read your copy and think, “Wow, it’s like that was written just for me”.
More effective calls to action
A knock-on effect of the points above is that, when you know what motivates your ideal customer to buy from you, it’s easier to decide the best calls to action to use on your website.
Ask yourself, what are my goals for the website?
Also, what do my customers want to achieve when they visit my website?
Do they want to book an appointment, enrol in a course, sign up to a free trial, watch a tutorial, buy a product, or something else?
By pinpointing what your ideal customers want from your website, you can clearly signpost that your site is set up to meet those needs.
Yes, Google loves fresh content but what it really wants to see is websites that create content that’s genuinely valuable to their audiences.
Several key ranking signals look at audience behaviour. Are people staying on your site to explore your content or are they bouncing away without going any deeper? Do people click on your calls to action after they read a page or follow an internal link? Does your content reference and link to reputable sources?
By knowing your ideal customer, you are more likely to craft content that they want to read and share with their networks. They will also want to come and explore other content on your site or keep coming back for new content.
These are all positive signs to Google that yours is a business that meets the needs of its customers. In turn, Google will want to rank your content higher in relevant searches.
Relevant frequently asked questions
Again, by knowing what makes your ideal customer tick in the context of your products and services, you will be better placed to answer their frequently asked questions.
There are several benefits to this.
Frequently asked questions often represent the barriers that might stop people buying from you. For example, how does your product work? What’s included in a particular service? What is your returns policy? Do you offer a money-back guarantee? Why should your customers trust you?
By publishing the answers to these questions on your website, you can break down any perceptions of risk on the part of the potential customer.
And FAQs can be good for SEO too. Voice searches have changed how we search – the latest stats for the top voice search keywords show that we’re much more likely to ask questions. In fact, the top ten most used voice search keywords include questioning words such as: how, what, is, where, can and when.
If you’re able to include on your website a question that’s often asked in searches, alongside a concise and accurate answer, you have a much higher chance of your content being ranked for that question search. It’s also possible that your answer will appear in the Google Answer Box or rich snippet at the top of page one of Google for that search. This can have a massive impact on your visibility and rankings. In fact, for voice searches, the content in the Google Answer Box is the only listing that matters.
Research from ahrefs also found that, in conventional text-based searches, companies that are able to secure the Google Answer Box and the top organic listing for a search term would capture 28.2% of all the clicks on that page. Featuring targeted FAQs on your website is one of the best ways to achieve this.
A great user experience (UX)
Knowing your ideal customer gives you greater insights into the devices they use to view your website, whether they prefer videos or podcasts, long blogs or short blogs, lots of pictures, minimal text, free ebooks, and so much more.
By understanding their lifestyles, their challenges and what they’re searching for online, you can offer a user experience that’s entirely tailored to reflecting your ideal customers’ preferences.
This will help you to refine every feature and make empowered decisions about your website, saving you time, money and stress, as well as creating a site that ranks well because Google can see how effectively it engages your audience.
Better link building
Once your ideal customers connect with your content because of how targeted it is to them, they will be more likely to share it with their wider networks and bring it to the attention of influencers and experts who share a similar audience.
For example, let’s imagine an online shop focused entirely on selling ‘zero waste’ environmentally-friendly products to people who want to live in a less wasteful way. This shop might publish regular blogs about topics such as minimising plastic packaging, buying from ethical sources, lowering environmental impact, zero waste shampoos and so on.
In turn, these articles would appeal not only to customers but to other suppliers and stockists, journalists writing about zero waste living, environmental campaigners, zero-waste influencers and many others. Due to the high relevance of the content, the chances are that many of these people would link back to the original blog or share the articles with their audiences.
Google views backlinks from relevant, high authority sites as highly favourable ranking signals. By disseminating targeted, helpful, quality information to a specific audience, your business should see a significant increase in reputation, sales and SEO performance.
In turn, as your reputation grows, you may be able to attract guest blogs and shout outs from people who are highly influential in your sector.
High converting PPC ads
Although we’ve been concentrating on organic SEO so far, it is worth mentioning that knowing your ideal customer can have a positive impact on how well any pay-per-click ads run on platforms like Google, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, as a few examples.
