Best Practice Article Series

Knowing your audience and how to target them

Scrabble pieces displaying the words: audience, relevant, target, and content.

When you write content for a web page, do you think about who you’re talking to? When users visit your website, do they know you’re speaking to them?

Clearly defined target audiences are the basis of good content strategy—the process of planning “for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.” (A List Apart, The Discipline of Content Strategy) Knowing who your target audience is—their needs, questions, site features used, and behaviors—and thinking about them when you write web content will help to clarify your message and increase the effectiveness of your site.

What is a “target audience”?

A target audience is the particular group of people most likely to be interested in the content of your specific website or web page within a site. For this reason, your target audience should never be defined as “everyone.”

In higher education, one of the most typical target audiences is prospective students. But “prospective students” is a broad term, one that can include a diverse range of users: undergraduate and graduate students, part-time students, international students, transfer students, and other audience segments. Your site also has secondary audiences such as parents, faculty, staff, alumni, partners, donors, influencers, and members of the community.

Gearing your content to speak to such a diverse group can be challenging. That’s why prioritizing these audiences can help focus your content strategy.

Prioritizing target audiences

A successful website prioritizes its target audiences and speaks clearly to the audience most likely to be interested in the content being provided.

To prioritize your target audiences, start by listing all potential audiences. Next, group them into categories (such as prospective students, faculty/staff, and partners/community). Then, you can prioritize the groups as primary, secondary, and tertiary audiences.

Writing targeted content

Use this final prioritized list of target audiences to inform the development of your web content.

On a page-by-page basis, ask yourself:

  • What is the purpose and goal of this page?
  • Who is this page for?

Answering such questions will help you write web content that users will find engaging and useful, creating a better overall user experience.

For more information about defining your target audience, see MeetContent’s article about “Defining Target Audiences.