Are you targeting the right people with your writing? Who are you focusing on either intentionally or unintentionally? How do you know? As I am constantly telling my writing peers, knowing your audience is vital. During my career as a web writer, I've learned several ways to figure out what my potential audience wants and needs.
Consider the topic. What are people looking up your topic interested in? If you want to write parenting tips, think about common issues parents face and what you've done to solve those issues. If you want to write about writing, think about all the things you once looked up. Know what people into that topic are going to be interested in. Be very specific and gear your writing toward people who would be interested in that topic. For instance, if you are writing about dogs, don't veer off into talking about cats or mice. If someone clicks onto your dog article, they want to read about dogs.
Pay attention to reader comments in your niche areas. This will help you determine what people want to read. Readers may ask questions, express their disinterest in another topic, thank the writer for the info, and more. There is often much to learn just by reading the comments on your own articles, as well as others. What better way to learn what readers like than by looking straight to them for their thoughts? Another benefit to this gaining loyalty from regular readers. If they know that you actually care and pay attention to what they want, they'll interact more often.
Keep up with news and information changes regarding your topic. Staying on top of things helps readers trust what you say. It's also part of knowing who you're speaking to in your content. Don't write about a topic, unless you know what you are talking about because readers will call you out on it. On the other hand, if you do keep up with the latest in your niche area, readers notice that as well and will thank you instead. Periodically, I check my tutorial and how-to articles to make sure that the information is still accurate. If not, I will make edits where the venue permits it to reflect newer information. This helps give my audience what they want whether they access my article the day it publishes or months from then.
Study websites and blogs related to your topic. While it's beneficial to also study the venue where you are publishing, don't be afraid to also look outside that source. Take a look at how readers are responding to your niche topic elsewhere. Also, look at the methods each writer uses to interest the audience. See what you can learn from what other writers are doing. While you don't want to copy someone else, you can always learn from others and implement the lessons into your own style.
Pay attention to how your readers respond to what you write. Are readers responding negatively or positively to your work? How is it affecting the frequency of traffic on your articles? Do they blog about your work elsewhere? Are they asking you questions or sharing your work on social networks? If they're sharing, is it in a positive or negative light? These are all things you want to look at to see what your audience wants. When you can figure out what they respond to, you will have a better chance at reaching your intended audience.
***Note: I originally published this on Yahoo! Contributor Network