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Do you know, I nearly gave this the headline ‘How to target women online’, but I thought I might be misleading the reader…

Women outnumber men online, according to eMarketer research, and the proportion is growing. The number of female internet users has been gradually overtaking the number of men online since 2008.

This changing online demographic means new challenges for marketers.

Now, it’s not the intention of this post to be a sort of 1950s: ‘Gosh, look! Women buy things too!’

However, I think it’s safe to say that the majority of people working in search engine optimisation (SEO) are men, although there are many notable women.

So I think there’s a danger that, as SEO becomes less about technicalities and more about the challenges of online marketing, some of these men may fail to recognise that what works for them will not necessarily work for a female audience.

A quick disclaimer before I begin: There are generalisations in this post because it’s general. Not all these comments apply to every sector, every man, every woman or every SEO exec. So, how do you target women with online marketing?

Be clear on your target audience

Who’s your female target audience online? Is it mums, 16-24s, racing car fans? Obviously women will belong to more than demographic and you need to bear that in mind, but it will help your budget work as hard as possible if you’re very clear who you’re targeting.

Of course, if you’re marketing something like Mumsnet or Heat magazine, then your audience is relatively straightforward.

However, if you’re promoting hair care products or cars or myriad other products, the demographic will be less easy to identify and you will need guidance from the sales office.

Women use the web differently

It’s not just that women are using different content online; they tend to prefer different kinds of content to men. For example, women tend to place a much greater value on socialising online than men.

Creating an online community encourages women to bookmark your pages and revisit regularly. Building habit builds loyalty and that will help you capture the female market share.

Women research

According to the Internet Advertising Bureau UK (IABUK), women are increasingly turning to the web to research important household purchases.

That means they are reading reviews – so it’s important to encourage your satisfied customers to leave them. It’s also a good idea to provide space for reviews on your own website so that potential customers don’t have to leave your pages to see what other customers think.

But popular content remains popular whatever your gender

Whatever differences there may be in how men and women interact, browse and shop online, the most popular websites among women are identical to the most popular sites with men.

Just like their male counterparts, Google, MSN, Facebook, Yahoo! and the BBC remain hugely popular.

So, while your tactics may change depending on the audience you’re trying to attract, you don’t necessarily need to ditch the platforms you’re using.

Organic search really matters

Research shows that 95% of women consider organic search results to be more relevant than paid links and will click through as many as three pages of results. That makes your organic SEO vital.

Having said that, the same study by the IABUK shows women are more likely to use a search engine to find the website of a company they already know than to try and guess the address.

That gives you a chance to bid on competitors’ names and whisk a good 5% of customers away from other retailers.

Women shop for the family

Even if you’re selling a product specifically geared towards a male or child audience, keep in mind that mothers tend to shop for the whole family.

So, whatever your audience, making your websites accessible and appealing to women will amply repay the investment.

Kevin Gibbons

Published 4 October, 2010 by Kevin Gibbons

Kevin Gibbons is UK Managing Director at digital marketing agency BlueGlass. He is also known as an SEO speaker and can be found on Twitter and Google+.

102 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

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rory

Great article really solid advice, I've been a web designer for over 5 years now and over this time the number of women clients has DEFINIETLY increased. This has made me design in a very different way. Gone are the floral and pastel color schemes that I thought women would want (silly me) and slick 'clever' designs is what is often required. Our SEO team is half men and half women so at least we have the balance right.

almost 6 years ago

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mjc

"Research shows that 95% of women consider organic search results to be more relevant than paid links and will click through as many as three pages of results. That makes your organic SEO vital.

Interesting statistic, but it's not much use without a comparison to that of men. It's implied but not stated that men would be less likely to consider organic results relevant. The statement that women "click through as many as three pages of results" also seems somewhat patronising - as I'm sure everyone reading this has clicked through more than three pages of results before. "Women taking part in the study would click through as many as three pages of results" would have been much better.

almost 6 years ago

Daniel Clutterbuck

Daniel Clutterbuck, Director/ Co-Founder at Webtise Ltd

I can see this was written VERY carefully :-) Great post and very useful as we have 2 male only sites. Interesting part about women using a search engine to find a brand name rather than the URL. Webtise.

almost 6 years ago

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charlie

"The fastest growing segment on Facebook is women over 55" "Almost identical percentages of women own HDTV, Games Consoles, DVR’s, PVR’s, Digital Cameras as men." Marketing to women online is a niche market that as the article suggests, many agencies overlook. I'd recommend starting your journey here: http://ladygeek.org.uk/

almost 6 years ago

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Joe

Great article really solid advice, I've been a web designer for over 5 years now and over this time the number of women clients has DEFINIETLY increased. This has made me design in a very different way. Gone are the floral and pastel color schemes that I thought women would want (silly me) and slick 'clever' I thank you blog leader.

over 3 years ago

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