Developing user personas in WordPress for fun and profit

While the terms “target audience” and “user personas” are sometimes used interchangeably by marketers, they’re actually two very separate things.

The term “target audience” refers to the potential customers you’re hoping to reach with your marketing strategy. These are often defined by factors such as demographics, interest, and pain points. 

User personas, on the other hand, are user archetypes that are more fully-fleshed out. They can represent different segments of your target audience. 

At Ellipsis, we recently began a project with the purpose of better understanding the audience segments of some of our clients. We knew that this would provide valuable information that we could use to shape our campaigns and the content itself moving forward. 

We started this project knowing it would be a significant undertaking, but that it would be worthwhile. In this post, we’re going to discuss why user personas are so beneficial, how we tackled user persona work for this project, and share what we learned along the way.

This was a real team effort, so I’ve included some of their thoughts about the process in this article. 

Why User Personas Are So Valuable 

User personas are all about fleshing out an archetype of audience segments, making them feel more like real people, and getting a fuller overall understanding of the audience. They help product developers and marketers to better understand users’ needs, fears, and specific pain points.

“By providing a clearer picture of who’d be most likely to purchase a product, user personas can then form the basis of a successful marketing strategy,” said Natasha Drewnicki, Head of Content and Conversions at Ellipsis. 

Your target audience for a WordPress contact form, for example, might be “small businesses who use WordPress.” 

You may create a buyer persona, however, that reads like the following:

Freda is a 30-year-old freelance graphic designer who has a basic WordPress site that’s set up to capture leads. She’s trying to keep overheads low by using plugins that are free and easy-to-install, and she needs tools that she can trust to be reliable. 

By imagining a real person, it’s easier to understand their needs, pain points, and motivations. It feels more personal, and you can truly get into your users’ heads.

From a marketing perspective, this is invaluable. With a better understanding of your audience, you can create stronger and more relevant messaging that has a better chance of converting,” added Natasha, “and if you choose to outsource any part of your marketing materials to third-party teams, it helps convey who your audience is and what they need, getting everyone on the same page.”

How We Created User Personas for Our Clients

When we started this project, the goal was to identify our clients’ main userbase segments and goals as part of a broader strategy we were creating for them. The more we understand their audiences, the more effective our marketing strategy can be.

There were a few things that led us to realise that this would be an essential part of the project:

  • We realised that there was a lack of understanding about the client’s customers who were using WordPress, what they were using it for, and what their needs and pain points were.
  • We knew that the WordPress ecosystem is fragmented, with a large number of independent plugin makers and once-used products that are rolled out to the market, never get updated, and fade away. This can make it harder for plugin markers to identify solid audience segments.
  • The industry overall is fast to react, with new plugins developed quickly in response to new demands. 
  • As WordPress keeps evolving at lightning speed, developers can sometimes be reactionary and rushed, preventing essential but time-consuming research from being conducted. 

We know that us sharing our insights of WordPress user personas is essential to creating a better understanding of what they need, which everyone in the industry can benefit from. 

How We Developed Our User Personas 

Developing user personas correctly can be a labor-intensive task. I found that the initial research was particularly time-consuming: we needed to process a lot of both quantitative and qualitative data, while also picking out the metrics that matter. In some cases we had an abundance of information whilst in others the data available was very scarce.

To ensure we were developing accurate personas, here’s what we did:

  • We researched broad WordPress information and then narrowed it down to the most relevant sources
  • We shortlisted information that referred specifically to WordPress businesses 
  • We analysed both quantitative and qualitative data that was specific to our customers, including data obtained from Google Analytics, email campaign tools, client sources, end-users, and reviews 
  • We chose three clients that sell relevant WordPress products and compared their data with general WordPress data to assess its relevance. 

We used a combination of the client’s email marketing platform and Google analytics. Mailchimp, for example, has its own ‘predicted demographics’ built in – they’re not as reliable as Google Analytics’ demographics, but they come close.

The data from both gives us a good idea of the current set of users and allows us to create a fairly accurate representation.

For Google Analytics, we looked at the data of users over the entire year and made attribution comparisons to note the best conversions. We ignored the last touch since they’re overwhelmingly direct without looking at the previous stages in the customer journey. For our client Barn2, for example, while comparing time decay (which has similar numbers to linear) with position-based attribution and last non-direct click, we could better understand where their customers were coming from.

We used standard user personas best practices by condensing information, walking in the shoes of end-users, and keeping our findings both relevant and realistic. 

What We Discovered 

We learned a great deal while creating user personas for WordPress.

We found that there are a few key similarities and differences between “typical” WordPress clients, as you can see from three different user personas that we have here.

Case Study 1  – WP Fusion User Personas

The first set of user personas was for WP Fusion, which integrates WordPress sites with CRMs and other marketing automation platforms. All the user personas were relatively tech-savvy (with the lowest tech-savviness score being a 6 out of 10). Two of the personas prioritised convenience or automation, while one preferred security. 

Below we’ve laid out the last persona, who was the most tech-savvy of the three and prioritised security. This was also the most high-intent customer: the customer most likely to purchase the product, and most likely to consider add-ons. It’s clear that this is someone who is likely an early-adopter of secure, high-quality software. 

