A target audience is the intended audience. It is "who" you want to read your content.
Many businesses, government agencies, and organizations have a wide "market" that they want to reach. Within the broader marketplace, they target specific segments or audiences.
When it comes to optimizing your website for search engines, you want to make sure you cover the needs of each audience you want to communicate with.
For example, it is one thing to say you want to reach "defense contractors" or "women small-owned businesses." What kinds of defense contractors? Drone manufacturers? Plastic component suppliers? Construction companies? What kinds of women small-owned businesses? Technology consultants? Retail stores?
Knowing which audience segments you want to reach helps marketers to identify and hone the best messages to reach them.
One of the first things to do before getting started with any search optimization is to outline all the things your company, agency, or organization does. What are your capabilities? What problems do you solve?
By doing this on a frequent basis, you can see how your offerings have evolved or if they have changed, and then map to audiences that need those products or solutions.
Another step is to think about how your initial target audience has changed over the years, and how they may change in the future. You may find out that your customer base has changed, or that you need to adapt and offer a new set of products and/or services to meet their needs.
For example, maybe you offer a very relevant service, but your audience no longer wants to use your website - and prefers a mobile app? Or you have been selling primarily to engineers, but now there is a purchasing manager that needs to approve all acquisitions. Such a change could mean that you need to develop content message around one product for two completely different audiences, each with its own questions and needs.
Though not a frequent aspect of our SEO work, we do believe strongly in conducting customer surveys to help identify audiences and better target product and service offerings, as well as better optimize website content.