Due to your understanding of what motivates your customers and their particular pain points, it should be easier to define the audience you want your ads to reach, hone your message and choose the right images for your ads.
This can have a huge knock-on effect in terms of maximising clickthrough rates and engagement as well as achieving a higher ROI for your advertising budget.
How do you identify your ideal customer?
Hopefully, the above points have convinced you that it’s worth spending some time identifying and getting to know your ideal customer.
Of course, you may be wondering how to achieve this.
If you have an established business, you have a bit of a head start. My recommendation is to begin by asking the following questions about your existing customers:
- Who do you love working with and why?
- Who buys from you time and again?
- What motivates them to buy from you?
- What do all of your favourite clients have in common?
- Why do they value what you offer?
- Who writes rave reviews or always recommends you? What do people say in their reviews? (This will give you valuable insights into what matters to them.)
- What are the stages of their buying journey?
- How did these clients first find your business?
Your answers should begin to help you build up a picture about the kind of clients you really love working with and who, just as importantly, value you and your business.
Below, I’ll be talking about some tools you can use to define your ideal customer profile even further.
Identifying your ideal customer might be a bit tougher if your business is new or is still pre-launch. It’s worth doing some work around this though as it will help you focus your time, energy and budget in the right places moving forward.
It’s sensible to start with the following questions:
- What are your products or services?
- What needs to they meet?
- Why would someone buy them?
- What might their lifestyle look like? Can you describe a day in the life?
- What are they worrying about right now or what would they want the outcome of buying from you to be?
Often, when we go into business, it’s selling a product or service that has made a big impact on us in the past. For example, you hear of many people who become dog trainers after taking on a challenging dog or parents who start selling baby products because they found a gap in the market when they were looking for them themselves.
If your own business grew from your personal experiences, what was happening in your life when you first sought out a particular product or service? How did you feel? What motivated you? What difference did the product or service make to your life?
It could be that your ideal customer is the person you were a few years ago.
Whether your business is established or brand new, you may benefit from doing some research into your competitors and seeing whether an ‘ideal’ customer type stands out.
- To whom is a competitor’s website talking? Is the audience obvious?
- Who are your competitors targeting with their SEO? The MozBar is a fantastic all-in-one SEO toolbar that lets you look at the metadata, keywords, etc. that any website is using.
- Who is hanging out on your competitors’ social media pages?
- What do they have in common?
- What are they talking about? Look for the conversations that attract loads of engagement because this will tell you what matters to your potential audience.
- What sort of content do your competitors post?
- What seems popular and what doesn’t?
Although you don’t want to get too bogged down by what your competitors are doing, lurking on their websites and social media pages can help you to build up a picture of the people who might become your customers.
Tools for identifying your ideal customer
The Facebook Pixel is a code that you place on your website that collects data to help you track conversions coming from Facebook to your site. This is a crucial tool if you decide to run Facebook ads. With the Facebook Pixel in place, you can build up a clear picture of how your Facebook audience behaves and create better lookalike audiences for future ad campaigns. Hootsuite has published an excellent guide to setting up the Facebook Pixel.
If you already have a website for your business then Google Analytics offers a wealth of information about its audience. I’ve put together a beginner’s guide to help you.
Depending on what metrics you have set up to track, Google Analytics can tell you where your website visitors live, the devices they use to visit your site, their age, gender, interests, employment and even whether they’ve recently searched for sites related to life events such as moving house or changing job.
Google Analytics can even help you answer a question like, “Do people who have a strong interest in football stay on my site or bounce away from it quickly?” It can be that specific! Using this data and more can help you grow your insights into your target audience and how they behave.
Google Search Console can help you understand what search terms people are using to find your website, which can give you a valuable glimpse into what motivates your audience. If you see that two-thirds of your website visitors are viewing your site on a mobile phone, this reminds you to check the UX for mobile users on your site.
You don’t have to run Google ads to use the Keyword Planner tool. Simply create an account and choose the Tools>Planning>Keyword Planner option from the main navigation menu. Using the Keyword Planner, you can find keyword ideas or check the potential traffic for specific words and phrases. Again, this can help you to understand the kind of language your potential ideal customers might use to find your content.
