Identifying and Engaging Your Most Valuable Audience Segments
Your audience is made up of a series of segments of audiences, all in a different place in their journey with your brand. From one-time visitors to the most loyal readers, each segment requires a different strategy for engagement and something different from your brand experience.
To optimize your audience development strategies for 2020, you need to first identify these audience segments and then determine a plan for engaging with and growing each segment.
For the purposes of this blog post, we’ll use Google Analytics to create audience segments, as most readers will be familiar with and have access to the tool. There are, of course, more advanced tools like CDPs that will allow you to act even more strategically.
Note that when creating segments in Google Analytics you can typically look at a segment’s behavior for a maximum of 90 days. So for the purposes of analyzing these groups, we’ll be looking at them in terms of their behavior within a 90-day period.
Segmenting Your Online Audiences
This article overviews one way to segment your online audience into four categories. If this isn’t the right way for your brand, you can segment in a way that works for you. The lesson here is to develop your segments and then create a plan that prioritizes and engages each accordingly.
Drive-bys visit your site once and likely won’t again, at least not for another few months. More than likely they stumbled onto your website through a Google search or a friend sharing a link on social media. They may or may not be in your target audience.
Find these users by creating a segment in Google Analytics and filtering by users who have exactly one session on your website. If your target audience is based on a geographic region, you can create two segments, one within that region and one without.
How to Engage Your Drive-bys
Drive-bys are the audience segment that is likely to be on the bottom of the totem pole in terms of priority, so your strategy for engaging them should be minimal. Monetize their visit with programmatic advertising, but invest little other efforts in engagement.
2. Passive Visitors
Passive visitors to your website are those who return to engage with your brand two or three times in a 90-day period. The fact that they have returned to your website after their initial visit suggests they might be within your target audience and should be engaged accordingly.
One way to identify your passive visitors is to create a segment in Google Analytics that filters users who have exactly or greater than two sessions on your website and more than 30 days since their last session. The second part of this criteria will eliminate your more frequent visitors — we’ll get to those soon.
How to Engage Your Passive Visitors
Passive visitors have much more value to your brand than the drive-by visitors. Based on their return to your website, they are more likely to be in your target audience and should be considered warm leads for your brand.
Keep passive visitors on clean, clutter-free website pages to avoid overwhelming their experience with advertising, if possible. You can do this by exporting audiences from your segments into DFP (Google’s ad platform). The ideal outcome is to secure their email address capture, so present these users with opportunities to sign-up for one of your weekly (or lower frequency) newsletters.
If you’re unable to capture an email address, happily settle for a social follow by targeting these users in DFP with ads driving to your social channels, or retarget these visitors on social media using the same process above.
3. Engaged Visitors
Highly engaged visitors are regularly engaging with your brand and are visiting your website at least once per month. Get excited because this is where your marketing strategies get fun.
When creating the segment in Google Analytics, filter by users who have exactly or greater than five sessions on your website. Based on our work with regional and niche publishers, these visitors are likely to be less than 10% of your total users, yet there’s a good chance they generate more than 40% of your website’s page views, making them an incredibly valuable audience segment.
How to Market to Your Engaged Visitors
These users are already engaged with your brand, so the next step is marketing more of your content to them and deepening their connection with it. If you do not have email addresses in your database for these users, your number-one goal should be to capture them. If you do have an email address, you should be using your email service provider to monitor their behavior with your emails and fine-tuning your content delivery based on their interests. For example, if they are recurringly visiting your food coverage, deliver them news about restaurant openings first or make sure they know about your upcoming food event.
Further engagement includes driving these readers back to your website with advertising on Facebook and Instagram. Consider experimenting with soft gates on popular pieces of content to force an email capture to read the articles. But keep their experience clean and clutter-free. This isn’t the audience you want to hit over the head with invasive or pop-up advertising. This audience is primed for a deeper relationship with your brand and your marketing actions can drive them to your site more frequently — or drive them away.
Loyalists visit your website at least 15 times over a quarter, which equates to visiting more than once per week. These folks are very likely to be on your email newsletter list or are highly engaged with your brand on social media. Based on what we see from our clients' brands, loyalists may comprise less than 3% of your visitors but could be making up as much as 25% of your page views.
Create a final segment inside Google Analytics that filters by users who have exactly or greater than 15 sessions on your website. Remember you’ll be looking at these segments over a period of 90 days.
How to Market to Your Loyalists
Like your ‘engaged’ visitors, these individuals are already invested in the content you are sharing, and now your goal is to drive revenue from them.
If you have a metered paywall in place – or are considering putting one on your website – these users are the ones who will hit it. If you have a subscription product to sell, these users will feel the most inclined to support your brand financially.
A great way to extract more value out of these users is to get their feedback. As regular consumers of your content, they are more likely to share their time and their opinions. Whether you’re considering a new product launch or a shift in editorial coverage, this audience’s opinions will be valuable.
Two common ways to solicit feedback are through a traditional survey – typically sent via email (SurveyMonkey is easy to use for something like this) – or through a focus group. The latter especially allows you to gain a deeper understanding of the content they love, what kind of products they want from your brand, and most importantly what they would be willing to pay for.
Not All Audiences Are Created Equal
We know by now that not all audiences are created equal, so your engagement strategies shouldn’t be either. These high-level strategy suggestions are the beginning of engaging your various website audiences differently to make the most out of your time and marketing resources.
Related story: Using Evergreen Content as an Audience Development Strategy
Melissa Chowning is the CEO of Twenty-First Digital, where she guides her clients’ digital strategies and audience development efforts to drive traffic, engagement, and retention. Formerly the Audience Development Director of D Magazine, Portland Monthly and Seattle Met, Melissa understands that the key to audience growth is also monetization. When she’s not immersed in the digital world, you’ll likely find her reading, listening to podcasts, and keeping busy with her two children, both under the age of 6.