Know your visitors
By Helena Wennergren
Analytics, user surveys, user testing, impact mapping, focus groups, benchmarking, A/B testing – there are many ways to research your visitors and target groups. Finding the right method for your needs can sometimes feel like making your way through a jungle, but the most important thing is to make a genuine effort to understand your audiences and reach out to them.
In our annual survey of communicators in Europe, most respondents unsurprisingly stated that they use web analytics. As website visitors ourselves, we know that pretty much every website tracks our movements. The more surprising thing, however, was the fact that very few of the communicators in our survey use the data as something other than KPIs or as a way measure the size of the audience.
Data to understand your visitors
Understanding your stakeholders won’t just improve your website. It can show if your website is doing its job, make you a better communicator, and even improve your business. User research is a year-round commitment, not just something you conduct ahead of a website refresh.
Here's a guide to the most common research methods and how you can use them to better understand your visitors:
Analytics is probably the easiest research method to start with, but you need to know what to look for. Here are some examples of what you can do with this information, from evaluating your website as it is now to making decisions about future changes:
- The number of visitors on desktop vs mobile helps you understand how to prioritise different types of devices.
- Your most read pages show what your visitors find engaging, helping you develop your content.
- Least read pages show you what your audiences don't find interesting or don't find at all. This can help you prioritise different types of content, as well as fine tune your navigation and SEO.
- Site search queries show you the content your visitors are looking for. The number of searches can also indicate if your site navigation is working or not.
- The number of clicked links and email CTAs shows what your visitors do after consuming content – do they continue to another page, click on a contact CTA or do they leave the site?
- How visitors scroll on your site and where they click can help inform a better page layout.
Google Analytics is well-known and used by most, although we have seen an increased usage of additional tools e.g. Hotjar.
Getting input through a survey will generate quantitative data that will help you understand what your users think. It can support your hypotheses, provide site feedback, and open text comments can be eye-opening to how others perceive your company.
Surveys can be sent out as emails to analysts that follow you, to your customers, subscribers etc. They can also be included as popup surveys directly on your website or as a question on selected pages. A simple thumbs up/down on an article can be a way to grade the content.
The trick with quantitative surveys is to decide which questions are the most important. Make your questions easy to understand and answer while still ensuring that you can analyse your results.
There's a wide range of survey tools on the market, such as SurveyMonkey, SmartSurvey, Google Survey, and SurveyGizmo.
Getting to speak directly to target group representatives is a way to really drill down not only into what they want, but also why. It is an opportunity to get explanations for your results, as well as for future needs.
Interviews can be carried out one-on-one, in person or over the phone. Gathering a group of respondents in a focus groups can also be efficient, as long as you listen to and observe all participants.
User testing your website or prototypes is another qualitative method that compares what audiences say they do and how they behave.
Qualitative methods are beneficial when you come to a fork in the road, and need guidance on not only what, but why visitors want something.
Know when to use which method
With such a plethora of research methods at your fingertips, it can be difficult to know when to use which methods. Analytics show how users behave, whereas findings from quantitative and qualitative surveys include both how users say they behave and why they act the way they do. In the best of all worlds, you would always use a mix of these methods to understand your visitors.
Do you want to know more about research methods? Get in touch, we know how.
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