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Create a Persona to Identify Who Your Online Customers Are

When you optimize your Web site for search engines, it’s important to know the audience you want to attract. A useful way to create a picture of a potential customer is to create a persona.

A persona is a profile that represents your target audience based on calculated averages of their buying processes and demographics. You create a persona in order to measure certain statistics for your Web site. To create a typical persona, you profile a user who fits the demographical information of your target audience, but you customize the profile to fit a real person.

Acquiring and analyzing data about your Web visitors can help you develop a more complete picture of who your audience really is, how they spend their time, and what they value as being important. After looking at this information, you can start to see patterns emerge. These patterns are the basis for the personas you create.

In looking for patterns, notice the similarities and differences between your customers through your research. Keep in mind that personas represent your audience’s behavior patterns, not job descriptions, locations, or occupations. Although it’s important to be aware of this information, these details should not be the basis of your archetypes. A properly defined persona gives you a well-rounded picture of your customers’ attitudes, skills, and goals; it's not just a résumé that only offers a surface view.

After you have your data, group the information in a way that makes the most complete picture of a person. This includes assembling key traits (such as behavior patterns, and similar buying processes) to try and form a cohesive “person.” You should be able to use the collected information to form a small group of “people” that you feel represent your audience. Each persona (like your real audience) should be different, wanting and looking for different things.

When you are creating your personas, do not model them after someone you know. This would alter how you work with them. A persona should be a purely fictional character that you feel best represents some segment of your audience. Keeping it fictional forces you to concentrate on your audience and address their needs.

After you have your persona, don’t keep her (or him) to yourself. Share it with the other members of your company to get their insights. They may have valuable opinions that help you narrow down or fill out the personality of your customer. Use this time to fill in any blanks. Name your persona to differentiate her from the others: Don't just call her Jane Doe. Choose a name that you can believe in, not one that's just a stand-in.

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