Understanding Your Audience: 10 Takeaways from MozCon 2014

Kathryn Hillis's picture

If we want to become better marketers, we need to understand our audience better.

Many presentations contained that message in some form at this year’s MozCon, an online marketing conference the Keyphraseology team attended in Seattle last week. (Lindsay spoke there, too!)

MozCon Stage 2014

The importance of understanding your audience is a concept that’s rooted in solid, back-to-basics marketing, but the consequences of exploring the topic are anything but simple. Backed with endless data, we’re entering into a new age where we have unprecedented insight into what makes an audience tick.

I found myself mentally gathering ideas related to this topic throughout the conference, whether the presentations contained direct advice about understanding audiences or recommendations that could be indirectly helpful. Below are 10 of them.


Take advantage of social data and online testing tools.

In her presentation, “Scaling Creativity: Making Content Marketing More Efficient,” Stacey MacNaught talks about how she went from aimlessly creating content (which didn’t succeed) to generating content based on insightful audience personas developed with the help of Facebook Graph Search. She also talked about how she tests content ideas and headlines quite rigorously through sites like FiveSecondTest.com before digging into production.


Source: fivesecondtest.com

This was one of the more tactical presentations of the conference that addressed understanding your audience, so I'd recommend checking out her deck if you haven't already.


Get your audience’s fingerprints.

Browser fingerprints, that is. Mike King’s presentation, “Digital Body Language,” was a deep-dive into how we can harness technology to more effectively track users and better understand our audience. After recommending loads of useful tool and technologies (check out his deck for details), he ended his talk by revealing a behavioral targeting and lead analytics tool he developed, Quantum Lead.


Make websites accessible.

Most of Lindsay’s presentation, “Improve Your SEO by Mastering These Core Principles,” was rooted in creating great content that appeals to your audience. The section about accessibility stuck with me because it’s so fundamental to a strong site, not to mention a factor running in the back of my mind while doing technical audits. It was cool to see some ideas about developing websites that most, if not all, of your audience can access.


Use social boundaries.

In his presentation “How to Use Social Science to Build Addictive Communities,” Rich Millington talked about boundaries and insider groups, and how they can help shape a vibrant community. Some of his tips -- like considering the formula “a community of [x] who [y]” when building a group -- seemed like useful insights whether you’re building a community from the ground up or trying to engage an existing audience better. In either case, you’re likely to be navigating (and constructing) boundaries. It makes sense to pay attention to them.


Ask better survey questions.

Stephanie Beadell’s presentation, “Bad Data, Bad Decisions: The Art of Asking Better Questions,” was packed with useful suggestions for creating surveys that give actionable, accurate insights about your audience. It’s definitely worth reading through her deck before creating your next survey.


Collect multiple data points to see what your audience is actually reading.

In “Supercharging Your Digital Analytics,” Justin Cutroni shared a lot of advice about measuring real audience behavior through Google Analytics. One tip that I found interesting was the suggestion to collect multiple data points, a step that reveals how far down the page users get when reading content.


Source: http://cutroni.com/blog/2014/02/12/advanced-content-tracking-with-univer...

His MozCon deck doesn’t lay out the process in detail, but he does talk about it over at his blog: Advanced Content Tracking with Universal Analytics. These data points can be another piece to consider when determining which content is performing well with your audience.


Localize content.

If you’re trying to reach an international audience, simply translating English content to another language often isn’t enough to connect with the group you’re targeting. You’re likely to miss cultural nuances and regional shifts in audience sentiment. Zeph Snapp’s talk, “Localizing Your International Content,” addressed some of these issues.

One website he brought up was AlchemyAPI, a natural language processing service. I haven’t checked it out much, but it looks like a pretty impressive text analysis tool, especially for agencies that work with international clients.


Find out what your audience cares about.

In “YouTube: The Most Important Search Engine You Haven’t Optimized For,” Phil Nottingham focused on how to make the most out of YouTube. Videos online have to be watched and shared to get traction. That means it’s crucial to figure out what your audience cares about enough that they’ll feel compelled to share it.


Source: https://www.youtube.com/trendsdashboard

The YouTube Trends Dashboard is a good place to dive in and figure out which content is doing well amongst different demographics. It’s also worth drilling down to “YouTube Search” in the Google Trends tool.


Increase messages’ impact by adapting them to the personality traits of your audience.

Natalie Nahai’s presentation, “The Psychology of Persuasive Content for Boring Industries,” contained a lot of useful information for understanding and reaching audiences. One point I found interesting was her recommendation to think about users based on personality traits, like extraversion, openness, and neuroticism. By understanding where your audience falls within these categories, you’re in a better position to shape a message that resonates with them. Check out Natalie’s deck for links to a few tools that help develop personality profiles.


Focus on the #SUX (Search User Experience).

In “You Are So Much More Than an SEO,” Wil Reynolds talked about how it’s time to think beyond the traditional role of an SEO, which can often be tied to fragmented demands (like “build 10 links”) that don’t really fit into the bigger picture. Instead, our aim should be to construct the best possible search user experience, including social. (If interested customers ask questions through social media channels, don’t leave them hanging!) Simply put, we have to be there for our audience. Understanding their needs plays an important part in accomplishing that.

Are there any good thoughts about understanding your audience not on the list? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!


  • Lindsay Wassell

    July 23, 2014

    This! Couldn't have worded it better myself.

    Backed with endless data, we’re entering into a new age where we have unprecedented insight into what makes an audience tick.

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