Simple ways to understand and empathise with your target audience

Understanding the audience is at the heart of all good content marketing.

Fundamentally, content marketing is an exercise in empathy: understanding and appreciating the audience’s needs and providing content that they’ll find useful prior to making a purchase.

The better you know your audience the better you can serve them great content that nurtures them towards a booking.

Much has been written about creating “buyer personas” (see here for a good primer), although at its most basic this is simply an exercise in empathy – putting ourselves in their shoes.

You can use audience mapping exercises like this one to explore your audience’s needs at different stages of the purchase decision, using those insights to plan your entire content strategy.

travel customer journey to purchase

Most travel businesses already have a fairly intimate connection with their target audience. Your knowledge of your own customers gives you an intuitive grasp of the types of content and information they respond to. You can supplement that with qualitative feedback from your sales and operations teams – what are the most commonly asked questions prior to sale, what are the areas of concern and other friction points?

Your website and other digital properties can yield a wealth of quantitative insights, too. Here are a few techniques to help explore your audiences and understand what makes them tick.

Low-definition: Google Analytics & social insights

For an extremely low-definition picture you can start with the Demographic and Interests sections of Google Analytics, but chances are it won’t tell you anything you don’t already know:

google analytics audience mapping travel content marketing

No real surprises here for most travel companies…


Your organic keywords report might offer hints of the types of questions your visitors are asking when they find your site, although this report has diminished in value over the years due to Google limiting organic keyword data. (To get around this, set the date range to several years to gather as many keywords as possible.)

google analytics keyword data audience mapping travel content marketing

Tip: Use an advanced filter to highlight keywords including the main question words – how, what, when, why, etc. These will often be ‘research’ phase questions that your visitors are using while planning a future trip, and might offer some good ideas for content topics.

Social insights

Your social media properties might offer some new insights, although these are also fairly limited. Facebook Page Insights will give you some basic demographic information.

Keep in mind that these are people who follow your Page, not necessarily those who visit your site (much less book a trip).

facebook insights audience mapping travel content marketing

Ditto for Twitter Analytics – again this isn’t particularly high-def, and it’s only for your followers, not your visitors or customers.

On the other hand combining Twitter data with some external tools like Followerwonk can yield some more useful results – see here for a great step-by-step from Rand Fishkin at Moz.


Try Quantcast for a more detailed picture of your actual website visitors. This is a free analytics tool, aimed mostly at publishers who want to provide rich audience insights to potential advertisers.

But since content marketing is all about businesses acting like publishers, there’s no reason this tool can’t be useful for us, too!

Quantcast gives us rich demographic information as well as shopping habits, media interests and all sorts of other lifestyle and purchase insights:

quantcast insights audience mapping travel content marketing

Set up involves adding a tracking code to your site, similar to Google Analytics. A major drawback is that data can be patchy for smaller, lower-traffic sites.

High-definition: Facebook custom audiences

Although the free Facebook Insights tool (above) is fairly limited, advertisers on Facebook are rewarded with access to a much more powerful range of tools.

With Audience Insights (note this is a totally different tool to Page Insights) we can analyse the entire Facebook user base in much more detail, drilling right down into very specific audience segments.

A useful technique here is to think about some other large Facebook Pages that your target audience might follow, and analyse those Pages’ followers (as opposed to your own) to learn more about their interests and preferences.

facebook insights custom audiences mapping travel content marketing

Another powertool for Facebook advertisers is to set up a Custom Audience of Facebook users who’ve visited your site and use the same Insights tool to analyse their data.

As with Quantcast, you’ll need to reach a certain threshold of visitors in your Custom Audience before you can access any useful data.

facebook insights custom audiences mapping travel content marketing

4K ultra high-def: Ask them!

Unsurprisingly, the most old-fashioned approach could also be the most effective. Some well-written (and well-timed) questions might tell you more about their interests, needs and purchase behaviour than any of the approaches mentioned above.

Surveys can be useful, although you’ll need to be careful with the wording of your questions to get genuinely useful information. A better approach is to ask sales reps and the people who have the closest relationships with your customers to interview them on their travel planning, researching and booking preferences. Just a handful of simple questions can reveal a wealth of insights.

But it’s what you do with it that counts!

These data sources are only as useful as you make them – once you’ve gathered these insights you need to figure out how best to apply them.

The starting point is to build these observations into your content strategy and editorial calendar(s). Once you know what people need, you can plan your content to serve those requirements.

This shouldn’t just be an infinite calendar of blog articles and Facebook posts. Plan your content strategically and with a defined purpose. It could be based around a single resource – for example, a downloadable travel guide created to address some core travel research and planning needs of the target audience early in the journey to purchase.

Another application is to identify the other websites that your audience visits, and run them through Similarweb to find similar sites elsewhere on the web.

This will give you a list of sites that should be highly relevant to your target audience, which you can then use with the Google Display Network to target placement of your display ads.

In the process you should get a feel for the types of content and topics that your audience is reading and engaging with – use this as inspiration for your own content creation efforts, particularly with information aimed at people early in the purchase decision.

Armed with these insights you’ll be able to create a laser focused content strategy targeted at the audiences most important to your business. Need help planning it all out? Give us a shout any time!

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