Content Marketing

Why the Audience-First Approach Is Crucial in Content Marketing (and How to Do It Right)

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Content has always been a critical element of any successful marketing strategy.

But, in an attempt to craft engaging content, marketers often focus on their SEO and business objectives. They overlook the crucial element that lies at the heart of any successful marketing strategy — the audience.

This article aims to shed light on the significance of adopting an audience-first approach in content marketing. We’ll discuss some best practices to help you implement this strategy. The aim is to help you focus on what resonates with your audience. That way, you can maximize your content marketing efforts.

So, let’s delve into the importance of audience-first content marketing and learn how to do it right.

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Understanding the audience-first approach

At its most fundamental level, the audiences-first content marketing approach revolves around creating content tailored to your target audience’s preferences, needs, and interests before anything else.

This definition is pretty straightforward, yet you can easily get sidetracked. Here are the two most common scenarios.

The product-centric approach

Self-praising blog posts aren’t your potential customers’ idea of helpful content. Neither are fancy videos that go on and on about how amazing your products are. So, if you want to make a difference and add value to your potential customers, go beyond the surface. Stop churning out content whose primary purpose is to push your own agenda.

This way, you ensure that your content:

  • Answers their queries
  • Solves their problems
  • Adds value to their lives

It means a shift from a product-centric to a customer-centric viewpoint. You’ll make your audience the focal point of all your content marketing efforts. The same applies to your email marketing efforts. After sourcing your contacts through a LinkedIn email finder and compiling your email list, don’t just automate your content distribution. Put some thought into what you send to which segment of your customers. Evaluate your responses and optimize accordingly.

And yes, highlighting your product or service is important. However, embracing an excessively product-oriented direction can be counterproductive. It makes your content seem more like a sales pitch. Your audience will likely see it as overly promotional rather than informative.

The SEO-centered approach

The math is simple: the top search result generates almost 40% of clicks. It leaves the second and third spots in the dust, with 18.7% and 10.2%, respectively.

So, you certainly want to climb the SERP ladder with your website content.

But be careful while trying to endear yourself to Google and its demanding algorithm. You can fall into the trap of missing the mark and forgetting about your end users – your target audience.

Being too fixated on writing for search engines can lead you to produce fluff content. You know, content filled with keywords but lacking any real value for your readers. Google regards such pieces as thin content, and, as a result, their rankings plummet.

Both of these mistakes could cause your strategy to fall flat. It’s vital to strike a balance between two key points of focus:

  1. Hitting SEO goals and your marketing objectives
  2. Catering to your audience’s unique needs and wants

Yes, you want audiences to find your content. But once that happens, the content must also serve a purpose. And that purpose is so much more than selling a product or service.  

Remember that your audience consists of human beings with emotions, problems, and desires. They’re not mere data points dominated by algorithms. And they’re not passive recipients of your promotional materials.

Your potential customers seek meaningful relationships and authentic interactions. They crave personalized and relevant content. And don’t forget that they also have values they hold dear.

In fact, a recent study by Google Cloud has found that people want to choose brands whose values align with theirs. Your content is your opportunity to show that you share these important values with them.

So, the audience-first approach allows you to forge stronger bonds with your audience. It helps you build loyalty and trust that’ll stand the test of time. In the long run, that’s what helps your business thrive. But, for that, you need to place your audience at the epicenter of your content marketing strategy.

Here are some best practices for achieving this goal.

1. Build audience personas

Saying that a generic one-size-fits-all approach to marketing doesn’t cut it any longer would be an understatement. Customers don’t want to waste their time on generic content that’s not specific or targeted.

The key to developing impactful content is understanding who you’re talking to.

Audience personas are the imaginary, all-encompassing identities of your ideal prospects. You can use them to guide you in creating content that will resonate with their behaviors and concerns.

You’ll address individuals with distinct characteristics and needs. That way, you’ll move away from targeting a faceless crowd.

So, how do you go about creating compelling audience personas?