The data supports these user personas, but they also need to intuitively feel right. Here’s what WP Fusion Founder Jack Arturo said:

“It’s uncannily accurate. I feel like I interact with personas almost exactly like this every day. In terms of accuracy, they were very close.”

Not bad 🙂

Case Study 2 – Barn2 User Personas

We conducted another set of research to develop three user personas for Barn2, who specialise in a range of plugins for WooCommerce and WordPress businesses. While the personas were all distinct and varied in age, gender, interests, and psychographic details, there were also similarities.

Two of the personas were at least sometimes decision-makers, just like the high-value persona from WP Fusion. They also were consistently tech-savvy, with the “tech enthusiast” with a high savviness score again appearing as the most high-value potential customer, and the one most likely to consider a premium bundle. 

All personas were using digital forms of communication like email, but the most high-value personas were also familiar with professional tools such as Slack. 

Here’s Katie Keith, co-founder of Barn2:

The personas reflect my subjective experience of the different types of customer who typically buy our plugins. We were already aware of the need to word our marketing materials in a way that appeals to both developers and non-technical users, and the personas have confirmed that this is the correct approach. 

Similarities and Differences 

We also ran this process for a third client, who asked not to be named. This client had lower-intent customers who were looking for deals, which our high-intent audience from the last set of personas also looked for. The highest value persona in this set also scored a 9 out of 10 in terms of tech-savviness, and yet again were decision makers for their own business and influencers for their clients. They had a solid technical background, and while price was important, the balance of price, quality, and reliability was crucial. 

It became clear through our research that tech-savvy decision-makers were most likely to become the most likely high-value clients who would eventually purchase premium packages and/or add-ons. If they weren’t making the purchase decision directly, they would be influencing their clients in purchasing. They were likely to want a combination of good price and value, and more likely to prioritise factors like security, reliability, and add-on potential than other personas.

All the personas themselves were slightly different between clients, depending on the user base and focus for each tool, along with the product purpose. For example, there was a more marketing-heavy persona for WP Fusion, as a lot of users are administrators and project managers in the software sector. While these seem like small details, they’re actually crucial factors in your content strategy because they can help you determine who you’re writing for and what role they’ll play in the ultimate purchase decision. 

We also found that some of our low-intent personas were still happy to buy base-level packages, but that they were likely to be less tech-savvy. This is important because it means that having room for some non-technical users can still open doors for a large number of WordPress developers. 

How This Can Benefit Our Clients (And Our Work For Them)

Once the research was conducted and the user personas were developed, things became much clearer.

Our clients and our content team alike were both able to understand users’ needs and anxieties on deeper levels, meaning we could develop stronger collaborative strategies and guide our clients more in product development.

The ability to best determine what type of content is best for each client is invaluable. With this knowledge, we could confidently write posts tailored to software engineer decision-makers, for example, knowing that those users would have the strongest purchase intent, instead of trying to write for the standard small business owner who doesn’t even want to have a website. 

This truly opens the door to knowledge that can help Ellipsis to develop new services that will allow us to craft broader and more extensive marketing strategies for our clients.

A great example of this is our new CMO-as-a-Service product, which allows us to step up as your Chief Marketing Officer. As our Founder, Alex Denning, said:

“We’re uniquely placed to help your WordPress business. We’ve delivered marketing strategy for 50+ WordPress businesses, from small plugin businesses to the very largest companies in WordPress.”

The Challenges We Faced 

We want to acknowledge that creating user personas is no easy task; it’s time-consuming, it requires access to high-quality data, and it requires extra knowledge to find the trends that can help develop realistic and beneficial personas. 

Here are some of the challenges that we faced during this project:

  • The accuracy of information wasn’t always as reliable or detailed as we might have liked, depending on the sources we were working with.
  • Some clients may have had so much customer information that it became difficult to see the forest for the trees, or too little to properly create accurate user personas
  • Identifying the key metrics influencing purchase intent could be difficult for clients with extensive data.
  • There were privacy concerns, where we were tasked with the protection of sensitive data; this prevented us in some cases from conducting third-party surveys, as we couldn’t talk directly to our clients’ existing customers.

Invest in User Personas to Craft More Relevant Marketing Content 

User personas are clearly a big undertaking to develop, but they’re also incredibly valuable. They can help you understand your target audience, expose potential blind spots that you may be missing, and even help you identify higher-value personas to target more aggressively in the future.

User personas can also help you (and us!) create stronger marketing strategies and more relevant messaging that will help you attract and convert more users later on.

Here at Ellipsis, we can help you develop user personas and then determine what types of content will fit each part of the funnel for each persona. We’ll also identify new ways to help clients better tailor their products, content, and ad to their target users.

This is invaluable, as creating content with little direction can mean wasted time, energy, and money. It’s essential to invest into research and data that will give you direction to connect more significantly with audiences you maybe never knew you had, because this is how your business will reach new heights. 

Ready to develop content that will actually drive results? Get a free 30-minute call with Alex to learn more about how we can help.

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Alex Denning

Alex Denning is the Founder and Managing Director of Ellipsis®, a world-class SEO Content agency. Alex is the inventor of FALCON AI®, the next-generation AI SEO platform that helps you predict how your content will perform – before you create it. Alex is an international speaker and publishes regularly on the future of SEO. @AlexDenning on Twitter