When evaluating your web presence, or creating a new website, consider using “searcher personas” to determine whether your content is in line with your marketing and business objectives.
In her book, Marketing in the Age of Google, Vanessa Fox says a searcher persona is a description of an individual who embodies an important group of customers/consumers. Personas should capture characteristics that make a difference in the ways people search for the things you offer. Your searcher persona could be a specific demographic (young first-time home buyers). Your persona could even be the same person in different stages of buying process – young first-time home buyers comparing cost of renting with cost of buying, vs. that same first-time home buyer looking for homes for sale in Kansas City, Missouri.
Evaluate Your Site’s Current Content
To begin developing your searcher personas, start by reviewing your current content and asking these questions:
- What are you trying to accomplish with this page?
- Who are you trying to attract?
- How do those people search for what’s on this page?
- Will this page satisfy that search?
- What’s the call to action of this page?
- What keywords are related to this page?
- Do you currently rank for these (or related) keywords?
To begin developing your searcher personas, try the “I want/I need” exercise. Get your stakeholders together for a post-it note brainstorm to identify different categories of personas. On each post-it, identify the “Who” and the “What” of a persona. For example:
- “Parent looking for the best school district in the area.”
- “Single guy looking for house near downtown.”
- “College grad trying to decide whether now is the time to buy a house, or to continue renting.”
- “Home owner considering selling if market conditions are improving.”
Try to come up with as many post-its as possible (50-100 would be great), and then group them together into categories based on similar wants/needs. These categories will define your persona groups. Below is a fairly generic list of sample persona categories:
- I want to purchase the product or service you offer
- I need safety information or instruction manuals for a specific product
- I need a tutorial on how to use a specific type of software
- I need to know more about ____ for my new business
- I want to find useful books or resources for the students in my class
Now, rank your categories in order of importance by answering the following questions for each:
- What do you know about this category of searchers?
- What does success look like for them?
- How can you help them accomplish the task of their original search?
- What is your conversion goal for this person?
- What stage of buying cycle is this person in?
- How easily can you compel them to conversion?
- What is the potential lifetime value of this searcher?
This should help you prioritize your efforts. Your web presence should cater toward groups with higher potential lifetime values, have needs that align with your business strategy, and can be converted more easily to customers.
Create a Search Conversion Workflow
Once you have defined personas by identifying groups of wants and needs, you can begin creating, organizing and optimizing content for each persona. Here’s the process:
- Search – know what this persona is searching for, what terms they use in the search, and how competitive those terms are.
- Rank – over time, become one of the top 3 sites ranking for these terms. Your likelihood of being found drops considerably once outside the top 5 results, and dries up almost completely beyond page 1.
- SERP – find out what your result looks like in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages). Google makes the searched terms bold if they appear in your title, description, or URL – a result with bold text in all three locations clearly looks more relevant:
- Page Content – when the persona arrives at the result page, do they quickly find what they’re looking for? Or do they have to dig through site content to find it? Make it as easy as possible for them to find what they are looking for!
- Conversion – now that you have them on your site, and they’ve found what THEY want, you want to make it as easy as possible to do what YOU want. Purchase a product, submit a contact form, sign up for a newsletter, follow you on Twitter – whatever your objective, this call to action should jump off the page.
This may sound like a lot of work, but it doesn’t have to be done in a single sitting. Look at a few pages of your site and ask yourself if the content is written for people like your target customer, or for people like you. That should get you started…
More on Searcher Personas
If you want more information from Vanessa Fox, check out the webinar recording below (warning: it’s almost an hour long, but very interesting):