  • Conduct thorough market research by digging into your existing data sources. They’ll give you an invaluable starting point. Comb through your database to identify how customers find and consume your content. Conduct surveys and interviews with a variety of customers and prospects. The insights you receive will add richer qualitative data to your research. However, when dealing with private data, ensure proper consent management is implemented to uphold privacy standards and legal requirements.
  • Identify customer demographics. Determine their age, gender, level of education, annual income, and location. The more you can fill in these details, the easier it’ll be to visualize and relate to your audience personas. You can go further and find unique demographic information by searching local websites in the country you are interested in. But sometimes, your access can be denied due to your specific location. Try to learn more about the pros and cons of VPN for unlimited web surfing.
  • Develop several diverse personas. It’s essential to remember that your audience isn’t a monolith. Your offer can interest various people with different needs and objectives. You’ll need to create separate audience personas to cater to these various segments. This way, you can fine-tune your content marketing strategy. Address their specific goals, concerns, and motivations.
  • Understand their needs and pain points. Learn what makes your audience tick and what problems they’re looking to solve. This knowledge will give you a distinct advantage. Content that offers solutions and adds value is far more likely to grab and hold their attention.

Example

FOCL offers a wide range of plant-based wellness solutions. They include drops, gummies, topicals, and other supplements. These products have different purposes and use cases. That means the brand’s audience is versatile. For example, if you look at their CBD gummies for men page, it contains:

  • A detailed product explanation
  • Relevant information about its benefits
  • Answers to common customer questions and concerns

Instead of the product-oriented approach, FOCL targets an audience with particular needs and pain points. It then provides content that this specific audience will find useful.

screenshot of FOCL's page on CBD gummies for men

(Image Source: FOCL)

Leveraging audience personas in your content marketing strategy allows you to:

  • Create content that resonates with your ideal customer(s)
  • Bring your audience into sharper focus and align your content with their needs
  • Increase engagement and conversion rates as a result

It goes beyond broadcasting content for the sake of it. It’s the first step to using content to cultivate meaningful relationships.

2. Showcase your authority

Establishing credibility and trust is a significant element of creating high-quality content.

That’s why Google introduced the E-E-A-T guidelines. The acronym stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. Google hired a team of real people, aka Quality Raters, to review the quality of search results. They determine how well the results solve searchers’ queries and meet their needs.

Google wants end users to receive reliable, relevant, and accurate content from a place of expertise. Every algorithm update reinforces this goal.

In other words, you need to give more than pure facts. Offer insights, analysis, and actionable recommendations rooted in expertise. Adhering to these guidelines can give your audience what they’re looking for. And you’ll be in Google’s good books.

Here are some tips to help you elevate your content and make it E-E-A-T compliant:

  • Regularly update it. Revisit your content occasionally to add new information or remove outdated facts and stats. Only fresh content can be relevant and valuable.
  • Highlight the expertise of your content creators. Showcase their credentials and professional experience. This tactic makes a huge difference and presents your content as trustworthy. It reinforces your audience’s confidence in your content. Remember, trust plays a vital role in industries such as finance and healthcare.
  • Publish only well-researched and fact-checked blog posts. Offer reliable advice that readers can use as a point of reference.

Example

Eachnight’s blog posts are excellent at demonstrating authority and expertise. For example, suppose you look at their post on mattresses for spinal stenosis. In that case, there’s information about the author, a bio of who medically reviewed the post, and other relevant credentials.

Seeing this immediately instills trust in their audience.

screenshot from Eachnight's article on the best mattresses for spinal stenosis

(Image Source: Eachnight)

3. Make your content readable

Content readability is another vital yet often neglected facet of ensuring audience-centricity. It’s about the ease with which a reader can understand a written text. Readability depends on sentence structure, vocabulary, typography, and even design. For your content to add value to your audience, it has to be easily digestible and understandable.

To make your content more accessible, follow these principles:

  • Include visuals such as photos, graphs, videos, and other multimedia. They’ll make your content more engaging and simplify complex concepts. You’ll thus be able to get your message across. If you have the resources, especially focus on creating high-quality videos. According to Semrush’s State of Content Marketing 2023 Global Report, 70% more traffic went to articles with at least one video than those without.
  • Avoid complex sentences and lengthy paragraphs that are hard to follow and understand. Break up big blocks of text into shorter chunks that are easier to process and make sense of. Doing this will help keep your audience engaged. Bullet points and lists are very effective for this purpose.
  • Stay away from industry jargon. Remember, your readers aren’t experts on the topic you’re discussing. They’re looking for answers and solutions. They’ll bounce off the page if you overwhelm them with industry lingo. Use a conversational tone and uncomplicated, everyday language that most readers will understand.
  • Use subheadings to organize your content into meaningful sections. Making your content more scannable helps readers find the information they want quickly. Using elements that let readers skip to another section on the same page is also a good idea. Use anchor links to create the table of contents and ease navigation. You can also provide a TL;DR link and section as a courtesy.

