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My 18-month-old son is an Eric Clapton fan. And possibly a rhythmic baby genius. I discovered this on my way to day care last week, when the toddler began “clucking” along with the song “Signe,” from Clapton’s Unplugged album. This led to me bragging about this moment the rest of the day, and adding a few toddler drum sets to the little tyke’s Christmas list on Amazon.com. That got me thinking about personas and content.

My young son was telling me something. “Daddy, I like this music. I like to play along. I’m going to grow up to be a drum prodigy.” Now, you may say that I’m projecting, but play along with me for a moment.

Are you listening to what your customers have to say? Does the content on your website do more than just offer them a product to buy – does it offer answers to the questions that they’re asking before they’ve made a buying decision? Are you predicting what they’re searching for before they seek these answers?

This is what makes persona development such an important part of any content strategy. Before you can answer the questions that your customers – and your prospective customers – will ask, you need to understand who those customers are, and what they are searching for. This is another signal pointing back to the relevance of search and SEO.

PersonasAs part of developing any content strategy from scratch, I spend a great deal of time doing keyword research and seeing what Google says about keyword phrases related to my client’s products and services. But this research would be useless without a persona to pair with it. In fact, no amount of keyword research will help drive conversion for a website without a proper framework, one provided by the personas of a client’s customers and prospective leads. Keywords drive traffic, and content written for personas drives conversion. You need both to be successful.

What do you think is more effective: winning the top spot on a SERP for a highly competitive keyword phrase, or driving traffic to your website through long-tail keyword phrases that land on pages optimized to answer prospects’ questions, driving them further down the conversion funnel?

The science of SEO is only improved by the focus of a persona. If content is a kingmaker, then it’ll be the pages answering questions that introduce the prospect to your products and services, build brand loyalty, break the privacy barrier and turn them into loyal customers. A shotgun blast of keyword optimization through links and content just won’t achieve that. Only by developing content for your personas and answering their questions throughout the entire buying decision process can you drive conversion – a rifle shot rather than the shotgun blast.

Or a snare hit rather than a wash of cymbal noise.

Maybe my son isn’t destined to be a drummer. But if I didn’t listen to the signals that he was sending me, I’d never have had the chance to find out.

Using personas to determine which questions prospects are asking, and using search to determine how they’re asking those questions, is like listening to a little tyke clucking along to a favorite song. A proud dad moment – driving me further along from discovery to asking the question of “what’s next?” – and searching for my answers.

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