- Facebook for Business Audience Insights (and other social media platforms)
Each social media platform offers insights to you as the page owner/administrator.
Using Facebook’s audience insights, for example, you can get a snapshot of key demographics about your audience such as gender, age or location. You can dive much deeper into your audience though if you’re setting up Facebook ads.
Via Pinterest’s analytics, you can discover how your audience breaks down in age, location, by device and their interests. If, for example, your audience is overwhelmingly interested in ‘home décor’ as a category, you can then tap into specifics about this interest, e.g. 67% are pinning ‘home accessories’, 32% ‘feature walls’ and 10% ‘storage and organisation’. These are all valuable insights into the kind of content an interior designer might talk to their customers about via their blog.
Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok all offer equally valuable analytics.
Buffer is a popular tool for running social media campaigns and then analysing their performance and audience engagement.
Ubersuggest is a tool from SEO guru Neil Patel that can help you to find potential keywords (and traffic) for your website as well as reverse-engineering your competitors’ SEO strategies so you can see what is and isn’t working for them.
- Email marketing list
If you have an email marketing list and regularly send out newsletters or have an auto sequence of emails you send out to customers at different stages in their buying journey then make sure to monitor the analytics provided by your email marketing software.
- Which customers most engage with your newsletters?
- What, if anything, do you know about them?
- Which topics have the best open rates?
- Which emails trigger the most engagement?
Again, this information will help you to understand what motivates your customers and what content they want, especially those who are most enthusiastic about your business.
Other ways to learn more about your ideal customers
In addition to the ideas above, you could also try the following:
- Create a survey using a free tool like SurveyMonkey or a Google Drive form – remember to keep your survey focused and as concise as possible to encourage more people to respond
- Run a Twitter poll – posting questions with two or three possible answers can give you insights into your audience; for example, you could ask a question like ‘How do you like your content?’ and then give ‘Blogs’, ‘Videos’ or ‘Podcasts’ as the possible answers
- Ask questions on social media – try asking your audience about a range of topics relevant to your business and see what gets them talking
Create a persona for your ideal customer
Having gathered as much information about your ideal customer as possible, your next task is to create a persona for them. In other words, you will want to describe their characteristics and personality in as much detail as possible.
In my experience, the more specific you can be about your ideal customer, the better.
You will want to think about their:
- Demographics – describe their gender, age, location, income, education, ethnicity, relationship status, children and any other defining characteristics or features that would enable you to group them for marketing purposes.
- Psychographics – think about their motivations, interests and feelings then write them down – what are their goals, their challenges, their hopes and dreams?
Once you’ve done this, have a go at describing your ideal customer’s typical day – where does the need for your products or services fit in? What difference would it make to them?
The best approach is to describe your ideal customer as though they’re a real person. Give them a name. Tell their story. Find a picture of them.
When you flesh them out like this, you can imagine them sitting in the room with you as you talk to them. You can design your website based on what will appeal to them. You can make every marketing decision around the question, “Why is this important to <ideal customer’s name>?”
Can you have more than one ideal customer for your business?
In reality, most businesses will have more than one ideal customer that they want to reach. This is often split across different customers for different services. It really will depend on how your products or services are structured.
You can also operate within a larger sector or say ‘yes’ to clients who are not quite ideal, so please don’t feel that embracing the concept of the ideal customer means you have to turn everyone else away.
I read a great analogy recently that said the ideal customer is equivalent to finding the best bunch of grapes in a vineyard and then growing more of them. You wouldn’t ditch the rest of the grapes necessarily but you might devote more of your time to nurturing the best of the crop.
Try to avoid having too many different types of ideal customer. I would suggest a maximum of three different customer personas, otherwise the risk is that you will split your focus or dilute your marketing and SEO efforts.
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Now I’m going to hand over to you. Who is your ideal customer? Is this a concept you’ve thought about before? If you do have an ideal customer, how does knowing them effect your SEO? I’d love you to leave your thoughts in the comments below.
If you found this article helpful, I’d love it if you could share it – thank you.