The Return of Audience Optimization

The word optimization is funny, you know? At least how we use it online.

Search engine optimization. Social media optimization. Over-optimization.

(By definition, it’s impossible to over-optimize. Going beyond optimal is no longer optimal. But I digress).

Optimization is a good thing, if you think about it the way copywriters did before the Internet. It wasn’t about algorithms or social sharing button placement. It wasn’t about “big data” beyond what people responded to.

In other words, the optimization of online content is about making it near-perfect for the people you’re trying to reach. Everything else follows, including the all-mighty traffic.

The language people use when searching is invaluable. The topics they desire to know about are the topics you need to create authority around.

Not because search engines send targeted traffic. Not because certain topics get shared on social networks and more traffic comes your way.

It’s because that’s the language and the topics that matter to your people. The very people you’re trying to lead. The people you want to do business with.

Traffic is a means to an end. What are you really after?

Find that and work backwards. But begin with the audience in mind.

About the author

Brian Clark

Brian Clark is CEO of Rainmaker Digital, founder of Copyblogger, host of Unemployable, and evangelist for the Rainmaker Platform.

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  1. The people! Thats what we are after!

  2. hi Brian

    I like your remark…

    What can I tell! What a short and catchy post… just like my comment — LOL

  3. Hear, hear! As I’ve been working with people on metrics – both qualitative and quantitative – I’ve had to remind them of the difference between what we want and what gets us there. Unique pageviews tell you nothing unless you can tell that the people are actually engaging with content relevant for both your business and your tribe.

    At the end of the day, it all comes back to people, not numbers.

  4. I’ve been preaching that there’s value in SEO research outside of just ranking.

    That’s why I write based on keyword themes, rather than keyWORDS. Themes let me know what topics people are interested in. Even if I don’t rank for every theme, I’m giving my readers what they want to know about next.

  5. Nice post. Short and concise, but with great insight.

  6. Is Brian Clarke Matt Cutts secret Avatar? Even Matt admits you need to promote your content a little, because what’s the point of creating something great and then not promoting it?

    I think what Brian is saying is…

    1. Identify a Desperate Problem.

    2. Identify WHERE these people hang out online.
    (This is where you’ll get your traffic.)

    3. Create a product that fits their needs perfectly.
    (OR – find an affiliate product that does the same)

    Yes – there are some details in between. But this is
    the core of EVERY successful online business.


    • I’m primarily talking about content creation here. But yes, you’ve got to get the word out about your content until you’ve built enough of an audience who will do it for you.

  7. That’s exactly why I’m holding off on creating a bunch of content before I understand what I want my business to be and what types of customers I want. Initially, I started off with the idea that since my background is primarily advertising copywriting, I’d target that type of work.

    But after I thought about it, I didn’t want that to be my primary business. Those assignments can be hard to get and then slow to pay. When I sat down and thought about the types of projects I wanted to work on, I realized I really enjoyed working with small businesses. So I’ve started my planning with that in mind.

    The greatest challenge is really getting inside the mind of your ideal customers and trying to anticipate their needs and how they’d go about trying to fill those needs.

  8. Your question at the end of the post is what caught my attention the most. As a new blogger I have been obsessing over traffic. When you said, “Traffic is a means to an end. What are you really after?” I really had to stop think about what I am really trying to accomplish. I began to see SEO as the ultimate way to pick up traffic and unfortunately spent a lot of time stressing over it when I should have been more focused on creating good content. Your post gave me just enough of a nudge to get me back on the right track.

  9. In business and life, always begin with the end in mind.

    It makes everything a lot more rewarding. And your audience will thank you for it :)

  10. I have a question for you since you seem to be pretty intelligent… Is it possible to do too much SEO? Like could you promote your stories too much on facebook…ect? I am new at SEO and am learning so I was hoping you could email me or reply here.. Thank you! :)


  11. I agree.. I always write for my audience.. Great tip!

  12. Just letting go and writing for your audience is something I have been wanting to do for a while but with a new blog I find myself concentrating on the numbers.

    • That’s the thing, Michelle. You’re not really letting go. I like to say that you need to understand your audience better than they know themselves. That takes a lot of research and observation.