Example

The posts on the Codeless blog posts make for a very easy read despite being lengthy and detailed. For example, if you look at our post on choosing the right CMS, you can see the following:

  • Well-structured paragraphs
  • Jump links
  • Logical subheadings

There’s also plenty of negative space. It’s easy on the eyes while minimizing distractions and accentuating the key information.

screenshot from Codeless.io article on Guide to choosing a CMS

(Image Source: Codeless)

Highly readable content enhances user experience and increases audience interaction. Both lead to converting readers into loyal customers.

SellerPlex is another brand that understands the importance of digestible content. Their guide on shipping to Amazon FBA features several infographics and visuals. They make it easier for readers to process all the detailed instructions.

SellerPlex's guide on shipping to Amazon FBA

(Image Source: SellerPlex)

4. Captivate your audience with interactive content

Nothing says ”audience first” like interactive content.

Interactive content delivers a highly personalized user experience. After all, it provides answers and solutions based on readers’ input. That makes it far more impactful than static articles, infographics, or even videos.

Since this format requires active user participation, it’s more engaging and immersive. Instead of forcing your audience to read blog posts or watch videos, you can take things to the next level. Involve them in the act of content creation!

This might mean swiping, tapping, answering, or any other type of activity. Some familiar examples include quizzes, polls, interactive infographics, calculators, flip books and immersive videos. As a result, each customer has the option to share their personal information. They thus influence the feedback they get and ensure it reflects their preferences.

Consider a skincare quiz, for instance. It can give product recommendations that match the user’s skin type. This personal touch makes users feel valued and understood, emphasizing the audience-first approach.

Example

MarketBeat’s comprehensive article on growth stock investing is full of valuable information. The brand added interactive resources to make it even more engaging and audience-centric. Take a look at the tool for comparing stocks by price and volume. Readers can play around with the parameters to get tons of relevant insights. So, they’ll happily use the tool to help inform their investment decisions.

marketbeat's guide to growth stock investing

(Image Source: MarketBeat)

5. Answer your audience’s questions in detail

One key factor determining the quality and value of your content is how detailed it is. The trick is to provide your readers with information, examples, data, and tips. Give insights that can help them:

  • Solve their problems
  • Learn something new
  • Achieve their goals

When you address your readers’ concerns and answer their questions, you minimize friction. You cut the confusion that’d prevent them from taking action. It also shows that you care about your audience and their needs. You’re clearly not just trying to sell them something.

Remember that your competitors also tackle the same or similar topics. If you want to stand out from the crowd, outperform them and deliver exceptional content. Don’t rehash the same information that already exists on the internet. Offering your unique take on things will give you a competitive edge.

Evergreen content lends itself well to this purpose. These articles, videos, and infographics stay relevant long after their initial publish date. They remain fresh regardless of trends or seasons. The point is to focus on topics that generate consistent or growing interest from your audience. So, make sure to cover them in depth. Include all the information, examples, and resources your readers might find useful.

Example

Vivion’s article ”10 Key Definitions You Should Know About Capsules” is an A-to-Z on this topic. It’s a must-read for the company’s potential customers and is appropriate for beginners and those experienced in capsule filling.

This blog post is an excellent example of the audience-first approach. It recognizes buyers’ needs and provides a comprehensive guide to understanding capsules. Readers will use it to pick the right product, depending on the drug formulation.

screenshot from Vivion's guide to capsules

(Image Source: Vivion)

Another great example comes from Ahrefs. The Ahrefs blog is famous for its exhaustive how-to SEO guides. And the one on search engine marketing is no exception.

The post starts with the most basic concepts. Then, it guides readers toward more advanced techniques and strategies.

This guide acts as a complete roadmap for anyone diving into the world of online marketing. It provides the details of every avenue and side street in the quest to boost website traffic, conversions, and revenue.      

screenshot of Ahrefs guide on SEM

(Image Source: Ahrefs)

In closing

There are more than six million blog posts published every day. To make yours relevant, you must create high-quality content that will allow you to connect with your audience. That’s where the audience-first approach comes in to help you tailor your content to their needs and preferences. And that’s how you’ll take trust, loyalty, and engagement to the next level. The tips we discussed will point you in the right direction and improve your odds of standing out in this saturated digital landscape.

Get long-term ROI.

We help you grow through expertise, strategy, and the best content on the web.